How to Spark Your Imagination

NOV 20, 2017

For clues on how to live a productive, creative life, we talk to the visionary forces behind three of the world’s most successful lifestyle brands

While all of us have creative talent, it is often latent, only brought out by internal drive or force of circumstance. Today, designers are held up as the creative geniuses of our time. They have the ability unlock their imaginations, to fan the spark of creativity until it burns brightly. And what puts them in such a unique position is a combination of risk-taking, imagination, knowledge and experience.

“Risks are inherent to the creative process,” says Anne Savelli, Head of Product Design at French home accessories brand Christofle. “Creating is bringing another vision, a different proposal – and newness, by definition, is the unknown. Youth is often more creative, as youth is curious, eager for experimentation, dynamic and not afraid. However, youth can take unnecessary risks, lose a lot of energy by going in all directions at the same time and end up by getting lost or struggling.”

“The senior creative person, however, has acquired experience and their proposals will be more targeted, more accurate,” she continues. “They will take into account the successes and failures of the past, and will fix an expression, a territory or a framework. The challenge is to avoid repetition, and not to apply the same methodology as in the past.”

Jonathan Anderson met that challenge head on. He exploded into the fashion world in 2008 at the age of 24 with JW Anderson, a highly-original menswear collection that challenged concepts of gendered dressing with a series of lace shirts and wool skirts for men. But when he was asked to join Loewe as Creative Director in 2013 at the age of 29, he realised that once again he had to unlock his imagination and step away from the very specific aesthetic that had defined his early career.

“I found it really liberating,” says Anderson. “I was tired of being cast as the androgynous designer, as there’s something suffocating about being put in a box and I think it happened because I was in the public eye so young. I think it’s really important to break the codes you’ve created for yourself. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m good at breaking the rules. I’ve had a lot of practice at it.”

Diego Della Valle, President and CEO of Tod’s, is a man who has harnessed the advantages of both youth and middle-age in his career. He had the initial idea to design a range of driving shoes when he was just 16 and by the time he was 22, he had launched JP Tod’s, a name he picked from the phonebook because it sounded ‘American’.

“In 1978 in rural Italy, it was considered very brave and a little crazy to want to be an entrepreneur,” he says. “But I was young and I had a fire in my belly. I also had nothing to lose, which is important when you are taking a big gamble.”

However, imagination, like reason, cannot run without the gasoline of knowledge, as Harvard’s Professor Charles Grandgent once wrote. And so it was only with age and experience that Della Valle could turn Tod’s into the billion-dollar brand it is today, using his business acumen to expand across Asia, and acquire new labels.

This mix of youthful risk-taking, imagination and acquired knowledge is found in many creative directors – Anthony Vaccarello, 34, at Saint Laurent; Clare Waight Keller, 46, at Givenchy; Bouchra Jarrar, 46, at Lanvin, and Natacha Ramsey-Levi, 39, at Chloé. All of these highly-accomplished people are young enough to still take risks but experienced enough to realise that experience provides fuel for the exercise of the imagination.

“To me, creativity is a lifestyle choice, a way of thinking, a philosophy that initially requires certain qualities and a specific type of personality,” says Savelli. “But to be maintained over many years, you need to be curious, open-minded, cultured and on the look out for innovations and creative proposals. In creativity, there is a desire to say something different and to please oneself and the others. The more we are creative, the more we want to create. It is an endless process of questions and answers that lasts all your life.”

If you’re inspired by how Savelli, Anderson and Della Valle unlocked their imaginations, share your own ‘Words of Wisdom’ on anything from risk-taking and experience to creativity and design here.