Jaipur, India. Jan. 8, 2021. Hello again! It’s me, Aparna Sarogi, the intern for JenniferHeebner.com and a fashion design student at The New School, Parsons School of Design, in New York City. As I continue to take classes remotely from home in India, I learn more and more about design and, specifically, the importance of a signature design or signature style, a topic Jen often focuses on in jewelry.
What a Signature Style Looks Like
From logos to prints and patterns, a signature style helps creatives develop a brand. In the clothing arena, Chanel uses its iconic interlocked CC on designs ranging from garments to accessories, and the brand’s famous tweed suits are status symbols. Iris Van Herpen enjoys success with her eye-catching fusion of technology and traditional haute couture involving voluminous layers of fabric with movement. Then there’s Alexander Wang’s spin on a classic white tee and denim—his signature is subtle changes to familiar silhouettes, like moving the location of a zipper—keeping the brand fresh for youth. Meanwhile, Maison Schiaparelli is renowned for surrealism, such fingerprints as polka dots and rings in the shape of fingers. In shoes, shiny red-lacquer soles stand out as the signature of the Christian Louboutin brand.
A garment from Maison Schiaparelli’s Fall-Winter 2020 season features fingerprint polka dots.
Source: @schiaparelli on Instagram
In jewelry, signature style examples vary and seem easier to identify than in clothing. Examples include David Yurman’s cable, John Hardy’s Balinese dot, and Ray Griffith’s crown work. Italian designer Gina Ferranti, of the jewelry brand Gigi Ferranti, always has bright colored stones wrapped in gold. Most of her inspiration stems from her Italian roots, and she wants to create an experience of Italy for her wearers.
Jewelry Designer Ray Griffiths has a signature style of
crown work in karat gold.
Sometimes the signature styles of jewelry and clothing collide. Paco Rabanne’s clothing consists of chain links and metallic pieces because he learned these skills from his sister, a jeweler. This is why he began his fashion career at Balenciaga, Dior, and Givenchy making jewelry before launching his namesake brand as a couture designer with a chainmail-intense signature style.
Developing My Own Signature Style
Studying the works of couturiers helps me understand my own budding sense of style and direction. At an early stage I took inspiration from Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, and Vera Wang, who play with fabric on a dress form before sketching a garment on paper. Similarly, my own design process starts with brainstorming forms, textures, and fabrics, rather than sketching the silhouette. I usually have an idea of colors and fabrics, and as I start to put everything together, the vision becomes clearer. With a minimalist approach right now, my developing aesthetic includes neutrals and pastels, like The Row uses. I also use prints like florals, but I’m not sure those will endure. I know I want to design for working women. For sure, my look is bold yet clean, and a work in progress.
A drape from my personal archive reflects how fabric sits
and molds itself onto the body.
Accessories complete and complement fashion looks, so I consider how jewelry will enhance my designs. Just as jewelry designers keep the necklines of a particular season in mind to create their neck accessories, I keep accessories in mind as I design clothes. If I’m creating a V neck silhouette, I think about the jewelry that will pair well with it. If I design a high neckline, I think about whether or not it will need a necklace or if earrings will suffice. And if I’m designing a neckline with ruffles or bows, then I probably don’t need a necklace at all.
A Strong Signature Style Is Built to Last
The point of a strong signature? It’s meant to last. Memorable brand DNA helps it survive in today’s competitive market. But establishing one look doesn’t mean it remains stagnant; a look has to evolve over time while remaining true to its roots. That’s how a designer of any type becomes globally renowned. This isn’t easy to do!
Each season is an opportunity to breathe new life into one’s DNA; designers must keep enhancing it with some new aspect while keeping the core style present. Why? If a new generation can’t relate to it, it won’t sell.
Zac Posen creates couture in Central Park using pins and fabrics with drapes inspired by New York City.
Source: @zacposen on Instagram
Chanel is a good example of an established brand that still works—it continues to add enough newness to its core (like varying tweed suit silhouettes) while retaining its classic voice. Same for Hermès, one of the oldest fashion brands. It’s known for its orange color and Birkin bag. Hermès also uses a lot of brown and maroon colors. All effects are classic, never dull, and continue to make fans stand out in appealing ways. Some brands that I think try too hard include Moschino and Michael Kors; Moschino is too trendy and doesn’t focus enough on a classic vibe (something that can be worn daily) while Kors used to be considered a luxury but now anybody can have it. I’m not sure how long-lasting these brands can be. What I do know, however, is that I still have a long journey ahead of me as I develop my own signature.
Do you have a favorite design DNA in clothing or jewelry? I’d love to hear about it.
Click here to read my first blog post!
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