How to Handle Fashion Design Criticism

MakersValley Blog | How to Handle Fashion Design Criticism
Anna Spaugh

Anna Spaugh

Imagine this: someone has criticized a fashion collection that you created. They analyzed your work and found it wanting.

Criticism comes along frequently in the fashion industry. So how should new designers respond? By listening to what was said? Or by ignoring it and brushing it off?

How to React When You Receive Design Criticism

When we receive criticism, there are a few different ways we tend to react. Listening to every critique can end up crippling us, or making us defensive. Design criticism can feel hurtful, but you need to understand that the work is what’s being critiqued. Responding calmly to criticism is the best way to go. Sure, defend, question, and explain your decisions, but keep your cool while you do so. If you’re closed off, your designs cannot improve, nor can your skill as a designer.

How Criticism of Your Fashion Designs Helps You

How Criticism Can Help You

Good criticism is not a negative thing; it helps you to improve. The key is to take in the criticism of your designs, look at it objectively, rework your design to improve it, and learn from the experience. This will not only help you improve your fashion designs, but may also shed light on a design or sales principle that you weren’t seeing and could benefit from. Learning to productively absorb and respond to criticism is also a general healthy lesson in maintaining humility and not developing a big ego.

When you’re a newer fashion designer, you’re experimenting and figuring out a lot of your aesthetic and design principles. And critiques of your designs can feel disheartening. However, if you are secure and confident about your designs, you’ll have an easier time receiving and growing from informed design criticism. Responding to criticism is a skill, and like all skills, it improves with practice.

Who is Criticizing Your Fashion Designs?

Not all criticism carries the same weight. When you receive criticism on your designs, first evaluate the source. Take commentary from friends, family, or acquaintances who do not work in fashion or who are not your target customer with a grain of salt.

Criticism from fashion peers or design critics are worth more serious consideration. When you receive criticism from one of your fashion peers, ask yourself, “Why does this matter?” Well, if a rival is being malicious and hoping to discourage you, that criticism is not worth taking. On the other hand, if the criticism they give you is honest and constructive, then it is worth listening to and pondering. If you hear the same critique multiple times from different people, then there is almost definitely something there.

Fashion Designer at work

A fashion design critic’s job is literally to critique fashion, and when a negative one comes your way it can be discouraging as a new designer. You can certainly disagree with a critic, but recognize that this is their expertise and there may be value in what they say. Remember the critique is not about you, but your design and how it could possibly bring more value to your fashion label.

Criticism can also come from your manufacturer. Manufacturers have lots of experience and knowledge. You might hear suggestions on changing fabrics, trims, or alterations on designs when you send your tech pack to a manufacturer. Take these critiques seriously, as they deal with very precise fit and function areas of your products, which will impact how customers wear and review them after your point of sale.

Conquering Fear of Criticism

Fear of Criticism

Don’t be afraid to experiment with new design techniques because of criticism. As you grow as a fashion designer, you will learn when to listen to criticism and edit your designs and when to stand your ground. Remember, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things.” - Winston Churchill.

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