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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

….check out the source

It’s easier to criticize than to create --- I have heard this line too often, and now it is really starting to hit home.  With my recent TV appearance, and many other public speaking engagements, I am putting myself out there as I talk about my life as a designer and the products I design.  Overall, I am getting great feedback and support.  But every now and then I do hear negative feedback.  I like to think that most negative criticism is given to help me create a better product?  But I am now at a point where I need to figure where to draw the line.  If I start to listen to every suggestion thrown my way, nothing will get done.  I’ll lose myself and be left with zero creativity to work with. 

To make a single product that will fit and please every woman is simply not possible. 
So how does one discern what to take seriously, what to put on the back burner, and what to simply ignore?  To decipher this, I apply a very simple rule my mother taught me.  Whenever you receive either a complement or a criticism, consider the source.  Of course, she was right.

Here is an example that stands out in my mind.  It took place in my second season in the business.  A store owner called me, visibly upset with the dresses I sent her.  She was not happy with the length of each dress, and told me all my dresses were too short for her customers.  Actually, they were not that short, just 3” above the knee.  What was the big deal?  If a woman has great legs, she wants to show them off, I thought.  This store owner went on for 15 minutes, telling me I better start cutting my dresses a little longer if I want to survive in this business because not all women want to show off their legs.  She said my design sensibility is sophisticated and many such women do not want to wear short dresses.  I immediately corrected this problem, not only because I felt she had a valid point, but because I respected her as a business woman.  She had been in the industry for over 15 years, continues to run a great store, and pays her bills on time, and has a loyal clientele.  To me, a neophyte, I knew I had to take her advice seriously.  From that day on I never heard a complaint about dress lengths.

So my advice to all those who are starting a business, or are taking on new challenges in life: criticism is great, and must be heard.  But remember there is good and bad criticism, the trick is to know the difference. 

Always check out the source.


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