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On reinventing the wheel in fashion

One year at Both&

We say the word ‘creativity’ so often these days that we’ve lost track of how extraordinary the concept is at its roots. To create something out of nothing — what a magical thing! What an understandably challenging thing, too.

A year into building Both& I am both amazed and horrified by the kind of bravado it’s required, and which has felt perfectly natural at the time. There are so many moments that have demanded great leaps into the unknown, assuming that I can grow wings or create something to break my fall, while falling.

The further I get into entrepreneurship and the more wise people I speak to, the firmer my understanding about the nature of creativity in entrepreneurship I have become.

We don’t create something from nothing once, but rather over and over again. There is no seventh day of rest — nor the illusion of completeness. Instead, all of the leaders I respect the most have trained a very particular muscle: they know when to pause, amidst the never-ending motion, and when to move along the grain of it, racing themselves and their capacity for newness.

They don’t see creation as a phase, but as a state.

At Both&, we’ve taken on a kind of ‘reinventing the wheel’ type of project. Our goal is to build the first fit and sizing system not based off the binary. It poses an interesting question from a design standpoint: when to leverage all of the work and best practices that have already been established, and when to throw everything established out and replace with our own research. We have yet to fully answer that question (though if the testimonials and feedback we’ve received on our first collection is any indicator, we’ve done a miraculously good job thus far), but I have learned a few important lessons along the way.

The first is that not having a background in the area you try to innovate can sometimes work to your advantage.

As an outsider to fashion, I brought years of observation, an enormous amount of qualitative and quantitative research I had conducted with the community, a few creative ideas, and no ego or identification with the design process to the table. Everything else (tech packs, MOQs, vertically integrated factories, the weights and different methods for washing textiles, etc.) was utterly new to me. This ultimately allows me to be far more flexible in how we develop our clothing: I am profoundly aware of my blind spots, and can therefore account for them by bringing in the people who compliment me best. I don’t need to be right — I need to the do the right thing for what we are creating and who we are serving. That’s much easier, when your identity isn’t wrapped up in what you’re building.

The second lesson circles back around to my earlier point: it’s an illusion to think there is a binary delineation between hypothesis and data, chaos and order, creativity and execution, firefighting and even-keeled success. As I grow as a thinker/leader/creator/improvisor and sift through the enormous amount of content surrounding entrepreneurship, all of the methods, models, and north stars increasingly boil down (in my mind) to a few, simple points. Extracting an idea from the imaginative landscape and translating it into something real and valued in the world is a messy art. We do it most gracefully when we never forget the core reason behind the idea, and when we can approach the creative process with humility, wonder, and a good sense of humor.

Every day poses a new question. That’s the joy, and the challenge.



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