Welcome to the “Work It!” column, where we take a look at business innovation of every kind.
You want to be an innovator? Awesome! Where do you start? That’s harder to tackle. Wanting to innovate in your field is admirable, but good ideas can be hard to come by. Artists and businesswomen alike are searching for the secret to creativity.
It may seem like a contradiction, but the key to changing the present can lie in looking at what’s already been done. Take a cue from your favorite hip-hop track; remix the past to innovate for the future.
Maya Lake, designer of the fashion line Boxing Kitten, is a great case study of the business remix.
The fashion industry is one of the most competitive sectors in the market. Studies show 80 percent of retail clothing businesses fail within the first five years. So, how did a no-name designer turn her college senior thesis into a brand adorned by the likes of Solange, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna?
“Melee of Then and Now”
Boxing Kitten’s website describes the collection as “a vibrant melee of Then and Now.” Lake pulls from the past; merging vintage styles with African wax block print fabric to create a look that snaps necks and turns heads. “The initial point of departure for the collection was envisioning what two women — a woman involved in the Civil Rights movement and a woman involved in the black pride movement — would look like combined together,” Lake told Essence.
“I took different style elements of each woman, like the classic and conservative lady-like silhouettes, and the African fabrics that women in the black pride movement wore.” The result is a collection that continues to stand out among competitors who rarely get more ethnic than tribal print.
Lake launched Boxing Kitten with the bare minimum for a fashion line: a website, samples for production, and a cool idea. Word of mouth landed Boxing Kitten around Erykah Badu’s frame in a spread for Giant magazine in 2008. The line soon found it’s way into music video director and Lake fan, Melina Matsoukas’ productions for Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” and Alicia Keys and Beyoncé’s mythical “Put It In a Love Song”.
If you’re drawing your inspiration from the past, what’s to stop someone from drawing inspiration from you? Nothing. That’s the nature of the game. And Lake isn’t worried about it. She told Madame Noire, “I think the only thing I can do is keep moving forward, keep doing what I’m doing, because no one’s going to do it the way I’m doing it.”
Lake echoes the words of poet, critic, and editor T.S. Eliot: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” At this point, nothing in the world is completely original. Every “new” thing is a remix of something that’s been done before.
Before you go stealing everybody’s ideas, keep these rules from artist and author Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like An Artist, in mind:
C. Cleveland is a freelance writer and content strategist in New York City, perfecting living the fierce life at The Red Read. She is at your service on Twitter (@CleveInTheCity) and Facebook (/MyReadIsRed).
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