One Big Lesson That Emerging Designers Must Learn

One big lesson

When you make a living off of your creativity, it can be tricky. It’s not like there’s a switch you can turn on and say, “Go now! Design something awesome and completely sale-able!”

I designed the Jane Hamill line for over 14 years. I sold my line in my own boutique (in Chicago), in hundreds of specialty stores, Bloomies, Saks, Macy’s, and more. Creativity for Profit is not something I learned in school. I had to figure it out as I went along. Designing what I love is easy. Designing what will sell is a different story.

Sometimes I loved what I sold, sometimes not so much. There were many days, heck – whole seasons– where I found myself wishing that I designed tools or something. I mean, how creative do you need to be to design a brand new hammer? It’s not going to be that different from last year, right? That’s not true in the fashion world.

In this industry, you’re always innovating. We focus on new and fresh. This means you need to tap into your creativity all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’re feelin’ it today or not.

And the one big lesson I learned is this… You can’t be afraid to fail.

It’s only natural to occasionally be worried about failure. I’d be lying if I said I was never afraid to fail. But it was not something I would dwell on and I think that’s why my retail and wholesale businesses were successful for so long.

Because here’s the thing…

Fear keeps you stuck; you do the safe thing. And entrepreneurship is not about playing it safe.

How can you innovate if you’re afraid it won’t work? How can you ever try something new? How many times have you not done something because you’re concerned about criticism?

I remember years ago doing a talk for the Girl Scouts of America. I wasone  up there on stage doing my spiel about how great my company was, all the success I had experienced, when a little girl with glasses held up her hand.

It went like this…

9 year old Girl Scout: “You’ve told us a lot about what’s worked well in your business. Can you give us an example of when something you tried in your business failed?”

Jane: “Well sure I can…” –this kid is headed straight for Congress – “Ummm, there have been many times I tried something that didn’t work” – WTH? – “I’m just trying to think of an example here…”

I stood up on stage with a blank expression looking out at the sea of green uniforms and I couldn’t think of a single failure. Not one. And it’s not because there weren’t any – puhleeeeeze, there were dozens. I just blocked them out. My Mom would call this an “amazing example of denial” or maybe some kind of personality disorder. Who knows? All I know is that my short memory has served me well over the years and allowed me to take tremendous risks with my business.

And I think that’s the key to staying in business – trying new things all the time. Knowing that people will criticize you and doing it anyway.

And there’s one thing to keep in mind. When you look at the people who truly criticize, what are they doing with themselves? Are they in the game? Or on the sidelines telling you how it should be played?
Image via greekadman

Jane Hamill

Jane Hamill is the founder of Fashion Brain Academy and the creator of several online trainings for apparel and accessories designers, including “20 Up” Marketing Course for Designers and “How to Start a Fashion Business: New Designer Program”.