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I made a tough decision.
20 December 2004

I’m going to actually use my holiday as a holiday this year. I’m not going to work through it as I normally do; I’ll relax and visit with friends instead. That way I’ll be ready for the tough work ahead of me in January. I can already tell it will be a hectic month trying to sew samples, so I figure it’s wise to recharge.

This means I might not write diary entries for the next two weeks, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be thinking about my business...I’m always thinking about my business. I’ll be in Calgary and Vancouver visiting friends and relatives, but I’ll check out noteworthy fashion events and destinations in each city. I’ll let you know what I find.

In the meantime, have an amazing holiday season!

I See a Pattern
14 December 2004

Boy, am I having fun grading my patterns and cutting them to fit! Really, I am. No, really…

I have to admit that trial-by-error grading and cutting is a neat challenge and if you’re a patient person, it can be rewarding. But a word to anyone interested in starting a clothing business: KNOW YOUR PATTERNS!

Take that class! Read those books! (I’ve been cozying up with the reliable “Concepts of Pattern Grading” by Carolyn L. Moore, Kathy K. Mullet, and Margaret Prevatt Young). All this knowledge will help you not only if you’re a poor entrepreneur and have to do everything yourself, but it will be an asset when you’re the head of your very own multi-million dollar company and must analyze cut and fit.

So, as you can tell, I’m at the poor entrepreneur stage, but it really is fun to experiment with the patterns and the fabric to get the right fit. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it.

Wish List
13 December 2004

Since it’s the holiday season and everyone’s talking about gifts, I couldn’t help thinking about my wish list.

As I kneel on my apartment floor cutting out patterns and cotton muslin, nothing is higher on my wish list than a cutting table.

It’s a Matter of Time
8 December 2004

While working on my muslins and patterns, I’ve discovered this little rule of thumb:

No matter how long you think a task is going to take, double it.

You’ll stay on schedule that way.

Storming Brains
7 December 2004

On Saturday I attended the TFI’s Members Networking and Brainstorming Session. Not only was it a great way to meet fellow TFI members and talk business, but it was fun too.

About 15 of us discussed upcoming events and different aspects to starting a fashion business such as:

* Costs and elements involved in fashion show production;
* Reliable suppliers and manufacturers;
* How to approach sponsors; and
* Benefits to participating in trade shows.

It was a great way to ask people questions that are tough for new designers. The collective experience yielded great answers. I can’t wait for the next session Saturday January 8.

Sidetracked
2 December 2004

With my great intentions to complete the muslin samples, a cute little faux fur stole stuck in my mind. I simply had to have one, so I stepped away from the muslin and fixed myself up a holiday treat. It only took 45 minutes and I now I have a fabulous accessory to wear to Saturday’s “No Kimono” show at the Design Exchange.

It’s easy to get sidetracked from muslin and pattern-making because I’m not finding them as fun as designing or working with good fabric. The muslin samples and draft patterns need to get done, though, so I’m trying.

Federal vs. Provincial
30 November 2004

Back to incorporating…

I wrote about incorporating my business and the mix-up between incorporating federally and provincially. I’ve been asked why I chose one over the other. Let me try to explain.

There are tax benefits created for small businesses in Canada. If your company becomes a CBCA (Canada Business Corporation Act) corporation, it can operate in any jurisdiction. Since we’re based in Ontario and Alberta, it makes sense for us to incorporate federally.

Now I have to confess that my fabulous lawyer-friend Correna gave me all this wonderful ‘incorporating’ advice. So now my advice to all you designers is to make friends with a law student who is willing to help you out while you start your new business.

Mini-Collection
29 November 2004

I mentioned making 8-10 outfits. Why that number?

I’d like to say it’s all part of a nifty branding (or “Lovemarking”) strategy designed to introduce Boast Toastie as an exclusive label. Okay, that’s kind of true, but the real reason is finance. Lana and I are on a shoestring budget.

A standard collection is 16-30 outfits, but we don’t have the money to make that many samples. Nor do we have the money to photograph and show that many samples. But we do want to start selling our clothes as soon as possible, so we decided that an introductory mini-collection is the best way to start.

Muslins
27 November 2004

Now that I'm able to focus on Boast Toastie again, I'm busy sewing muslin samples (initial stage prototypes made of inexpensive fabric).

My goal is to make patterns while I sew the muslins so I can ensure a good fit. I'm my own muse, I guess, because if I don't feel comfortable in my clothes, who will?

Ooops... let me backtrack a bit about our design process. Since Boast Toastie is a long-distance partnership with Lana in Calgary, we write lots of e-mails and chat on the phone a lot. We discuss design inspirations then I draw them on Corel. I prefer drawing on the computer because mistakes are easy to correct. I e-mail drawings to Lana, we discuss them, then I make the patterns and muslins.

So, back to the muslins...

I hope to finish 8-10 outfits before I go to Calgary for Christmas vacation December 17. We'll meet there to discuss the styles before making the final samples out of good fabric. Then we can both prepare for a photo shoot we'd like to do before we unveil the collection in February. Hopefully everything will go according to plan.

Okay, I must go sew now...

Trademarks
24 November 2004

So you've got a great company name and logo. What do you do with it?

Register it as a trademark, of course, so nobody can steal your fab ideas.

My partner Lana is looking after trademarking our name and logo, but you can check out the Canadian Intellectual Property Office or trademark information.

I'm Back
20 November 2004

My boss's movie just wrapped filming, so I'm able to get back to writing and sewing. I'm pretty excited. Sorry to have been a delinquent blogger. I promise to be better starting now.

Incorporating
21 November 2004

So where am I with the clothing company?

Well, back in September I wrote about incorporating my business. Make sure you register with the correct government agency because the paperwork takes forever. I accidentally registered with the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services when I should have registered federally. This was only realized after several weeks, and it took them a few more to return my papers. I'm still waiting for my fee reimbursement. Please learn from my mistake.

Just to let you know, we're incorporating under the Canada Business Corporations Act through Industry Canada.

Good luck with your registration.

Hallowe'en
31 October 2004

I live near Church Street in the heart of Toronto's gay district. Considering the locale, you'd think everyone could be more creative for all Hallow's Eve, but while walking down the street I saw the usual fare: glitter, wigs, feathers, and 10-inch heels.

Where do all the creative fashion designers go for Hallowe'en? I'd love to see the outfits we can all come up with.

There's an idea: A fashion Hallowe'en party. Can someone organize it for next year? Thanks.

Lovemarks: The New Catch-Phrase
23 October 2004

While I'm on the movie set, there are times when my boss is busy, but I'm not.

Without internet access, pretty much the only thing to do is chat or read, so I occupied myself with reading this fantastic book called "Lovemarks" by Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the world's top advertising agencies.

For all you future company-owners: YOU NEED TO BUY THIS BOOK.

It's about getting people to identify with your clothes, to keep buying, and to think they might not be able to live without them. That's what "Lovemarks" is about.

You need to read this book. I'll say no more.


Making a Living
25 September 2004

How can I afford to start a clothing company? I'm glad you asked.

Honestly, the clothing company thing occupies my spare time. I have a full-time job to pay the bills and rent. I'm the assistant to film director David Cronenberg, which is a fantastic job to have while I'm trying to launch my business. Unfortunately, things just got really busy because he's filming a new movie. That means my company and this blog will have to be put on hold for a bit.

Don't be too upset...I'll try to update as often as I can, but I guess this is a lesson for all you new designers: it is possible to juggle a job and start your own company, but it takes good time management and sometimes starting things off may take longer than you wish.


Toronto's Clothing Show
September 18 :: 2004

It's Toronto's Clothing Show at the Automotive Centre this weekend...such a great place for designers to show and sell their stuff. This year, my personal favourites were:

Damzels in this Dress - always the best in rock 'n roll dresses.

Aunt Rose - the cutest silkscreens ever! Who can resist a shirt saying, "Zombies do it better"?

Betty Blush - absolutely perfect clothes.
Cherry Bomb Boutique - I found a little coin purse shaped like adorable polka-dot frilly panties! It can't get better than that.
Miss Bad Betty - You get a free chocolate condom with every purchase, be it panties, bra, or adorable pink and black PVC pillow with discreet condom pocket. Who said fashion was frivolous? It can really save your life.
Jackie Spector - I absolutely love Jackie's jewellery! I've seen so many blah necklaces and earrings lately, with everyone doing the same beaded stuff, but Jackie's designs really stand out.

Registering
September 15 2004

Oh no. I'm going to get all business-y now and talk about making Boast Toastie official.

Lana and I discussed whether we should register as a partnership or corporation. For information on this type of thing, check out Business Registration of Ontario.

We ended up registering as a limited partnership, but after some discussion, we decided to change to a corporation. For information on how to federally register a corporation, check out Corporations Canada. The Government of Canada's Industry Canada site is actually a great source of information on starting a business, so you should really take a look at Canada's Business and Consumer Site.

We did a NUANS search to check to see if our name was taken, and we sent our registration. Now we're waiting to hear back while we make samples and perfect our business plan.

FIRST STEPS
September 13 2004

I'm going to back up to let you know the steps I first took with Boast Toastie, hoping I'll eventually get to the present with this diary.

So, the first step was a concept. Even though it was a drunken concept, it intrigued Lana and I, so we kept exploring the idea of nice-fitting, stylish clothes for curvy girls. Our discussions kept getting better and we kept getting more excited, so we decided to follow it through.

The second step was, of course, a name. It had to be perfect. We chose Boast Toastie after watching a bunch of 50's and 60's movies and reading a ton of books on 50's juvenile delinquents. One book about the rise of teen culture had a slang list explaining a Boast Toastie as "a conceited gal". It was perfect, and helped us envision a company image we can use from graphics to marketing, letterhead, and hangtags. A name is important.

After coming up with the name, we decided to register it. I'll talk about that next.

STARTING BOAST TOASTIE
September 08 2004

To be honest, it was a drunken idea.

My friend Lana called me one night, upset, because she recently graduated from Toronto's International Academy of Design , with a focus in fashion marketing, and could only find a boring administration job at a stale, yet well known, Canadian fashion company. It will remain unnamed, but it was really an "old lady" clothing company, not suiting Lana's rockabilly, tattooed style. To take her mind off her Jill-job, I took her out for a drink and to see a band.

We had a blast and a few Jagermeister shots later, we started talking about our dream jobs and design philosophies. Discovering similarities in our thoughts, Boast Toastie was born.

We were fed up with Jill-jobs in retail, administration, service, and decided to make our own dream jobs reality. We've spent the last year preparing a business strategy (yes, while still working Jill-jobs), and I'm excited to share what we've done with you, from choosing a concept and name to finding financing.

MOVING TO TORONTO
September 05 2004

Leaving behind my Calgary-based urban planning career, I moved to Toronto in August 2002. It was a month after my 30th birthday, and I was starting a whole new life! It was great.

I was too scared to jump right into starting a company, so I decided to go back to school. Ryerson was Canada's best fashion program, and Toronto seemed to be Canada's fashion hub, it was the best place to move.

To get more involved in my new field, I volunteered as Volunteer Coordinator at Toronto Fashion Week; it was the best move I made (next to joining TFI, that is). I met new friends, colleagues, and mentors, and learned how to run a fashion event from pre-planning to debriefing. It gave me the confidence to realize my urban planning experience translated well into starting my own business.

After a year at Ryerson, it was time to do my own thing, so here I am, at TFI, the best place to be when starting out.

In the summer of 2003, my friend Lana and I decided to start Boast Toastie, a line of 50's and 60's inspired clothes for curvy girls. I'll tell you all about it, and what steps we're taking to make it work.

HOW I GOT HERE...FROM CALGARY
September 04 2004

Please bear with me; I'm still telling you how I got here, and I'm realizing my story is longer than I thought, but I hope you find it interesting. I'll get to the fashion part soon...

So, there I was, back in Calgary after being blown away by India (it's a whole different planet, really), and I found the perfect job at an urban planning and architecture firm. HABICO, it was called, and my boss enjoyed having a mix of international and local projects. I specialized in computer graphics, public participation, and was basically a junior planner. We had a few projects in small Alberta towns and around the world. I traveled to Africa, India, and South America.

Though I enjoyed my job and travel experiences, I discovered my creative side when I realized I enjoyed formatting reports and turning maps into mini-artworks rather than urban planning.

I rediscovered sewing after designing Hallowe'en costumes for friends and myself, and realized I missed all the sewing I did in high school. That's when I started thinking about changing careers.

I tried to save the world through international development, but it was harder than it looked. Now was the time to make the world look better. I'll continue my story tomorrow...

HOW I GOT HERE
September 03 2004

You probably want to know who I am and how I got here before you invest any more time reading this diary thing. That's fair, so here it goes...

Back in high school, I had to make "The Big Decision". We all have to do it. You know the one. It's the day someone - maybe a Guidance Counselor - calls you into his or her office, makes you do an aptitude test, and then asks, "What are you going to do for the rest of your life?"

That particular week, my Social Studies class was examining global inequity, and I felt so bad for all those starving people in Africa, I decided I wanted to be a development worker. On the other hand, I was designing clothes out of garbage bags in my Clothing and Textiles class, and it was fun. I wanted to be a designer, too. But according to my high school mind, being a fashion designer was frivolous, shallow, even. Wasn't it nearly impossible to make it as a designer? International development won out as career focus and fashion dropped out of my mind.

I enrolled in the faculty of General Studies at the University of Calgary (where I grew up), and messed around in a few classes, trying to decide my strengths and weaknesses in an assortment of disciplines. After writing some horrible history, political science and philosophy papers and nearly failing economics, I was drawn to architectural studies and humanities. While focusing on international development, I decided to take another major in urban studies, and directed my world area focus on Africa.

Loving my last years as an undergraduate, I thought I could be an academic and decided to get my Master's degree, but in what? I had interdisciplinary experience and could have taken my studies in any direction. Eventually I discovered urban planning, which combined architecture with humanities and development; it was perfect.

I spent two years in Montreal studying urban planning at McGill; what a great city to study cities in. Unfortunately, I graduated around the time of the last referendum, and development stalled. I went on my first study trip to a developing country (India) and moved back to Calgary.

Ooops! I'm realizing this is getting a bit long, so I'll leave you hanging and continue tomorrow...

WHERE DO I START?
September 01 2004

When I met Lorena Barrera last Spring, (she's the Toronto Fashion Incubator's website designer), we launched into lively chitchat about the Canadian fashion scene. We discussed the magazines, the fashion shows, and of course, the designers. We chatted about the greatness of the fashion industry: the fun, the creativity, the liveliness, the passion, and the genius.

But there's also cattiness, superficiality, and negativity. It seemed to us that in the quest to register on the international radar, the Canadian fashion industry fell into a cliché. Rather than embracing our strengths and identity, we ended up doing what other countries have done.

Our premiere fashion magazines follow the same format as others. Instead of trying to be washed-out "Vogue" and "Elle" knockoffs, why don't we try something new? Why do we try to emulate New York Fashion Week rather than doing something uniquely us? And why should journalists criticize our designers or ignore them completely? Why not work together and celebrate Canadian design? Where is the Canadian fashion community?

Lorena and I talked about the early days of the Toronto Fashion Incubator, when David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc, Mimi Bizjak, Crystal Siemens, and other brilliant designers were residents. We shared visions of what it would have been like to share workspace with people like that, bouncing ideas and design philosophies off each other. It seemed to us as though that was the Golden Age of the Canadian fashion industry.

Wait a minute! The Golden Age? It was only a decade ago; we have so much to do!

And that's where I'll start my diary.

Please keep checking in because I'm hoping to help build a strong, positive Canadian design community. I'll share my experiences of being a TFI member, new designer, entrepreneur, and, of course, fashion appreciator. If you have any events you'd like me to post or if you have any comments on my diary, feel free to email me. I'm excited to talk fashion with you; it's one of my favourite things to do. So please, sit back, maybe grab a cappuccino or glass of wine, and enjoy my diary.

 

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