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The C Word

There’s a growing consensus amongst my contemporaries. It involves the overuse of that dirty C word…you know…creativity.

I could go deep into this rampant obsession and frothy-mouth-induced fascination that the “creative paradigm” has brought to all facets of our world – arts, science, and busine$$. But I’ll leave that to the experts.

What’s more interesting to me is how we’ve come to distinguish anything that’s smacking of originality as “creative”. I guess by definition (thanks to my trusty Oxford American desktop dictionary) creativity refers to or involves imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of artistic work, and particularly regarding a person who is creative in a professional setting. So needless to say this overarching definition is pretty much applicable to any given context.

But I think what’s important to remember this early in the game (if I can say that without some pesky academic pointing out that the study of creativity is in fact a dinosaur concept) is how easy it is to file something even remotely original under “creative” without giving a second thought as to why it is in fact so.

Now maybe I’m the only trigger-happy one throwing about the C word as if it’s my job, “Ohhh! That’s soooo creative!”, but perhaps there are other offenders out there? And I think that as we get used to abusing this devoid-of-meaning adjective we become increasingly unsatisfied. Left wanting more.

I then think back to when I first encountered this phenomenon: that studying creative things could be a legitimate career-path (hurrah! how fun). It was 2009 and I had encountered the creative catalysts at MosaiC (HEC Montreal). These intellectuals were experts in the field of knowledge-management, communities of practice, organizational behaviour and so forth. But they were different in many senses, the main one being their embracing of “creativity” and “innovation” within a management context, and their understanding of social phenomenon through creative approaches.

Needless to say I learned a lot from this group, especially as a novice to the field. More so an anthro/socio/feminist/fashion lover, exposure to these analysts made me realize the importance of dissecting (even deeper) the concept of creativity. It is not enough to label something as creative, as this process itself is the antithesis of creative. How do you evoke the highly-original essence of something using highly-unoriginal language?

Particularly in relation to fashion design. Because it’s often regarded with so much hedonistic value, deep insightful analysis of the matter is hard to come by. And as I write pieces on fashion I’m constantly frustrated by how fashion-oriented media is descriptive of the superficial, and rarely of the socially-ingrained cultural references, or the feeling a particular style evokes and why.

I am often guilty of committing this crime, of looking at the world around us and judging it for face-value. I believe fashion tends to necessitate this quick turnover, both because of the industry’s inherent nature, but also because it appeals to the cognitive senses. Henceforth, we often don’t give fashion much contemplative thought, aside from cut, colour and silhouette.

Another example? Take for instance this space – the Maison Martin Margiela Atelier – for it was this space that really brought on the epiphany. The realization that we don’t go deep enough into understanding what makes a unique contribution so.

For me I wanted to identify this space as creative. But what’s creative about it?

I am by no means an architect but one would be blind not to see that this environment is a reflection of the designer’s taste, his aesthetic. It’s conducive to creation, eases the mind, provides comfortable and pleasing surroundings, and coherent references that embody the Margiela brand.

It ties in the designer’s existing body of work, his existing designs, creating a space reflects his ideals.  It acknowledges the existence of a team, a talented team that is responsible for building Maison Martin Margiela by imprinting their signatures to this space, branding it their own, marking a territory they helped build. How is this space creative? It embodies tiny, minute details that are reflective of the quirky personalities that inhabit the space and use it to aid in their creation.

Now I recognized that abolishing the word altogether would be quite preposterous as it is in fact a root word to creation (i.e. bringing something into existence), which thoroughly ties in the process of production, building something from previously existing matter and making anew. My proposition is simply to identify the elements that make something unique. Perhaps by not taking creativity for granted it will give me a more in depth insight. A more enlightened understanding, which will lead to, oh I don’t know…something.

So my cognitive resolution? To not use the C word lightly. To identify or describe in detail what I deem an original contribution to thought, feeling, or aesthetics. And, quite honestly, to build my repertoire of adjectives…as inspiration can only go as far as your imagination will take it…



Maison Martin Margiela atelier

Maison Martin Margiela atelier

Maison Martin Margiela atelier

Maison Martin Margiela atelier

Maison Martin Margiela atelier

Maison Martin Margiela atelier

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