Friday, 11 January 2013

Flowers, Mosaics and DunKrugs

Neelam standing in front of an easel with a partly-completed image of a sunflower.  The real sunflower is besider her.
One of the ways in which Neelam exercised her talents when she first came to the UK was through botanical illustration.  She proved to be very good at it, and is beginning to acquire something of a reputation locally.  It was not surprising therefore, that her first thoughts on design should have focused on plants and flowers.  Sadly, no-one with whom she discussed her floral ideas was terribly enthusiastic.

Market research is a tricky thing - especially where creativity is involved.  You never have to look far before you find someone who confidently asserts that your ideas are lacking in some way.  People love to give an opinion, and the more ignorant they are, the more strongly they express it. 

In 1999, the psychologists Justin Kruger and David Dunning wrote an article entitled  "Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments". They describe the phenomenon (named, imaginatively, the Dunning-Kruger effect) whereby ignorant people can be so ignorant that they are ignorant of their ignorance, and talk with greater confidence than experts.

When it comes to fashion, I'm a DunKrug.  I am to fashion what Jimmy Choo is to army boots.  The only time in my life that I ever came close to being fashionable was when I got beaten up as I was leaving school.  It was the punk era and I walked home in a ripped blazer and torn trousers.   If I'd had a few safety pins handy, I could have become a local trendsetter.

Despite my lack of fashion sense, I was able to suggest, with DunKruggish confidence, that Neelam should rethink her designs.  Unfortunately for her, so did people with far more style sense than I. Neelam's ideas were good (they usually are), but people felt that there was a danger of them veering into territories occupied at various times by Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley and William Morris.

Needless to say, we haven't seen the last of Neelam's floral designs.  Flowers featured a little in our first collection, but she's biding her time until she can come up with something distinctively ByNeelam.  Until then, she's turned her thoughts elsewhere.  One of her early thoughts was to design products based on mosaics.  I was quite excited by the idea, and envisioned a nation of accessorizers all dressed like Elmer the Elephant. Sadly, she ended up with something far more subtle and stylish.  Shame.

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