here’s what I’d love to see: Portland filled with lots of incredible designers. It would be good for my business.
That’s how competition in non-commodities works. Look at Silicon Valley or Antwerp.
What are they? Small cities that specialized in something.
Antwerp became famous for fashion and design, despite having nothing like the population base or history that Paris and New York have. Being a designer from Antwerp groups you with a contemporary history that includes Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, and more. The Antwerp Six provided a fashion voice for the city, and drew skilled workers, allowing future designers to have the talent base needed to grow a business. Some of the designers moved on, but Antwerp has remained a fashion capital in its own right, despite small size.
San Jose (aka Silicon Valley) specialized in technology, best know for web technologies – google, yahoo, etc. Enough companies employing basically the same skill sets moved there, or grew up there, that a specific talent base emerged, and really amazing technologies emerged from the culture. The culture created the businesses as much as the businesses created the culture.
If a city becomes known for a consumer item, such as designer clothing, it becomes a destination- seeing the streets of portland filled with more designers (clothing or otherwise) gives the city an individuality, draws more business, more shoppers, and more suppliers. Right now, there’s a dearth of pattern makers, sample makers, fabric and notions suppliers…a vacuum that might be filled were the city to be home to more designers.
The second part of competition, especially with a creative product- is that there really is no competition. Everything is different, and speaks to different people, to a different market. Coco Chanel was not a ‘better’ designer than Dior, just addressed a different need. In a creative world, there is room and need for a variety of visions, and true creativity is financially rewarded….as long as you find the market. Which is easier to do if you are working in a geographic location that values your skills! That’s why programmers of the same skill level will be paid more in Silicon Valley than in Maine.
An aside: Chanel said something about copying I’ve taken to heart- she noted that people were knocking off her suits and bags and said, paraphrasing “let them! it just makes the real thing that much more special and famous.”
Fashion teaches you non-attachment. Last season is last season, and, since you’ll always create something new, there’s no need to worry about it being copied.
Everything else is business. Running a business smartly and efficiently is the difference between a designer who makes gorgeous clothes and never a profit, and one who makes a sustainable business.
Portland has been marketing itself as a creative worker destination for a while. (whether or not this is a particularly economically viable path is another question , not one I’m going to argue right now ;) )
Drawing more creative professionals to the city is highly beneficial to every creative professional who’s already here. It provides healthy competition, where true talent and skill are sorted out from that which is not, and can be the incubator for larger businesses to emerge.
To state in design terms, one “martin margiela” in portland would make the culture that much more welcoming for independent small designers like myself.
I personally made the choice to not move to new york city- because I love portland, love my slow lifestyle and being close to my family, love being able to live in a place bigger than 500 square feet….and have a studio across the street. But I think I could have made much more ‘progress’ with my design business were I in new york.
Instead, I’d like to just bring more design influencers to portland.
(more designers in Portland, and Portland as a fashion destination, would mean I could justify higher prices for my items. Which are, right now, priced about half of what they would be if I were working in NYC)