Ego, it can be the element that helps one rise, as well as fall. Our sense of self is very important to design. Exceptional uniqueness can create exceptional ideas. However, a little to much self esteem used with lack of empathy and understanding for people can cause failure. Overly emotional, to flamboyant, and fake behavior are key aspects for the public not accepting a working relationship with a designer. Many fellow designers were also excited to discuss ego-based issues in the work place with me. The following are 3 examples of how ego can help or hinder your fashion Start-Up!
Show off or Show up to do the damn thing!
A good example of how ego held a designer back: I had a conversation with a young and talented designer that couldn't understand why people liked the work, but were not buying the product. After asking questions to find out who the customer was, the designer found the main reason for lack of business. The designer was making "show pony" pieces. Items that only a skinny model could wear. The work was excellent, but only a small percent of the population could wear it. The designer was thinking magazine & runway, not everyday people who would spend money on awesome unique RTW items, that fit shape.
On the other spectrum we have Christian Siriano. An American designer who designs for many body types, he enjoys the challenge of meeting the needs of women. Being inclusive, rather than exclusive. Christian fundamentally is aware that to do the work he loves, he must make money. Making apparel for the masses helps him create books like "Dresses to Dream About". Christian is also humble to the changes he needs to make his business grows. Christian is here to do the damn thing!
example of the image above shows Christian Siriano has a comprehensive understanding of business, creativity, and customer connection.
You Can't Touch This! Charitable ego.
Does anyone remember what happened to MC Hammer? He was a R&B pop artist that made it big on the one hit wonder "You cant touch this!" His rise and fall happened quickly and partially due to ego. Hammer ended up hiring all his friends to support them, and paying off other peoples debts. It was his way of telling others he had "arrived". This practice ended up with Hammer in debt to the tune of 13 million. He isn’t in fashion, but a good example.
As a business, we may want to invest into community too soon. The ego wants to feel something good, while other aspects are overwhelming. Expansion or hiring for positions that are not necessary can cause funds to be misused. I see many people who hire someone because of pity. Sometimes friends are hired, because they want to be surrounded by a "feel-good" team. This is because the EGO fears the challenge. The EGO wants to feel like "You Can't Touch This”. While thinking, I am giving back to my friends. The old adage of surrounding yourself with honest people who can challenge you to be better everyday. They keep you real, attainable, and in-touch. Eventually as you grow a company, you can give back, but take time to create a healthy business first.
Be the Mad Visionary with a Heart
One of my favorite designers is Alexander McQueen. He shared my birthday, so I am a bit partial to his madness. Alexander could understand the power behind watching a bird, and then translating that visual moment into clothing. His ego understood that consumers were emotional about clothing. "Lee" was a showman, creating fashion shows that introduced holograms, web broadcast, robotics, and more. Educating the viewer on other perspectives of beauty. People could feel his moments of expression through his clothing or show execution. He was inclusive in subculture and culture as a whole. Bringing the first set of India based supermodels to the western runway. Ego brought him to the pinnacle of success.
Fame became his enemy. Alexander wanted to simply be free to build ideas without comparison to other people or work. Art and the ego of others drove the business. He became the slave to what the ego of the media created. The visions became lost in the “popular”. He wasn’t a flamboyant, egotistical designer. Instead he was gentle, quiet, and purposeful. In order to create a following and connection, we must be able to be open, rather than elitist. Let’s face it, fashion gets an elitist attitude because people think that is the way to behave, but it keeps us separate and misunderstood as a culture, and profession.
We all should have a sprinkle of healthy self-perception, but in order to remain healthy we need honest feedback, boundaries that create joy, and give to others in ways that impact their sense of self. Don't take criticism or failure of task to be a lacking aspect to your ego. We all fail; what we learn with a clear mind can help us. To be more direct, don't operate with a bratty, self-righteous, rude, crass, and distasteful way. It disrespects yourself, team, and consumers. No one has time for that!