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21 December 2005

Wouldn't you know it? I had entries all set to send to TFI before I left for my Vancouver vacation, but with all the holiday events happening, packing, and preparation, I forgot to send it. But don't fret. I promise to update you on everything as soon as I return in the new year.

Taking a Real Break
17 December 2005

I need to leave my loft and get away from all evidence of fabric, sergers, and sewing machines, so I'm going to Vancouver to play with my 3-year-old niece for two weeks.

Happy holidays and see you in 2006. Hopefully I'll have more fun adventures for you to read. Thanks for your support this year, and for reading and sharing my ups and downs.

What's the Deal With Sales Reps?
16 December 2005

You'll be too busy designing clothes, sewing them, and making business decisions to get out and sell your clothes. What to do? Hire a sales rep.

We're not nearly at the point where we can hire people to rep us, but Lana is doing a good job of telling everyone out west about BoastToastie anyway. But if you can hire one, here are some considerations:

-Usually U.S. sales reps charge a flat monthly fee, something like $1,500 per month, called a "Showroom Fee"
-These fees are non-refundable, there are no sales guarantees
-On top of the Showroom Fee, reps receive commission on net sales approx. 30 days after you ship
-Rates range from 12 - 15% on average
-In Canada, showroom fees are pretty rare
-(Note: Susan suggests negotiating a higher commission rate rather than pay the Showroom Fee if possible)
-You will want to consider approaching agents who represent product similar to yours; who sell to the same targeted stores. For instance, if you sell menswear, you wouldn't want to be repped by someone specializing in bikinis because the rep will have swimwear contacts and not menswear contacts.

If you want to learn more about hiring a sales rep from a professional, TFI is having a seminar on January 25th at 6pm (doors open 5:30pm) on this topic. Check out the listing here http://www.fashionincubator.com/happenings/events/index.shtml

So that's the start of sales rep talk. I'm sure there will be more.

Eeeek! The Horrors of Credit!
14 December 2005

TFI members shared some scary stories about taking orders, but not receiving payment. The moral of each story is: DO A CREDIT CHECK!

Try www.equifax.ca. You have to pay for this service, but you'll be happy you did if you discover an evil company with a history of not paying placed your dream order. After all the energy you put into your company, you don't want to get screwed.

Exporting and the Duty that Follows
15 December 2005

Oh, geez… Exporting is a whole other thing to consider! My mind is spinning! Taxes, numbers, and laws, oh my!

Apparently answers can be found at the International Trade Canada Website. Look! I found the Export and Import Permits Act! (http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/trade/eicb/notices/ser101-en.asp) Where else would I learn that a Tariff Preference Level is “a NAFTA mechanism that provides for the appication of a customs duty at a preferential rate to particular goods up to a specified quantity, and at a rate different from goods that exceed that quantity”?

Lots of fun reading ahead (gak!), but I'm told if I want to look into exporting, I have to know all this.

Oh, and don't forget to build taxes and such into your pricing. Oh, man…there's so much to learn…

More Money Talk
13 December 2005

When talking about financial investment in a clothing company, Susan stressed the need to keep building your credit record. Gradually increase your credit limit; repay on time and build your credit history.

This will help guard against last-minute needs such as “demand” loans. Those are loans where you can get an advance on the raw material costs and with your orders, prove that you can pay the loan back. If you take orders, but your loan is denied, then where are you? It is better to secure money before you need to beg for it at the last moment.

Money Talk
12 December 2005

At the members meeting, we asked Susan Langdon for a rough idea of financial return expected for a small designer in the first five years. Here's what she told us:

Year 1: $12,000 to $15,000
Year 2: $20,000 to $25,000
Year 3: $40,000 to $50,000 or even $75,000
Year 4: $100,000 to $150,000
Year 5: $150,000 to $500,000

(all quoted in gross wholesale sales dollars)

During years 3 to 5, expect high growth, much cash input, and export initiatives.

In other words, YOU NEED LONG TERM FINANCING to have a financially successful clothing company.

How about those dreams of sipping champagne and wearing diamonds while presenting your latest collection in Paris? You have to work hard for it.

More Support!
9 December 2005

I learn such great things at the TFI members meetings. Who knew there was a helpful Toronto entrepreneur website and chat room with free advice?

Ooops… the member said it was called something like whispergroup.com, but I couldn't find it. Does anyone have any helpful suggestions on this or know what I'm looking for?

Keeper of the Books
8 December 2005

A TFI member who has two stores provided golden advice: HIRE A BOOKKEEPER! I swear, she practically yelled it and said a bookkeeper is the best investment you can make for your company.

Ugh…there are so many things we need to do and invest in to make BoastToastie successful. It's pretty overwhelming. Okay, then. On the list: Bookkeeper.

Where'd you Get that Fabric?
7 December 2005

Back in April, I talked about how we chose BoastToastie fabric, and the fabric issue was discussed at the members meeting. Most people recommend starting with the TFI fabric suppliers list (http://www.fashionincubator.com/resources/developing_your_line/index.shtml).

There's no question it will take a lot of time investment to research suppliers and become familiar with the types of fabric they provide. Chances are you will have to physically to travel to many out-of-the-way industrial parks to find the perfect fabric. Trust me, it will take you a while, so don't forget to factor fabric choice into your timeline.

Trade Shows?
6 December 2005

At the members meeting, we discussed different trade shows, how effective they are to obtain sales, clients, and representation.

There was no easy answer. Each show has its own specialty and target market. The best thing to do is research the shows on the web and examine the companies that have attended. If you feel particularly adventurous, it wouldn't hurt to contact a few of the companies to see if their attendance at the show was successful. What's the worst that can happen?

Don't know where to start? Begin by checking out the trade shows listed in the TFI resources (http://www.fashionincubator.com/resources/selling_your_line/index.shtml).

Still don't know where to start? The trade shows people are talking about are Magic, DNA (Designers and Agents), and Pool. They're all American shows.

5 December 2005

A TFI member at the meeting successfully scored a grant from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (for Canadians 18 - 34 years old). Naturally, we wanted to hear all about it. How can you get this grant?

1. Go to the website www.cybf.ca and follow instructions
2. Write your business plan, with accompanying documents such as an executive summary and cover letter. I hear recommendation letters might help too, especially since mentorship is a large component of this grant.
3. Arrange a pre-meeting with a representative who is on the selection committee. This person will review your application's strengths and weaknesses. The TFI member mentioned this pre-meeting was extremely helpful.
4. Attend an interview and review of your application.
5. Hope you get some support from this organization.

The member who won this grant loves it, and especially values her mentor time.

What are you waiting for? Check it out!

Support Group
3 December 2005

Yay! It was another fantastic members meeting at the TFI. A designer actually drove from Detroit to attend. It was interesting to hear his experiences from a different city. Look at www.puredetroitdesignlab.com for an indication of the fashion scene in that city.

As usual, Bev Kidd and I went out for a post-meeting beverage to share our designer ups and downs. I was interested in her experience applying for the TFI New Labels competition. She told me that though it has been hard work, she has learned a lot about preparing concise inspiration boards, sketches, and garments that fit together with a theme. She loves the experience. I wish her luck and I hope I can see her clothes on the New Labels runway.

I love these days when I can talk about fashion with people who understand that it is more than parties and frivolity. As I did last month, I'll use the next few days to write about what we discussed at the members meeting.

Members Meeting
1 December 2005

I spoke to Susan Langdon on Tuesday and realized the TFI members meeting is coming up this Saturday (December 3). I have to remember to sign up because I really need to talk to everyone again.

It really helps to talk to people who are going through the same thing I am or those who have gone through it. They're like my own fashion support-group.

Hope to see you there.

29 November 2005

So, is it research if I go to a party celebrating the 25th anniversary of B&M models? Yes, I'd say I was working (working with a gin and tonic in my hand, that is). Uh-huh. Trying to determine what models might be useful for my photo shoot and show if I ever get to that point…

Anyway, it was fun, and I needed some fun. Again, it was inspiring to be around fashion-people and I'm getting excited to jump back into BoastToastie-ing.

26 November 2005

I had a reunion with the core volunteer team I managed for Toronto Fashion Week. It was wonderful to see them. We had such a great time working together.

Seeing those guys again really helped my fashion-spirits and I'm feeling inspired again. It's nice to be around people who are positive about clothing design and the industry.

Need a Break? Have a KitKat
25 November 2005

I'm still on a break…

…understanding that slacker male model guy on the KitKat commercial. If he deserves a break, I certainly do.

21 November 2005

My friend Marissa came to Toronto from San Francisco, so we had a huge classic 1950's American Thanksgiving feast. I didn't think about clothes for once in a long time, and it was a relief.

On a Break
18 November 2005

Okay, it's not the smartest thing to do since we started building momentum in Calgary and on the web through our website and this blog, but we just need to step away from thinking about business for a bit.

I feel terrible for letting things slide, but I can't carry on the same way. Our #1 BoastToastie rule is: It's gotta be fun. Working myself to death isn't fun, so a break is best.

Finding Stores, Part 2
15 November 2005

The funny thing is, Bev's problem is opposite to BoastToastie's problem. We have too many stores wanting our clothes. Lana has been working hard promoting our line in Calgary and Edmonton and people are ready to place orders, but there's no possible way we can produce them the way we did in the summer. I can't sew my life away or I'll go insane. Seriously.

A solution would be to get advances on our orders, but that's no way to build business relationships.

We could also look into loans, since we'll obviously get the money back from our orders.

A big problem, however, is that since we underpriced our initial line, we cannot sell it at those prices. We would be working for less than nothing, and even though BoastToastie is a labour of love, we'd still like to make some money.

Once again, we have to solve this dilemma by re-evaluating, but we're both so tired from having day jobs and working so hard in the summer that we need a break.

Finding Stores
14 November 2005

After the TFI members meeting last week, my friend Bev and I went out for drinks to discuss our business progress.

Bev launched her website (www.bevkidd.com) and it looks great! Congratulations, Bev.

She's done everything right: she studied hard, worked for Arthur Mendonça, researched her market, studied marketing, perfected her designs and patterns, and determined the appropriate price for her designs. The problem? She's been having difficulty finding stores. It's hard to get stores to even look at her clothes, even when she offered to show them during off-peak hours, and well before they started spending for the new season.

Her solution? She's investigating PR options and generating buzz. Note to retailers: Look at Bev's clothes! She's a fantastic person, a quality designer and producer, and you know you'll get your orders on time. Go ahead…support a new designer!

Fabric Shows?
12 November 2005

All of us at the TFI meeting have heard of fabric shows such as the spectacular Premiere Vision in Paris, but few of us had ever attended. So someone asked, “Is it necessary to attend these shows?”

The answer was mixed.

On one hand, the fabric shows highlight fabric trends and can hold wonderful sources for inspiration. Another plus, is that anyone can attend, provided they can pay the admission fees.

On the other hand, it is expensive to travel to the shows and pay admission. Furthermore, many exhibitors have minimum purchase requirements.

For instance, my with my requirements of 100m of cotton in solid colours, I'd likely be laughed out of many fabric booths. It will be a while before a trip to Premiere Vision would be beneficial.

Not that I wouldn't love to go…

Packaging? Shipping?
11 November 2005

During the members meeting, we discussed the best way to ship orders. General consensus was to wrap your products in tissue in a flat box.

Where to get the flat box? Staples.

Where to get tissue? The UPS Store has all the mailing accessories you need.

Who to ship with? FedEx was a general favourite.

Don't forget that shipping insurance!

10 November 2005

One TFI member was having problems finding dressforms with legs, so at the members meeting, it was suggested they try Superior, Wolf, or E-Bay.

Personally, I have an inexpensive, expandable dressform from Fabricland. It's not the most professional thing ever, but since I'm new to all this and working on sizing and samples myself, it was the most cost-effective solution. I'd still like a fancy, perfect dressform, though. Where are my investors?

9 November 2005

Crap, crap, crap. Accounting has been something I've been dealing with slowly and quietly. I've been living with the Accounting Monster quietly under my bed, but come end-of-year, he'll explode out of there and destroy my life. I know it.

Now the question is: do I do the accounting myself or hire an accountant?

If I do it myself, some TFI members recommend the following software options: Quickbooks, Quicken, and Simply Accounting. Unfortunately, there is no fashion-oriented accounting software.

I hate math. I think I'm going to have to look for an accountant.

8 November 2005

A TFI member brought up the question of insurance because her broker was ceasing small business coverage.

I have everything covered in my live/work space, but what about travelling? If something happens to samples or even orders in transit, it would be horrific.

Insurance? Crap. There's another thing I have to worry about and pay.

7 November 2005

At the TFI members meeting, we talked about stylists, so I thought I'd share some questions and answers:

What do stylists do? At the most basic level, they add accessories to your outfits, whether for a show, photo shoot, or other event. They work with you to determine how your collection and theme can be unforgettable.

Are stylists necessary? The unanimous answer was yes. They are aware of trends and accessories that can punch up your designs. Usually they have stronger relationships with stores and designers than you do, so they have access to more resources.

Where do I find a good stylist? Stylists are found through agencies, much like makeup artists and hair stylists. You can probably find out what stylists your favourite designers use (they're usually listed on fashion show programmes) and see if he or she is available. Stylists are also credited in magazines, so hang on to examples of photo shoots you think are particularly well styled. Or you can cold-call agencies, discuss your personality and needs, and they can suggest a suitable stylist.

How much does a stylist cost? Typically a stylist is hired by a flat rate. It can be a half-day or day fee, or even a fee based on the number of outfits. In Toronto, $2,500 seems to be the minimum fee for 15 outfits, while some stylists charge upwards of $5,000.

When planning a show or a shoot and you're questioning the necessity of a stylist, think about how much time you'll have to focus on accessories. Probably not much, since the clothes and overall look will be your prime concern. You'll likely be stressed out, so think about how nice it would be to have someone else focusing on accessories. So, you tell me: is a stylist necessary?

Meetings and Money
5 November 2005

As usual, it was great to meet TFI members I haven't met and talk to ones I have met before. For the next couple posts, I'll talk about what we discussed at the meeting.

First, we talked about money, the issue that is causing me all sorts of problems. The TFI is holding a money seminar November 15. It's too bad it was booked up before I signed up. I hope they have another one.

3 November 2005

I'm happy that the TFI members meeting is this Saturday. It's been a while since I went, and I think I need to participate in some designer-talk again. I hope it will motivate me.

1 November 2005

My motivation is dwindling. Feeling quite burnt out. It's difficult to stay excited after working so hard this summer.

28 October 2005

Sorry I'm writing more about fashion reflection than fashion production lately, but things have necessarily been slow with BoastToastie. Since my day job got busier, keeping me later, I haven't had time to do a lot of BoastToastie-ing, just some sewing here and there. But trust me, when I get busier with it, I'll definitely keep you posted. As usual, feel free to carolyn.rohaly@boasttoastie.com). She shouldn't have told me about it, though, because I get distracted by sparkly things easily these days…

No Sew
14 September 2005

Nope…still no sewing, but still long hours at the office and film fest-related stuff. Starting a part-time business is super-hard…

Better Blogger
13 September 2005

In the summer, I ran into a former fashion classmate from my year at Ryerson, and she just sent me a sympathetic message. It's so nice to share my pain with someone. Danielle writes a great blog on the ups and downs of fashion school, so if you're considering a fashion education, visit her site: myhttp://finalfashion.blogspot.com/. Best wishes for fourth year, Danielle.

Fan Mail! Fan Mail!
12 September 2005

Can I tell you how much it means to hear from you? And you keep writing when I need to hear encouraging words, so thank you very much! I just got an e-mail from Maritza, who is also starting a Toronto-based fashion company (www.maritzareyes.com). Maritza, I promise to be a better blogger so you can enjoy and learn from my soap opera. Thank you for the kind note and best wishes on your work.

If you have any comments on my diary, feel free to carolyn.rohaly@boasttoastie.com.

Laugh or Cry
27 August 2005

Yay! Everything's done for the store! Can't believe it. Can't fathom it. Well, I did leave some dress hemming for Lana to do since I freaked out and think one of the dress styles should be shorter now. I never second-guess myself, but these last couple months have really made me crazy.

Anyway, I intended to courier everything to Lana. Thinking I had all day to get there, I thought I'd try to finish up some of the individual orders. Then I thought, “Maybe I should call the courier just to make sure I get there before they close.” So I called. They closed at 2:00.

It was 1:57.

Will this venture always be a comedy of errors?

Can I See the Light?
26 August 2005

Almost done…

Heed my Warning
25 August 2005

Seriously, nobody should do this when they have a full time job and less than $20,000 to start a business. It takes up way too much time and energy.

There's no question I'd be much saner if I didn't have the day job and could focus all my attention on BoastToastie.

A Day in No Life
24 August 2005

This has been my summer schedule:

6:00am – either wake up or rub my eyes after all nighter.

6:05am – stumble to shower in hopes it will miraculously wake me up.

6:30am – get dressed, dry hair, do makeup, and all that stuff.

7:00am – try to sew something before I leave for work, but mostly end up ripping out wobbly seams.

8:45am – leave for work.

9:45am – arrive at work and wonder why it has to get so busy right at the same time I'm so busy with BoastToastie.

All day – try to focus on work, but worry about BoastToastie and make stupid mistakes at job.

5:00pm – run errands to deal with things I've forgotten, such as buying zippers, ribbon, thread.

6:00pm – get home and take time to eat something, flop on my bed, and wish I could sleep for a million years.

7:00pm – cut, serge, sew, iron, or seam-rip something. Continue until head bobs and eyes close.

2:00am – give up and realize it is impossible to sew a straight line when so tired.

Travel Time
23 August 2005

Another thing to factor into time management is travel time. Sometimes public transit can take forever. And if you have a car, traffic and parking make things take forever. I picked up the embroidery today, but ended up waiting 20 minutes in an industrial park for my lost cab. Wish I had money for a cell phone.

The good news, though, is that the embroidery looks HOT and was done in a day. Yay for advance notice. My embroiderers rock!

The bad news, though, is that I think the embroidery is too close to where the hems might be.

Time Management
22 August 2005

I have a new rule: However long you think something is going to take, multiply it by five.

It's impossible to account for things like broken machines, falling dead asleep at your sewing machine for 12 hours because your body shuts down, and spilling soda on a dress that's nearly done.

Mania Sets In
21 August 2005

Although I recognized how schizophrenic I had become from lack of sleep long ago, it became more apparent with other people around. Intern Heather said, she saw an episode of Fashion Television once where a new designer was spotlighted and he too hadn't slept for months. She said that after seeing me she understood why he looked so bad.

We came up with the slogan, “If you don't sew, you don't know”. Even if you do sew, you really don't know how long things take to get done.

And Caitlin decided to start a band called “The FeedDogs”.

As I said, mania sets in.

Rescue Me
19 August 2005

Last night I saw my friend Caitlin, who unfortunately agreed that I looked like a zombie and acted like an incompetent fool from two months of not sleeping.

She stepped in and insisted on helping. She came over to my place last night and even snuck herself and Heather into my day office today. I can't tell you how much better it made me feel to have other people around. I worked myself into insanity.

Giving Up
18 August 2005


I can't handle it any more! I don't want to sew any more. All have been doing is sewing, and sewing, and sewing, but it feels like I'm not finishing any garments! I don't care any more. I only want to sleep.

Giving Notice
17 August 2005

All right. So I gave notice to the embroidery place that I'll deliver stuff to them in a week and would need embroidery done the next day so I can ship it. They said they could do it! Yay for advance notice!

Now if only I could get the sewing done…I'm going to cry…

16 August 2005

What am I going to do? I promised the clothes, but they aren't done, and when they are done, I have to take them in to get our logo embroidered. My embroidery place says they like a week advance. How is this going to work?

Broken Promises
15 August 2005

I'm never late for deadlines. Now I am late delivering my first batch of orders and feel terrible.

I'll never get all this sewing done. It sounds like nothing, but it's taking forever. I never thought I was a slow sewer, but I guess I am.

I Hate Zippers
14 August 2005

How can I work all weekend and not seem to have made any progress at all? Maybe it's because I spent all weekend making 6 perfect zippers. It took ALL WEEKEND. I suck and I never want to see another zipper in my life.

Deadline Looms
12 August 2005

We promised a Calgary store we'd have 6 pants, 5 skirts, 12 dresses, and 3 wraps done and delivered by August 15. The skirts and pants are done, but the dresses are in various stages of being finished. I can't even write the word panic without freaking out.

Introductory Pricing
11 August 2005

I'm thinking of our loss as "introductory pricing". If people don't buy our garments for our cheap prices, then something's wrong. We seriously underpriced our stuff, hoping it will sell and get people talking.

I hope this will work and that we can maintain decent prices.

What are the Costs?
10 August 2005

So, um...we're making nothing on the skirts and pants. What happened?

While in Calgary, we somewhat arbitrarily chose prices using a combination of known materials costs and estimated labour time and costs. Then we thought back to our mission of making clothes accessible for not only curvy girls, but fabulous girls without a lot of income. We want to keep our clothes under $200.

With that in mind, our most expensive dress couldn't cost the customer more than $200. Pants and skirts should then be under $100, so $90 felt right to us.

Apparently $90 felt right to other people too, as a few friends ordered the pants and skirts. Then a Calgary store ordered 14 of them. Doesn't sound too bad, eh? Well compound the pants and skirts with a dozen dresses, things get pretty busy with a one-person production team.

A reasonable - but good - contractor promised to sew all my pants and skirts for $30.

Let's do some math, shall we?

Retail markup is usually 50%. If a garment is $90, chances are the store bought it for $45. For the designer to make money, the garment should be produced for half of that, meaning $22.50.

If that's correct, then how are we going to make money by selling pants and skirts for $30 that cost us $30 to contract out? Why did we sell them to the store for $30? What were we thinking?

Looking Good
9 August 2005

Picked up the pants and skirts from the contractor, and...BAM! BoastToastie rocks, if I do say so myself. I shouldn't have worried. This contractor thing is great: send one skirt in, it multiplies to your specifications, and you're left without sewing stress.

Not Meant to Have Hangtags
8 August 2005

So yeah. The hangtags were shipped to my old address. Someone seriously does not want me to have these.

Is Life Passing Me By?
6 August 2005

I could kill my friend Calvin right now. He called, trying to convince me to go partake in some summer fun. I gave my usual response: "Can't go out. I have to finish sewing these orders."

He says, "You've got to stop letting life pass you by."

That was the last thing I wanted to hear. As much as I love sewing and want to make BoastToastie work, I seriously have been chained to a sewing machine since May, when we decided on the June parties in Calgary. I sew before I go to work. I sew when I get home from work. And sometimes I do stuff like rip seams or work on patterns while I'm at work. Did I reach my breaking point?

Exhausted and cranky, I wondered if I am letting life pass me by in my desire to make a better life for myself.

To be honest, I lately prefer the company of my sewing machine to going out to clubs and having mundane conversations. I enjoy listening to music while making clothes. It makes me happy.

Am I letting life pass me by? Or am I making a better life?

I'll let you know after my sixth month of four-hour sleeps.

Sleepless in Toronto
5 August 2005

So much to do...
...no sleep...
...doubt I'll ever be able to sleep again.

The two things I now cannot live without: Oil of Olay "Regenerist" eye cream and MAC concealer. I have such gross dark circles under my eyes that I think they'll never go away.

Hangtag Drama
4 August 2005

Can you believe they screwed up the hangtags and flipped them backwards? Aaaaargh!

2 August 2005

Uh, yeah. The hangtag guy went on vacation and assumed his colleague would complete them. That didn't work. I told them I needed them by the end of the week so I can ship them with my clothes. I've waited over a month, so I'm getting 15% off and no courier charges. It's the least they could do.

3-2-1 Contract
1 August 2005

I had to do it. Time is running out and I had no choice but to take some sewing to someone else. How hard is that? Unbelievably hard. These are my worries:

* The unfamiliarity of the contractor's work. Could they really be better sewers than me? I'm pretty good.
* These are my designs and my production charts. Do they make sense? Will the contractors be able to follow my direction?
* The costs take away from what I could make, but is it worthwhile to sacrifice my spare time and sanity for a couple extra dollars?
* Ohmygod: are there sweatshops in Toronto? Will I pick a place that exploits workers?
* Does having someone else sew still make it a BoastToastie garment?

My mind is going a million miles an hour, but worrying won't produce any garments.

What? Do I Have to Pay You?
31 July 2005

I love that Intern Heather devoted her entire weekend to BoastToastie last week. Was it too much to wish for two weekends in a row?

Yup. Apparently interns don't like to work for free when they're hung over. And I can't get mad at interns for not coming to help me serge because I'm not paying them. Unfortunately, the absence of intern-labour this weekend set me back. I'm never going to finish all this work.

Yoo-hoo...hangtags...where are you?
29 July 2005

I just realized I ordered hangtags back when I ordered labels and stickers, but I still don't have them. Ugh. Don't want to deal with that. Don't have the time to think about it. Can only think about sewing....

What Am I Doing?
28 July 2005

I can't believe I'm doing this. Do all designers feel this way? Or am I driving myself nuts because I can't afford to contract out all the work. How much would I love a grant or to win the lottery so I can pay someone else to do all the un-fun, time-consuming work?

Cut, Cut, Cut!
27 July 2005

I made a list to help keep me organized. It's got all the orders: sizes, colours, and who placed them, along with progress stages: cut, serge, sew, finish, embroidery. There are far too many left to cut (let alone serge), since I've been trying to modify my samples to reflect changes that were made in pattern grading.

Once I cut everything, I think I will send out some sewing to both a seamstress and a contractor, in hopes the workload for each will lessen and I can have the work back in a week, and I can finish up some of the more difficult outfits. Yeah, that's a good plan. Will it work?

Power Serge
26 July 2005

Intern Heather was nice enough to call stores to comparison shop for sergers. We found the best deal at a place that was away from the downtown core, which meant more time traveling. I swear, I'm never going to get a chance to sew.

At least I have a new serger. I hope I can give it a healthy, happy life.

Serger Murderer
25 July 2005

Over the weekend, I killed two serging machines (we call them "sergers" in the industry). A serger sews the overcast stitching on a raw edge so the seam doesn't fray.

The first was a little one I had for years: a home one called a Singer Tiny Serger. It only cost me around $50, so it was a great deal and lasted me a long time, even though the stitches were not industrial quality and it was amazingly slow. It did the job. Well, it did the job until Saturday.

Intern Heather brought her second-hand serger to my loft on Sunday and we had it working for an hour or two, but it died too.

I have no choice but to buy a new serger. Lana and I have only a little bit of money in the bank, so every purchase is significant and we have to weigh how we spend. A serger is a must because it will be cheaper in the long term to have the machine than to add serging to a contracting bill. Seamstresses seem to prefer to straight stitch rather than serge, so it makes sense.

Now on top of all the sewing I have to do (since I lost a lot of time trying to fix the machines on the weekend), I have to research sergers! Will I ever get to sew?

Seamstresses vs. Contractors
22 July 2005

I've been researching seamstresses and contractors to see who might be able to help me out since I've got tons of sewing to complete in a few weeks. What's best?

Well, to start with, I realized EVERYONE is busy. A few weeks are obviously not a lot of lead-time.

Even though I've called about twenty different seamstresses and contractors, none have given me a direct quote for work. They all have to see garments first before they can give a cost or time estimate. It's frustrating, but understandable.

21 July 2005

I used to be so organized. What happened? There's too much to do and I'm panicking. I know I'll get it done, but what's the best strategy?

I've cut out all the fabric I can and am giving that bunch to Heather, hoping we'll have enough serged pieces to sew all weekend long. Seriously, once cutting and serging is done, sewing is a breeze (and much more fun). I want to get as many outfits done as possible so I can take them into the embroiderer's next week and make BoastToastie's 4-6 week promise of delivery to our friends who ordered clothes individually. Then it's on to finishing up store orders for mid-August and trying to create stock for fall clothing shows.

Did Lana and I create a monster? I think so. At least it's a fun monster.

20 July 2005

The pattern questions have been clarified. I really should take another patternmaking class, but the lady I hired seems to know what she's doing and I don't have time to make, check, and grade patterns. I much prefer hiring someone to do it and hope it pays off.

Now I'm going to research seamstresses because there's just too much sewing to do.

19 July 2005

I chose an individual patternmaker because she promised to have grading done today. Unfortunately I got a call from her and my collar and sleeves for a dress totally confused her. I have to go and clarify things for her tomorrow night.

That means no finished patterns today and likely a couple lost from my already tight schedule. Curses on my patternmaking skills!

Birthday Sewing
18 July 2005

It's my birthday and I'll sew if I want to...

I also cut a bunch of fabric and dropped it off to my intern, Heather, for serging. Cutting and serging takes up too much of my time, so it's nice to have someone helping with one part of it.

Grade It
15 July 2005

This should have been done weeks ago, but I dropped off some patterns for grading today. Wish me luck.

Over the weekend, I'll be working on making outfits for the sizes I already have and wrestling with a coverall design I made that has a saggy butt. I must eliminate the saggy butt!

Busy Season
14 July 2005

Did you know it's busy season for patternmakers? Of course it is, and it would be good if I remember to get things done earlier from now on.

Fashion Taboo
13 July 2005

During last week and this week, I've been researching pattern graders because it will take me forever to grade our patterns, and when I finish, they'll probably be wrong. It's time to get help.

Where did I turn for help? To the TFI, of course. They have some nifty resources for pattern makers, sample makers, and garment producers. The only problem is, only one out of the eight numbers I tried worked! I hate to pick on the Incubator, but it was a little frustrating. Susan Langdon apologized for the inconvenience but she explained that TFI being a non-profit and having only 2 staff, it's really hard to keep all 600 files in the Resource Centre up to date.

So I asked some designer friends for recommendations and quickly learned that's a taboo thing to do. Ooops. I think people want to keep their production resources secret so their producers don't get too busy for them.

Anyway, that's why the Incubator list is good to have. As a member, it's not taboo to ask the TFI for that information.

Retailer Requests
12 July 2005

I forgot to mention that the retailers have some great, yet cumbersome, design suggestions and requests to their orders. For instance, instead of our high waisted designs, they want low waist. That means retooling the patterns and making new samples. Isn't that fun?

Unpacking and Sewing
11 July 2005

I spent the weekend unpacking, sewing, unpacking, sewing, unpacking...You get the picture.

More Samples, Anyone?
10 July 2005

I still have a couple samples to finish that Lana and I want to show to a couple retailers by Friday. That means I have to finish them by Wednesday to courier to Lana for Thursday so she can review them before Friday. Ideally I'd like to get them to her by Wednesday (for an extra day in case anything goes wrong), but let's be honest: it's not gonna happen.

Reccommended Reading
6 July 2005

Susan Langdon from the TFI just gave me a great suggestion. I'll let you know what she said:

“You might want to read ‘The Entrepreneurs Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing'. We have a copy in the TFI Resource Centre. It's an excellent book that walks a designer through the process from after getting sales, then what? You can buy it from www.apparel.ca but before investing in the cost, you might want to flip through a few pages here first. But I've read it and although some of the language is American-centric, it's a great resource; very accurate and descriptive and full of tips that could save you money, time and grief.” (Susan do you want me to paraphrase this so it isn't a TFI endorsement?)

That's a great idea. I'll try to get to TFI next Saturday to do some reading before the members meeting. It's been a while since we've all met, and I'm interested in hearing what people have been doing.

Back Again
4 july 2005

Nice to see we're back together again. The last two months have been both absolutely nutty and amazing but I've been keeping track for you.Go back to May 2 to see what happened. There's so much to catch up on...

30 June 2005

I'm so happy to have some duplicate samples back here in Toronto. Lana and I plan to have duplicate sets in Calgary and Toronto. That way we can show off our clothes in both cities.

Unfortunately, since we're so busy with the amazing Calgary orders, we have to hold off on introducing BoastToastie to Toronto. We expect to have a couple parties in the fall, and we're going to investigate the possibility of participating in the Clothing Show, so if you're in Toronto, you could see BoastToastie soon!

Girl in da ‘Hood
28 June 2005

I've been in my new neighbourhood for a few days now, and I love it! It's in Toronto's East End, and planners are dubbing it the Studio District because there are all sorts of grand schemes to expand TV and film studios in the area. There are all sorts of new cool restaurants and shops around, so I'm happy about the move.

And my loft…the space! The space! It's already more than twice the size of my bachelor apartment and I plan to add a mezzanine so I can separate my work space from my living space. It was a smart move.

I was sad to move from the gaybourhood, but I think this area is going to be great. Perhaps I'll get some design inspiration from the nearby Hell's Angels clubhouse? Toronto is great.

27 June 2005

We've now got a few individual orders and a couple store orders from Calgary. How are we going to fulfill them?

Ohmigod…this is kind of scary. Do we contract out? Do we sew everything ourselves? What do we do?

Next week, it is my job to price out contractors, pattenmakers, and sewers. Lana is focusing on banks, loans, and grants.

26 June 2005

Do I dare take a rest?

I think I deserve a break, so I'm going to the Toronto Islands to see a bunch of bands play. I'm going to sit in the sun, have some drinks, and chat with my friends. And I'll feel no guilt. I'll keep telling myself I'll feel no guilt, and I won't think about how much work I have to do.

Movin' on Up
25 June 2005

Moving day! Smart girl I am, I chose probably the hottest day of the year to move. Smart girl I am, I budgeted to hire movers! Hooray! There's no way any of my friends would have wanted to move, no matter how much beer and pizza I promised them.

So, it was a “smooth move” for me; not so easy for the moving guys. My favourite thing was that it was a good excuse to drink a gigantic Slurpee.

And now, what I've been waiting to do for over a month: SLEEP!

On Line
24 June 2005

The website is up! Hooray! Go check out www.boasttoastie.com!

Huge thanks go out to my friend Derek Lee (www.angryyellow.com) for making this site. I think it's amazing and hope you do too.

Sleep Deprived or Sleep Depraved?
23 June 2005 - night

Will I ever sleep again? I thought I would after the BoastToastie Calgary party madness, but this week, I'm packing up my apartment and not nearly finished: I move in two days! I've got way too much stuff!

Clothing Designer or Web Designer?
23 June 2005

Over the past couple days, I've been phoning our website provider, trying to figure out why the test site is up, but why it isn't online.


Turns out the site is automatically registered to the people who sold us our domain. In this case, it is Network Solutions. I had to tell them to point the site to our website host. Did you really think you'd only need to know about clothes to be a fashion designer? You have to be a technophile too.

Test Audience
22 June 2005

My boss screened his latest movie for cast and crew today, so I had to show off a BoastToastie design, and received rave reviews. Two thumbs up from everyone!

21 June 2005

Could things get more ridiculous?

I have to send Lana remaining samples, alter existing samples to incorporate feedback from our party guests, and PACK UP MY APARTMENT! I move in four days! There's no way I can get this done. Plus, we have to figure out how we're going to fulfill our orders. How are we going to do it?

In a Web
20 June 2005

Why, oh why is our website not up?

Back to My Roots
19 June 2005

Believe it or not, I used to be a summer camp counselor. And before that, I was a summer camper. In other words, I was a total hippie-granola-girl. After this weekend, I had been told many times I had “turned city”.

It was the 75th Anniversary of my summer camp and I decided to attend the first night by flaunting my new clothing endeavor. I wore a “Pink Lady” jacket with BoastToastie embroidered on the back and a “Pinky” name patch on the front and waited for the taunts on how I turned my back to nature and sold my soul to the devil wearing Prada (even though nobody at camp knew anything about Prada).

To my surprise, everyone supported of my attempts to start a company. I even took a few clothing orders. I learned support can come in many different forms. Many thanks to old and new friends over at camp; your encouragement is amazing.

BoastToastie 2: House Party
16 June 2005

We held our second party at Lana's house, and it was as amazing as the first!

The first thing we learned from both parties is to serve a tasty, alcoholic punch. In our case, it allowed people to rave about how much they loved our clothes. In some cases, it allowed for some ranting, but the rants help us improve.

Anyway, Lana's wisely planned to invite a few Calgary storeowners to our party, which resulted in a couple large sales orders. Way to go, Lana!

Of course we celebrated BoastToastie by following the party with a couple visits to Calgary's funnest nightspots. I'll hurt tomorrow, but we deserve some calibration.

BoastToastie 1: Lofty Launch
15 June 2005 - night

My friend Rupi agreed to host the BoastToastie introduction party in the common room of her loft. It was in the Orange Lofts, Calgary's hippest residential building, so that was fun.

I was almost late. Lana and I invited people for 7:00pm and I arrived at 6:45.

I swore I'd never be the designer who arrives late. I was always going to be on time and ready weeks before I was to show anything. But as you can read in the entries before this, I had no choice.

Anyway, it was 6:45. Lana had set up everything and was worried. Where was her business partner? I was driving across Calgary with my recently completed samples and arrived just in time. I hadn't slept in days and barely had time to pouf my hair and put on my makeup when guests arrived. I was in no shape to host a party.

But it turned out really well. Amazingly well, in fact.

Guests arrived and helped themselves to our BoastToastie punch and some delicious goodies provided by a neat Calgary catering company called Mr. Munchies. They were inspired by our 1950's theme and provided everything in adorable vintage picnic baskets. Apparently food plus drink equal a receptive crowd. Our clothes earned a great reception: we earned over a thousand dollars in sales!

Saving Graces
15 June 2005 - afternoon

I was about to bash my head against my mother's sewing machine, cry, and give up when an amazing thing happened.

My mom came home to show off BoastToastie to her friend Donnie. I apologized to Donnie for not being my usual charming self because the clothes were half-finished and I was on the brink of a panic attack when Donnie said, “I can help you”.

So there we were, Donnie and my mom, working away while I gave orders. I had my own Golden Girls sweatshop. I felt slightly guilty, but we had fun and their work was great. But could we finish the samples to show everyone later in the day?

No Possible Way
14 June 2005

There's no possible way we're going to have samples for tomorrow.

No way.

I'm tired and don't want to sew anymore. Physically incapable of sewing anymore, actually.

I've been up for at least fourteen days with no more than three hours sleep any night (I've lost count of how long I've been awake). Why did I want to become a clothing designer? Why did I promise people a clothing party tomorrow? And why did I forget my clothes in Toronto? Why?

Coming Clean
12 June 2005

Through this whole process, I told Lana to trust me; I'd get things done. Now I have to tell her I'm a complete loser and left half our samples in Toronto. I've tried to make up for it, by working between wedding stuff, but I'm exhausted.

Luckily, she is the bravest and most trustworthy business partner ever. She believes I'll get everything done for Wednesday's party. If she believes in me, I have to believe in myself.

Holy, does that ever sound cheesy, but it's true. Could I ever trust in someone who said, “Trust me; I'll make a couple outfits in three days”? It's hard to say. At the moment, I love Lana for putting her perfectionist instincts on hold and allowing me to do what I need to get things done for our party. She needed to organize party logistics, marketing stuff, order forms, prices, and those sorts of things, so we were both busy and worrying about our own things. In a weird way, we're working out well together.

Sweatshop Calgary
11 June 2005

I decided the best idea is to get through all the stuff related to my friend's wedding and sew make-up outfits in between wedding festivities.

There's no way I'll get any sleep over the next few days. It makes me sad since I didn't sleep for the weeks leading up to my Toronto departure. Will I ever sleep again? Will I pull this off?

Be Afraid
10 June 2005

I'm in Calgary now and scared to tell Lana my realization: I left half our samples in Toronto.

I thought I was so good, packing extra fabric and all our patterns to be safe. I guess it was good and safe, but I can't believe I would have left all the outfits in that one plastic bag amid the mess of other plastic bags strewn about my bachelor apartment. Will I be glad to move into that loft, where I can arrange everything.

No time to think about that now. What will I do about the missing pieces?

No Labels
9 June 2005

The labels didn't show up. It's a good thing these samples are for friends.

People are asking if there will be media at our parties, but Lana and I opted not to invite media, largely for this reason. We don't want media to see our samples without labels and hangtags. This party is to gauge potential client reaction to our concept and designs. We know we're not ready for media and we also know it can be bad to get media exposure before we're ready.

Nearly Finished
8 June 2005

I'm leaving for Calgary tomorrow. After not sleeping for a couple weeks, I have two dresses to go. I guess I can finish a couple on my mom's sewing machine…

By the way, the embroidery is the cutest ever! It's so cute, I think the logo should be embroidered on everything. Lana and I will have to discuss this after she sees how amazing our logo looks.

1 June 2005

Aaaahhh! It's June! Nine days before I leave for Calgary and I'm not done our samples. Apparently I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Gotta leave the muslins and work with our fabric!

Stitch Itch
31 May 2005

After calling a million embroidery places, I found one with reasonable prices that also does rush orders. I'm taking some stuff in tomorrow to get finished within the week.

Found: Interns
21 May 2005

Turns out one intern needed to get paid, so she found a job. The other one was having trouble with grading, so we're going to discuss different tasks.

20 May 2005

Where have my interns gone? Maybe I'm asking too much. Maybe they need to get paid.

Go Ahead; Label Me
18 May 2005

After calling label makers to comparison shop, I decided to go with a Toronto-area company. I hope they're good.

I designed labels, stickers, and hangtags on CorelDraw, which was wise. It seems all places accept that format, along with Adobe Illustrator. I'm so happy I know how to design stuff on the computer.

17 May 2005

Less than a month away and so much stuff to do:

There are a million other things, but I can't even think about them right now. My priority is to make sure we can show some clothes.

Brain Explosion
16 May 2005

There's so much to think about, I can't even think. Of course when I'm bound to make a bunch of samples and prepare a party, my day-job gets incredibly busy. If you're contemplating starting a company and have a full-time job, THINK IT THROUGH! This is madness!

15 May 2005

It's a month away from our proposed party, so we sent out invitations. We used www.evite.com for people whose e-mail addresses we knew and we made cute little all-purpose BoastToastie cards for snail-mail invites. Both are really cute. I like the all-purpose card idea because we can use them for invitations, thank-you cards, PR, anything. They were a wise investment of our meager funds.

Now there's no turning back. We have to do this.

8 May 2005

Yay! I found a couple girls to help! Heather came over today to pick up a dress pattern and do some grading. Caitlin is busy with a paying job, but says she'll help me do some serging. Every little bit will help.

4 May 2005

Can we really pull this off? I need reinforcements to help make samples, so it's time to check in with my old Ryerson classmates and see if anyone wants to work for free…I mean, if anyone wants to gain some valuable industry-related work experience.

2 May 2005

I'm going to Calgary mid-June for a friend's wedding and summer camp reunion, so Lana and I decided it would be a good time to preview our mini collection. We'll have one party on June 15th for my friends, and a June 16th party for Lana's friends.

We'd like to start by showing friends and family our clothes rather than showing them to a room full of strangers. We hope to get honest reactions from people who love us.

That is to say, we hope that everyone who loves us loves our clothes…

I'll Miss You!
28 April 2005

Bad news for all my fans (and I know there are millions of you!): there will be a blog hiatus through May and into June.

Don't worry; I know you'll carry on without me.

I promise to have lots of juicy stuff when we start posting again mid-June:

*Adventures with interns!
*Finalizing samples!
* Organizing sales events!
* Potential launch news?

Keep your fingers crossed. I'll keep journaling during May and we'll get all caught up in June. See you then.

Toronto Street Fashion
27 April 2005

I just received a message from Rachel, the person responsible for www.torontostreetfashion.com. She's starting the website to promote local talent and to focus on fashion design in Toronto.

It's a great idea because I think many local-oriented publications tend to lose the Toronto/Canadian focus.

Rachel was nice enough to offer promotion on the site when I'm ready to announce BoastToastie events. I guess it pays having a blog to talk about myself. Thanks for the opportunity to do this, TFI!

A Room of My Own
26 April 2005

I'm pretty excited…

I found a great deal on a loft space in Toronto's East End, so I can finally break free of my bachelor apartment and maybe have a real workspace!

Right now it's a giant concrete rectangle, so it needs a bit of work, but I can't tell you how nice it will be to have space for tables so I don't have to cut fabric on the floor any more.

Bureaucratically Pain-full
25 April 2005

Guess what? It was hard to sort out the corporation registration after all.

Today I got a letter, hoping it was the one that gave me the special number I need to file taxes. I was wrong. It turns out I need to submit even more forms. I thought I had everything in order because I spoke to someone on the phone about this and when I submitted my notice of change from partnership to corporation in person, the government-lady said everything was in order

This is crazy because I only have five days to file taxes! The good news is we haven't had much financial activity yet, so everything is ready to go. I now have to wait for the government again.

And you thought owning a clothing business was about making clothes….

Sew What?
24 April 2005

I feel like such an idiot.

It was a great sewing weekend. I completed the pattern for a dress and almost finished a skirt when I discovered…

…I attached the waistband and details to the bottom of the skirt rather than the top! Arrrgh!

When was the last time I did that while sewing? I never even made mistakes like that in junior high. I am a good seamstress; I swear! I guess I was getting ahead of myself.

18 April 2005

How did Lana and I choose our fabric, you ask?

As I said, we want something basic and durable, so we searched for cotton twill. I really wanted a neat, coated cotton, but since we're not familiar with fabric suppliers yet, we're going for convenience.

We asked some designer friends and looked in TFI's resource list to find fabric wholesalers. Then I made trips around Toronto looking for the best quality, colour, and price. It wasn't an easy job; a lot of fabric wholesalers are actually outside the fashion district and in suburban or industrial districts. I've been on many hour-long transit rides to find our fabric.

My Toronto-outskirts adventure paid off and I found basic cotton twill geared toward uniform construction. It is available in nice colours (I was searching for a perfect fuschia) that is washable, easy to work with, and in our price range. I'm looking forward to finally making the outfits out of coloured cotton rather than muslin.

15 April 2005

Patternmaking and muslin-sewing are getting easier. I've been refining both and almost ready to sew with our choice fabric.

Luckily for me, we're starting our line with cotton twill in a couple different colours. Our goal is to start with a basic line and add colours and fabrics as we grow.

Fashion Cares
14 April 2005

I'm quite excited! My favourite fashion event, Fashion Cares, was announced for Saturday June 4. The theme is Bollywood Cowboy. I don't think I can comment on that.

But it should be a fun night. My friend Farley asked me to help organize the dinner entertainers to get them into hair, makeup, and wardrobe on time. I'm looking forward to it.

Bureaucratically Pain-free
11 April 2005

It wasn't as hard to sort out the corporation registration as I thought. I just had to call the government, go to the website, download “Form 2”, fill it out, and take it to the office with a letter requesting 48 hour service (otherwise it takes 25 days).

Now I have to cancel the general partnership Boast Toastie was originally registered as.

See? Easy.

Registered Mail
8 April 2005

I received a strange, but typically bureaucratic letter today.

After registering BoastToastie as a limited partnership in Ontario and changing it to a federal corporation, we aren't registered in Ontario any more. I have a feeling this will be a pain to clarify and may cost us even more money.

I think I'll make some tea to make me calm during the hours of automated phone messages I will have to sit through to figure this out.

Bank Notes
5 April 2005

This is the best advice I heard about banking, courtesy of my old boss: Make friends with your banker. You'll never know when you need to ask for more money.

With those words in mind, I researched banks and interviewed three of them. I wanted to find a friendly bank that understands my particular needs as a clothing company owner.

As it happened, I preferred the bank recommended: TD Canada Trust. My banker, Sean, was familiar with clothing companies, they offer a deal to TFI members where first-year fees are waived (at the Queen and Spadina branch in Toronto), and they're open on Saturdays (the selling point for me).

Now we just need to get some money into that account…

Bank on It
4 April 2005

Lana and I finally got our finances and banking information organized, right in time for taxes.

Ugh. Banking and Taxes. My least favourite things.

I remember my old urban planning boss, Rob, telling me that business owners only end up doing the “fun stuff” 10% of the time, and I think he's right.

Trash Fashion
1 April 2005

Are you a designer concerned with ecological issues? The Windfall Ecology Centre's Trash Fashion Show & Design Awards might be for you.

Yes, it's an opportunity to recycle unwanted items into fashion. For more information, check out the website.

Speaking of Runways…
30 March 2005

Fashion week left me thinking about the necessity of fashion shows.

I don't think all clothing lines need a traditional runway show. So much time and energy gets put into a show that new designers should think of alternatives – such as parties and trunk shows – before working up to a runway presentation. Not only that, but the actual shows don't last more than 15 minutes. Are those 15 minutes worth thousands of dollars and hours of preparation?

Fashion shows also open a designer to media critique when executed prematurely, especially these days, when everyone is expected to hold a fashion show as soon as possible. There's nothing worse, though, then seeing ill-fitting and unfinished clothes on a runway.

I know Boast Toastie won't be ready for a runway show right away, so Lana and I have many options in mind for what we can do. When the ideas and options materialize, I'll let you know the plan and how it goes.

Project Runway
29 March 2005

Did you catch Heidi Klum's TV show, “Project Runway?”

Here's Toronto's answer: Ryerson Fashion Student shows. You should go check them out. Graduating students present their collections at the Mass Exodus show April 6 and 7.

First, Second, and Third year students show their designs following Mass Exodus. Both shows are filled with great ideas and unique designs.

Too Hot for Fashion Week
28 March 2005

Last week, my friend Farley Chatto presented his Fall/Winter 05 Menswear line and it reminded me of how much I love him and learned from him when we worked together at Fashion Week. The man knows how to run a smooth show.

His venue choice was perfect: the Panorama Room at the top of the Manulife Center. It's at the corner of Bay and Bloor, offering amazing views of Toronto.

After a quick and painless coat check, guests were whisked into an elevator and up 51 floors. Upon entrance into the Panorama Room, staff (outfitted in Farley-branded shirts) offered smart cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, a perfect way to start mixing and mingling with the fashionable crowd. Everyone was in a good mood.

Farley had seats designated for media, complete with information packages. As I wrote before, always make sure media members are happy.

The show started with a band of rogue male models pushing their way through the crowd, looking like rock stars, or at least looking like they slept with rock stars, since they wore swarovski-bejewelled hotpants.The “Starf@#cker” theme carried throughout the show, maintaining a high energy.

25 March 2005
Carolyn’s Guide to Fashion Shows (that was just the start)

So that’s my quick guide to producing a fashion show.

I have more to say on the subject, so it could come up again here, but if you’re putting on an event and have questions or need to hire a coordinator, please contact me through the TFI. I’d be happy to help you.
Oh, it did start ten minutes late, but that’s practically early in fashion time.

Farley was right on with the clothes, presentation, timing, energy, and details. I’m honoured to have learned from the best.

Wanna get Backstage (cont’d)
23 March 2005

Here are some things you’ll need to consider when working Backstage at a fashion show.


* Do designers, models, and crew know where to go?
* Do you have an admittance system? EVERYBODY wants to get Backstage, especially after the show. Ensure you have adequate security. If there are too many people, garments and accessories can go missing.

* What is the outfit/model order? Make a list! And copy it for the show caller, light and sound people, and anyone else who needs to know. Make sure models and dressers know the order. It helps to have huge signs posted around the space reminding everyone of the order.
* Do you have enough staff or volunteers? Ideally one dresser per model is best, but if you have reliable dressers and reasonable change times, one dresser for two models can work. Yes, you can have one dresser per three models, if there is a lot of time between changes.
* Do your dressers know what they’re doing? If the designer cannot review every outfit, it is imperative to have a photo with the model wearing the outfit, along with a list of garments in the outfit plus accessories. This will help during clean-up.

* Remember that photo plus outfit list? Use it as an end-of-show checklist to ensure everything is returned. Models and dressers should not leave until their outfits are packed away.

* What would you do in a clothing emergency? Ensure you have thread (in different colours), needles, straight pins, safety pins, and anything you would normally keep in your sewing kit.
* Do you have these items? Steamer, clothing racks, masking tape, scotch tape, double-sided tape, black felt pens, ballpoint pens, clipboards, and scissors.

Wanna get Backstage?
22 March 2005

I chatted about Front-House and the Runway Room, but what about Backstage?

That’s where the mystique lies. Let me de-mystify: Backstage is usually mayhem, with models, hairstylists, makeup artists, dressers, wandering around trying to figure out what’s happening, while everyone else tries to sneak in.

Backstage needs to be well organized, with a caller (the person who communicates timing to backstage and the light/sound people) to guide everyone through the day. The caller needs to know the day’s timeline and be able to keep hair and makeup people on track. The caller needs to work with designers and models, ensuring the outfit/model orders are organized. The caller should also work with dressers to be sure changes happen on time.

Dressers? What are dressers?

They’re the people that make sure models change outfits smoothly. They should know their models at the start of the day, how clothes fit, and how outfits are styled. Dressers help pack and unpack the outfits.

As a designer, it is in your best interest to arrive at a fashion show organized with a list of outfits and models. You should have fitted your models well in advance and taken photos of them in each outfit. It is best to package each outfit in its own separate garment bag with the photo and a list of clothing pieces and accessories.

You have to be extremely well organized to pull off a successful show. Tomorrow I’ll give you a Backstage checklist.

My Favourites…
21 March 2005

I can’t resist talking about my two favourite things from last week:

1. High-waisted pants. Love them; I’m really sick of seeing tummies hang out.

2. Metallic brocade jackets. I saw a few fashion show guests wearing them, and I’ve always loved them.

Fur Real?
18 March 2005

What was with all the fur this week?

Every show I saw had fur except for one. I might be blasphemous by stating on the TFI site how much this trend disturbs me, but I can’t help myself: this trend disturbs me (by the way, I’m a vegetarian, so that might explain things).

Now that’s out of the way, I have to admit I noticed something interesting with all the fur stuff. It created a consistent theme throughout the week and provided Canadian designers with an identity.

Isn’t it time we designed for our climate?

It doesn’t have to be done with fur however. Comrags showed a fantastic quilted Jackie O-type suit, which is perfect for our weather.

Maybe we’re on our way to creating a distinctly Canadian form of fashion.

TFI New Labels, Perfect Labels
17 March 2005

As far as I’m concerned, the TFI New Labels show last night did everything perfectly.

Entrance to the event was clear and there were enough volunteers around to answer questions. Check-in was easy to understand and traffic flowed smoothly.

The event began with a nice wine reception (key point to remember for an event: procure a liquor sponsor), which was a wonderful opportunity for the fashion community to get together.

Seating was quick, easy, and the show was only a few minutes late due to the lateness of a previous show.

How do you prevent a late show? I’m going to share the best tip I learned from Susan Langdon:


Make checklists for everything and everyone. This helps avoid mishaps and late starts. It also helps you, the organizer, to delegate responsibility and focus on your own tasks. Make sure you communicate the checklists to your colleagues at least a day in advance of your event.

Sit down!
16 March 2005

Yesterday my fashion schedule included Comrags and David Dixon. I’ve worked David Dixon’s shows before and knew they’re usually late.

This time, it was only 45 minutes late, and the front entrance and check-in were smooth. I was seated quickly and was able to enjoy a glass of wine. Some people weren’t so lucky, but I have to admit it made a huge impression on how I perceived the show.

So, we’ve covered fashion show entrance preparation. Why don’t we examine Runway Room seating? Here are things to consider for your fashion shows:

* Do people know where to wait?
* Do you have a guest admittance system? Guests are usually allowed in at different times, so does everyone know the order of entrance? Is the entry clear? For instance, media members with cameras should be allowed access first to set up equipment. Can they get to the door easily?
* Do you have a clear system to announce when doors are open?

* Is there a seating plan? Make sure chairs are labeled and easy to read from far away.
* Do you have enough staff or volunteers to help seat guests? Arm them with seating plans so they can escort guests to seats quickly.

* Do you want to give gift bags? Pack them in advance; do not leave them the day of the show.

* Do you have these items? Masking tape, scotch tape, black felt pens, ballpoint pens, clipboards, and scissors. They will all be used.

15 March 2005

Yesterday I was thrilled to see Arthur Mendonça and Paul Hardy collections, but as someone who has worked at a bunch of fashion shows in different capacities, I found myself critical of the overall experience. I think I’ll take this opportunity to give you a few hints on how to run a good fashion show. My best advice: remember details.

When producing a show, walk through the event from start to finish. Envision yourself as a guest who has never been to the venue and knows nothing about your event. Here are some things to consider about the start of an event:

* Is there adequate signage?
* Are directions on your invitations clear?
* Are there various entrances requiring signage or someone to greet guests?

* How will traffic flow?
* Is it immediately clear where guests should go?

* How will you monitor guest numbers?
* Will they have to check in?
* How will you deal with media and VIPs? (hint: make sure they never wait!)
* Do you have a guest list? If so, make sure it is current. Also note EVERYONE thinks they’re on the guest list. Be consistent with your guest list admittance policies. You need someone firm, but friendly working the door.

* Do all your team members know what’s happening? Do they have consistent instructions?
* Do your guests understand the event’s schedule and operation? Clearly communicate where they should go and what they should do.

* Do you have these items? Guest lists, sign-in sheets (if necessary), ticket box, cash box, cash float, masking tape, scotch tape, black felt pens (extra than you need; they always go missing), ballpoint pens, clipboards, and scissors.

Today I’m focusing on the start of the event because how I was received at the event affected how I perceived the shows. This was my experience:

Arthur’s show was scheduled for 6:00pm. I work until 5:00 and took transit to the venue, which got me there at 5:50. I had been there before, but was amazed there was no signage announcing the event or directions to the main entrance. When I entered, I knew my name would be on the guest list because I RSVP’d last week. Past procedures had people with guest lists outside the showroom doors. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the showroom because the volunteers at the door told me I had to register. Fine. I’d be happy to register.

When I walked into the registration room, however, there was a mass of people in front of the registration desk. There were no lines; just a jumble of people trying to register so they wouldn’t miss the show. I couldn’t even tell if there were separate registration areas for media or VIPs, so I tried to shove my way into the crowd, hoping to get this over with.

Twenty minutes later, I hadn’t moved and neither had the people around me, many whom were prominent Toronto fashion media members. I couldn’t believe they took so long to check in and nobody noticed them. Everyone was getting nervous because we didn’t know if we were missing the show.

Thirty minutes later, I finally reached the registration desk, where a girl told me I didn’t have to register because I already RSVP’d! I wasted half an hour and possibly the show because the front volunteers didn’t receive the correct information. This is why communication is vital to a successful show.

Oh, and keep that in mind when you’re a guest. If you are given incorrect information as I was, please don’t take it out on volunteers. They’re donating their time and doing their best. It’s really not their fault if they don’t have the correct information.

Everything turned out well because the show hadn’t started and I was seated quickly and efficiently. But by then it was too late: I started watching the show in a bad mood. I felt better seeing a few gorgeous clothes, but it took me a while to recover from the terrible entrance experience. I’d hate to think about how the journalists felt. As a designer, I wouldn’t want someone reviewing my collection in a bad mood, so please note: IF YOU INVITE MEDIA TO YOUR SHOW, DON’T MAKE THEM ANGRY!

Open Season
14 March 2005

It’s the official start to the Toronto fashion season today.

There are many activities this week, including L’Oreal Fashion Week shows at the Liberty Grand, the TFI New Labels show, various shows at different sites throughout the city, fashion-related installations at galleries and stores, and many, many parties.

This week marks my first as an “appreciator” rather than a volunteer. Sure, I’ll help at the New Labels show, but I am going to sit and enjoy some others, and I look forward to telling you all about what I see, hear and experience.

Happy Fashion Week!

Catching Up
13 March 2005

I had a nice visit with my friend Bev Kidd today. She worked as Arthur Mendonça’s assistant, but recently decided to take the plunge and launch her own label fro Spring/Summer 06. We had lots to talk about.

Bev mentioned how she invested in some branding sessions with Rose Mastnak, branding guru, and how Rose helped refine her direction. Rose’s company focuses solely on branding strategies for Canadian fashion and she has coordinated seminars with the TFI. Bev loved the results after consulting with Rose, so maybe you should consider a consultation too (and no, Rose isn’t paying me to write this! Bev was just really happy to have worked with her, so I thought I’d share the joy).

We also discussed samples. A few months ago, we had the same discussion. Based on her conversations with industry professionals, Bev decided to make fashion-standard size 6 samples. I, on the other hand, decided to start with samples that I could wear and test out. My theory is that I must love my own clothes and be comfortable in them before I can sell them to anyone else. Neither Bev nor I are size 6, and she confided in me she wished she made the samples in her size. Not only is it a good way to test-drive your designs, but it’s fantastic promotion. The first thing people ask when I tell them I’m starting a clothing company is, “Did you make anything you’re wearing?” It’s best to say yes. You are your best customer. So, if you ever meet Bev, make sure and ask her if that shirt is one of her designs!

I can’t wait to see the results of Bev’s hard work and send her best wishes for the first collection.

11 March 2005

My TFI Outreach membership expired, so I thought it would be good to talk about why I’m a member.

I started my involvement with TFI through various volunteer events, and I have to say the TFI treats its volunteers better than any other place I’ve volunteered. I was impressed with the organization’s professionalism and realized it stayed true to its vision and everyone involved is really dedicated to nurturing new fashion designers.

Last year I decided to cough up the $130 for an Outreach membership and determine its benefits.

The first great benefit is the membership card. By presenting one to certain fashion-industry vendors, you can sometimes get a great discount! My personal favourite activity with my membership card is buying beautiful ribbon at Mokuba on Queen Street. So many ribbons, such a great discount. Thanks, TFI and Mokuba!

Membership also allowed access to exclusive TFI lectures, seminars, and events. There’s always something happening that is bound to improve my business.

Then there’s time with Susan Langdon, the Executive Director. With a membership, you’re able to schedule appointments with her to discuss your business ideas and direction. She’ll give you no-nonsense advice and wise answers to your questions.

I think my favourite benefit to being a TFI member has been the newly-implemented member-networking days one Saturday afternoon a month. I’ve met some interesting people who are all in a similar position to me. It’s been wonderful meeting them and sharing ideas.

As you can tell, I’m still involved with the TFI and I renewed my Outreach membership, so I believe membership has been extremely beneficial. It’s a wonderful support for my new fashion endeavour.

Missing You
10 March 2005

Where have you been?

Maybe it’s more of a case of where have I been?

Since you asked, I’ve been stuck in my tiny studio apartment doing my usual things: patternmaking, sewing, fixing the pattern, sewing, grading, and back around again. I was quiet because I didn’t think you wanted to hear about my sewing drudgery, the highs and lows. Sometimes I love it and everything works, but other times, it’s nearly impossible to fit a shirtsleeve into an armhole.

But I have run into a couple people lately who tell me the highs and lows are fun and want to hear everything, so I’ll do my best to tell you all, even when it may be boring.

What's the Real Cost?
15 February 2005

Sorry I've been away for a bit, but I've been sorting out options and generally wondering how we're ever going to make this work. Why? Well, my business partner, Lana, and I realized we don't have the money to pay someone else to make patterns, grade them, cut fabric, make samples, and finally make the garments themselves.

We investigated different manufacturers and pattern drafters to get an idea of what kind of cash we need to hire contractors. Here's what we found using a dress as an example:

* Sample construction can run between $50 and $100. That does not include pattern drafting and digitizing. That is under $100, around $75. So $200 is a good, rough estimate for sample construction.
* Some manufacturers have minimum orders. If, for instance, the minimum order is 12 garments, you'd be looking at around $40 per garment. Twelve garments could cost you $500, and that's just for one colour!
* Using the same numbers, if you want to produce one garment in four colours, the minimum order could cost $2,700. That means you would have 48 garments! That's already more than a small, new label would probably need to make, so there would be extra stock.
* There's no way you'd be able to sell only one garment; you need a collection. For a mini-collection of, say, 10 outfits in 4 colours, you could spend $27,000.
* Wait a second! Those numbers are for garments in one size! What about grading? One outfit in 1 colour, but 4 sizes could cost $2,700. Ten outfits in 4 colours and four sizes could reach over $100,000!

Keep in mind I hate math and the numbers could be off, but it's a good starting guideline for construction expenses based on the estimates I received from different contractors.

Unfortunately, we don't have $100,000 and don't want to produce only one style of garment, so that means going back to the original plan of making everything ourselves. That's not a bad plan; it's merely a slow plan.

Sale Away
16 February 2005

So it's mid-February and we're still in the process of making samples. That's not good if we want to get them to stores before they spend their fall/winter budgets. What will we do? How will we sell anything?

We've devised a top-secret sales plan to get our stuff out for Fall/Winter 05. Not to worry, all will be revealed in due course. Let's just say it will involve friends, fun, the website, and the occasional clothing show. When the plan becomes closer to reality, I'll be happy to share it with you. Until then, my lips must remain sealed. Can't give away all my secrets, can I?

What have I learned from all this so far? It's nice to plan ahead, but plans change. It's more important to be flexible.

What have I learned from all this so far? It's nice to plan ahead, but plans change. It's more important to be flexible.

Fashion and Music Mayhem
27 January 2005

My friend Crystal - a student and Fashion Week volunteer extraordinaire – just sent me an e-mail about Get Your Frocks Off!, a fundraiser for George Brown College's end-of-year fashion show.

It sounds like a fabulous night and a great way to spend some of your hard-earned dollars. Here are the details:

Thursday, Feb 3
Gladstone Hotel (Queen St. W at Gladstone, near Dufferin)
Doors at 7:30, show at 8:30
Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door.
All ages - bring ID

There will be music, a fashion show, and even prizes! What are you waiting for? Get out and support your local up-and-coming designers!

Getting Good Grades
26 January 2005

I mentioned grading previously, but haven’t focused on it yet. Some of you might ask, “What’s grading?”

I’ll try to tell you.

Grading is modifying a pattern to fit different sizes. It’s not as simple as merely sewing side seams smaller or wider. Rather, it’s a mathematic system of manipulating a pattern piece by moving it incrementally lengthwise and widthwise. So when you grade one pattern piece, you have to grade the others to make sure they all fit together.

I’m not dealing with grading at the moment because my sample patterns and muslins are one size, but when I have to produce other sizes, the grading will begin. And after all the time it’s taken me to adjust my sample patterns by hand, I have to admit the concept of grading is quite scary. The prospect of having someone else do it on computer keeps sounding better.

For Real?
25 January 2005

Are my problems solved?

I went to a manufacturer last night and my dreams could come true. Was it real?

The place offers computer-aided pattern drafting, grading, cutting, and sewing. They’d probably have to re-do my patterns to ensure a perfect fit, so I’m wondering if my hours of pattern drafting and re-drafting were all for nothing. If I just started there, I’d have saved myself hours of hassle.

Then again, it’s important for a designer to know about pattern construction and especially garment construction. I know a lot of people ask, “Can I be a fashion designer if I don’t know how to sew?” In my opinion, I’d say no. Sewing knowledge is vital to designing clothes. How can you design something if you don’t know the construction techniques?

That said, I am very tempted with the idea of foregoing my own pattern making by hand and sewing muslin samples. It is time consuming and it would be nice to work on marketing materials, website, and buyer’s kits. It would be a costly investment money-wise, but time-wise, it would be a real bargain.

Is it too good to be true? I guess I’ll have to find out.

Pressure Cooker
24 January 2005

I’m feeling the pressure. It’s nearing the end of January and I don’t have my samples finished! I’m not even close. I feel locked in this vicious cycle of making patterns, sewing a cotton muslin sample, catching a design flaw, fixing the pattern, sewing, catching flaw, fixing, sewing, catching…Aaaah!

What will we do if we don’t get samples done for February?

We do in fact have a “Plan B”. It involves focusing on boutiques in smaller Canadian centres that may have buying budgets for new designers in March. Our goal is to start small anyway, and grow in a logical progression. Small is a smart start for us. It decreases the pressure.

Are You Experienced?
21 January 2005

It’s that time of year when designers are starting to plan their Fall/Winter fashion shows. They usually occur in Toronto in February and March, so now’s the time to get involved.

Volunteering is the best way to jump into the fashion industry. I was the Volunteer Coordinator for Toronto Fashion Week for 3 seasons, and through that experience, I learned what it takes to run a fashion show.

You ask, “How do I volunteer?” Good question.

I happen to know the TFI is looking for volunteers for the New Labels show and for lots of other events. To get involved, download a TFI volunteer application at http://www.fashionincubator.com/happenings/entries/index.shtml

You can also try looking at the Toronto Fashion Week website,

Design schools also have volunteer/workstudy postings, so put on your most stylish cold-weather gear, brave the snow, and trek over to your local school.

If that doesn’t work, why not try contacting your favourite local designer to let him or her know you’re available to help.

Everyone loves volunteers, and it’s a great way to learn about the fashion industry, make friends, and have fun all at the same time.

Construction Site
20 January 2005

Speaking of garment construction, next week I’m going to try to find a local Toronto factory that can help me. I had to wait until samples were done so I can show them the kind of clothing I make.

So the future weeks will be filled with phone calls, interviews, and questions about timelines, costs, fitting, and such. I’ll let you know how it goes.

On the Charts
19 January 2005

As I modify my patterns and finish my muslin samples, I realize I forgot to mention flow charts.

Yes, those flow charts you see in boring presentations do have a place in fashion. Here, they’re a way of mapping garment construction for the people who will make my garments.

Wait. I’m a designer. I can sew. Can’t I make my garments?

Well, I could, but it’s hard enough finding the time to draw designs, make the patterns, sew the samples, write business plans, follow a timeline, navigate the business world, and find funding. Then I’ll have to do it again next season. It’s more economical to find someone else to construct the garments, but I can’t be around to supervise progress, so I have to provide detailed instructions. That’s where the flow charts come in.

Sorry, but I couldn’t find a decent online flowchart for you to see, but I just wanted to let you know that making the flow charts is part of the garment construction process.

Working it…
10 January 2005

On Saturday, a few of us were working the TFI boardroom. Yes, it was the members networking session, and it was a great way to meet people, connect, and share ideas. So what did we chat about?

* Is it worth it to attend the Stylemax tradeshow in Chicago?
* Why does sizing seem to be all screwed up?
* How can I develop the best pattern block?
* Are RN numbers like CA numbers?
* Where can I buy wholesale beads?
* What do I need to know about trademarks?
* Are there companies that provide standardized care instruction labels?
* Do I just hand over my samples to my sales rep?
* Are general delivery dates standard or can I sell some summer designs in February?
* Is there a consistent recipe for fashion success?

I suppose I could give you all the answers right here, but it would be more fun to discuss them with you at the next TFI networking session.

Well, maybe I’ll spill the beans over the next few days. Stay tuned!

New Year Cheer
9 January 2005

I returned from Calgary and Vancouver and have a list of some neat stores for Canadian designers to consider when selling their lines.

So here are my favourite Calgary shops. I don’t know why none of them have websites, but whatever. Keep them in your list of places to visit:

* Smyth & Kang. I couldn’t find a website, but boy do they sell great stuff, mixing international designers with local and national lines.
* Purr. Now there are two locations to find the perfect outfit. Purr is my favourite shopping destination; it’s where I found my first Damzels dress.
* Kismet Clothing. It started off as kind of an import place and evolved into a funky-elegant (maybe funkegant?) store where you can find anything from a fab party dress to a pair of smiley-faced gloves. They love local designers.

What about Vancouver?

* Bodacious. Can you say sassy? Can you say curvy? It’s all here. There seem to be many people interested in curvy-girl designs, and this is Mecca.
* Eugene Choo. Specializes in Canadian designers, and only stocking a few pieces of each so you won’t find somebody cruising around town in YOUR skirt!
* Barefoot Contessa. It’s kind of flirty, cool girl style with a bit of alt-country thrown in. It’s a visual feast!


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