For a while now I have been wearing two hats. One as this business, sourcing wonderful original fabrics for you and the other working as a graphic and textile designer in the clothing industry.
Sometimes you reach a point in your life where you need to let go of something. For me, this has been a decision I've been making for a long time, but hung in there, even though I was no longer enjoying what I was doing.
As the requests came in they got pushed further down the pile in the to do list. This was a sign.
After taking some time out I have tried to clear my head to make this decision and its a really big one for me.
To say good bye to this part of my life is saying goodbye to a good 20 years of who I am or should I say now, 'was'. To the kid who always knew what they wanted to be. To the young adult who worked their butt off to be in an industry that was cut throat and competitive and survived.
But a while back things really started to change in the section of the industry I was working in. The push for 'fast' fashion meant things were really churning. The reliance on China and Bangladesh for cheaper than cheap production meant the flow on effect was cheaper and cheaper design. When the rates started being squeezed and the competition for jobs became harder, less and less work was available. China now offers full design services for one twentieth of what a designer here needs to charge to cover costs and pull a wage. The briefs coming in were to copy a sample, not to design from scratch. I was being pushed to do things I didn't want to do and knew were wrong. No one wanted original work anymore, they just wanted the overseas samples replicated, and for next to nothing.
There are other far more complicated reasons why I am saying good bye to this part of my life. I no longer want to do interviews where I walk out feeling redundant and worthless that I have passed some kind of use by date in this industry. Where years of experience is a death sentence and not an asset. Where you begin to feel over qualified to just do the job you trained to do. Perhaps I chose the wrong sector but I always loved designing and fabrics and working with clothing. Perhaps I should have stuck with packaging but at the time I didn't enjoy it as much.
Where buyers, managers and agents cut the rates there is always someone who is happy to do the job for next to nothing for a foot in the door and experience. This has meant that its really hard to get paid enough to survive.
The costs of maintaining software, computers and insurance is expensive and those costs have to be covered somewhere. Also when you need to pay your own super and take care of your own tax from the contract rates it gets really bleak. Younger designers starting out don't take this into account when they offer to take a gig for $25 an hour. Further down the track it means there are no wages for anyone.
When I left the industry as a full time designer back in 2009 I was earning roughly the same money I was 10 years previously. In effect, my wages had gone backwards. I took full time work because I wanted a house, banks don't like freelancers much.
Issues with copyright and being asked to copy other peoples work is another thing I refuse to do. So, again, someone else will. And they know that.
I was an ok designer. I was fast, with good technical skills, professional and always delivered on time. I wasn't the best and nor was I someone who shouted from the roof tops or demanded to stick my name on everything. I did the job, delivered it and waited to get paid. Sometimes you didn't. Chasing payment is another thing I just can't face doing anymore. I know its tough for businesses at the moment, but its tough for us too!
So, I guess I'm burnt out. I don't want to design for other companies anymore. I will keep the few clients I like, trust and enjoy working with who respect what I do and that I've worked with for a long time but thats about it. So many of my previous clients no longer exist. Thats another problem with our industry here, its shrinking. The smaller labels and independents are being squeezed out by the big majors. We need to support our little guys. We need to support local talent and what is left of locally made.
So, after close to 20 years working as a designer of some description I have decided to shut the book on this chapter of my life. And open a page that is clean and white and one day when I am ready scribble some shit and see what it turns into! Stay tuned....