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Commerciality versus creativity battle goes on

Ian Wright

Way back when, around the time of the last ice age, I was sewing, drawing and frantically unpicking my way through a fashion design degree.

Way back when, around the time of the last ice age, I was sewing, drawing and frantically unpicking my way through a fashion design degree. One thing I always wrestled with was how heavily to weight my work to either commerciality or creativity. The two general schools of thought at the time both made good cases: either university was the only time in a designer’s career where they’d truly be working with carte blanche and so should take full advantage of the freedom, or university should be readying students for the big wide commercial world in which they’d need to get jobs.

On the eve of this year’s Graduate Fashion Week I wondered if anything had changed since I graduated, so I asked some of our universities’ finest graduates whether this was still a dilemma for them. Emeline Nsingi Nkosi from Ravensbourne College asserts that “you can be as creative as you like but if they don’t sell, you cannot make a living, and the products lack purpose”, while Tiffany Baron from the University of East London maintains “you can still be heavily creative in a commercial way”.

Some were less convinced. Christopher Jaydon at the Colchester School of Art considers “commerciality to be a barrier which would suppress me from portraying what I wanted with a garment or collection”. But in the end, whether the majority of graduates are like Charlotte Arcedeckne-Butler from Manchester Metropolitan University who has “no concern for commerciality in my work”, or Vic Riches from Kingston University who believes “hitting the brief for something ‘commercial’ is as exciting as working on things a bit more left field if you see it as a challenge”, it all adds to the rich fabric in which our industry is swathed.

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