Have you ever wondered what is style? Well, I have.
Everyone talks about style, in EVERYTHING, not just when they talk about Coco Chanel, or architecture (like Churrigueresco style), but EVERYTHING.
You can listen that something "is not my style", or that clients ask you to transform their 1960's apartment into an old summer house British style. (what do they want when they say this?). You can also hear about stylists who dress different actors at Oscars, and other Red carpets, and the word is bouncing everywhere all the time. But what is style?
According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, style is "a particular way in which something is done, created or performed, a particular form or design of something, or a way of behaving or of doing things" (you can read the full definition of style in this link). So it's basically a way of doing things, but how can a way of preparing breakfast can become a style? Can it?
I've been in several courses and workshops lately, I feel I had not a free week in November, if I think about it. Most of these workshops have been design oriented, though none if them had anything to do with the other, actually. I like to do this to have a different ways to see life. In some of these workshops, the word "style" actually comes out and is discussed, in other... not so much. There are some workshops in which I can feel it's being erased (or tried to be erased by imposing their own), and others in which the word is never mentioned, but somehow you feel encouraged to develop your own.
From these workshops and what I've been feeling, as far as I understand, style is finding a voice and using it. If it's your voice, then it's amazing, if it's a copy, then... Not so much, but it can be the beginning of a journey.
I understand now, why an old architect got angry when told his work was a copy of his youth's master's. He found his own voice through his master's teachings, but it was still his voice.
Talking about masters and courses and workshops I would love to talk about the teaching-learning process. I find the way of teaching is really important. I've realized there are people who believe in teaching the technical part and guiding you in the search of your voice, and others who impose their voice while teaching, believing the student will learn to do things "the right way" to their eyes, but forgetting everyone has a voice and "the one and only right answer" is not a real thing. The results are, of course, really different. You can have self-thinkers (dangerous, but more challenging and able to be treated as equals), and clones who will adore you and follow you without second thoughts. I think that the saddest and most dangerous ones are the second ones, as students, when they become professionals, lack the enthusiasm of researching or proposing, because they already feel they have all the answers. And the saddest thing is that I believe the teachers of the second group don't really do this on purpose, and are not the evil super villain o the story.
What if I want my own style?
Ok. Let's say I had the first kind of teachers, I am trying to discover my voice and I want to have a style of my own. How can I do it?
So far, I've figured out a style, when being seen by others, it's more like a signature. When people see it, they can recognize what or who's style it is. I need to say what, because maybe it's not a person's style, but more like an era, or a location (pizza Chicago style?).
During the editorial design course I took several weeks ago, I asked the teacher how to create a style. She gave quite a long answer, but, from what I could extract and can remember, you basically needed time and work, and a bit (well, maybe a lot) of exposure, so people can recognize it's your work without having your name physically written on it. Think about Frank Gehry, you can easily recognise what he has done. His style is so recognisable that even the Simpson's made a parody of him in one of their episodes. Think about Jackie O, people go into stores looking for dresses Jackie O style. Or an era, like Adele's makeup which is so much 60's style.
Image taken from http://fashionstylefan.com/
The three of them have something in common: they are easily recognisable. When you see Adele's cat eye, you think immediately in the 60's, It's become her signature look, but if any other girl used that same look, you would think 60's makeup. When yo see a dress that looks like the ones Jackie O used you'll think about her, regardless of the price or main function of the dress (you'll still think about Jackie whether it is a wedding dress or a coctail dress).
I've worked with three lighting designers before, and I can recognize the work of one of them when walking around the city. I might not like it, but he has certainly developed a style. It is not widely recognisable, as the others I have mentioned, but the ones who know his work, will recognise it immediately. I guess the others have bigger exposure, and that's the reason expose plays an important part in creating a style.
In conclusion, you can develop a style, and even though it will be complicated, it will be worth it, as you'll become unique and irreplaceable.