In the ’60s and ’70s, it was common for highly trained designers like Karl Lagerfeld to earn their bread and butter at other houses and then do their own thing. Making money wasn’t necessarily the goal, though most of them eventually earned a lot. In the last decade, young designers have become a hot commodity. But now many of them, in spite of huge media coverage and deals with stores like Target, are worried about making money and getting to the so-called “next level”— and that’s a problem, says Louise Wilson, the director of the master’s program at Saint Martins.
“Let’s face it, most of them are earning more money than designers ever did at their age,” Ms. Wilson said. “They’ve all got gigs.” A problem with globalization, she said, is that it encourages the view “that if you can’t make income from something, then it’s not worth anything.” She added, “It was about achieving things, the integrity of the designs.”
Mr. Kane suggests that he doesn’t mind, that it’s worth the creative freedom. Besides, he said, young designers might not have a choice. “When I go back to Saint Martins to do a talk that Louise asks me to do, the students all think the easy way is to have an investor. And I’m, like: ‘Well, that’s not going to be happening anymore. Let’s just be realistic. And to be honest, why would you want that? Where’s the chance to have that little bit of experience of things going wrong to know what’s right?’ ”