One of the tenets of a 'good' designer is that you get out and pull inspiration from around you, and I don't think you'll meet a designer who wouldn't like to travel for research, spend time wandering aimlessly round sydney or tokyo, go to gigs and festivals. But for the majority of folks with a full time job and the pretence of life, this can be unrealistic. A varying degree of wandering and going to gigs gets done anyway, because you do what you love and what you're interested in and what inspires you as a matter of course. However, there aren't endless budgets for travel, there isn't endless time.
If you then bring into the equation the occasional lack of trust in design demonstrated by some businesses that results in meetings where questions are asked about how you know it's 'right', how you can guarantee that it's 'on trend', what exact week it needs to be sent into store to anticipate the 15 year old customer's desire to wear it. I'm not knocking interaction between design, sales and merchandising - pressure makes the diamond after all - and design should be backed up by research and elegant thought. But what's asked for now is more forensic - people need evidence.
That's where coolhunters, trend services and websites come in. They do the travelling, visit the shops, take the pictures, interpret the vibe on the street, collate the research. But that's almost not enough. There's this need to know that you're getting your research from the place where everyone else is getting it, so you don't miss a trick. In denim a couple of years ago it was suddenly imperative to go to the Pasadena Rose Bowl market. Before, it was a great place for research and inpsiration. Suddenly, if you weren't there, your entire line would fail, because you wouldn't be inspired by the same things as all the other denim lines. (God forbid you might develop a collection that had an inner narrative, a sense of place, time and style.)
Anyway, I get the feeling that the current must-be place is Coachella (which is a bit of a shame as it's a 12 hour plane journey from where I am, and it sounds horrifically hot. Added to which, my tolerance for crowds of people that annoy me is pretty low). I have reviewed the photos, and inspiration-wise I feel like I can save you the trouble. Denim shorts. High-waisted. Tuck a vest in. I don't want to sound cynical, because being in a particular place at a certain time you occasionally get that vibe, and you're just drinking the whole thing in through your pores, and it's an amazing feeling. But every single person poring over the same picture of the same girl at Coachella in a pair of high-waisted denim shorts at their desks on Monday morning is not that feeling.
I'm not really sure what my problem is. It's life, it's work. WGSN and other trend sites do a good job, it is good to see real clothes worn in inspiring ways, fashion is much more adventurous than the glossy mags would have you believe, and you could never see as much by yourself at the event as you can with photos from the event. Perhaps partly because you'd have a bottle of beer if you were there. But I can't help thinking that it's too much information, it takes up the space in your brain where your mind wanders after an elusive mood. And some of the pictures that you see aren't spontaeous outpourings of natural style. A friend who takes some street pictures said that on a recent trip to Brick Lane she found the same people, in the same clothes, standing in the same place, waiting to be photographed for style sites and blogs. That's depressing.
So sometimes it's nice to take a journey against reality, through someone else's eyes. Coachella through the eyes of Hedi Slimane.