Every designer, or artist works very differently from the next. He or she sees, and consequently interprets the world in a unique manner. As a designer, or aspiring designer, it is very important that you understand how you work, and how you are inspired. Quite frankly, there is no right or wrong answer to this, but having a self-understanding simply makes it ells easier to explain your work, and the validity of your artistic decisions to other people, which is perhaps more important than ever before. I say that for a few reasons, one simply being that more, and more people are entering into the arts sphere, whether as spectators, artists, or for corporate interests. Art is no longer an exclusive, nor methodical--and has long sense been--system. Movements such as the Post-Modernists, and the Dadaist redefined the rules, and game of art, so in a sense, the concepts of aesthetics have taken a bit of a backseat to this idea of intent, or "process".
Before I expound, I would just like to simply reiterate that I am only sharing how I personally approach design, and detailing what works best for me. So with that being said, before any work is created there has to be a purpose. A need. Why am I being compelled to work? What is a problem that needs to be solved? What is a message that I seek to author? From there is the inspiration. Depending on the situation, the nature of the purpose itself can heavily inform the inspiration, and other times it is left more up to interpretation. For me, my purpose, and my inspirations are generally very coincidental. In the field of fashion a lot of designers tend to be very visual. They, for example, will be inspired by flowers, and develop a line of evening dressed with some beautiful petal-esque structures. I hesitate to call myself a part of this category. I am not a particularly visual learner (I am more auditory if it matters), and neither a designer be. When I develop an inspiration it is usually a concept, something that isn't neatly defined by an image, but to which I must supply visual credence. Unlike my FW15 Aviator collection, was one of strict visual translation, my Guardian collection, Bonnie & Clyde ensembles, and On the Verge illustrations are based in roots of LGBT youth crises, temporality, and anxiety/mental illness respectively.
From developing an understanding of these concepts I consider emotional ties to them. How do I feel about a concept? What themes or analogies can I transpose to them? With Guardian, as I mentioned which was inspired by a very controversial topic, I took a very allegorical approach. Many LGBT youth in my research I had learned were abandoned or kicked out of their homes, generally on religious grounds, so this particular thread of commonality led me to the idea of visually portraying these garments in pseudo-archaic silhouettes, balanced geometries, and bold whites to emulate this idea of angels, guardian angels to be specific, juxtaposed with purposeful hues to evoke the symbolism of the LGBT rainbow flag.
This was an example from which I prescribed to a more or less traditional design model. Inspiration, sketch, shop, sew. But typically, I find myself (especially recently) working backwards. Suffice it to say I handle big-pictures better than I do small details. So often times I find myself with these garment ideas in my head, I get them on paper, and I have to figure where they came from--what made me think of this. Or I will be so inspired by a textile (which side note, if you're an impulse shopper like I am, break this habit quickly!) that I will come up with an gorgeous design to use the fabric in, but then have to figure out what the practical purpose it is for.
In the past few months, I have been finding it very difficult to get inspired by things, and I have really been questioning my aptitude for designing. The reason I decided to share a bit about my process is two-fold. One being that in design school, no matter where you go they have an apparent schema for how they expect for you to work, and of course that's not particularly beneficial to every student. But secondly, I wanted to make it apparent that as an artist, or designer, how you work, and what you constantly find yourself inspired by is a lot more telling than merely an indication of your style. I contend it is more subconscious than that. A person who strictly designs off fashion images, is probably more interested in designing trends, and that's okay. A person who is inspired by extreme structure and technology, might be very interested in avant-garde, and that too is okay. But I encourage every designer to examine how they work, and what they frequently work from to crtically assess what area of art, and design their talents are best suited if that be in a creative sphere at all.