My fashion course: Part 1

Photo by Michael Burrows on

Two months into my self-imposed sabbatical from work, I decided to get down to the real reason I took a break. I worked as a corporate lawyer for two years, straight out of university. Yet, for some reason, I could not see myself continuing down this path for much longer. It wasn’t anything dramatic. I didn’t hate my job or my boss. On the contrary, I was good at my job and my former boss is genuinely one of the best people I have encountered – both within and outside of a work setting. These things happen rarely, I know. Who gets a great job and an even better boss? Right yeah, so all those things notwithstanding, I still did quit. So, if not this, then what? Isn’t that the million-dollar question. Honestly, I had no idea (I’ve written about quitting without a plan before, so I’m not going to repeat that here).

I saw a great video by a YouTuber I love on what she did when she quit without a plan (coincidentally, she also quit her job as a corporate lawyer). She talks of how she used the double diamond method to decide what to do next – it’s a design strategy technique that helps people who are confused try and gain some perspective on the kind of life they would like. I’ll be honest, I didn’t use the design strategy diligently. But I did pick up from her video that she used her time off to try new things that she has always been interested in but never had the time for. I thought, yeah ok, this is something I can do. So armed with my free time and recently collected bonus, I set out to seriously try everything I have ever wanted to – till I landed on something I liked, or ran out of money, whichever came earlier.

I’ve always had a creative bent of mind. Regardless of whether I have the talent to back it up, this is something I enjoy doing, and I am trying to get into the habit of talking about my art unironically. I know (at least this is what I gather from all my reading online) that this is something a lot of creatives have a problem with. Talking about themselves, or their art, or even the fact that they are employed in the creative industry (if you can call it that). I’ve been painting my whole life and so I thought maybe I would kick it off with a course in fine arts. I didn’t really want to pay for any course for painting (I started with acrylic – this is the medium I work with mostly) and so I mainly learnt whatever I could (which is a lot) from YouTube. Three weeks into this, I landed on a video explaining how to use Procreate for beginners. For those of you who don’t know, Procreate is a digital art software for iOS users. I really liked the convenience of digital art so I moved on to that (I know there are upsides and downsides to the whole digital v. traditional art discussion, but I’m a little lazy so the idea that I could paint without taking out paints, mixing them, taking care of my brushes etc. really appealed to me). Digital art led me to video editing – but I abandoned this quite quickly. Not because I didn’t like it. I liked it too much. I’ve filed away video editing in my head as something I am going to learn later in the year – along with website building and designing.

By this time, I had spent a lot of time online on YouTube. Then I thought to myself, ‘if I’m going to spend so much time learning these skills, why not get some sort of official certification showing I’ve learnt them?’ I know there is a lot of pleasure to be derived from learning for the sake of it, but I let a little capitalism seep into my thinking. So, I started googling online courses / short courses I could take while I’m on my break. I landed on the Parsons’ website – and they had a host of online courses. After going through their catalogue of online masters and short courses, I decided on the ‘Fashion Industry Essentials’ Parsons teaches in partnership with Teen Vogue.

A little disclaimer here – what I have condensed into a few paragraphs took me two months to complete. I will take some time to talk about all the things I learnt in detail, but not in this post. Also, while Parsons has a great set of courses, you should know that these are quite pricey. This should in no way deter you if you actually do want to learn something. There are institutions like MIT that put up their entire course work online. There are individuals like Brandon Sanderson who teach put out their entire teaching material online for free. If you really want to learn, almost everything is available for free. I chose to pay for the certificate course because, well, I’m still a little old-school and I wanted the comfort of having a certificate to show for my time spent.

The course itself is quite nice – if a little underwhelming. It is taught in the way that most online courses are. There are instructive vides for every module, and at the end of each module, there are assignments we must complete. In addition to the compulsory assignments that all of us have to complete for a grade, we also have optional assignments we need to complete. Where the course really gets interesting is in allowing us to see the work of other students and in the kind of assignments they hand out. Coming from a non-creative background (so to speak) I was initially a little hesitant in uploading my work. I skipped a few of the optional assignments because I wanted to expose myself as little as possible. But looking at the work of others made me realise that I’m not as out of touch as I think I am. Plus it is always great to see what others are up to. In a book I love (and will never stop advertising) called ‘Show your Work’ the author talks about how no one creates in isolation. All creativity is a product of the things we see around us – all of it comes from borrowed ideas and inspired thoughts.

As part of the first assignment in the course I need to create a Pinterest mood board. The idea being that I should capture my personal style, or a style aesthetic that really resonates with me. The prompt for the assignment encourages us to look through fashion magazines and mood boards of other fashion houses to decide what aesthetic or style vibe we want to settle on. For example, if I think my style as a designer or as a chic arbitrator is ‘grunge’ then I should create a board with images from the 90s grunge era, black clothing, models with uneven hair and disoriented expressions. I haven’t completed this assignment yet. I’m leaning towards an effortless chic look. I want my mood board to be something almost everyone can resonate with. Like going into a shop and buying a classic LBD. It has been done so many times before, but if done right, it can be a whole new movement all over again. Right now, my research has brought me to the conception of Channel No.5, and the unforgettable ad campaign of the company starring Marilyn Monroe. If I haven’t done a good job of explaining the visual I am going for on my mood board, I really recommend you check out this advertisement, because it captures exactly what I am looking for and trying to show. I’m going to link my mood board once I am done with it so I can hear your thoughts on this. If you have any other suggestions in the meanwhile, I’d love to hear those too!

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