I got a note the other day from a person representing a "designer". This designer has published a book and makes some appearances etc. But, as best as I can tell, very little of the work is really hers.
For the purpose of our discussion today, let's call the designer Ms. Great PR. When you look at the small print in her pattern leaflets, there is a disclaimer. It's says "Model knitted by Another Person" and "Pattern written by Another Person".
So Ms. Great PR is not writing patterns. I guess what she is doing is the conceptual work. And it raises some questions. In our little corner of the world, do you have to actually do the nuts and bolts work to call yourself a designer? Or is it OK to put your name on it if the idea behind it was yours?
I am by no means a designer. Sure, I fiddle around with some very basic things, but if you asked me to design a real sweater, with real features in several different sizes that would actually fit a human being, you'd be out of luck.
Sure, I can come up with ideas of things I'd like to knit, like this drawing, but it's nothing more than a indication. I could more readily walk on water than write a pattern for it. And could I knit it without one? Not a chance. But since I came up with the idea, can I commission someone to write the pattern and knit a model and call myself the designer?
I know my initial reaction was that Ms. Great PR doesn't have much substance. She's got a fantastic PR machine and that's about all. I want her to do the work. At the very least, I want her to be capable of doing the work and I'm not convinced that she is.
But, here's another way to look at it. When Tom Ford/Donatella Versace/Calvin Klein puts together runway show every season, how much of the work do they actually do? Make sketches? Pick fabric? Cut fabric? When was the last time one of them touched a needle and thread? And let's not even go into all the derivitive products like handbags, home decor and frangrances.
My guess is that designers of that class are doing the conceptual work and that's about all. They have staff members doing the rest.
In the needlearts world, I think most of us picture designers as people who sit with needles and yarn making swatches and doing the math neccessary to write an accurate and knittable pattern. But is that the only way? Is the person with the idea just as legitimately a designer? Can you start your career with your needles, do a bunch of great work, earn your chops and then move on to just doing the conceptual stuff?
I had a very particular point of view on this and sparked a "lively discussion" the other night over dinner with friends. There were some points made on the other side that I had to admit have some merit.
What do you think?