Creating seriously functional clothing involves melding practicality with graceful design.
I created Sympatico Clothing in response to the need for genuinely sustainable apparel. Involved with textiles all my life, I blog about sustainable fashion and am especially focused on the intersection between artisanship and eco-friendly apparel.
One of my early Sympatico designs, the Tuxedo Top (in Graphite) embodies my focus on practical elegance.
Even though he rarely deals with fashion as such, I’m a devoted reader of Seth Godin’s daily blog. A recent post of his about practical elegance as a goal for our life’s work resonated strongly with me. I love what Godin has to say to his presumably techie-leaning audience about some of the qualities that define practical elegance:
Some of us make a thing and many of us make a system. What makes something practically elegant is that it’s better, smoother, cleaner, more understandable, kinder, more efficient, friendlier or more approachable than it needs to be.
Godin then goes on to talk about real-world examples of practically elegant design, contrasting the elegance of Macintosh computers during their prime with their relatively clunky competitors, Windows machines that nobody loved much, even though they dominated the PC market. After all, your Mac even smiled at you when you started it, and sometimes even seemed to anticipate what you were trying to accomplish.
Elegant design focuses far more on the user experience and far less on the financial bottom line. Key to that elegance in Godin’s mind is the virtue of simplicity. The accumulating complexity of the Macintosh operating systems in recent years now results in his computer crashing in decidedly inelegant ways. Godin laments the missing polish and intention to delight that he detected in earlier Mac systems.
I get that completely. In the world of clothing I like to think about simplicity in terms of un-fussiness. That’s a virtue I aim for whether its about the actual cut and look of a garment or the way it needs to be cared for and cleaned.
And when it comes to my customers’ experience, delight is decidedly what I’m going for. Offering highly personalized, one-on-one service to Sympatico customers is one way to achieve that. Another is to always keep real-world customer needs front and center. That’s why practical concerns such as elegantly integrated pockets are a pretty big deal around here.
Godin, as usual, says it best: "When a designer combines functionality with delight, we’re drawn to whatever she’s produced. That’s the elegance we’re searching for in our built world."