The Tailor

—Josep Palau

Like the old trades, design is inexorably linked to clients: we design for them. The art is in knowing how to leave aside our assumptions and put our talent to the use of others. 

Design responds to a need. In this sense, our profession inherited much from craftspeople of other times, as far back as the beginning of civilization. When we opened our business and waited for clients to come in through the door in search of our services, we worked on a simple premise: if he likes what we have done for others, then he will most likely appreciate what we can do for him too.

Let’s think, for a moment, like a tailor. A potential client comes through the door in the moment that he decides to. Even though his visit could well be the outcome of reflection relating to a special occasion, or in search of something unique, or just the desire to look good or to renew the wardrobe. Understanding these motivating factors is essential for the tailor to succeed. It’s obvious that attending a wedding is not the same for the bridegroom as it is for the mother of the bride, the best man or a bridesmaid, a guest or a musician from the band. It’s the same event but the reasons are very different and so too is the cost.

Once the reason for buying becomes clear it is reasonable to find out where and why the garment will be worn. What will the weather be like? Will it have to combine with another piece of clothing? Does it have to be similar to another garment to be worn by someone else? Should it coordinate with the place and the decoration? Is there some tradition that needs to be taken into account? Is there some social or local code? All of these details help the tailor come up with ideas. Maybe he won’t sketch them but he will describe them and show other similar designs. It is a crucial moment in the process, perhaps the most important, but it is far from being the final product yet. However, he does have the basis of a common language with which to discuss and co-create with his client. 

It is essential to take accurate measurements as well as taking into consideration not only the physical characteristics but also the client’s posture. The materials are then selected, the fabric, fastenings, button, threads… All these are a tailor’s tools but the choice of supplier, quality and style guarantees success. Once the decision has been taken the tailor starts to create the garment and as the fittings progress the piece starts undergoing a process of adjustment, making it more unique and perfect for the client, until it feels just right. It is now that a few delicate suggestions might be made, to lose a little weight, to tighten up a little, perhaps even what underwear to wear. Also he will come up with ideas for accessories, shoes, belts, socks, shirts and ties, even handkerchiefs. Only now will the garment be finished to everyone’s satisfaction. 

The similarities between the tailor and his profession and that of the designer are undeniable. The list is long: we do not produce for prêt-à-porter; we do everything to measure and according to the tastes of the client. We are subject to trends and fashion, to new technology and machinery, etc. Beyond these obvious similarities I believe that there are three lines of thinking that are vital for designers.

First, it’s a profession based on the person. It is very human: provocative, creative, social and enormously dependent on our capacity to communicate.  For this reason, it has to tolerate mistakes, challenge moods, remedy the shortfalls and create something based on our own experience. We must not forget that the client, in many cases, has to respond to the consumer, and this just adds new variables to the equation, all profoundly human. 

Secondly, it is an exercise of co-creation based on the expert knowledge of both parts. In Ideograma we tend to say that our clients’ business is an idea. And only if this idea is strong and well anchored are we able, as designers, to create something to define it, give it life, improve it, name it, dress it and communicate it. We’re sorry to say that often the client seems unreasonable, but – as my partner Juan Carlos Fernandez says – always, absolutely always, he will be the reason for us to continue. 

Finally, it’s a discipline that is cooked at home, far from the clients’ offices. An ideal space to work is really important, that inspires and motivates the beauty of the final result. As the great Mexican caricaturist Rius said: “you cannot live as if beauty didn’t exist”. 

We are celebrating 50 years of the existence of the graphic design degree course in the Iberoamericana University, which makes us think that we are contemporary, but we have inherited the skills and benefits of the old professions. We are here for our clients and their needs, solving what they are unable to. It’s precisely that, quite simply, that makes me get up every day with a feeling of pride, of belonging to a profession that is here to stay, always. 

Josep Palau

Partner and managing director

Pep is skilled at managing both left and right hemispheres. A charismatic Catalan, he loves to tell stories that are often lessons of life. He is a partner in Ideograma, a brand guru, and the light that guides Ideograma in Mexico.

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