Sitting in the audience for Eva Chen’s conversation with designers Becca McCharen and Tanya Taylor on November 16 was like being a fly on the wall as girlfriends got together to chat about fashion, social media, and running their own businesses. The conversation was part of The Museum at FIT’s Fashion Culture series, and it covered everything from the role of social media in their work and wearable tech to diversity in the industry and body positivity.
Chen, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram, moderated the conversation with her signature sense of humor. She started, not surprisingly, by asking Taylor and McCharen who the most unexpected person is that each of them follows on Instagram. She then asked how Instagram has helped advance their careers.
“Instagram has definitely allowed us to connect with our customer in a totally different way than we would be able to without it,” Taylor said. “People are able to connect with us more. Also just being able to talk directly to people and get their feedback.”
Chen inquired about advice that each of the designers would give to aspiring designers wanting to break into the business.
“I feel lucky that I didn’t study fashion. I studied architecture,” McCharen said. “I look at the body as sort of a landscape for interventions and structure, and I think that’s helped us navigate the world of fashion technology. My advice is to not go straight in but to explore different non-fashion things, because that will make you more unique.”
All three women agreed that one of the most challenging and unexpected things about designers running their own businesses is just that: running the business. “Running a company and being a designer and head of your own label, you think you’re going to be painting and sketching and being super creative, but that’s only about 10 percent of what you do,” McCharen said. “The rest of it is all business, figuring out where the factory is going to produce, where to get your fabric, how to show your collection to people, figuring out what your Instagram posts are going to be, and figuring out your whole marketing. It’s so much beyond the design part.”
Chen wanted to know the designers’ thoughts on the difference between clothing designed by a woman and clothing designed by a man. “I think that men design for fantasy and women design for functionality,” Taylor said. “There’s an element of that that’s real. We design for what our bodies want to feel, and I think there’s this physical sense to what I design. There’s this emotional touch that a female designer has.”