Fashion inspiration: where do designers get their creative ideas?

Every year, the world’s leading designers release new collections of clothes, setting new trends that change the game in the fashion industry. Typically, fashion houses produce 5 to 6 collections yearly, broadly aligned with the four seasons, and present their creations on shows held twice a year for the spring/summer and autumn/winter seasons of the traditional fashion calendar. The biggest shows happen during the four main fashion weeks in London, Milan, New York, and Paris.

But have you ever wondered how a fashion collection comes to life? There’s a long and laborious process happening behind the scenes until the final garments hit the runway, and it all starts with a spark of inspiration that sets everything into motion. So, where do designers get the ideas for the pieces they create? Surely, it can’t be easy to come up with fresh new concepts on a regular basis and turn them into successful fashion collections, especially since it seems like everything has already been tried and done before. Fortunately, there are plenty of inspiration sources for designers to feed their creativity and make fashion magic happen.

fashion shows

The natural world

The richness, splendor and complexity of the natural world have long served as an endless source of inspiration for creative minds in all fields and from all times, so it makes sense that fashion creators often turn to mother nature, the ultimate artist, in search of new ideas.

From intricate patterns and shapes to mesmerizing textures or stunning color palettes, nature provides a myriad of elements that fashion creators can use in their designs. Botanical prints or animal motifs are prevalent in the fashion industry, reminding us of our inherent connection to nature and celebrating its beauty at the same time.


Notwithstanding its practical dimension, fashion is a form of art and therefore it often crosses paths with other forms of creative expression like music, sculpture, dance, painting, photography, theater, literature and so on. Fashion’s deep connection to the art world is demonstrated by the numerous designers who have been influenced and inspired by different artistic movements throughout history.

Art has always found its way onto the runway, either through subtle hints and different art-inspired elements or direct references to a certain artist’s work. For example, John Galliano created an entire collection for Christian Dior based on famous impressionist paintings. The French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent paid tribute to Dutch painter Piet Mondrian by incorporating lines and patterns from Mondrian’s abstract paintings into his creations, and the fashion world is full of similar examples.

Traditional clothes

We may live in an era of modernization and globalization which often leads to uniformity, but in many parts of the world people still hold on to their traditions and customs, including their traditional garments. For example, headwraps are not just stylish fashion accessories but also pieces of traditional attire in many African cultures and they are still largely used by people in these communities.

In these countries, designers often use motifs inspired by national costumes in their collections. But it’s also common for designers to borrow ideas from other nations’ traditional garments. This practice frequently leads to debates on cultural appropriation and challenges people’s perception of what should and shouldn’t be used in fashion.

Cultures across the globe

It’s not just the traditional clothes people wear in certain regions of the world that spark designers’ creativity but also the diversity of cultures from all across the globe and all the fascinating elements they comprise.

That’s why it’s not unusual to see ethnic patterns, motifs, symbols and other elements that hold great cultural significance featured in fashion collections from acclaimed designers. These trends trickle down to department stores and online retailers, reaching people from all corners of the world. One can find textiles and fashion accessories inspired by African culture on sites like or garments inspired by Asian culture in boutique shops in Western countries.

Street style

Street style

Fashion trends inspire and influence people’s choices and wardrobes but it can also go the other way around. When it comes to finding new ideas for clothes, creativity is not confined to designers’ studios, so it’s not the preserve of fashion houses and large clothing brands. Sometimes, the most creative combinations and avant-garde outfits are found not in glossy fashion magazines but on the streets, worn by ordinary people as a result of random improvisations or a sudden spur of inspiration.

A lot of designers today incorporate ideas and elements from street style into their collections to appeal to a broader range of consumers. If you look at streets as a runway, you can guess that many of the popular fashion trends we’ve seen over the years have emerged from designers taking a simple walk down the city streets and looking at what people are wearing.

Emotions and events

Just like all other art forms, fashion strives to evoke or provoke emotions. Some designers may try to express certain feelings through the clothes they create while others seek to elicit strong emotions from the audience, thus acting as the driving force for artistic creation.

At the same time, fashion designers can be influenced by world events or narratives they’ve either witnessed or been a part of. There are a lot of things happening in the world at any given moment and many of the stories that surround us transform into fashion concepts in the skilled hands of fashion designers.

Finally, let’s not forget that most designers have a natural inclination towards creativity and possess a unique set of abilities and skills that allows them to find inspiration from everything that captures their interest. They tend to have a very vivid imagination and see the world through the lens of creativity and wonder. Inspiration is everywhere, and fashion designers know how to access it.

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