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Get Real: Are Celeb Designers Sharing Enough?

It’s fun to get inside the mind of a creative type! We’re curious to learn about the lives of strangers but learning more about those we feel we already know through the media … Well that’s totally exciting, right? We love learning about their favorite artist, who inspires them, where they shop, even what they eat and where they like to go on vacation. But how much is enough?

Part of me wishes that more decorators and designers would author blogs revealing such things, at least here in America where it still seems that blogs for the most part are divided into two main groups. In my opinion the groups are a.) the unknowns who are out there making a name for themselves and due to their taste level and uncensored opinions, are drawing in a crowd of fans going from unknowns to better knowns and b) the shining stars in the design industry who are household names (at least to design enthusiasts) and then decide at some point to blog or shall I say, sorta blog. They delegate the task to their staff or secretary or who blog but they aren’t really all that engaged or uncensored — you can tell every word is guarded and there is a strong leaning on pushing and promoting themselves and their product (if they happen to have products). Where are their inspirations? Can’t they share? Why don’t they tell us how they really feel about design instead of feeding us what they know we want to hear or what their publicist told them to write? Is there a danger for them if they cross that line?

I still see the guard up amongst stylists, decorators and designers, at least in America. I wonder if this will ever change and the guards will come down, or at least, lower a bit. Not just through blogs, but in everyday conversation. Try asking a peer where they found something for a client that you admire and most of the time they’ll reply, “My secret source”. So many avoid sharing their insider sources, favorite shops, and how they work. Not because they are just being modest, it’s mostly about fear and protecting what one feels they found that should be kept secret. In design school I attended a workshop given by a NH Designer. Instead of having it in a classroom, she invited us to her home just outside of Concord. She revealed to us all of her tricks and tips when it came to how she pulled together her gorgeous farmhouse and then she told us to grab our pens and take notes because she was going to reveal her local favorites, even the ‘secret’ ones. I was completely in awe of this woman and today I still think of her as a confident leader, a woman secure and willing to share. She had no fear when it came to revealing her sources. Years later, she is still in business and doing well. Revealing her sources didn’t ruin her career.

But that’s an isolated case and not everyone is willing to open up so freely.

Just when you think all you need to know is already out there you realize it’s really not, the images you see in magazines are merely the results of all of the scouting, styling, photographing… The end result. What about sharing the process involved in all of that. Would it be so wrong? I’m still waiting to see more. The end result isn’t enough for me and I think that most of you will agree. We want details, step-by-step instructions, we want to truly tap in. Will enough ever be enough though?

That’s why I think that Shannon’s blog, the Aussie celeb-decorator I wrote about earlier, is a good example of what I’d like to see more of in America. We aren’t there yet. Will we ever be? That is the question I ask myself most. Shannon is a lady who has books, appears on television, and has her work in magazines and yet her blog is so natural. She muses about this or that visit to an event, who she met there, what she learned, it’s all very unfiltered and authentic. I wish more ‘celeb’ designers in America would go for it and do the same. I understand time is an issue but reaching out to their fans in this way would be such a refreshing change. Why hide what you love and have passion for? Ah yes, the fear of others stealing your ideas, tapping into your sources. Well honestly if you are secure and have built a name for yourself I doubt there is much to fear. Anyone who owns a shop with a regular celeb designer visiting has already told all of their friends anyway and it will eventually end up on some blog so nothing is really all that secret.



I wonder if the design world will always remain somewhat untouchable? Are celeb designers sharing enough? Who would you love to find out authored a blog? Are there dangers in sharing too much? Feel free to relate this to art and crafts as well.

Your thoughts?

(images from the fully saturated abode of talented Danish illustrator Lisa Grues of Underwerket via Bolig magazine)

Posted by decor8 in blogs, get real thursdays on July 31, 2008

Your comments...

  1. erin commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 12:09pm

    Great post! I guess the industry is so cut throat that designers are afraid to share lest they give up their edge to the competition. I would love to see more tips and tricks, though!

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  2. erin commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 12:39pm

    I agree! I would love to know some good design secrets. Most of the time the “secrets” celeb designers do share are so generic, they aren’t secrets at all- like “use mirrors to make a space seem larger”. I want more!

    I would love to go into the home of a really great professional designer. When I was in school for interior design, we would always try to pursuade our textiles/materials teacher or organize a field trip to her home, but she was totally against it. I know the home is personal, but you can learn so much from being in a well designed space!

    Holly have you ever posted pics of your pad? I am a long time reader, but I may have missed it.

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  3. Brooke Hagel commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 12:39pm

    Fabulous post! I completely agree with you, you go some of these celeb blogs, and there’s just nothing there. No real content beyond what you could see in magazines.

    I think people are really fearful of others stealing their ideas or taking their concepts and running with them to be a huge corporate successes. It’s sad.

    Brooke Hagels last blog post: Custom Illustration Deposit

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  4. erin commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 12:41pm

    btw, I am on hiatus from school, and alas am not a professional designer…. yet. someday.

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  5. Andi-a commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 12:49pm

    This is one of my many soapbox climbs, about the design industry. Four years ago I wanted to start a local crafters club, so that creatives had a way to relate and share. I knew this would really inspire all of us. I asked a few interior designers, an artist, a vintage style jewelry designer, and a vintage clothing shop owner who’s displays are a gorgeous museum feast for the eyes. They could later invite their friends as long as everyone one had a reputation for originating their own style and work, this one and only rule was to keep everyone at ease, that they were working with peers not copy catting bottom feeders who are always on the look out for the next great idea to steal to make quick profit on. I thought this would be replenishing but any-who no one joined. They liked the idea in theory but almost individually felt as though they each were at a higher level than the ones they didn’t know. This was really sad cause the whole premise was to inspire and replenish them.

    Martha Stewart is very giving in this way, her whole company is based on the idea of sharing. Many eons ago I judged her as a user of truly talented people slapping her name on everything, I didn’t get it. I was so so wrong and with the current format of her show you see so many faces behind her brand it’s wonderful and amazing. She has always gone to the best artisans and crafts people to have them share a technique and her website has been like a dream library for the creative. I wish others would follow suit, but the truth is if they are afraid to mention a source they probably always will come from a place of fear.

    I know many people like to pretend their sources only work for them, including upholsterers, work rooms, installers, give me a break. It’s silly and they aren’t doing these people any favors by not sending them business.

    I wonder if it is the specific type of client base in some situations that drive the designer to really build a faux exclusivity. It makes me love the givers all the more though.

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  6. decor8 commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 12:55pm

    erin – check out haus maus for that stuff, i like to keep my day-to-day stuff over there for the most part. :) still sharing, just to those who really care to see it.

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  7. Ellen Crimi-Trent commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 1:03pm

    I guess they feel if they gave their secrets away then they might be out of a job.

    I understand in that respect since I license my art I too have to be careful of telling others of my contacts and how I do what I do especially in such a tough market.

    Today is my 100th post so I am doing a giveaway!!! Stop on by!

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  8. kimberley commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 1:24pm

    What an interesting topic here, and so well written. I am not in the design industry but am interested in it and would love to hear about/read the process of communication and what led to the finished product. What a great post here :)

    kimberleys last blog post: Cookie House Tour

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  9. Andee commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 3:02pm

    I really wish Amy Butler had a blog. If she does, I sure can’t find it. I love Anna Marie Horner’s blog. She is very willing to share some corners of her home.

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  10. Rachel Mallon commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 3:20pm

    I really like this post. I am not quite a celeb designer but I have been thinking lately that I would like to post more of the process of my designs. I have been debating about it in my head because I was thinking that maybe people could copy and I don’t usually like to show the process because I think it looks messy. I like that you said that it will get out there someway or another. Reading blogs for me is a source of inspiration so I might as well share. Thanks Holly for inspiring me to get real. :)

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  11. Marnie commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 3:49pm

    This is an interesting post, Holly. While the topic is about celeb designers, of course it can be applied to pretty much any celebrity protecting their “brand”. When that brand has left your hands, and say, you sell your wares at say, Target, it is not just the person’s own feelings about protecting their brand, but what their team, lawyer, sponsors, and partners say is in the matter, and what may already be covered in legalise.

    Blogging is surely good publicity, but it is so obvious who writes their own blogs versus those who’s staff writes it. It’s like a celebrity perfume: how many celebrities actually “created” the scent? Most were sent samples and they said “ooh, I like this one”. Their responsibility is to plug it wherever they can.

    Also, for celebrities, the time involved in keeping a blog versus whatever else their schedule may be filled with, is not worth the money (time=money). They can guide their underlings or the can publish their ideas in a book.

    There’s many things that I’d like to see celebrity designers show but I’m not sure if the blog format will appeal to many. We’ll catch ideas on shows, from books, and magazines – most of which are paid gigs. Not to say that they are doing everything for the money – I’m not judging.

    Truth be told I get just as much inspiration from genuine bloggers who live and breathe design. This is an outlet like no other and it’s a labor of love.

    Marnies last blog post: What stuck together

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  12. My Castle in Spain commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 3:51pm

    Such an interesting post and point of view !

    I guess this behavior doesn’t strictly apply to US. I’m a French low-level designer living in Spain and used to exhibit at Sc?nes d’int?rieur at Maison & Objet international design show, where the “cr?me de la cr?me” of design is naturally present. When i started to design stationary and had orders from Takashimaya and Holt Renfrew, my designers friends advised me to protect my work. But i thought this was a little bit too much. Some of them have a lawyer dedicated to track if their work is being copied.
    I was once at a designer friend’s shop in Paris – while we were talking, two men entered and eventually introduced themselves as another wellknown furniture designer’s lawyers. They had come to make a statement that my friend had copied the collection of the other designer.

    Regarding source disclosure, French designers will rarely give away names and places of manufacturers. Yes, I think it has to do with the fear of being copied but then as Yves Saint Laurent said, being copied is surely one the best compliments !

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  13. Fiona Richards commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 4:27pm

    We just started our blog not too long ago partly because we had so many people wanting to know more about our sources and inspiration. I think its fun to share !
    I think that people want to know more about the face behind the brand. I hope we are sharing enough!

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  14. Stephanie Ryan commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 4:53pm

    I agree with you Holly. When I was trying to figure out how to get my stationery company started, I ran into both types. Some people were very annoyed that I was asking and didn’t want to share anything, and others were so incredibly helpful. The same thing has happened when asking artists about their techniques. This very topic inspired me just last week to start a new blog. It is call Print.Pattern.Repeat. I am going to be showing my pattern designs and prints, along with process and techniques. I truly believe that there is enough out there for all of us, and the more you give, the more you will receive.

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  15. aphrochic commented
    July 31st, 2008 at 7:06pm

    Great POV, but I’m not really sure I totally agree. It’s not my desire to read a lot of celebrity blogs. For me, a blog is as much about the writer as it is about the design that’s being presented. Not everyone has the desire to have their voice heard through something like the blogosphere, and that’s ok with me. It seems like everyday someone is popping up with a blog on their site, because they feel they have to. They have no real desire to contribute, and that’s ok it’s just not their thing. I am most inspired by the blogs where people really want to tell you a story – about design, artists, the things they love – just like you do here. A how-to or trade secret is not what I seek, and honestly, is not very fulfilling. It’s in finding that something special, and then, on my own, working to turn it into something real that is most exciting. So celebrity designers, keep on inspiring us through your work, but if you don’t have a voice for blogging, that’s just fine with me.

    aphrochics last blog post: Pillow Chic

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  16. sueee commented
    August 1st, 2008 at 12:51am

    i have to agree with Stephanie above- i firmly believe in sharing everything, and if that means that other people grow beyond what i’ve managed to achieve, well good on them.

    i believe that the ideas and designs that we create come from a combination of our effort, talent (lucky genes) and the sum total of our experiences. we have spent our lives learning from other people and adapting things that already exist in the world that other people have developed. how can we justify drawing a line in the sand and saying “mine mine mine”? and how can we be sure that something that feels like an original idea wasn’t influenced on a subconscious level? (years ago a friend of mine said he was painting his walls a deep red. he said he knew it wasn’t something anyone else did, but it just felt right to him. i said, “really?” and took him for a cup of coffee in our local cafe, and what a surprise- there were the deep red walls he was planning. he was shocked; he’d never even noticed them.)

    i think that people who protect their sources or their techniques are forgetting what living in a community is all about. i fully understand that the economic imperative makes people competitive, but it doesn’t mean i have to like it, and i certainly don’t believe it makes the world better. when we see really talented people sharing everything and still prospering, doesn’t that prove that sometimes the more we give, the more we come up with? (that said, i don’t condone someone copying something that someone else has created and calling it theirs, just that we should be careful about labelling what we feel we own.)

    this quote about writing by the author Anne Dillard captures the idea quite well: she says, “The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

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  17. {leah} commented
    August 1st, 2008 at 1:25pm

    I love the thoughts you’ve shared here. I’m mostly into craftiness: scrapbooking, sewing, amateur photography. When I was first trying to publish my stuff, it was soooo frustrating. Hard to figure out how to even get in! And you know what? No one shared. It was like everyone was paranoid that if you figured things out, it was less opportunity for them. :( If you’re good what is there to worry about?

    Now that I’ve had the opportunity to have a few things published, I share with others whenever I can! I haven’t made it available on my blog, but am happy to share. {I should consider doing this…}

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    L.

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  18. susy commented
    August 6th, 2008 at 6:30pm

    Holly, I could not agree more. While today in the business world, this “novel” concept of actually sharing with others is being referred to as ‘transparency’ and seen as revolutionary… the design world– at least the style-oriented part thereof has been really slow on the uptake.

    Personally, I think if you have worked hard to find a source, develop a product, or create a process, then I think you have the right to withhold it.

    But, I do feel that sharing, even though it’s a choice– can really enhance the creative process. In a way, it helps you decide what kind of creative you are, and personally, I’ve been strengthened and continually challenged by sharing and believe my work has been better for it.

    I also wonder if, with more and more young designers taking blogging for granted as a part of their business and creative lives, the tide will shift. I think it will– and is.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful post. I really enjoyed reading it and everyone’s comments, too. Ok, I’ll stop typing now! Right….now. : )

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