What if we skip the style adjectives …
And ask instead: What’s the concept?
I was doing some thinking in advance of our monthly email for my work at Honor Code Creative.
And I started looking back at some of the work I’ve really enjoyed, where my brain really fires. (I promise, this is getting back to style in a sec.) It all came back to this: the concept.
The concept is meant to be the heart of a good advertising or marketing campaign. But it often goes missing. People think about making cool stuff. They think about what they want to see: “Let’s do something totally black!” Or about being part of the next big thing. “Let’s get [influencer X] [singing Y].” Or whatever. It can lead to work that feels soulless and don’t connect.
The concept takes me back to what I love most: storytelling. Unearthing a killer thesis statement. A driving North Star that matters. It’s a notion I’ve relied on my whole life and where I’m most engaged.
Let me give you 2 quick work examples.
Then I’ll explain the fashion aha.
For EdX, (online learning) I looked at the space they owned, what they had the potential to do, and the divided climate of the country and thought “we all have more to learn.” No matter who we are, which side we’re on. Right? This is where they win. This was what they were at this very moment. Their big picture. Their essence.
For ASICS, the channel was social. But the need for an emotional core is there, just the same. I thought: What are they really about? Long history of meaningful shoe-building, foundation in Japan on engineering and architecture, reviews and videos saying these shoes let me run and feel free when I thought I couldn’t. They are function, but on the deepest emotional level. It’s their why. “For the love of function.” That’s the concept. The campaign would let people create “shoe portraits” telling the real stories of how the shoes’ function powered them through the moments when they needed it most.
And now to style.
I was thinking, maybe it’s the rubric of 3–4 adjectives that gets us stuck. Before I was saying how I like style adjectives that can apply to the human. (Modern, Miami.) Versus the purely executional. (Oversized, bright.) And maybe it makes sense to get out of those executional thoughts even further. If you’re struggling over adjectives, stop. And instead ask, “really, what’s my essential concept?” If you want, use that concept to get to the adjectives. Or skip the adjectives entirely and have your one concept statement driving the sartorial choices.
Let’s start with KC over @refinedpracmatic … Instead of looking granularly, take a big sweep of the impression she gives. The rogue red sock. The oil slick of a skirt. The big white loafer. Contrasting the behaved pleats, blazers, white shirts with a matte red lip. What idea does it all telegraph?
It’s like — professor with a wink, a prep school kid smoking out a window, it’s Phineas from A Separate Peace wearing his Devon school necktie as a belt … In a sentence: Let’s break some rules.
That’s the concept. Let’s softens it. Because she’s not unapproachable. And it also implies the wink. C’mon let’s break ’em. It’s spirited rule-breaking. Talking in class. Not a bicep tattoo. Some not all.
OK so now the adjectives if you want (if not, she could just go with this essence; “rules” is still a nudge to this idea of heritage/classics to give that prep gone wrong idea). I start KC with the Tibi list: chill, modern, classic as a base; she’s a Tibi fan/wearer. Classic nods to the rules. Chill gets at the wink, the relaxation. Modern encompasses that there’s always a right now element. What’s missing? Her modifier: “rebellious.” This is her final nudge to make sure her essence is there in an outfit. Do I have that “bad” element? In a good way.
How about Tamara @lyonsshareliving?
Her handle says a lot. She lost her beloved husband far too soon and everything she wears, does and posts is about seizing the moment. Embracing her girliness. Zest for life.
Twirling full speed ahead. That’s her concept.
So her adjectives — because she ain’t no Tibi girl. Feminine, sexy, exuberant. Sexy is present no matter what, even in sneakers, etc. But always served with femininity so it feels soft and approachable and can go anywhere, embracing elements like boucle jackets and pretty, practical shoes when warranted. Exuberant gets at that zest — and encompasses rule breaking, trying MORE of anything, lots of matching colors, tiers, collecting, and her love of learning. All of it! Sometimes too much is just enough! If she were stuck asking “Is this me” (she never seems to be), she could use adjectives. Or she could stand in front of the mirror and ask: “Am I twirling full speed ahead?”
Ready to try the conceptual approach?
- Sit down alone with your phone and a piece of paper.
- Stop thinking about your adjectives. When adjectives bubble up, write them down and shove the paper away.
- Look at your photos of your instagram, focusing especially on those you like.
- Ask yourself … what’s the story here? If this were a book, what would the book jacket say? What thesis statement I would I write on it? If it were a movie, what would the one liner on the poster be?
- When you get something you like, see if it can get any shorter/tighter without losing anything. You want to get at the gist in an engaging way in a handful of words.
- Write that down and leave it for a moment.
- Now come back and make sure it still holds. Adjust. If you want, you could now, ask what are the adjectives that support this concept? If there are more than 3, what are the 3 that do the heavy lifting? You can add a “modifier” if you like, 3 adjectives and the unique spin you put on those.
And if you need help DM me @heymrssolomon