Creativity: Designer Dominique Simmons

In this series of interviews about the creative process, I’ll be talking to artists in all fields to discover the common traits of creativity and what, if anything, is different in each art form. I’d also like to discover what creative practices could be used by people who don’t consider themselves artists (in the traditional sense) and how creative thinking is fundamental to growth and creation in all aspects of life.

Born in Germany and raised in Texas, Dominique Simmons is fashion designer with ambitious plans to inspire the world by using fashion as his platform. After graduating from Texas Woman’s university with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design, Dominique moved to Florence, Italy to continue his journey as a designer. While living in Italy, Dominique began his own company which specializes in high end dresses and handbags. The name of his company is GWENIVX (representing Great Women Evolving Nations and 1 Peter 5:10 (IVX)). Dominque is currently working on his handbag collection which will soon be released on his website.

What about your craft motivates you and what would you say is your forte? What do you think makes you good at /curious about this forte? Do you admire this aspect in others?

I am motivated by the pure joy of creating something that never existed. The power of creation excites me to the point where an overwhelming sense of happiness overtakes my entire body.

After I create a beautiful design, I thank God for blessing me with an idea and the skill to construct an amazing work of art. I then show my newly created design to my parents and their excitement propels my excitement to another dimension. At that point, I am overly excited and as a result, I usually run for miles to release my energy that has come from the excitement of creating a beautiful design.

My forte is the confidence that I have gained from the encouragement and the support from my parents. Their consistent support over the years has given me a strong sense of security and freedom as a designer. In the world of design, I believe that there is nothing compared to a designer who is free and secure in who they are. I admire others who through support and encouragement of loved ones, leave the nest of fear and soar into their destiny.

When the creative well is dry, how do you fill it? Do you have techniques you return to?

Fortunately, I am blessed to say that over the years, my creative well has begun to overflow to the point where I tend to draw new ideas from old wells. Many of my current designs are actually inspired from ideas that came to me years ago. Recently, my mother found an abundant number of sketches that I completely forgot about. There were so many amazing sketches, that between her admiring my innovative designs and categorizing all of the sketches into different piles, it took her quite some time to store everything away. I have a large amount of new designs that I am excited to produce, however, in the future, I am definitely looking forward to going into that storage to produce many of my old sketches as well. Creativity is a gift that every human being was born with. As long as we have air in our bodies, I truly believe that our creativity will never cease.

How do you maintain your authentic self/voice? Does the constant comparison on and/or influence of social media help or stifle this?

Ever since I was a child, my parents constantly empowered me with encouraging ideas and positive words to the point were truly began to believe that I was special at an early age in life. Birthmarks are amazing features of the human body, however for some people that can cause issues of insecurity. I was born with a birthmark on my hand and my parents constantly told me that the birthmark on my hand meant I was special. It worked and I actually believed it! My parents always found a unique way to empower my brother and me when we were younger. Now today as an adult, I truly believe that I am special not only as a designer but as a human being. As stated before, this consistent support has given me security and freedom as a designer.

I know who I am as a designer and as a human being. Many times, people will want to change who you are through their own personal ideas or beliefs, however, if you are grounded in what you believe in, you will never change. I can honestly say that I don’t pay any attention to things on social media, so thankfully I will never have to worry about comparisons.

When did you know that you had to use/explore your creativity in some way? Were you encouraged and supported by your family? Does your national identity influences you?

Growing up with my older brother Marcus, his playful spirit inspired me to use my creativity on a daily basis. We would invent games to play and create characters to act out when we would wrestle in the house. My brother and I viewed objects, environments, and circumstances from a creative perspective when we were younger. If we were in a store with our mother while she was shopping, we viewed the clothing racks in the store as a great opportunity to play hide and seek.

Many people associate creativity only with art, however, for my family, creativity was a way of thinking and viewing a situation from another perspective.

On family trips, my mother and father wood invent games to play while we were travelling on the highway. My dad would create a fun game, and my mother would adjust the rules to make the game practical. We would see a sign on the road, and then my dad would spontaneously create a game to see how many words we could spell from the words ‘grocery store’. It was always fun competition, therefore you had to think quick and articulate your words correctly. I later learned that these games that were created by my family was actually training me to view things from a different perspective Now today as a fashion designer, I can look at a scrap of leather or a yard of fabric and see an amazing design.

What happens if you ignore your creative impulses e.g. if you don’t practice for a while?

For me, a creative impulse is a blessing because it is my body telling me that it is time to create something inspiring. I love what I do and I am at my best when I am doing it. I am the best version of me when I am sewing, sketching, or using my hands to construct a design. The atmosphere of a creative environment is alluring to me. Hearing the revving of a sewing machine and watching an idea come to life on a dress form never get old to me. Therefore, when I receive an impulse to create something inspiring, I get excited!

Living in an inspiring and amazing country such as Italy, I am constantly bombarded with creative impulses. Florence is overflowing with so many talented and gifted people, that it is difficult to ignore any creative impulse that comes to me. On one street, you will see a band giving a live performance, on another street you will see an artist painting something interesting, and then on your way home you will see a performer entertaining a large crowd of tourist. For me, when I see people creating, I want to run to the studio and turn on the sewing machine and create something amazing.

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How do you keep positive when an idea fails or when you get negative feedback?

As a designer, I believe it is how you view the problem that determines the outcome of your idea.

If you view a problem as a failed idea, it will be so; however, if you view the problem as a platform for a greater idea, the door for opportunity is instantly opened. A stain on a shirt can be viewed as a problem for most people; however, that small stain can also be a large opportunity for someone to create a way to remove stains from shirts. Furthermore, I tend to look at obstacle as an opportunity of creative something innovative and majestic. I love feedback, especially honest feedback that will improve an idea or design. Iron sharpens iron and I love been around people who will not only sharpen me as a designer but as a human being. When negative feedback comes around, I smile, wave, and then politely walk away from it. I am extremely competitive and most of the time when competitive people hear negative feedback, our first response comes in the form of” I’ll show them!” Competitive people usually use the source of the negative feedback as motivation to prove that source wrong. When I played football, I would use negative feedback as a source of motivation to train harder and lift heavier weights. Fashion design is a completely different from the gladiator based world of football.

Instead of thinking about who I am going to out muscle on the football field, I no think about what type of fabric will look best with a new design that I have created.

When I design, I cannot use negative energy as a source for motivation. My process of designing is so intimate and spiritual, that I can’t allow negativity to infiltrate into the atmosphere of my design process. If my design process is infiltrated by a small particle of negativity, my final design will have absorbed some of this negativity and instead of rejoicing over another glorious creation, I will be constantly reminded of the negative feedback that I received regarding that particular design. Furthermore, it is best for me to resist negativity and keep the purity level of my design process at a high level.

Have you collaborated with an artist in your field and/or in another art form? Was the experience worthwhile?

I was raised in the state of Texas and close to Texas is the state of New Orleans. New Orleans is known for a lot of great recipes and one of its most known recipes is an amazing dish called Gumbo. Gumbo is usually cooked in a large pot and anything you can think of is floating in that pot. Shrimp, crabs, chicken, rice, vegetables and plethora of appetizing ingredients are all being cooked in this one large pot. The aroma alone is enough to make you want to give it a taste.

Gumbo would not be what it is without the vast assortment of foods collaborating together. Our entire planet is in constant collaboration every second. Seed is collaborating with soil, plants are collaborating with water and humans are collaborating with other humans to create life. I love the power of collaboration!

I produced a large art exhibit a few years ago that featured dancers, musicians, painters, photographers, and writers. The experience of working with some many creative artists was exhilarating. One of those most amazing things about producing an art exhibit with a diverse group of artists was that it brought so many amazing human beings together for something positive. Art is not just painting or drawing but true art is created when people come together and show love and kindness to one another. To see people from different cultures and backgrounds come together for a positive art exhibit was certainly a beautiful piece of art that I will never forget.

Committing to creative work, given the often-meagre financial rewards, can make it a struggle. What have you done to overcome this? What advice would you have for someone starting out?

As a designer, I believe that you can never truly put a dollar amount on art. There is no amount of money that can replace the excitement that I feel when I create a beautiful design. To transform an idea into a tangible object that will inspire millions of people around the world is a sacred feeling that should never be replaced for the lust of financial reward. This belief is what drives me to continue creating beautiful designs, not just the money. Money will come and go, however, passion, inspiration, and the love of creating art will last for a lifetime.

I love visiting shops to observe older artisans working on their creations. There is one artisan here in Florence who inspires me every time I walk past his shop. Observing him hunched over on his chair and passionately focusing on the masterpiece in front of his eyes, is one of the most inspiring sites to see. Even though he is up in age, his passion for creating is still burning.

The formula for a designer who wants to sell their creation is complex but simple; if the design that you create truly appeals to a customer’s eye, then they will purchase it. We are inquisitive human beings and our eyes are instinctively attracted to beautiful things. Our brain constantly reminds us of the beautiful things that we have seen and as a result we have frequent impulses to obtain these things. Therefore, my advice to someone starting out is to focus on creating amazing work and eventually the financial rewards will come.

What is the best thing about being a person who uses her/his creative skills? How does it enrich your life and help you in other areas?

The best thing is that I am able to see the joy and excitement of a woman who wears one of my designs. The amazing thing about being a fashion designer is that I get to create art that people can wear. Not only do I view myself as a fashion designer, however, I also view myself as an author. Each design that I create, has a story and the woman wearing my design continues to spread the story to other people. Every design idea that I receive, comes from God. I construct every design from the passion that dwells within my heart. My message in all of my designs is love. Love your neighbour, friend, enemy and most of all, love yourself. The fact that I can use my gift of creating inspiring designs to spread the message of love is what enriches my life. The purpose of my brand is to empower millions of women through fashion. Each time a model wears one of my designs, I always encourage her of how amazing and inspiring she is. Everyone needs to be encouraged and it brings great joy to my heart when I know that my words of encouragement made a difference in a woman’s life.

How do you view the role of the arts in society: the role of the artist? Do you have a “responsibility” as an artist?

As a designer, I have a great amount of influence which requires a great amount of responsibility. I have two precious nieces that I love very much. I recently designed two dresses for them to walk in during a fashion show. At a young age, they had an amazing opportunity to model in a fashion show and to be able see themselves as elegant young girls. My older niece was empowered by walking down a runway in an amazing dress and encouraged by a crowd of people who cheered her on. Her inner beauty glowed so bright that night that it was seen on the outside.

A dress will not make a woman beautiful, all woman are beautiful. An amazing dress can only compliment a woman beauty; therefore, my responsibility is to continue to create amazing designs that empower and compliment the beauty of all women.

I also have a responsibility in the way I operate my company and how I portray the image of my brand. Young and older woman are constantly bombarded with images in magazines that have a major influence in their lives. I have a responsibility of how I portray each woman wearing one of my designs for an ad. Photos live for generations, and they spread to various parts of the world with one click of a button. I want my fashion ads to be used as tools for parents to show their daughters how they can still be stunning and not have to lower their standards for anyone.

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