I'd love to hear from you! Send me your feedback: to post your comments, click the links below each entry or send me an email using the link to the right.
I think people were too busy planning sales and attending holiday parties to have time for blog interviews this week. And I was busy with work obligations myself, so I don't have a week's worth of entries for you.
What I do have is some recommended holiday reading:
Tatiana from Faulhaber PR recommends Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster by Dana Thomas (http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781594201295,00.html).
Nathalie Atkinson at the National Post has a list of stylish book reviews (www.nationalpost.com/arts/books/story.html?id=1005563), including the re-release of one I've been wanting to read for a long time: The Dress Doctor (http://www.amazon.com/Dress-Doctor-Prescriptions-Style-Z/dp/0061450650/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229952007&sr=1-2) by legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head.
I've been wanting to read Bringing Home the Birkin (http://www.bringinghomethebirkin.com/) for a while. It reveals what it takes to obtain one of the world's most coveted objects and de-mystifies the entire process of supply and demand.
Finally, no holiday fashion reading list is complete without Rags and Mags (www.ragsandmags.com), the blog/cartoon/fashion news site I write with illustrator Danielle Meder. Use your time off to check it out from the start. To do that, click here: http://ragsandmags.com/2007/09/05/toronto-life-september-2007-24-hours-with-lucinda-mcruvy/ and follow the navigation at the bottom of each entry. I promise you a ton of fun.
I'll be taking two weeks off, so have a wonderful holiday season! See you in the New Year!
As promised, here is the flip side to jewellery designer Samantha Nemiroff’s (www.samanthanemiroffjewellery.com) Q&A. It’s with her dad, Michael, who is a committed member of her team. He acts as her PR and Sales Representative and I think he does a wonderful job of supporting his daughter. I was interested in learning more about his experiences and thought you would be too.
Carolyn: You act as a Sales and PR agent for your daughter. Why did you decide to get so involved with her business?
Michael: I didn't have much choice. A few years ago, Samantha telephoned me and asked for help - she couldn't sell anything at all in Ottawa, and when you know her work you can understand why: it's way too out there for Ottawa. And then, as you know, one thing leads to another and I became the salesperson, then the PR person, then the marketing person, and then you're in too deep to stop. And she's my daughter...
C: You and I have discussed the difficulty of getting PR, giving product to celebrities, and having them photographed wearing it. What have you learned from your experience? Can you suggest any successful tactics?
M: It is indeed very difficult to even give your stuff away to celebrities. They are constantly besieged by people with the same idea, and they tend to be insulated by their management entourage. You have to wait until your brand appeals to someone, or depend upon serendipity, like your favourite cousin turns out to have gone to camp with one of the celeb's handlers.
ONE WAY of developing your brand is through the PRESS. The Press is approachable and they actually are always in need of "news," so if you have a stylish product and can appeal to their fashion savvy or snobbishness or both, you have a good chance of getting free PR, and maybe having your product styled on a celebrity.
Here's what you need to do: first, spend some money on a good photographer to photograph your pieces (not necessarily on a model, but it helps, although it is much more expensive) and make a look book
or press kit, or preferably both.
The PRESS KIT is very important. It should look hip and professional, including the portfolio cover, the information- artist's bio, background, publicity info on the right, sample 8x10 colour photos on the left, and you should also include a CD or DVD with photos of an entire line, but call it a "collection," like "our Fall/Winter 2008 Collection." Number or title each photo on the CD/DVD and keep a record so you can grab the right items if they call you and ask for some pieces using the titles you provided. Put a label on the back of each 8X10 photo, and the CD, with your name and contact info (tel # or email address).
Send this kit to EVERY fashion and lifestyle magazine in Canada, for a start, as well as every major urban newspaper, and to the "alternate" newspaper in your city. Send it to the assistant or associate fashion editor, or assistant or associate accessories editor, unless there is only one person in that position. You can also send it to the iconic American magazines, but it's probably going to be a waste of money at the beginning.
TIMING is very important. Get the magazine "editorial calendars," which you can find online. See when they are featuring your product by type, i.e., a jewellery feature or by season, and send your press kit/collection to them 3 - 6 months in advance of that issue. For instance, if their Spring Issue is coming out in March, you have to send your Kit/Spring Collection to them in October or even August.
Because of this delay, you need to KEEP ON THEIR BACKS continuously, at the beginning to inquire whether the right person actually received your kit (at the same time you can prod them for their reaction). Telephone and email simultaneously at first and email later.
DO NOT mail your kit to retail stores or showrooms, and not to agents unless you have spoken to them personally first.
Don't forget that many magazines have fashion or style editors, even if they don't seem to be in that area. PEOPLE magazine has them, and this magazine focuses ONLY on celebrities, so it's the ONE American magazine I would recommend approaching. They have a "StyleWatch" issue, which comes out in December.
OR, you can target STYLISTS. There are many of them in every city, and some of them style films, where the celebs work. The TFI can help you locate them, either through their agencies or through the Toronto Film Shooting Schedule. Contact them any way you can and ask how best to get your photo kit to them. Keep getting back to them, very month or so. They often are looking for style-worthy or film-worthy stuff for their shoots. If they like your product, they may keep you in the back of their minds as a good source.
BY THE WAY, a magazine may ask you to give them several pieces for an upcoming feature and in your rapture, you may forget that they're NOT guaranteeing that your work will actually appear in that issue when it comes out. It's actually up to the ART DIRECTOR on the shoot. So don't be disappointed - they did like you enough to call you.
ALSO, and this is especially for the accessories people, ALWAYS ask the stylist or magazine to ensure that your pieces are handled with care. Even so, be ready to occasionally get some pieces back damaged or broken. They don't do it on purpose, but often these shoots are hurried and chaotic. If this happens, say NOTHING. Next time, you can be more insistent.
OR, if you have $5,000 to $10,000 to spend, hire a PR firm to do all the above for you. That amount of money will get you a 6-12 month program, depending on the eliteness of the PR firm.
OR, if you have $50,000 to spend, I can give you the telephone number of a PR firm that will get you a full-page ad in a major publication like Vogue or Vanity Fair showing virtually every celebrity at the next Sundance Film Festival wearing your product. I've seen it for a cosmetic called "Botox In A Tube," and if they can do it for them, they can do it for you.
BE PREPARED to have to be a complete pain in the ass and be constantly stalking these PR sources. Never let more than a few weeks go by without checking in with the people you have approached, unless there is a really good reason not to do so. You can email them.
C: You have gone on some U.S. sales trips. Do you have any advice for someone planning their first American sales trip?
M: I have done some sales trips to New York City. This is where "it" is happening, and so you have to plan to make an impact there if you have any fashion pretensions at all. This is a daunting task.
Target your possible retail venues. Look them up on web shopping services or Google "NYC shopping" . Once you've selected your group of stores, EMAIL them your interest in their store, BRIEFLY outlining why you think it's a fit, and attach a few of your best photos. Say that you will be contacting them in a few days. The NEXT DAY, telephone them. Always speak ONLY to the store owner or buyer - they're often the same person - even if you have to call back several times.
If they are interested in your line, tell then that in the interest of getting into NYC, you would be willing to discus pricing strategy to make it easier for them to carry your line. One thing that you can offer is to increase their portion of the usual retail/wholesale split. If the normal split is 50/50, you could offer to make it 55/45 in their favour. It doesn't cost you much, but it sounds good to their ears. For jewellery designers, you could offer to give them one piece "for the store," i.e., they can keep the sale for themselves. This should depend on how many pieces they agree to carry.
DO NOT agree to a consignment-only offer. What Samantha and I say is that we will offer them as many pieces on consignment as they buy. For example, if they buy three pieces, they can have three on consignment. The reason for this is that they will usually try hard to sell pieces that they have paid for, but not so hard for consignment pieces. Then you wind up later having to take the consignment pieces back (see below).
THE BIG PROBLEM WITH A USA SALES TRIP IS THAT, according to US law, you cannot sell anything directly to an American but can only take orders which you then ship from Canada. So you have to make sure that you will be paid before you ship anything because your pieces will be in the USA and you will be in Canada, hundreds of miles away. You have no control.
ONE WAY to oversee the situation is to hire a US agent. TFI has info on that. One-off people can forget about this as agents only deal with quantity. And they are expensive.
So you have to receive payment back in Toronto before you Fed Ex anything to NYC, unless you have a secure relationship with the store. International shipping is ferociously expensive. A one-lb or less package costs $250 to courier to NYC. And if you have consignment items unsold, it costs you additional money to get them back. So that is why consignment deals with an American retailer suck.
If you do go to NYC on a cold sales trip, you have to either smuggle samples in or obtain a special document called a "Carnet" from the Toronto Board Of Trade. Call them for details.
DO NOT plan a sales trip to New York during their Fashion Week, or anytime that the U.N. is in session. In either case you will be unable to find a room. The best time to go is a month before Fashion Week or a month after. GOOD LUCK!!
Learning from TFI New Labels Semi-Finalist Cheryl Gushue
Cheryl Gushue (www.gushueswim.com/) is a TFI New Labels Semi-Finalist and I went to her sample sale last night with Nina and Anne from the TFI after the seminar.
Cheryl makes swimwear and jewellery and she organized the perfect sample sale. Here are some points that I learned from this event:
*Gather like-minded designers – Cheryl included Kendra Francis (www.slice.ca/Shows/projectrunwayCanada/designers/designer6.aspx?SectionId=96) and Katya Revenko (www.desperatelydifferent.com), who share a similar target market.
*Send an e-blast – Use your network as well as those from the partner designers. Communicate with them, though, and be careful not to over-send the invitation. It’s not effective for someone to receive a million e-mails about the same event.
*Choose the right venue – Cheryl chose her condo’s amenity room, which was perfect. It suited the designers, was large enough for guests to move freely, but small enough to be intimate.
*Serve refreshments – In other words, loosen up the customer wallets with liquor. It may be a sneaky manoeuvre, but it seriously facilitates spending.
*Greet your guests – Make sure everyone feels welcome. Establish a rapport with existing and future clients. Shoppers love getting to know designers and telling stories about their purchases.
I do not recommend that you hold an emergency sample sale right now. Due to the economy, there have been so many sales this past month, and as much as everyone loves a sale, I think there is some fatigue. You may want to hold off until February or save your really great price reductions for events such as The Clothing Show.
Tonight, the TFI hosted another informative seminar. This one was “Venturing into Retail” and it featured two business owners with different experiences. Franco Mirabelli (www.mirabelli.com) has been in business for twenty-four years and owns three stores in downtown Toronto and wholesales his collection to those stores as well as other clients. Rosemarie Umetsu (www.rustudio.ca) launched her label in 2003 and opened her exclusive boutique in May 2005. It was interesting to hear about the different retail approaches.
Both designers supplied lists with key points. I really liked Franco’s tip stating, “DON’T BE TOO PRECIOUS. Don’t just think of yourself as just an ‘artist,’ think of yourself as a business person, and get to know the dollars and sense of your business.”
Rosemarie had excellent tips too. She said, “Constantly evolve and re-market. Look for ways to keep things new while keeping true to your brand – to bring in new clients and make yourself exciting and new to existing clients.”
Both speakers alternated discussing their experiences and I asked a question on your behalf: I would like to open a store one day, but would like to get some more experience first. What retail positions would be best to prepare for owning a store?
Rosemarie said that her sales experience was important, but being a buyer was invaluable.
So for all of you readers who would like to open a store, try out the retail environment as a sales associate first, and then get into buying.
I can’t wait to see your store!
I met Melanie Cruickshank a while ago through Andrew Sardone, NOW Magazine’s Fashion Editor (www.nowtoronto.com/about/bios/asardone.cfm). We re-met each other recently and I discovered that she started a makeup company called DaLish (www.dalishcosmetics.com). I couldn’t wait to hear more and thought you’d be interested to hear about how a Canadian cosmetics company gets started, so we sat down for a chat.
We began with a product introduction and I was instantly sold on the concept. Everything you need is in one tube: foundation, eye shadow, blush, gloss, mascara, and liquid liner. I always try to be impartial when reporting things to you, but I cannot tell you how much I love this idea. I think it’s brilliant because it promises a portable 5-minute makeup application for all skin tones and types and it actually delivers on the promise. I’m sold.
I also love its eco-message. The well-designed cardboard canister is not only on-brand, it is recyclable. DaLish is 100% manufactured in Canada with ingredients and raw materials that are listed and that happen to be recognizable materials (and you can pronounce them too!). Melanie calls it the “100-mile face” and went through rigorous testing to get DaLish PETA-approved. She said, “There is nothing that goes into the products that I haven’t researched or that I am not comfortable with.” This is an important point that I think any business owner must understand these days: you must have an eco or social message attached to your brand and you must believe in that message. I really do think consumers are looking for products that go above and beyond profit motives.
But now, back to the makeup. How does someone even start a cosmetics company?
Through high school and university, Melanie worked at another Canadian cosmetics company, Caryl Baker Visage (www.carylbakervisage.com). She studied marketing and is now in the field, but she thought about turning her makeup passion into a job, so she researched makeup production and chemistry for two years. She found top chemists in Canada, a family-run business that used to work for Lancome, and worked with them to develop her vision.
She went to the Canadian government website and downloaded the business plan and wrote it herself, so she is following a five-year plan. She admitted that she is not where she planned, but attributed that to the fact that she is still has a full-time day job (doesn’t that sound familiar?).
Overall, though, Melanie did very well with her initial run of 3,000 units. She sold out and is now in the process of re-packaging and re-ordering.
What will come next for DaLish?
Melanie is developing 22 new products to release at key times during the year. She would like to collaborate with Canadian designers for future products. So if you’re a designer and are looking for that perfect shade of lip gloss to match your latest collection, just send her an e-mail (email@example.com)! She also has makeup artists who know DaLish and they are willing to work at events and fashion shows. Again, all you have to do is send her an introductory e-mail.
I love writing this blog! Two weeks ago, I learned how to make a purse from Jenny Bird and tonight I got to learn how to start a makeup company. There are so many fantastic fashion entrepreneurs in Canada.
Do you have a clothing line to show off, but aren't quite ready for Toronto Fashion Week? Or perhaps it just does not quite fit in with Toronto Fashion Week? You might want to try applying to Toronto Alternative Fashion Week, also known as [FAT]. The early deadline is coming up, so check out applications at www.getfat.ca.
The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness,
I confess to picking up this book for its subtitle. How could someone not want to read a sensational story of murder, madness, glamour, and greed? It turned out to be much more than a scandalous story; the book describes how the Gucci empire was built. I heard stories about the Gucci family history as providers of leather goods to the Italian royal family for centuries, but those stories are false.
Guccio Gucci started the business in 1921 with a small leather goods shop in Florence. He placed all his savings in that little shop and grew from there. Does that sound familiar to all you new business owners? Doesn't it feel nice to hear that Gucci started as a small, modest designer like you! So not only did I get a scandalous story, I got an instruction manual on how to build a fashion empire! Author Sara Gay Forden was once the Milan bureau chief and business correspondent for Women's Wear Daily, and it shows in her attention to business details of this story. I recommend it to anyone who wants to start a fashion business.
Last night, former TFI Chair, Mary Symons, launched her Pashmina clothing line, The Luxurious Edge. Though Mary has been involved in fashion for years, first as a model, then in PR, this is her first designing effort, and I think she and her business partner, Sharon Hudson, are starting the right way. They had a quiet launch and sale for friends at Mary's home. The line of tunics and coats were placed on dressforms, with descriptions beside each piece. The descriptions included inspirations, stories behind each piece, and construction details. It was brilliant. I learned that Mary and Sharon sold 50% of their stock, which is fantastic. Starting with a small sale like this is smart because a business owner can then be re-invested initial profits in the company and grow at a reasonable rate. It does not hurt to start small, but think big.
I first found out about Samantha Nemiroff’s (www.samanthanemiroffjewellery.com) amazing jewellery when her father and Sales/PR Rep, Michael Nemiroff, attended a TFI Members Meeting. I recently ran into him at the Sustainable Style Show, where we talked more about his daughter’s designs. I thought you would like to hear their story, so I asked them both a few questions. Here are Samantha’s questions. Michael’s will follow later this week.
Carolyn. How did you start designing jewellery?
Samantha: I started making jewellery because I noticed (years ago), that the Salvation Army was selling tons of vintage glass, crystal, and faux pearl necklaces for a few dollars. I had heard somewhere of jewellery made with vintage beads. So I took the beads from some necklaces, started reading about beading, and went to Sassy Bead Company, and made lots of beaded jewellery. Then I started getting more creative, with the vintage stuff I'd buy. My mother actually told me the more creative designs were 'weird', and that I should stick to beading!
C: Your pieces are all one-of-a kind. How has that affected production and marketing? (For instance, do you think it's easier or harder to make and sell unique pieces rather than doing production runs?)
S: I think it's easier to sell mass-produced jewellery, because the general market is more conservative. But I spend huge amounts of time getting each necklace just right, because I'm an artist making art that one can wear. Money is not my motivation; it's just about making art for me. I don't want to compromise my artistic integrity by making something machine made.
C: What are some of the challenges of starting your own business?
S: Some of the challenges of starting my own business were getting my name known to the public, and figuring out the best way to do things, making contacts, and my father had to learn how to photograph jewellery.
C: You have a wonderful supporter with your father operating in Sales and PR. How is it working with a parent?
S: I'm very lucky my father helps me so much, because there's so much to do, and he's great at sales and PR. Really, I'm blessed that he helps me, he's so selfless. He's like my best friend, so it's fun.
C: What do you like best about running your own jewellery business?
S: I like working for myself at home. And I really love and believe in what I do, so it's all good!
Yesterday, Danielle Meder from Final Fashion and illustrator of my other site, Rags and Mags organized another Toronto Fashion Bloggers Brunch (TFBB). It had been a while since we had them since they grew too large to manage.
Ten is a perfect number for a brunch like this, and here are the blogs and writers who attended:
• Audit Your Closet (www.audityourcloset.com) - If you like my TFI blog, you will certainly like this one. It follows the adventures of Jas, as she starts her custom tailoring business, Savillian (www.savillian.com).
• Bargainista (www.bargainista.ca) - Eden has been at the TFBB since the beginning and she has done so much research and work regarding online communities, she was nominated as one of Canada's Most Influential Women in Social Media. She is the first one who told me about Twitter and Second Life.
• I Want - I Got (www.iwantigot.geekigirl.com) - Anita's blog is all about shopping and if you want to know about the latest and greatest Toronto sample sale, check out her site.
• Modern Guilt (www.modern-guilt.com) - I don't usually read personal style blogs, but S and her photographer boyfriend do it very well. Not only that, but S has great taste in music. I'll be reading this blog regularly.
• Ottawa Street Style (www.ottawastreetstyle.wordpress.com) - D is now a Torontonian, but still keeps up OSS. I have a feeling we'll be chatting a lot from now on since she is working on blogger relations with Word-of-Mouth marketing company, Matchstick (www.matchstick.ca). They're the ones who gave me product from Stella McCartney CARE, Dove chocolate, and Herbal Essences.
• The Style Box (www.thestylebox.blogspot.com) - This fashion and trend blog is written by Gail, the Managing Editor of TFI News (www.fashionincubator.com/happenings/newsletter/index.shtml). On it, you'll find raindrops on roses, whiskers and kittens. Well, maybe not those things, but you will find a few of her favourite things.
• Worn Journal (www.wornjournal.com) - I read Serah-Marie's alt fashion journal blog before, but I never picked up the magazine she publishes, so I was thrilled to have it in my hands. I'm so disillusioned by fashion magazines that say nothing to me, so this is my new favourite magazine. It's kind of like an all-fashion version of BUST.
Sadly, we missed one style blogger, Jacquieshambles (http://jacquieb.blogspot.com/), who was sick. Hope to meet you next time, Jacquie.
I missed blogger brunches because they're great for meeting some of my favourite online writers and we talk about all aspects of fashion. This time around, we talked about everything from L'Oreal Fashion Week to the strange and misguided press releases we sometimes receive from PR people who obviously do not read our work. We had fun all around and thanks to Danielle once again. What a great social networker!
So, after a week of having nothing to report, I have three things to tell you about today.
My first stop was at Crafternoon Tea, an event organized by store owner Nathalie-Roze Fischer. It was the fifth Crafternoon Tea and I loved it! Nathalie-Roze does an amazing job of organizing a mix of activities (baking, craft making, fortune telling, and shopping) and vendors (jewelery, paper crafts, clothing, and bags) to create a fun and memorable sale. How does she do it? She has a massive to-do list, is flexible about adding last-minute ideas, but says no to others, and sticks with a timeline. This year, she had three times more applications than spots, so she looked for a product mix and a balance of categories. Each show contains one-third new vendors, so she wants extraordinary stuff, especially jewelery since it's a competitive category. If you would like to participate in the next Crafternoon Tea, send Nathalie-Roze an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask to be placed on her e-mail list..
Second stop: The Gladstone Hotel for the Mondo Bazaar (http://mondobazaar.wordpress.com), which had two floors of vendors. It was more crafty than fashion-y, but I was happy to see TFI member Brook Alviano selling her witty accessories.
Third, I dropped into Philip Sparks's new studio in the recently renovated Burroughs Building at Queen and Bathurst. I was amazed at how well the studio reflected Phililp's style and defined his brand. I was speaking with NOW reporter Andrew Sardone, who remarked that Philip's brand evolved organically rather than as part of an overall master branding scheme. It worked, and worked well. The studio is a combination workroom, office, and by-appointment storefront, all well organized and laid-out. Once again, I have nothing but praise for Philip Sparks and think he is doing everything right.
Yes, it's been a busy week, but not so busy with finding fashion business information for you. Apart from my job, I've been working on entries for my other blog, Rags and Mags (www.ragsandmags.com), since I fell behind on that too. I was also dealing with condo board duties (Remember my flood in July? Things still aren't repaired, so following-up with that took up a lot of time this week). So please excuse the lack of entries.
Tonight, Trish Ewanika celebrated a landmark anniversary: her company, EWANIKA, has been in business for ten years. Surviving ten years in the Canadian fashion industry is difficult, but she managed to do it with her classic clothing and sleek store punctuated with curated pieces from other designers.
How did she do it?
She has a business background, a textiles degree, and studied two years at the International Academy of Design, which all proved useful in getting her to where she is now. After graduation, she worked for a company she admired, but while there, she realized wholesale business was difficult without quantity. She liked the craft side of the business and was interested in men’s tailoring. Trish started doing freelance work and found that women wanted workwear and it made sense to do it one-on-one.
Trish said that owning a fashion business takes overall perserverence. Her first five years were a blur of hard work. She recommended that you surround yourself with good people and delegate. She also emphasized that it is hard to ask for help, but a lot of times people want to help, so don't be afraid to ask.
You also have to have a strong business plan. Trish told me, “In terms of business, you have to be in it for the long run. I was looking long-term. I wasn’t looking to do quick turnover and to sell something for the sake of selling it. I was looking at being here for a while, having customers who would come back and be happy with what they bought five years ago. It may take them a couple years to come in because the pants haven’t worn out.”
That seems to be a sound strategy in this economy, but she had one friend tell her she wasn't a good business person since she wasn't turning over product quickly. Yet another friend in the Paris fashion industry told her that she has done well by not chasing trends. I guess the key message from EWNIKA's success is to trust your vision and run your business the way you want to run it.
It has been a while since I attended a TFI Seminar, but tonight I was able to attend "What Buyers Buy and Why".
Mary Jo Looby, owner of MJL Retail Consulting and TFI Member Industry Consultant moderated the session with buyers Liza Amlani (Sporting Life), Lisa Litowitz (the Bay), and Emma MacDonald (Andrew's).
The four women have impressive retail buying backgrounds, and I was surprised how much information they were sharing. It felt like they were revealing deep, dark fashion world secrets since designers always seem to have so many problems connecting with buyers.
We learned that buyers are elusive because they are insanely busy. They want to find the next new designer and they want the next hot product in the stores. You just need to know how to get their attention and the correct way to get the appointment, behave in the appointment, and close the deal.
Some key tips:
. Research stores: know the lines they carry, the target market, and their competitors;
. Do not drop into a store unannounced;
. Phone with an initial introduction;
. Follow-up with an e-mail;
. Send an electronic or paper press kit;
. Follow-up again with e-mails and phone calls. Be persistent, but do not be a stalker; and
. At a sales appointment, be prepared to give a professional presentation.
Good luck with your sales!
See you at the next TFI Seminar: "Venturing Into Retail" with Franco Mirabelli and Rosemarie Umetsu on Wednesday December 10.
While preparing for my meeting with Ben Barry, I realized that I had not reviewed his book, even though I mentioned it and then read it right when it was released last year. For some reason, I forgot to tell you how brilliant it is.
I could begin and end the review by stating, “Anyone starting a business should read Fashioning Reality”. But that would be kind of boring, wouldn’t it? I guess I should tell you why you should read it.
Through his stories and experiences, Ben reveals a new model of entrepreneurship and shares smart tips. He even interviews other successful young entrepreneurs for their advice. Not only is this book the equivalent of at least one university business class, you want to change the world when you finish reading it.
If you haven't heard, the TFI Board has a new Chair and it's Ben Barry.
I'm sure you've heard about Ben. He's the guy who started a modeling agency (www.benbarry.com) when he was fourteen years old. Since then, he's been transforming the fashion industry's representation of beauty. How has he done that? I'm sure you're familiar with the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty
(www.campaignforrealbeauty.com). Well, Ben was instrumental in making that happen. He also wrote a book called Fashioning Reality: A New Generation of Entrepreneurship, and if that's not enough, he's a graduate student in innovation and strategy at the Judge Business School at Cambridge University. I never thought I'd meet anyone busier than me, but I finally did.
I wanted to chat with Ben since I read his book last year, but never got around to sending an e-mail. When he became TFI Chair, it was the perfect opportunity to get together for a coffee. Naturally, I had to ask why he wanted to get involved with TFI.
Ben said, "I have always admired the work that the TFI has done, particularly under Susan Langdon’s leadership. She’s done a phenomenal job and so I really was excited to get the opportunity to work with her and others to continue to build the Canadian fashion scene. Furthermore, it was the first incubator to combine the creative and the business together to give people the tools they need to launch a business is very unique.”
We chatted about the TFI and shared ideas for the future, but I was curious about asking Ben how fashion designers can increase diversity in shows and campaigns.
He advised, "It is essential not to just throw in a token diverse model.” It is just as important to have professional models because you want to maintain professionalism in front of buyers and media. First, a designer must “understand why you want to use diversity. It’s not just throwing in one size 14 model or one older model, it’s understanding who is actually your demographic.” Understand your customer, sizes, backgrounds, age ranges, and reflect that in your show or campaign.
Second, “make sure the models are trained, that they know how to walk. It is so, so important because no matter how well motivated your efforts are to use diversity, if the models can’t walk, it’s going to impact your brand and reputation.” Either find models that reflect or find real people and train them. Find a runway coach or dance instructor. Spend a few hours to give someone the basics and they can practice down a hallway or sidewalk. Then invest in a second session.
Third, work on samples, which Ben stressed as a critical step in diversification. By using non-sample-sized models, there will be construction differences and more time needed to fit the clothes on their body rather than on a dressform.
Now you know some tips, but how do you actually find and cast the models?
In the case of the Ben Barry Agency, the agency signs the brand and designer first, then combines the casting and agency process, provides the training, and supplies them directly to the client.
Here is a brief description of the process. The agency:
. meets the client to discuss the target demographic: sizes, ages, and backgrounds;
. creates a demographic breakdown;
. scouts for models (on streets, in malls, etc.) and assesses designer recommendations;
. screens potential models;
. presents the screened group to the designer;
. trains the models;
. invites the designer in to look at walks and for first fitting, where clothes measured and draped;
. works with the designer and models before the show for extra fittings;
. assists with the show.
Sounds pretty easy to incorporate diversity, doesn't it? But what about time? Since designers tend to get unbelievably busy before a show, how long should they plan in advance for this process? Ben said, “If you’re going to incorporate diversity, it has to be done almost three months in advance. It has to be done when you’re starting the collection. Before you start getting the fabric, cutting, and putting together the pieces, you have to initially start to think, ‘If I’m going to have these different outfits, how many do I want to be in one size?’ So you may have a few in a standard size, a few that might be in a size ten, maybe a few in a size fourteen. That thought process has to happen beforehand. Obviously, when we go out to find models, we know exactly what models they want in what size and their designs are going to be reflecting that.”
He also recommended to choose three different sample sizes. It makes things easier, more efficient, and cost effective to make a certain number of garments in each size. Also make sure to give the modeling agency and models as much notice as possible and feel free to include them with initial planning. You can even ask models for some advice. Sometimes they have really good ideas that could add to presentation.
I hope this inspires you to consider a range of models for your next show or campaign. I learned a lot from discussing this with Ben, but I wasn't going to let him leave without getting advice for new fashion business owners. Ben knows that when you're young, it is difficult to go to a bank and get a loan. He suggested that you make a list of all expenses (office space, admin assistants) and make a column of where you can get them in kind. For instance, when he started his business, Ben borrowed space from a friend’s father. You could ask a graphic design friend for assistance in exchange for credit on print and web publications. Don’t be scared to ask for things and “be creative with capital.
Mentors are encouraged, but Ben said that sometimes you may think differently than your mentor: "If you have ideas that conflict, I see that as a really good thing because it shows you are redeveloping your own unique niche and your own unique way of doing things. Even if they tell you what you’re doing is crazy or completely wrong, sometimes take that as a really good thing. It means you have carved your own area and you’re not going to compete with anyone.”
Once your business is established and after finances aren’t as pressing a concern, ask how you can continue to be cutting-edge. Ben also discussed a focus on online resources. How much marketing, operations, communication, and sales, can you do online? He said, “an interactive website is critical; more important today than having an actual physical space. If you’re a member of TFI, you can use the meeting room. You can meet someone at Starbucks. To have a website is the new storefront.”
He also suggested forming relationships with local officials, especially MPs, since they can help develop international synergies. There are trade commissioners whose job is to help you. Go to offices, make appointments, tell them you’re a young entrepreneur starting a business and interested in making sales overseas. Set up a ten-minute meeting by telling them you want to talk to Trade Commissioner. Say to the administrative assistant, “I live in your riding, I run a business, and I’d like to talk to the Trade Commissioner. Can you facilitate with that?” Don't forget to attend the information prepared with your business plan.
Ben's final piece of advice? "Join small business incubators like the TFI. They have the connections, resources, and experiences to help you develop those relationships.” Spoken like an excellent new TFI Chair.
Every month, Business Edge newspaper arrives in my mailbox and I don't know why. I'll look at it, see some interesting things, and continue with my day. I finally got around to reading October's issue and found an interesting article about Jody Steinhauer (www.businessedge.ca/article.cfm/newsID/18759.cfm), who owns The Bargains Group (www.bargainsgroup.com/). If you want to learn about wholesaling, check out the article.
Magnolia (www.magnoliaonline.ca) is a new store focusing on Canadian designers. Tonight's launch was a perfect example of how to open a store.
I first heard of the store when I found a press release and gift card in my L'Oreal Fashion Week media bag. Then I received an e-vite and thought I should check out this new boutique. I'm glad I did.
The store stocks TFI Members Lucian Matis (www.lucianmatis.com) and Rita Tesolin (www.ritatesolin.com). Owner Juan Carlos was smart to have designers in attendance and I was impressed with his design knowledge and the accessibility and openness of the designers. It was a treat to be able to talk to Juan, Lucian, and Rita about the store and the designs.
The mix of champagne, cupcakes, clothes, and clothing chit-chat made me fall in love with the store, and that's what any business owner wants in an opening.
Earlier this year, I heard a story about how a Toronto handbag designer got into New York's famous boutique, Henri Bendel. I was impressed with this story, but and even more impressed when I met said designer - Jenny Bird (www.jenny-bird.com)- at the DSquared show in September and saw her work. She carried an attention-grabbing, but elegant black clutch with vintage gold chainstrap.
I had to have that clutch. And I had to talk to the designer behind the beautiful designs and savvy business sense, so we met for breakfast and I learned how to start a handbag business.
First, we discussed her background, but you can find it in her own words here: www.handbagdesigner101.com/designer/370/jenny_bird_bird_jenny. They are very good words and I think you should read about the creation of her Deco bags.
But how did she get to the point where she could launch a business? It took two years of meticulous research before debuting in May. Work included design (how to make the type of product that someone could love forever), how to move beyond a crafty business and turn a part-time hobby into a full-time living, finding suitable trade shows and strategies, and finding a manufacturer.
Jenny said it is crucial to find the right production partner and she gave some tips on how to find a factory:
1. Go to tradeshows and find products similar in style or quality.
2. Ask about factory where they were made.
3. Some designers will reveal because they get kickbacks, but some will not. It doesn't hurt to ask.
4. Go see the factories. It is a big investment, but business owners must be socially responsible. Jenny found New York factory conditions worse than Hong Kong and realized that factory management is important when making manufacturing decisions.
Jenny walked bag and shoe show in Toronto and followed up with manufacturing leads. She used to manufacture in Canada, but luxury goods equipment, skilled tradespeople, and current techniques are not available. Now samples are Canadian-made and the production is in Hong Kong.
Once a designer has a factory, how does he or she get the handbags made?
. Draw the design. It does not necessarily need to be a proper illustration, but it does need to show the front, back, side, and depth. For instance, Kate Spade made her first model out of paper/cardboard and took it to a factory. They figured out how to make it.
. Take the design to the factory.
. At factory, be as detailed as possible.
. The manufacturer will make a felt version first.
. The designer marks it up with changes.
. The manufacturer makes a leather sample.
. When the designer approves the leather sample, the manufacturer makes production molds, which are basically cookie cutters/pressurized stamps. They are the biggest production expense because they are original.
. The bags go into production.
She advised that a small initial product run is best to test the manufacturer and said, “Don’t rush product to market that isn’t ready.”
Her first production run did not meet her standards, so she absorbed the costs. “I didn’t want my brand on market in a sub-par way,” she said. “When those things happen, you have to immediately have the tenacity to say, ‘Okay, this is a huge disaster.’ You can cry about it for a second, but what have I learned to go on? Because there will be huge setbacks. That was the first one and I’m sure I’ll have more. I’ve heard of people losing entire shipments off the boat from China. I know I’ll have more. I lost a suitcase full of my first samples on the bus in New York. I put it on the bus, forgot about it, and went back and the bus had driven away and I never found it. That was all my drawings and samples. If you don’t let those things get you down...they’re going to happen.”
To manage setbacks such as those, make sure you always have a financial pillow and plan for delays.
It was intelligent for Jenny to wait for a quality product. When she was ready, she debuted this May at the WSA Show (www.wsashow.com), the largest footwear and related accessories show in the world. That led to accounts with shoe stores, which turned out to be fortuitous; bags move more in shoe stores.
When planning to show to buyers and attend shows, accessories follow a similar timeline to apparel. For instance, Jenny is now working on Fall 09. She will be done samples in December and photograph them in January for her lookbook. The first Fall tradeshow will be in February, followed by other shows and buyer appointments throughout the Spring. Orders will be taken and production will begin. Everything must be shipped by the end of August to ensure store arrival for Fall.
How to get in stores? You want to know the Bendel story, don't you? How did Jenny do it?
She went in to the store and asked for the buyer's name and contact information. The address was a few doors down, so she went to the corporate office and delivered her promotional package. The buyer called her. She didn't have any connections, but said that if you have a strong product, anyone can do it.
What makes her product strong? Quality materials. “Your product is only as good as the materials you put in it," she said. Sometimes you have to move beyond your hometown to find original and high quality items. Jenny said it is not too expensive to go to New York and visit the leather showrooms to get your unique piece, but Europe has more, such as the Lineappelle Exhibition (www.lineapelle-fair.it).
Quality materials are important, but Jenny's secret weapon is her use of vintage parts to create hardware. She visits places called “Jobbers” that sell old vintage hardware. They are warehouses full of old, unique items such as vintage jewellery parts and chains. She gets a piece, makes a mold, then makes unique hardware out of it. The combination of quality and uniqueness is what makes her purses stand out.
With all this experience and advice, it's difficult to believe Jenny only launched in May. She stressed the importance of starting small and managing growth, and her next step will be the introduction of daybags for Fall 09. She has done so much already, I can't wait to see what's next.
Saturday was a fantastic day for eco-fashion. The organization Fashion Takes Action (www.fashiontakesaction.com) held the Sustainable Style Show (www.fashiontakesaction.com/show2008.php) during the day and The Green Gala (www.fashiontakesaction.com/gala2008.php) in the evening. Both were fantastic, progressive events illustrating eco-fashion's evolution from scratchy hemp pants resembling burlap bags.
The first booth I noticed was filled withy impressive and elegant clothes, suitable for any office. There was no scratchy fabric in Anna Gilkerson's deux fm (www.deuxfm.com) collection. She told me all her fabrics were organic or eco-friendly and ninety-eight percent of her business is sourced in Canada, the rest from the U.S. Anna came from Nova Scotia, where she said, "We’re very green-oriented and green minded. We have one of the best recycling systems in the world. It’s only grown for about fifteen years. It’s amazing the amount of stuff for recycling there; I’d love to get some fabrics made from the recycling, but they’re not quite there yet.” They are getting good at being fashionably green: three of the five Atlantic Fashion week exhibitors were organic or eco-friendly. Though Anna said her biggest hurdles when trying to create eco-fashion are finding fabrics, Canadian manufacturers, and buyers, her strong collection showed no signs of struggle. What's next for deux fm? Swimwear in Spring. Made at a factory two hours away from Anna's home, of course.
I next ran into a bunch of TFI Members.
Kristen Laborde owns Laborde Designs (www.labordedesigns.com), which specializes in one of a kind, handmade pieces produced locally in Toronto. She works with naturally-sourced materials: wood, semi-precious stone, seeds, and recycled objects (chandelier pieces, vintage jewellery deconstructed).
Jean Touchbourne has a brilliant concept with Hygeia, a company that incorporates wellness benefits into uniforms for healthcare professionals. She uses natural organic cottons with natural organic dyes from herbs, flowers, and roots. The fabric is imported, but the uniforms are made in Canada. Her company began when she noticed there were no eco-options in the uniform industry. She researched for a year to find the right product, sourced it, and then found manufacturers, sewers, and patternmakers. After starting the business last year, her company has already been featured on television. She doesn't have a website yet, but if you are interested in lab coats and scrubs for health and wellness industry, send her an e-mail (email@example.com).
Sonia den Elzen from Thieves (www.thieves.ca) impressed me with her designs rather than their "eco-ness". She said, "I’m a designer, so just making that choice to focus my practices of business and choices of fabric more on sustainability is what makes it more eco-friendly. First and foremost, I’m a designer, so regardless of what material I’m using, I’m going to be putting that foot forward.” She uses sustainable fabrics and everything is made locally in Toronto.
After the Sustainable Style Show, organizers magically transformed the space into The Green Gala, where ten of Canada's best designers showed three outfits made of eco-friendly fabric from Telio (www.telio.com). I was going to tell you the standout designs, but to be honest, every mini-collection was equally thoughtful and well-executed, so congratulations to the following designers for making eco look so fashionable: Thien Le (www.thienle.com), Evan Biddell (www.evanbiddell.ca), Zoran Dobric (www.dobric.tripod.com), Nada Yousif (www.nadayousif.com), Carrie Hayes (www.carriehayes.com), Eugenia Leavitt (www.eugeniadesigns.com), Jason Meyers (www.jasonmeyers.net), Aime Luxury (www.aimeluxury.com), Damzels in This Dress (www.damzelsinthisdress.com), and Thieves (www.leagueofloversandthieves.ca).
With the proliferation of elegant design, I had to ask the event's organizer and Fashion Takes Action founder, Kelly Drennan, how can someone be green and glamorous? She replied, “It’s quite easy to do nowadays because there are so many great options out there. There are so many more talented designers working with sustainable products, fabrics and materials. You find a designer like Thieves who have sustainability in their DNA and everything they do is green, it’s really easy.” She was wearing jewellery by Samantha Nemiroff (www.samanthanemiroffjewellery.com), who has been using found objects for years and Kellly says, “that’s as green as it can get.”
All participants in The Sustainable Style and The Green Gala showed that it is easy being green. The event was well-organized, professional, and committed to raising "consumer awareness around fairly traded, locally and ethically produced products, as well as those made from sustainable materials." I look forward to more Fashion Takes Action events in the future.
Over the past week, I received a few news items from different stores and designers, either through e-newsletters, press releases, or facebook and myspace, so I thought we should discuss them.
Many companies are using Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) for e-newsletters because they are easy to format and send. Since you can incorporate text and images, Constant Contact is a good way to go to spread your news.
Some PR firms are also using Constant Contact, while others are sticking with plain old text press releases. I’m starting to be swayed by the design flexibility of html messages such as those sent with Constant Contact, so if you do hire a PR firm, make sure that the message they send is on-brand and well-designed. Nothing says “uninspired” as much as a bland press release.
Facebook and Myspace are, of course, quick, easy, and inexpensive ways to gain fans and give news. If you aren’t on them for privacy issues, I recommend that you change your mind and create a public-worthy profile, complete with company information. If you own a clothing company, your name is bound to get some public recognition, which you want so you can create a loyal client base and sell your stuff. Facebook and Myspace are the best ways to introduce a company to the world, especially if your company has a tight budget.
Something to keep in mind is that you should always make sure that when you send announcements, they should be interesting. Shopgirls (www.shopgirls.ca) for instance, sent out an excellent announcement about a holiday shopping event where items would be curated into price groups. Damzels in This Dress (www.damzelsinthisdress.com) delivered one that summarized their Fashion Week coverage and invited clients in to check out new merchandise. Both stores wrote them in their specific voices, but both were equally effective at making me want to stop by and shop. See how effective a newsletter can be?
This Saturday November 8 will be the date of the second Green Gala and the first Sustainable Style Show. PR pro Kelly Drennan founded Fashion Takes Action (the organization behind the events) and she took time out of her busy schedule to discuss sustainability, style, and shows.
Carolyn: Why did you start these initiatives?
Kelly: I’ve always had an inner hippie (love to canoe, rough it in the back country in Algonquin) and about 4 or 5 years ago, I started eating organic, using reusable shopping bags, walking more, and driving less. Once I had children, I became concerned with their environment and health, which meant making sure we used eco-friendly cleaning products, skin care products, clothing etc. After the birth of my second child (2 years ago now), I realized that I wanted to combine my experience as a fashion & lifestyle publicist with my passion for the planet. Perhaps I was Al Gore-inspired, but whatever it was, 2 years ago, I realized that it was time to try and revolutionize the fashion industry.
I began to research sustainable fabrics, fair trade, ethical sourcing, and certification. I spoke with designers, retailers, suppliers, and wholesalers. They all had the same complaints, the same challenges and concerns, and the same passion to make a difference and use their skill and knowledge of the fashion industry to make a difference.
The first Green Gala was held in September 2007 and brought together 10 of Canada’s finest fashion designers in a collaborative runway show. At that time, eco-fashion was not really top-of-mind in the industry, but it was the start of something.
My goals are:
* I want to inspire designers to work with sustainable fabric;
* I want consumers to see that eco-fabrics can be used to make couture and evening wear and high fashion clothing;
* I want the media to understand the importance sustainable fabrics and sustainable business practices and communicate it to the consumer around. After all, with the help of the good media, this is the only way we can get the message out.
* I want people to know that eco-fashion is not a trend. It is here to stay. The planet is top-of-mind. It’s right up there with the economy. Climate change is a reality and everyone wears clothes. Collectively, we need to be more responsible about our choices.
* I want to create an organization that will help members (in all levels of the industry) to succeed, make money, grow, save money and time, and learn about what they can do to make a difference.
C: What has been your biggest challenge when planning The Green Gala?
K: I think that paving the way will always have its challenges! General production challenges are a given; nothing is really standing out for me.
C: What has been the greatest reward?
K: Realizing how much something like this matters to people. For example, I was wearing a Thieves top the other day at the playground with my children. A mom approached me and asked me who I was wearing. I told her all about Thieves and she proceeded to tell me about a show she was going to the following weekend called the Sustainable Style Show. I told her that that was my event and Thieves was one of my vendors (as well as a designer in the Green Gala) and she was over the moon about it. So those occurances really put a smile on my face. There are so many people out there who are looking for stylish clothing and beauty products that align with their core values.
My vendors at the sustainable style show are also very excited to be participating. These are the pioneers in Canada and all of them have been screened through a set of criteria. We are proud to have them all under one roof, selling their amazing, fairly traded, organic, biodegradable, and/or locally made products to an eco-savvy consumer who is looking to make smarter purchasing choices this holiday season.
For the Green Gala, all of my designers are just thrilled to be part of a show where they can ‘just’ be a designer. They don’t have to deal with the marketing, models, stylin, and the fabric is free! Telio & Cie out of Montreal, with a Toronto showroom, is our exclusive fabric sponsor this year and we are so thrilled to be working with them.
C: Do you have any tips for fashion designers on how to incorporate sustainable business practices into a clothing company?
K: Every little bit helps. It is not a case of all or nothing. You can choose to run an energy-efficient business by being Bullfrog-powered, you can change your store lighting to LED’s or CFL’s, and you can look at your packaging, recycling, and waste policies. All of this will impact your carbon footprint. Research the fabrics used, know where they are made and how. For instance, was a gallon of pesticide and fertilizer used to grow it? Was it made in china by a 10-year old? Or were the labourers forced to work long hours with little pay?
C: Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to plan an environmentally friendly event?
K: There is a greener option for everything. With research anything is possible. Because this is the way of the future, many event suppliers are shifting their consciousness. Look at your food and beverage options. Power. Water – no bottled water, even if its in a glass container. Toronto tap water is more than fine. Lighting. Décor etc.
Tonight was the yummiest fashion event of the year: Cadbury’s Chocolate Couture Collection (http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=XBFNcHyr75k).
For four years, Cadbury has invited Toronto fashion designers to create clothes made from Cadbury chocolate. It’s quite a design challenge to even think about how to make chocolate clothes, but after speaking with some of the designers, I understand that it’s even tougher to sew finishing touches on fabric airbrushed with the sweet stuff. They pulled it off, though, and presented couture colections “inspired by the global passion for chocolate”:
Andrew Majtenyi (www.andrewmajtenyi.com) stenciled Celtic patterns on an Irish step dancer-type uniform;
Eugenia Leavitt (www.eugeniadesigns.com) TFI New Labels winner 2008, created a Spanish toreador (or would it be a toreadora!) costume with hand-dipped chocolate accents;
HOAX Couture Studio (www.hoaxcouture.com) used chocolate discs to accent a Maharaja-inspired outfit;
The guys from Greta Constantine (www.gretaconstantine.com) moulded a Thai dancer breastplate out of Dairy Milk;
Izzy Camilleri (www.izzycamilleri.com) envisioned an African Queen with chocolate-twig bodice, leather sarong with chocolate accents, Dairy Milk-tinted tresses, woven chocolate basket, and stacks of chocolate-dipped bangles;
Damzels in this Dress (www.damzelsinthisdress.com) presented a dress delicious enough for a Harajuku hipster, complete with chocolate lace, buttons, and edible copper dust;
Rather than giving us a Tin Man, Philip Sparks (www.philipsparks.com) showed a Courier de Bois, a Northern Trapper, complete with chocolate axe;
Lilliput Hats (www.lilliputhats.com) took us to Australia with a solid Dairy Milk hat inspired by the Sydney Opera House; and,
Ines Di Santo (www.inesdisanto.com) used New Zealand’s exotic plantlife as inspiration for their chocolate bridal gown.
Finally, event curator Farley Chatto (www.farleychatto.com) mined Britain’s Glam Rock past to create a “cage jean jacket” and chaps with over 600 chocolate paillettes. Farley’s a busy guy, but he was kind enough to answer a few questions:
Carolyn: You have worked in fashion for a long time and are the busiest person I know. What keeps you motivated?
Farley: There are days when motivation is a hard thing!! For me, keeping busy is something that I have always done...I guess in fashion, being motivated and inspired is what keeps me going. The moment I stop, boredom and restlessness settle in, and for me, personally it’s not a good thing. I guess you can say, I am self-motivated and the quest for learning and working hard is something that is innate and rewarding.
C: You curate the Cadbury Couture collection, where ten Canadian designers make clothes out of chocolate. This isn't your only collaboration with a corporation, though. What companies have you worked with and how did you get involved with them?
F: I have been fortunate, though my reputation and word of mouth, I have been able to work with several high-end and high-profile companies. I have carved a special niche in the design world- luxury brand corporate designs. I have created wardrobe for Veuve Cliquot, Porche, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, BMW, Smart Car, Cadbury, MAC Cosmetics, and Barbie to just name a few.
Again, my involvement has been through word of mouth and recommendations, because I have worked with some of the top event planners and companies here in Toronto, and fortunate to be at the right place, the right time and provide them with the best service- best bang for their buck- and these days, one makes those dollars stretch as far as one can!
C: Collaborating with corporations seems like a smart way for new designers to augment their revenue. Is this common for designers and are these partnerships easy to get?
F: Collaborating with designers and companies is a common occurrence and something that has been happening more regularly. It allows the company to tap into resources without going to the large expense of investing in a new department and research team and vice-versa, allows the designer(s) the ability to challenge their design process, work with companies, and use the client’s resources.
As for new designers to align themselves, it would be a difficult in the beginning. Most companies look to the designer’s history and references. As well depending on the projects, new designers must have the capabilities of producing quickly and sometimes in large quantities and learn the “corporation compromise”- remembering it is your design(s) for THEIR company. So it is not always about us- sadly to say- but it is about the company, the branding and visual exposure.
C: Do you have any advice to designers about working with corporations?
F: Best advice I can impart – regardless if one is working with corporations, clients or for someone else:
- Ask When You Are Not Sure
- Work Hard
- Price Fairly
- Be Respectful
Companies are funny creatures to work for- there are some aspects they are flexible on, and there are others they are not- if you just use those 5 simple points- working with companies will be rewarding and an easy time.
C: What has been your biggest lesson learned when operating your own business?
F: The best lesson I have learned is you cannot please everyone all the time, every time- the only person you need to please is yourself!
Know your strengths, and acknowledge your weakness and work at strengthening those weaknesses and all will work out.
Learn to delegate.
Most of all, listen with an open mind and an open heart…makes for much easier working environment!!
Last night, we talked a lot about trade shows, so Patricia Sheng of newly-launched online boutique, Luxual (www.luxualboutique.com), sent me a link to Infomat (www.infomat.com), which she recommended during the meeting.
If you’re interested in showing at a trade show, I recommend that you check it out first before attending so you can assess what makes a successful exhibitor. If you want to know what shows are coming up, Infomat lists the following Trade Shows in December: www.infomat.com/newsletters/november/calendar.html.
You should also check out the TFI’s Fashion Calendar: www.fashionincubator.com/happenings/calendar/index.shtml.
Tonight, my Fashion Support Group was a nice mix of accessory designers, evening wear designers, streetwear designers, eco-designers, and manufacturers. What an interesting bunch of people with different perspectives on the fashion industry!
We talked a lot about manufacturing because I was really interested in hearing about things from a manufacturer’s perspective. We also discussed logistics of fabric printing and dying and talked a lot about tradeshows and what ones were suited for each other’s businesses.
It was a fun night and I look forward to seeing everyone at the next one on Monday December 1.
Fashion Cares (www.fashioncares.com) is this weekend! In honour of the event and since it is an extravaganza involving so many organizers, I thought you’d like to hear different perspectives from the event planning process.
I already spoke with Phillip Ing (the Artistic Director and Show Producer), Kreesha Turner (Singer and Fashion sCares Entertainer), and Jann Coppen (BMO Segment Producer) and now I’ve got a Q&A with Manny Machado (www.mannymachadodesigns.com) the designer responsible for Fashion sCares décor elements. He’s the genius responsible transforming the Metro Toronto Convention Centre into a Hitchcock-esque, Paris is Burning movie set!
1. What is your role with Fashion sCares?
I'm the decor chair for the event, a new position among the steering committee for the event, and a new challenge for me: to make this more than just a pretty space, but to actually have the guests be a part of the environment and show. It’s a Hallowe’en costume party, which already lends itself to guests letting go inhibitions, so why not take it one step further and have them play in an environment that enhances that feeling of being in a surreal environment? Some people will have dinner, some will not; some will watch the show, some may not- however EVERYONE interacts with the environment and this will be one that will not be forgotten.
2. How and why did you become involved with Fashion sCares?
I'm a designer/ stylist and love design in all its forms. I've always dreamed of creating a space that would be bigger than life. My involvement was "right time, right place" when I was asked to join the committee.
3. What is a typical workday for you as you prepare for the event?
A typical workday involves emails and information in the morning to insure all committee members are kept in the loop of what we are producing. The rest of the day is spent at our production studio usually until the late hours of the night, creating, building and manipulating all the materials to make the decor. To get the right mood, we decided to make all the elements and not use any pre-fabricated items.
4. What has been your biggest challenge when planning Canada's biggest fashion show?
One of the biggest challenges has been in making the designs go from paper to life, as many of the design elements have not existed before and require sourcing and preparation time.
5. Do you have any show planning advice for fashion designers?
Stay on top of everything!!
A few weeks ago, I posted about the marketing initiative around Stella McCartney's CARE (www.stellamccartneycare.com) and worried that the silver packaging might contradict the natural, organic message of the product.
I'm happy to report that you can return the silver tubes to be recycled and the packaging is "natural and organic". Joy! Everything is on-brand!
If you're so happy that you want to try it out, e-mail me and I'll send you a Gift with Purchase coupon.
I've told you before about Dragons' Den (www.cbc.ca/dragonsden), the series that all entrepreneurs should watch. Last night, Hillberg and Berk (www.hillbergandberk.com) jewellery designer and TFI Member Rachel Mielke was on the show and secured a $200,000 investment from W. Brett Wilson.
You might be interested in her experience, so please read our conversation about her Dragon experience.
Carolyn: Why did you decide to apply to Dragon's Den? Can you describe the experience?
I've watched Dragons' Den since season 1. Watched isn't even the right word, I've been obsessed with the show! I finally felt ready in my business this season to audition and although I was nervous it was one of the smartest business decisions I have made. Getting ready for the experience itself was very time consuming as I worked through finishing my business plan and financials in detail prior to going on the show but that is a definite must if you plan to enter the Den or pitch your idea at to Venture Capitalists (VC's) at all. Actually taping the show was quite intimidating, but well worth the stress.
C: How do you plan to use the Dragon's Den investment?
I plan to use the money to inventory, staffing and expansion into new markets.
C: Would you recommend this show to other designers looking for investment capital?
I would totally recommend the show to other designers but make sure to watch my episode and be prepared for the "hit by a bus" question that the dragon's are so concerned with when the company revolves around the designs of one person. Even if you don't want venture capital, going on the show is a great way to promote your company for free. You aren't guaranteed to make it on the final cut of the season but what have you got to lose?!
Check out my episode at www.cbc.ca/dragonsden and you can see my product at www.hillbergandberk.com.
On Saturday November 1, it’s Canada’s biggest fashion show, Fashion Cares (www.fashioncares.com). Sometimes it’s hard to forget that it is a fundraising event, so I thought it would be interesting to talk to Amy Ksyston, Chair of On-site Fundraising.
1. What is your role with Fashion sCares?
I am Chair of Onsite fundraising, so my job is to come up with all the fun ways we can raise lots of funds for ACT (www.acttoronto.org) at Fashion Cares and then bring those to life. As every year, we are doing a Live and Silent Auction, but for the first time ever, we will also have an on-line auction, which will give individuals across North America access to some of the exciting prizes and experiences we have available this year. The online auction goes live on October 24 and links from the website, www.fashioncares.com.
We also came up with some more creative fundraising ideas. In keeping with the Halloween theme, we are selling little specialty costume ideas, we have luxury trick or treat bags with products valued from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars! And we have a Fashion sCares themed photo booth where patrons can have their pictures taken with friends and receive a keepsake photo sleeve memento.
There are two prizes that personally excite me: The luxurious Karma Resort package in Thailand and the trip for two to India! The winner will have the opportunity to travel up the Himalayas. Apparently it takes 3 hours by car, but the sights you would see!
2. How and why did you become involved with Fashion sCares?
I have been a long-time supporter of Fashion Cares, I was a volunteer prior to being on the planning committee. I love being able to assist such an amazing organization. Most people have no idea how much support ACT provides to the community; I love the fact that not only do they provide counseling and support services, but they have a number of programs that focus on self-esteem and basic comforts that many people take for granted. When you combine being able to provide the funds necessary to keep such a worthy organization going with two of my greatest loves: fashion and a great party - it was a perfect fit to become involved.
3. What is a typical workday for you as you prepare for the event?
CRAZY! I have a full time job outside of Fashion Cares on top of this, so basically I am working a lot right now, but it’s going to be such an amazing event, it just keeps you going. Everything is really coming together now. Daily I am firming up details on packages reaching out to potential luxury items or experience retailer/providers working to find a fit for them to participate with a gift in kind opportunity at Fashion Cares. Once I have their commitment, I work with a team of great people at ACT that manage the contracts, details and ensure all of the concepts come to life. Hundreds of Gift in Kind sponsors have been generous enough to provide, product, gift certificates, or experiences. The big job is creating exciting experiences that money cannot buy that will raise a lot of funds for ACT, but also provide the kind of presence that sponsors would like in return.
4. What has been your biggest challenge when planning Canada's biggest fashion show?
Finding those one-of-a-kind experiences that everyone will want to bid on and then meeting the needs of the sponsor while ensuring that we are fair to other sponsors. At the end of the day, although this is a FABULOUS PARTY, this is truly a fundraiser for a very important organization that provides necessary services and support to so many in the community.
5. Do you have any show planning advice for fashion designers?
Think BIG! When I started working on this 10 months ago I could never have imagined getting to this point, 10 months, a lot of hard work and a lot of amazing people later, and we have far surpassed the goals I set for us at the beginning. My advice would be PLAN PLAN PLAN! For creative people, sometimes its hard to reign it all in and break it down into smaller pieces, but if you take the time to do that it becomes more manageable and anything is possible!
Tonight, LG Electronics hosted its first large scale Fashion Week event with shows from Shan, Greta Constantine Atelier, Mikhael Kale, Wayne Clark, and Agent Provocateur, all set to a live performance by Maroon 5.
I've never had the chance to see Wayne Clark designs on the runway, but they stood out above everything else. The design, colour and fit were perfect for the runway.
The event was well organized and executed, despite a mix-up in printed start times that had some guests arriving at 6pm, when doors opened at 7pm. Once inside, though, the event was smooth and well thought-out. If this event is any indication of how future LG sponsorships and events will go, Canadian fashion is in for an increased profile and pleasant planning.
Last season, Fashion Television host Mary Kitchen hosted a Fashion Week Wrap Up at The Drake, and I was happy to see it on the schedule again. As someone who writes a blog for people interested in starting a fashion business, this is turning into my favourite Fashion Week event.
Mary moderated a media-heavy panel of experts including The Toronto Star's David Livingstone, Holt Renfrew's John Gerhardt, The Globe and Mail's Amy Verner, Flare's Lisa Tant and Fashion Television's Jeanne Beker.
The panel discussed the following topics:
Denis Gagnon (www.denisgagnon.ca) did everything right. He had press releases for both his clothing and handbag (www.fullumandholt.com) collections. His clothes were exquisite, models were professional, and accessories (www.harakiridesign.com) complemented the outfits. To see how to style, I recommend that you study this collection's photos at the L'Oréal Fashion Week site (www.lorealfashionweek.ca).
I didn't know anything about Afshin Feiz (www.afshinfeiz.com) before his show, but his press kit didn't do him any good. It was long, required editing, was too braggy, and focused too much on name-dropping the designer's friends. Images were also pixellated and amateurish.
There was also an illustration on some of the pages that was created by Argentinean illustrator and cartoonist, Jorge Bompart that did not fit the collection. It was a cute, fun, flirty illustration, but the runway presentation was serious and slightly sombre, despite the cupcake-like ruffles on Afshin's dresses.
I was left with a feeling that this brand was inconsistent and had a way to go before coming up with a signature vision and style. The moral of this show is: review, edit, and stay on-brand with any material you distribute.
If you read my other blog, Rags and Mags (www.ragsandmags.com), you'll know I'm a fan of Lucian Matis (www.lucianmatis.com). I like him for his glamour, creativity, and construction. Unfortunately, this season he did not live up to my expectations.
I saw a hole at the bottom of a zipper on one piece and others had seams that were not well-aligned, which was disappointing for a designer of Lucian's ability. I heard that he had problems with sample makers this season, so that could be why everything wasn't up to his usual standards. Let this be a lesson to you: make sure you plan your construction requirements in enough time to have them back for review and editing long before show day.
Mellinda-Mae Harlington (www.mellinda-mae.com) presented a soft, relaxed, and well-constructed collection that was unfortunately upstaged by some ill-fitting shoes. Models were wobbling, which made it difficult to focus on clothes. What you can learn from Mellinda is to always bring extra pairs of shoes to a show. You never know when you may have a shoe emergency such as an ill fit, ineffective strap, or broken heel. It is always wise to ask models to bring a pair of her own heels, just in case.
You can always watch a gsus (www.g-sus.com) show to learn how to produce a high-energy, fun event. The cute interaction with models illustrates the importance of a good choreographer in the production of a fashion show.
As far as I know, this was the first time BUFFALO DAVID BITTON (www.buffalojeans.com) showed at L'Oréal Fashion Week. Like gsus, Damzels in this Dress, and Playdead Cult, Buffalo put on a fun and lively show.
When planning a show, you should always have a rehearsal with the models and choreographer two or three days before the event so you have an idea how everyone will work together. Even if you have great ideas for poses and interaction, a professional choreographer will provide guidance on music, timing, and poses that will be good for photographers.
It has been a while since I saw a Renata Morales (www.renatamorales.com) show, but it was worth the wait. It was a show that had everyone talking and was a personal favourite.
Unfortunately, there was one problem with her show: over-elaborate headpieces. Sure, they were intriguing creations in themselves, but I heard a lot of people complain that they took attention away from the dresses. That is not something you want to do when you want to sell dresses.
Styling is a tricky thing, so make sure to work with a stylist you trust and who has a proven track record of knowing how to accentuate clothing.
RUDSAK (www.rudsak.com) knows its strengths (jackets and bags) and wisely sticks with them.
In previous seasons, they paraded endless variations on the same jacket down the runway, almost boring the audience too much to care about the brilliant design. This season; however, RUDSAK learned the importance of editing and presented fewer looks, but had a stronger impact.
If you offer one jacket in 4 colours, there is no need to show each jacket on the runway. Mix up the colours and styles so you have an equal representation. A good stylist can offer guidance with this because he or she should be able to view your collection with a new, unbiased viewpoint and tell you what you should show and what needs to stay on the rolling rack.
You know what I admire about Joe Fresh? Their mastery of simplicity. From the designs to extras such as perfectly-detailed outfit order lists, they make everything look fresh, clean, and easy. That's a hard thing to do. Really, I always appreciate their outfit lists. Each outfit contains the model's name, outfit description, and price, which is all you need to know.
I stopped my favourite model of the week, Renee Thompson from Nam Models and asked if she had any advice for designers who are working with models for the first time. She said:
"Always approach the models with a certain passion. Models love designers who love their own stuff. In turn, we like to wear them for them...You want to have a star model in your show to attract attention. Be straight up that model and say, 'I'm new, I don't have a great big budget, but I love my clothes and I hope you'll love them too.' It''s all about keeping it real and selling us the idea of what it is you want so we can do our job too."
Today, Andy Thê-Anh (www.andytheanh.com) demonstrated the importance of restraint. He didn't do over-the-top decadence before, but this NUDE collection stripped design down to elegance and construction. It was well-edited and well styled, which means the presentation contained the perfect amount of garments from each collection group without repetition and accessories didn't compete with the clothes. The entire show was pretty much perfect.
Thien Le's show made me think about the importance of knowing your target market. He showed a collection of colourful, whispy maxi dresses perfect for lounging on a yacht. Or anywhere significantly warmer and fancier than Canada.
I don't know if Thien sells in international markets, but I suspect he must, otherwise the collection may be a miss for Canadian shoppers.
Biddell's (www.evanbiddell.com) sophomore collection showed so much improvement since his debut that the key business strategy I learned from him is the importance of having a strong team.
Throughout the week, I've been meeting different people from Biddell's team and I'm happy to report that they're all professional and experienced. He appears to be investing in the right people and I think that is promising for his future.
Since I was so busy with the FOX launch, I was unable to produce the Damzels (www.damzelsinthisdress.com) and Playdead Cult (www.playdeadcult.com) show. They make a great team and what I learn from their shows is the importance of finding the right partnerships for your brand.
As Damzels co-designer Rory Lindo said on a post-show Fashion Television interview, this partnership makes sense because the two companies share the same client base.
As small business owners, sharing this event is smart. They can share costs and expand networks. These guys are smart.
Glorious finale fuchsia pantsuit aside, the press kit and branding impressed me the most about NADA's (www.nadadesigns.com) show. To be clear, I'm not dismissing the designs; I'm saying that as a fashion business owner, you can learn from NADA's branding.
Each seat had a program with a design statement, outfit descriptions, credits, and contact information. I like designers who do this. Some people don't care about this information, but it makes a difference to me and the overall professionalism of the show. It helps me understand fabrics and design decisions. It's also helpful for journalists, buyers, or anyone else who takes notes. And the key to NADA's program was that it was well designed and used high quality paper. It reflects her brand.
Her media kit is impressive. It starts with a branded folder and includes lookbook, detailed design statement, image CD, and media contact information. It's everything I would require to write an article. It's great and a lot of thought went into it.
As an alternate example, I've seen photocopied pieces of paper as programs and it may be a way to save money, but in NADA's case as a luxury brand, they would not be suitable at all and would have a negative effect. As a small business owner, you have to prioritize spending and NADA prioritized well.
Joeffer Caoc (www.joeffercaoc.com) is a Canadian fashion veteran, so I expect a top-quality show, which he usually delivers. This season, he delivered beyond expectations.
His shows aren't theatrical, over-the-top affairs. In fact, they're quite minimal. This means the clothes must be perfect. They were. Today, I learned the importance of showing impeccably designed and constructed clothes. If you're putting on a show and have a question about a certain garment, if it is unfinished, has threads, or isn't steamed, do not send it down the runway. Joeffer's collection was flawless.
Ooops! David Dixon (www.daviddixon.ca) had a problem with his show tonight and I think it was one of production and communication.
The show began with a loud, splashy Hollywood-movie-like trailer announcing that David would be designing for Barbie.
"All right!" I thought. "This will be fun!"
The collection turned out to be anything but frivolous Barbie fun. Drawing inspiration from Nelson Mandela and his home of South Africa, David's collection was named WALK TO FREEDOM and it was a million miles away from Barbie's pink dream home.
The opposing messages hurt my assessment of the show. Sure, the clothes were wonderful, but there I was, sitting in the show contemplating the frivolity of it all, thinking that perhaps I should return to International Development because this frivolity was why I didn't pursue fashion as a first career. I suppose David wanted us to think of Africa, other Southern countries, and oppressed populations, but doing it through a fashion show with clothes that I cannot afford seems like the wrong way to do it. The Barbie announcement was profoundly jarring.
How could this have been prevented? I suspect it was a matter of communication between the sponsor, producer, and designer. I do understand that the sponsor would want to announce this news in a manner that has the largest impact, but perhaps a press release would have been more appropriate and the designer and producer should have emphasized the mood of the collection.
See? Isn't it crazy how just one thing can affect a show? It does take careful planning to host a successful event.
I thought MANGO was an odd Fashion Week choice, but I do see the need to include international retailers who are introducing themselves to the Canadian market (ahem...funding?).
The thing is that dressing up mall clothes for a runway isn't necessarily the best thing for a company. Perhaps a club show would have been better for this collection. When planning a show, you've got to think about how the venue reflects your brand.
Not only that, but you've got to edit, edit, edit. The show was packed with a long parade of Fall 08 (when everyone else is showing Spring 09).
If the Pink Tartan (www.pinktartan.com) show was any indication of what's to come for the rest of the week, L'Oreal Fashion Week will be an efficient affair.
All the volunteers knew what they were doing, where people were going, and what was happening. It was an excellent start to the event.
With Pink Tartan, you always know what you're going to get. Designer Kimberley Newport-Mimran knows her brand and that's something that you can learn from Pink Tartan. The brand is consistently on-message from the show's entrance music to the guests, designs, models, lookbook photos, and website font. The show and the clothes were exactly what one would expect from Pink Tartan, and that itself is part of the Pink Tartan brand message.
Fashion Week traditionally begins with a media event at Holt Renfrew (www.holtrenfrew.com), which is a great idea because it allows journalists to meet with designers before the shows.
At tonight's event, I spoke to Eugenia Leavitt (www.eugeniadesigns.com), who has a show on Friday at 4pm. She was the winner of last year's TFI New Labels Competition, so she knows a thing or two about putting on a good show.
Carolyn: What have you done to prepare for your L'Oreal Fashion Week debut?
Eugenia: I decided that I wanted to do a lot of outfits especially for the runway that are a little more over the top and a little more showy, so I had to do a lot more work, but I think it's worth it to put on a good show.
It was also a lot of organizing, working with my stylist, figuring out the shoes and the accessories.
C: What stylist are you working with?
E: Juliana Schiavinatto (www.plutinogroup.com/stylists/juliana_stylists.html) from Plutino Group (www.plutinogroup.com). I worked with her before on New Labels and we work really well together. We understand each other, what we're talking about, so things came together pretty easilly between the both of us.
It's a lot of logistics, too...working with a PR company, which I had never done before. Lots of new experiences and meeting new people that I had never met before.
C: Have there been any surprises?
E: Well, nothing bad. I guess when I decided to apply, I thought, "I'm going to give this a shot and see what happens." Then I was accepted and I didn't know how much work it would be. It turned out to be so much work, but I live for that moment when all the models are out on the runway and everyone's looking great with their hair and makeup and all the outfits together. I'm just excited for that moment to happen.
You can hear some of Eugenia's tips in the LFW Fashion Environment on Friday at 2pm when she'll be speaking during the TFI New Labels Seminar.
I also caught up with Dandi Maestre (www.dandimaestre.com), a jewellery and accessory designer who uses all natural elements such as horn, seed, shell, and wood to create her unique, oversized pieces. Her work was shown with Greta Constantine (www.gretaconstantine.com) collections this season and last and will also be shown with the SHAN () collection at the LG Fashion Fusion closing night gala Saturday night. Naturally, I had to ask her how an accessory designer can begin working with a clothing designer.
Carolyn: How did you prepare to accessorize the Greta Constantine show?
Dandi: I just work! I work a lot! No...for a few months. It's a long process. We talk about ideas and then we each do our part. Then we get together and make it work.
C: How did you get to know the Greta Constantine designers (Stephen and Kirk)?
D: I read about them and thought their work was interesting, so I just e-mailed them. I asked if they were interested in doing something together and they answered back five minutes later and said, "Let's do it now." An e-mail works. It takes research.
So there you go, accessory designers. If you want to see your stuff on the runway, do some research into what designers fit your creations and send them an introductory e-mail!
It’s been a while since we played a good game of Gift Bag Hit or Miss, so why not start this season with the L’Oréal Fashion Week media gift bag?
Remember the rules? It’s really quite simple. I reach into a gift bag and randomly pull out the contents without commentary. You decide if the gift bag suits the event.
Ready? Here we go:
This morning, I received a lovely e-mail from reader Andrea Haid, who happens to write her own blog, Fashion Matter (http://fashion-matter.blogspot.com/).
She wanted to follow-up on dressform information I posted a month ago:
I just spent the day at the Fall CreativFestival and MacFab is having a sale on really nice dressforms. They are adjustable and even have options for measuring pants/dress hems. Normally they are $299.00, today and tomorrow they are on sale for $199.00!
I just really appreciate the fact that you can adjust these forms while the studiorox.comwww.studiorox.com ones come in one size each... Even if people can't make it out tomorrow, perhaps MacFab will have another booth at the spring festival? I think that the CreativFestival is a really cool resource for sewers and designers that is overlooked by the younger set, they have classes ranging from beginner to advanced and a lot of sales on supplies/books/fabrics, and some stuff you can't necessarily find for sale in every Toronto shop.
I first met Abel Munoz (http://abelmunozaccessories.blogspot.com/) at a TFI Members Meeting and was intrigued to discover that he is a shoe and accessory designer. Shoe designers are rare in Canadian fashion, so it's nice to see one start a business.
The Bata Shoe Museum hosted a small exhibition of Abel's work, and it was nice to see this partnership between established institution and new designer. The shoes were shown under glass cases and a well-styled crowd mingled and chatted in awe about the designs. Abel could not have chosen a better location and he was smart to send out a Save-the-Date notice a month before the event. Sending out invitations in advance always sends the message of being well organized and prepared.
I cannot wait to see more from Abel.
Last night, I was invited to last night's ChickAdvisor (www.chickadvisor.com) Shop Crawl on College Street. I have never been on a shop crawl, so I was pleased to discover it was like a pub crawl, but with stores and shopping discounts rather than bars and drink discounts. I cornered ChickAdvisor, Ali DeBold, and asked her about the Shop Crawl.
Why does ChickAdvisor do a Shop Crawl?
Our members wanted a party! We've been around for about 2 years and it was about 6 months in and people were like, "We've made friendships, but we really want to get together", so I thought, "What better party than a shopping party?"
How do you approach the stores?
It takes a little convincing, but I come and say, "We're going to bring 60 women shopping in your area. Do you want to take part in it?" Usually the answer is yes.
Do you highlight local designers and local stores?
It's all independent boutiques. In this case, American Apparel was part of it, which is great, but generally it's independent boutiques and a lot of people will come and say, "You know what? I didn't even know this store was here until the Shop Crawl."
I spent a lot of time in Lilliput Hats (www.lilliputhats.com), which is a hat store, amazing for its beautiful designs and the fact that owner Karen Gingras has been in business for over 20 years. Naturally, I had to ask her for some fashion business advice.
Do you have any advice for new designers who want to start a fashion business?
Look around in the market and see if what you have to offer is a a) good value; b) well-designed; c) unique and refreshing.
Sometimes people think they can improve on something that is already established and sadly, what happens is that you go up against these very large companies that have lots of resources available to them.
Also, start out small. Maybe do a little upcoming designer market. Associate yourself with other local and upcoming designers and share the customer base and the resources and the access to raw materials. It's a learning curve. I'm 20 years in business and I'm still learning.
Do you have any specific advice for anyone interested in designing hats?
Talk to a designer you really like. It's amazing how free people can be with information if you just ask questions and present yourself in a way [that indicates] "Hey, I'm just learning. Do you have any tips about getting into the business?" People are always willing to share information.
Read a lot of fashion history books. Everything old is new again. Going back and looking at where fashion comes from is a great education and it's fun and it's relevant. Don't just read fashion magazines. Read architecture magazines, read gardening magazines, read food magazines. Acquaint yourself with everything that's aesthetic and beautiful.
As a store owner, why do you participate in something like the ChickAdvisor Shop Crawl?
The Shop Crawl is great because on College Street particularly, there aren't a lot of retail stores, so it's really important that we support each other. We're all great friends, we all love and admire each other's products, and it's a great way to celebrate what each of us do uniquely and do best.
Tonight, the O'Connor Gallery (www.oconnorgallery.com) hosted an essential Canadian fashion exhibition of Wayne Clark (www.wayneclarkdesign.com) illustrations.
Former TFI Chair, Mary Symons, said, "I love this exhibit because it is Canadian fashion history in one room. It's looking at four decades of Wayne, his thought process and how fashion has evolve. In Canada, he's probably one of our most important designers."
So what does one of Canada's most important designers have to say to new designers?
I asked Wayne what makes a good illustration and he said that a fashion illustration captures the mood of everything; it captures the designer's vision of what the woman wearing the outfit should look like. It gives you a vague idea, the essence of a design. A good illustration happens quickly and Wayne says, "If I don't get the face right, it's over."
He cited Kenneth Paul Block as an example of a talented and influential fashion illustrator. Mr. Block worked at W and WWD for 40 years.
Geoffrey Person, the new O'Connor Gallery owner also advises that authenticity and emotion are vital components to a good fashion illustration.
How does Wayne use illustrations in the design process? When preparing a collection, Wayne says, "I usually start on a Saturday afternoon alone in the studio, hopefully with a great piece of music and I'll start illustrating the things that I'm thinking about and build on that. Then what we try to do is have on the wall some kind of illustration." From there, he builds on them and makes the groupings. Once a season is over, they're done and usually put away. They all had to get pulled out of storage boxes for this exhibit.
After so many successful years in the fashion industry, here is his advice for new designers who want to start a business in Canada: "You'd better do it just because you love it. Don't do it because you think you're going to be rich. Don't think you're going to have a great personal life. It is the most all-consuming business and the only way to survive it is to give it everything you've got."
The great thing about this exhibit is that Wayne is using it to support young Canadian fashion talent. He wanted the exhibition to be a fundraiser, so there will be a new award for Ryerson University Fashion students called the "Wayne Clark Fashion Design and Illustration Award." It will award students who are particularly gifted with hand-rendered illustrations. If you would like to donate, please contact the Manager of the Annual Fund at 416.979.5000 ext. 6516.
For those of you wondering what I've been working on for the past few months, I'm happy to let you know that I was working on the launch of FOX (www.foxcanada.ca).
FOX is a retail chain of apparel and accessories that began in Israel and is now in Europe, Asia, and South America. Now it is in North America, with the opening of three stores in the Greater Toronto Area.
Tonight, I produced a launch event that included a media preview, launch party, and FOX Brand Ambassador fashion show. It was packed, fun, and a resounding success. I'd like to think it is because of all my checklists!
P&G Beauty sends e-blasts every so often highlighting the latest news, so I visited www.pgbeauty.ca and was very impressed with Pat McGrath's Autumn/Winter 2008 lookbook.
Pat is an international makeup artist and P&G Beauty Ambassador. She interpreted runway looks and instructed how they were achieved with P&G products and tools. If makeup is your passion, I recommend checking out this site and this lookbook.
If you're curious about the TFI New Labels Competition and want to learn more information, head to L'Oreal Fashion Week on Friday October 24. At 2:00PM, the annual TFI New Labels seminar will take place in the Fashion Environment tent at Nathan Phillips Square. Guest speakers will be David Dixon, National Post fashion writer Nathalie Atkinson, and 2008 TFI New Labels® winner Eugenia Leavitt.
Tickets for the TFI New Labels® seminar are available for $25.00+GST and can be purchased online.
I recommend this seminar to anyone who wants to enter the competition. You will receive valuable advice.
Hey guys! Thanks for checking in while I was checking out for a month.
Well, I wasn't really checking out. I've been working 3 jobs and while doing that, I was still collecting bloggy information for you. The thing is that I didn't have time to write everything down.
Now I finally have a free day to catch up on everything, so grab a coffee or a glass of wine, sit back, relax, and read a month's worth of fashion biz posts....
This week, Adwoa from Arm Candy Casa (www.armcandycasa.com) wrote to invite me (and you!) to their Family and Friends Thanksgiving Sale this weekend. Naturally, I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions:
Carolyn: Who are you and what made you decide to open a fashion business?
Adwoa: I am 27 years old, born and raised in Toronto. I actually have a background in International Development and cooperation studies. I focused on Micro-enterprise, micro-finance and social entrepreneurship in my Master's program in Grad school. After graduation, I had a CIDA/Net-CORPS/ CCI placement in West Africa as a small business development trainer working with vulnerable groups of women (a few men) to build their businesses (most were tailors, hairdressers, artisans). The placement was for 5months, and my experiences during that time really drove me to open my business here.
During my placement, I created/facilitated workshops on business skills (marketing and branding, quality control, accounting,etc). I found that many of the people/groups I worked with were very talented and capable of being really successful if given the right tools (eg. better sewing machines, marketing), financing, focused business guidance, and an outlet. Being a recent grad myself, money was not my strong point, so upon my return, I thought "Hey I could do the latter two." I thought about things like working with the them to create a fair trade brand, or set-up and promote their works here. I had a bunch of grand ideas!
After much thought and guidance from my fiance (who is more experienced in business), I decided to start small: an online business or a small retail location where I could support some of those artisans as well as other local and independent designers and artist who are just starting out. We wanted to do something different; create a place with a different atmosphere than the usual bag store, a place with artistic, exclusive, and reasonably priced items, and a place that raises the bar of quality and presentation of fair trade and independent artisan designs.
All this mixed with my healthy obsession with accessories (my bag and necklace collection is getting out of hand!) moved me to open this boutique! The store carries some fair trade lines, pieces from socially-motivated organizations and designers, local designers, as well as indie lines we find (online, at the one-of-a-kind show, and word-of-mouth).
C: What have you learned since opening a store?
A: IT IS HARD WORK! Wow! I never thought running a shop was so challenging. One major thing I have learned is you have to stay on top of things, you have to keep re-inventing yourself, stock, and store image (especially with a small location like mine, which is approximately 350sq ft!). People come to the store, love it and the pieces, then they usually ask when are you getting new stuff! Torontonians love the fresh and new, so in order to make it I have to meet that and try to give more!
C: Do you have any advice for aspiring accessory designers?
A: You have to invest in yourself and be educated on the business-end. I think with any small independent venture, know your responsibilities and options, whether be in terms of taxes, accounting and finance, DIY marketing options, etc. Really think about where you want to take your designs, and be selective in things you associate yourself with. Like it or not, a lot of people are concerned with branding and image.
C: What is the best tactic to approach a store owner with your accessory designs?
A: I think it is important to believe in your product, keep at it, and do not be discouraged. With that said, some designers come and want to be paid up-front from go. But what incentive is there for the owner who also has serious overhead cost to carry your pieces? I think it is best to do a consignment trial; you should try to be flexible in the arrangement.
Timing is very important! Try to avoid approaching in the very beginning or the end of the month! (Hello bills!!) Check the calendar to find out what is going on around town. Get yourself, your product and supporters involved!
Also, create your own hype! If space permits in the store, do a meet and greet, or a launch event. Invite all your friends, reach out to the Toronto fashion blogs, and make some noise for your line!
As you know, marketing companies have caught on to bloggers as "social influencers", so every now and then, I'll get some stuff, but since I write about what it's like to run a fashion business, I usually can't write about it. Then again, some things intrigue me enough to accept and analyze it from a small business perspective.
This is one of those times, Matchstick Marketing (www.matchstick.ca) called to offer me over $800 worth of product from CARE by Stella McCartney (www.stellamccartneycare.com). Tempted with the offer of testing a skincare line made of 100% organic ingredients, I had to confess that I would not be able to give a product review because that's not what I do. What I could do, though, was talk about the entire marketing initiative.
Now I have an array of Cleansers, Toning Water, Moisturizers, and Elixers, which I've been enjoying for over a week. I feel like my bathroom is an environmentally-friendly spa. Even though I wasn't going to give a product review, I can't help saying that I love it.
But from a branding perspective, I'm not sold. The actual product has an earthy, Aveda-like feel, but the bottles are packaged in silver cardboard tubes that are futuristic and not particularly recyclable. Although, if the branding message for CARE by Stella McCartney is "The Future is Organic", then they did get it right.
From a small business perspective, I am always amazed at how much funding and energy large business must put into marketing and branding a product. Everything has to be on-brand and there is so much to consider: product, logo, packaging, labels, communications voice, website, letterhead, and more. It can be daunting how much work is put into building a brand.
TFI member Jessica Jensen (www.shopjessicajensen.com) had so much great advice on Saturday that I forgot to tell you about her brilliant lookbook design.
Rather than produce a traditional, bound lookbook, Jessica produced a series of postcards with product photos on one side and technical drawings, style numbers, and design choices on the other. Apparently buyers loved it because they could separate the cards for models they were interested in ordering and made notes on them. The lookbook cards were a hit!
Not only that, but they were less expensive to produce than a traditional lookbook. That makes them a hit for independent designers on limited budgets.
I hosted an intimate Members Meeting at the TFI tonight, and it was wonderful. We got a chance to get to know each other and our fashion business goals while we discussed:
*promotion techniques (get to know stylists, familiarize yourself with editorial calendars, and be persistent!);
*marketing communication design;
As usual, it was great to meet with other people interested in the business of fashion. I look forward to the next meeting on Monday, November 3rd at 6pm. As usual, be sure to register in advance.
Jessica Jensen (www.shopjessicajensen.com) makes beautiful, classic handbags and is experiencing amazing success in the American market, just one year after debuting her collection at the TFI Press & Buyers Breakfast in 2007. This weekend, she hosted a sample sale in Toronto and was kind enough to talk to me about sample sales and selling in the United States.
Carolyn: What is a sample sale?
Jessica: Traditionally, a sample sale was solely samples. It was always initial samples that weren't up to production standards; they weren't first-quality goods. There are slight things that you change and vary for production and you perfect. Samples are really just those that you show as prototypes. Sometimes they are styles that you had and discontinued or cancelled or didn't put into production. Sample sales give fashion-forward people the chance to get their hands on some product that may not necessarily have made it into the main line and sold to the mainstream.
Now, usually, because sample sales have become so popular, there's a selection of inventory that's offered at not such a deep discount as the samples themselves, but it's still a great way to push inventory.
C: Why did you decide to hold a sample sale?
J: For two reasons. One, I mostly sell to the U.S., so I wanted to offer the Toronto public the chance to get their hands on Jessica Jensen bags. Secondly, cash flow is always a really important thing; clearing your inventory as quickly as possible, clearing your samples, making sure you have all the cash you can use for the next season. Spring/Summer 09 production is coming up for me, plus Fall/Winter 09/10 samples are going into production too, so cash flow for that is really important when you're spending $60,000 - $100,000 on leather for one season. You need to make sure there's a constant flow of money and you're not holding on to bags that can go out of date in a couple seasons. You don't want to hold on to them past the date of their glory.
C: You had a couple of great sales in the U.S. How did you do that?
J: We just launched with Takashimaya because they had a new buyer come on board and they wanted to pick up my line as quickly as possible, but their previous buyer hit close to their budget... I was very lucky that they did a trunk show with me and they picked up the line immediately following, even without a budget. They went over-budget and took on the line. I'm really excited; all their customers seem really pleased. They mailed out to 200 of their preferred customers and 155 RSVP'd. That was the largest RSVP they've ever had!
Then a tornado hit town, and a tornado in Manhattan doesn't usually happen, but the response in itself gave them a good indication that people were very interested in this product. It's not the same as the rest of the contemporary designers out there. There's a more classic element to it, it takes you from season to season. With the economy as bad as it is, it's important for me to offer an investment-worthy product.
C: How did you get to the point where such a huge buyer was interested?
J: I wanted to show to the Canadian market first, so I showed at the TFI Press & Buyers Breakfast as a debut last October and I had a very welcome response from everybody, but it was very quiet as compared to when I went to the U.S. in January with the line.
By March, I had over fifteen accounts and had everybody from Bergdorf's to Nieman Marcus to Sak's, Lord & Taylor doing wholesale and buyers calling me. It was a really generous response. I think it's a bit of a fresh concept towards contemporary designers. There's a lot of trend product out there, but there's not a lot of product that has intricate, artistic detailing in such classic silhouettes that are necessary to one's wardrobe. I hit on a bit of niche that was needed in the market.
C: Can you give a piece of advice to new designers who are wanting to start a fashion business?
J: Stay focused, stay consistent with what you are looking for in a brand, and understand your brand from every aspect of it: what it looks like, what it smells like, what kind of music it listens to, every little detail of it. Know your customer inside-out and constantly be yourself and be consistent. Because it's so easy to get caught up in what everybody else is doing, then you're just going to blend and you need to stand out at one point, so take that risk.
When the first show invitation arrives every season, I get excited. This season, evan & dean (www.evananddean.com) was the first arrival, and what a good arrival it was. There was a custom silver envelope with the evan & dean logo stamped on the back. The invitation itself was a postcard featuring a Spring/Summer 2009 photo on one side and all the information you need on the other. Well done, evan & dean and Faulhaber PR (www.faulhaber.ca).
I'm so excited about Fashion sCares on November 1 that here's another installment about what goes into planning Canada's biggest fashion show. This time I spoke with Jann Coppen (www.theideashop.ca/jann.html), a show producer with whom I worked with for many events. I learned a lot from Jann and you can too:
Carolyn: What's your role with Fashion Cares?
Jann: This year, The Idea Shop, my company, is involved in producing the segment for the Bank of Montreal. David Connelly is the choreographer for that.
C: How and why did you become involved with Fashion Cares?
J: I've been involved with Fashion Cares since the very beginning and worked with Phillip Ing on all the shows. I then became the Chair of Fashion Cares and my heart will always be with Fashion Cares and supporting it.
C: What is a typical workday for you as you prepare for the event?
J: Fashion Cares is a team of many, many people, so it's not one person ever. As Phillip Ing said tonight, it's a community. It's the fashion community. It's everyone involved in fashion that supports it and works at it.
C: What has been your biggest challenge when planning the BMO segment?
J: I don't think there's ever a challenge because now it's so well established that people want to be involved. It's almost to the point where you have to turn people away, and we never want to turn people away from Fashion Cares.
C: Do you have any show planning advice for fashion designers?
J: Somebody starting out in the fashion business should just volunteer, donate, get involved in as many events as you can. If you work hard, you'll soon become known and people call you in the end.
I bought a Snoflake (www.snoflakefashion.com) skirt at the first Clothing Show I attended and I kept running into designer Debbie Sutton at shows around Toronto ever since. She's a bit of a Clothing Show veteran, so I figured it was about time we sat down for a chat.
C: How long have you been doing the Show?
D: At least 14 times.
C: You're always busy at The Clothing Show. What's your secret?
D: Really great signage, having your own sign with your brand and all of it matching. It took me a while to get to that point, but it makes a huge difference. When people walk in, they see this huge sign with your brand on it and they know where to find you. After you've done this for a while, they come just to see you, so if they can find you more easily, it's great.
C: You often have double-booths with other designers. What's the reason for that?
D: Well, we're friends first of all, and it's more fun than just standing there on your own. Plus, we have a crossover of customers. We sell at a lot of the same stores, so our customers look for both of us anyways. And we're good friends, so it's more fun to share.
C: Has it been a worthwhile investment of time and money? Would you recommend it to new designers?
D: It seems like once you get more established, it's kind of better in a way, because there are customers that maybe can't afford your line - I can't even afford my own line! - and I love meeting creative people like myself and giving them a deal, so that means that I'm selling older stock. But with my newer stock, I do offer a discount as well. To do it the very first time, it's a little bit more of a challenge. The show itself has a boutique section now, so they're promoting a fuller priced item.
C: Do you have advice for anyone wanting to start a clothing company?
D: Do a lot of research on your target market. Do go slowly. Wholesale. There's no rush. Be careful with your production; only make what you've sold if you're doing it wholesale...When you're ordering your fabrics and trims, make sure you're not overbuying. Don't overbuy fabric, don't overbuy trims, don't overproduce, and really learn a lot. Talk to other designers, get information from them, and learn from other people's mistakes.
Karen Dagg and Stacey Patterson produce the successful line, Dagg and Stacey (www.daggandstacey.com), which is sold throughout Canada and the United States. I found them sharing a Clothing Show (www.theclothingshow) booth with Debbie Sutton from Snoflake, and asked them all a few questions. We'll start with Dagg and Stacey and tomorrow you'll hear from Snoflake.
Carolyn: How many times have you been at the clothing show?
Dagg & Stacey: At least 6 years, 12 times. More than 14
C: What do you do to prepare for the Clothing Show?
D&S: We go through all of our past season stock and select what we think people will want that season. We do sell some of our samples and then we put together our new stock for the show.
C: What are the benefits of participating in the Clothing Show?
D&S: Since we wholesale and don't have a retail store, it's nice to actually meet the people who wear our clothes. We get a lot of good feedback from them, so it helps us improve our fit. And it's just kind of fun to meet people who wear our stuff. It's also nice because we have a lot of regular customers who keep coming back to the clothing show, so we look forward to seeing them and seeing what's going on with them. It's nice for us because most of the time we just speak to buyers.
C: Do you have any advice to new designers who might be participating at the Clothing Show for the first time?
D&S: Try and make your booth not so sparse. A lot of people really like to hunt at The Clothing Show. They want to hunt for the thing that nobody else has or the deal that's amazing. Definitely put effort into how you do your booth, but at the same time, maybe make it a little squishy. Make it approachable too. The Clothing Show customer is not somebody who wants to go into a stark, scary looking designer booth. They want to go into something that's approachable...They have to have fun. They come to shop and it's a major outing for people who come from out of town.
I met Mildred Avendano (www.milavendano.com) at the last TFI Members Meeting, so when she told me that she was going to show her latest creations at The Clothing Show, I had to ask her some questions!
Carolyn:You're going to present your clothes on the runway at The Clothing Show this weekend. What have you done to prepare for the show??
Mildred: I set a goal for myself to get maximum exposure for my brand, 'Avendano'. I asked the organizer of the show for advice and then I decided to do the following things: plan a small contest, write a press release, send the release to the media list from the TFI website, and make two outrageous finale?dresses to attract attention from photographers entering the LouLou magazine photography competition. To make sure that I had my pieces done in time for the show and press release, I scheduled a photo shoot two weeks before the show. I designated remaining time for?designing flyers for the contest and finishing off my pieces.??
C: You recently graduated from OCAD in textile arts. Can you describe how you design and/or source fabric for your collections??
M: I have a passion for good fabrics. I usually look around Queen Street and I also like to visit Little India. For more interesting ideas, look at magazines such as surface or Fibre Arts to see what other textile artists are doing.??
C: Can you give any textile advice to fashion business owners??
M: I would say that fabric choice is very important and careful attention should be paid to the quality of the fabrics you choose. Also, give yourself room in your budget to experiment with fabrics, sometimes even expensive ones. It can really help set the direction for future collections.??
C: What has been the biggest challenge of owning your own clothing company??
M: The usual challenge: finance. I'm also trying to get more media attention and trying to find ways to get into more boutiques.??
C: What has been the biggest reward from owning your own clothing company??
M: Right now, the biggest reward is seeing my ideas from sketches and then on the runway. I also enjoy learning how to organize fashion shows, thinking up new marketing plans, and setting goals for the future. I'm still working a part time job, but I look forward to growing my brand and eventually committing more time to it next year when I officially launch my fall 2009 collection.
Last week, I attended the media launch of Fashion Cares (www.fashioncares.com) and I want to bring you updates as the event draws near.
Fashion Cares is known for combining unbelievable designers with amazing entertainment. Some of the design headliners this year include David Dixon, Pam Chorley, Izzy Camilleri and Greta Constantine and the entertainment headliners include Katy Perry, David Furnish and Kreesha Turner (www.kreeshaturner.com). Kreesha is all the rage with the Canadian fashion crowd, and she was kind enough to speak to me. The best thing I learned is that if you want to invite someone fabulous to your event, sometimes all you have to do is ask.
Carolyn: How did you get involved?
Kreesha: They approached me, so I feel so blessed. I'm so excited, especially here with the archive of world-class performers who have performed at Fashion Cares, I'm excited to be added to the yearbook.
C: You performed at the DSquared show. Do you wear any other Canadian designers?
K: I'm in love with Greta Constantine!
C: What can we expect from you at Fashion Cares?
K: At Fashion Cares, I get to dress up! I hope you'll be dressed up! That's why I'm excited to show up, to be in attire, and perform for whoever is there and be part of this exciting event!
Patricia Sheng has attended many TFI Members Meetings and provided much great advice. A few months ago, I interviewed her about what it was like to attend the MAGIC Show in Las Vegas for the first time, and now you can see what she found in Vegas (not everything stays in Vegas, apparently).
Today, she launched her web boutique, Luxual (www.luxualboutique.com) and wants to give my readers a lovely discount!
Visit the site, place an order, and use the following code to receive a 20% discount:
The offer is good through to Oct.31st. Happy shopping!
Since I've been so busy with 3 jobs lately, I couldn't attend the White Cashmere Collection event, but thanks to the amazing PR team associated with the event, I had everything I required.
I thought about how I'd be able to report on this initiative and when I received press releases and photos from Sarah at Strategic Objectives (www.strategicobjectives.com), I thought I should tell you about the importance of having a thorough PR rep who can contact colleagues and the media and follow-up with any questions. Sarah did an excellent job and sent me press releases, designer profiles, and photos. As a result I can tell you all about the White Cashmere Collection: A Touch of Pink.
Eight Canadian designers were asked to create couture garments inspired by a vision of a future without breast cancer and they did it with Cashmere bathroom tissue (white and a limited edition pink hue that is dedicated to raising funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation). TFI's Susan Langdon curated the collection of designs from Evan Biddell, Joeffer Caoc, Joyce Gunhouse and Judy Cornish for Comrags, David Dixon, Thien Le, Lucian Matis, Arthur Mendonça, and Ula Zukowska.
If you missed the event as I did, we’ll all be able to see the BT couture at www.cashmere.ca and in The Bay’s Toronto flagship store windows at Yonge and Richmond Street starting October 3 for three weeks, as part of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities.
Check it out. You won’t believe what can be done with bathroom tissue.
Valerie Steele (www.valeriesteelefashion.com) is not only the Curator and Director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, but she is a prolific fashion writer. If you are a fashion fan and haven't read any of her books (http://valeriesteelefashion.com/blog/category/publications/), I question your devotion to the art of fashion.
Her latest book is called "Gothic: Dark Glamour" and it is a companion to her New York exhibit of the same name. Both book and exhibition are earning praise, so it was an honour to hear her talk about gothic fashion at luxury sunglass boutique, ILORI (www.IloriStyle.com).
But here's where I get critical: why would a luxury sunglass boutique host this event? Did it make any sense?
Yes, it did.
ILORI did an excellent job of tying in Dr. Steele's work with their own curated "exhibition" of "Dark Angels" sunglasses. The event was indeed an evening that provided a bit of dark luxury. I was impressed with Valerie's presentation, the opportunity to preview the book, the detailed catering, and the availability of the PR reps to answer any of my questions. I also appreciated the local fashion connection when I learned that PlastikWrap (www.plastikwrap) designs are featured in the book and exhibition.
I can't wait to get my hands on that book and I'd love to go to New York to check out the "Gothic: Dark Glamour" exhibit at FIT.
Tonight, the AIDS Committee of Toronto (www.actoronto.org) announced its plans for Canada's biggest fashion show, Fashion Cares (www.fashioncares.com).
Last year, the production lacked the fashion part of Fashion Cares, but this year it's going to be back and better than ever, with Fashion sCares, what's sure to be the most fabulous masquerade ball Canada has ever seen.
Sadly, I'll miss it this year because a friend is getting married on November 1, but you can go and tell me all about it. I'm also hearing about it from the organizers, and I began by chatting with Phillip Ing, the Fashion Cares Artistic Director and Show Producer.
Phillip has been the Fashion Cares Artistic Director and Show Producer for nineteen of the twenty-one years of the event's existence, so he knows a lot about putting on a show. He was kind enough to share his event producing advice.
Carolyn: What is a typical workday for you as you prepare for the event?
Phillip: I do Fashion Cares in my spare time; I work with MAC Cosmetics during the day, so the people I work with, we get together a lot of weekends and a lot of evenings. Different people from the fashion community work for about 8 weeks straight to get it on stage for November first. It's a lot of work, but it's exciting work, it's fun work, and it feels so worthwhile because the AIDS Committee of Toronto (www.actoronto.org) does such good work.
C: What has been your biggest challenge when planning Canada's biggest fashion show?
P: The biggest challenge is to keep it exciting enough to be different enough to pull people in every year. It's gone up and down, but we've done that, I think, and coming up with a theme is a challenge. I think we have an amazing show for year twenty-one. We really do. With Katy Perry, Kreesha Turner, and David Furnish already confirmed, that's an incredible line-up for us. With everything going on, with the National Ballet back, I don't think everyone realizes how fantastic the choreographers I work with are...All of it is going to add up to a Hell of a lot of show!
C: Do you have any show planning advice for fashion designers?
P: To people in fashion, you've got to love it. It chooses you, maybe you choose it, but you've got to persevere. It's 2008 and you have to look beyond the local market. You have to look at all markets, you have to look at the world liking your stuff now. It didn't used to be that way. But you've got to love it, you've got to stick with it, and you just may break through. And good luck to everyone because it's hard to break through, but it is so worthwhile. It's just like an addiction; if you've got to live with it, you may as well take it to the top.
With so much work to do, I couldn't attend the TFI Press & Buyers Breakfast this morning.
For those of you who do not know what it is, it is a unique opportunity for select TFI members to get introduced to Canada's fashion press. It saves a ton of time and energy for a new designer who wants to spread the word about his or her work, but does not know how to do so. Membership has its privileges!
For a Press Breakfast recap, check out Insidefashion.com
During the last TFI Members Meeting, we discussed where to order a judy and Diana at Callia (www.callia.ca) found the name of the company from the U.S. where she purchased dressforms. She was happy with their service, speedy delivery, and at the time, it was cheaper than anything she found in Canada. Here’s the info:
18 Kennedy Blvd
East Brunswick, NJ
Last week, I attended two store openings in one night and in my rush to attend both and write reviews, I sacrificed fact for my own musing.
Thanks to Chris at the efficient PR agency ZOÏ (www.agence-zoi.com) for following up and setting me straight.
First, Andrew Buckler is a British-born, New York-based designer who creates menswear for the "Roguish American icon with a Brit edge". I wrote that he was an American designer.
Second, Chris assured me that the band members of Holy F*** were indeed outfitted with Buckler’s new Fall/Winter collection and were at liberty to choose what pieces to wear for the evening. So in some cases they only wore a couple of pieces. Brian, for instance, wore Buckler pants, shirt, and vest, and Graham, who also DJ’d, chose to just wear Buckler pants. I like that they encouraged the guys to wear the clothes, but allowed them to maintain their own style. What I like even more, though, was that this designer chose to support a local band and it was a partnership that made a lot of sense. I’d like to see a lot more of that happening between Toronto designers and musicians.
So, as it turns out, Buckler did everything right for their store opening and as a reviewer, I did everything wrong. Forgive me, Mr. Buckler. Please. If I was a guy, I’d run out and buy one of your fantastic fall jackets right now. For all the drinks, songs, and good times dished out at your Toronto store opening, your clothes were the highlight, and that is what matters most when opening a store.
After a summer hiatus, the TFI Members Meeting returned tonight and we had a great discussion. My favourite part was when we all discussed our fashion business goals and shared tips that we have learned. Here are a few of those tips:
I must say that styling for an illustrated photoshoot is much easier than a real photoshoot. No clothes to pick-up, wash, fit, or return. I just referred to websites, lookbooks, catalogues, and what I saw on the L'Oreal Fashion Week runway, and chose some fantastic ensembles. It did take quite a while to compile, though. A lot longer than I thought. I think stylists have a tough job.
See my "Street Chic" styling results from the perspective of Lucinda McRuvy at Rags and Mags.
The funny thing is, it's not my idea of "Street Chic"; I would never wear a bathing suit under a sheer jacket while walking down Queen Stret! It's fun to have a fictional fashion outlet.
Last night I attended two store openings: one for a local Toronto homegrown hero and one for an American designer. What were the similarities?
Preloved suffered in a horrible fire that destroyed half a block of Toronto's Queen Street West earlier this year, but it rose from the ashes, relocated a few blocks west, and opened last night. There was a more sophisticated design sensibility with the new store and I think Preloved will thrive with its mix of high fashion and ecological awareness. Guests included local scenesters, but you could tell that most people were there to celebrate Preloved's rebirth.
Andrew Buckler is an American designer who creates menswear for the "Roguish American icon with a Brit edge". That focus was consistent from the clothes to the store layout to the party cockails and media kit with lookbook. I thought it was especially smart to include a local band, Holy F*** . I couldn't tell if they were wearing Buckler clothing, which says a lot about a mixed message. If I was organizing the event, I would have given the band some signature Buckler pieces to wear. The crowd was comprised of as many (and in some cases the same) scenesters as Preloved, but this crowd seemed more interested in the event and the party than the clothes.
Both openings were successful and I realized that there are a few common elements to any store opening:
- Invitations sent well in advance.
- A store that reflects the brand.
- Free drinks! Sad, but true. You've got to shell out for those beverages and treat your guests well.
- Knowledgeable staff and/or PR reps.
- Packed venue.
I'm starting a new feature here on the blog called "How'd You Do That?" and I'm starting with Philip Sparks because he is showing at the GenArt show in New York tomorrow. I had to ask, "Philip, you're in the famous GenArt show! How'd you do that?" Here's his response:
" knew of GenArt shows and considered applying, but decided to do that another season. I wasn't intending to show initially.
I was in New York three and a half weeks ago for fabric shows and then men’s market. I arranged meetings with buyers and press and stayed on to do market research. During my last week in New York, I received an e-mail from GenArt in LA (they have shows in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami). Someone nominated me for the LA show! "
[It turned out that a womenswear boutique owner in LA nominated him. She knew who he was, even though she's based in Los Angeles and doesn't sell menswear!]
"I responded right away because I knew of the organization and it was something that I wanted to do, but I didn’t expect them to come to me.
The GenArt contact wanted me to show in LA, but I was in New York with my samples, so I asked if I could send them after my New York trip.
Days went by, then I got an email from NY staff saying that geographically, New York was a better place for me to show since I'm based in Toronto. They saw my collection on the last day I was there. Two hours later, I received a phone call inviting me to participate!
So after my first trip to NY, I got offered a spot in the GenArt show. It wasn't because of any work I did in applying, but I'd like to think it's all the other work that's paid off."
Every day I pass by two lovely womenswear shops near my office.
Every day I am saddened that I pass by two lovely womenswear shops on a street without much pedestrian traffic.
And every day I wonder why the store owners chose those locations.
Sure, cheap rent is good for a business owner, but when it costs you business, it makes no sense. When opening a store, you should do your demographic research. Go to City Hall and research the neighbourhood stats. For instance, you might want to open a doggie fashion store near a well-known dog walk and you'd want to open a baby wear store in an area with young families. I thought it was common sense to do this, but judging from these two stores, it isn't.
I just received a note from Melinda Mattos, editor of eye weekly's holiday gift guide. She's looking for local Toronto products, so if you have anything that would be a good fit, please send it to her attention at:
c/o EYE WEEKLY
625 Church Street, 6th fl
My new contract position at the branding company is great. I thought I'd just go in and do what I normally do for project and event planning, but I learned something new today: media buys.
Did you know that there are people who are hired to buy advertising spots for companies? Yup, and I got to compose a proposal for buyers. The project I'm working on is online-oriented, so I did a bunch of research about online advertising and recommended some of my favourite Toronto fashion blogs for advertising possibilities.
It's a neat little project because I'm learning so much about a corporate retail launch rather than a DIY, indie launch. I can't wait to show you the website next week! (well, hopefully next week!)
A new clothing store for artistic professionals launched today. It's called Trap Door and they're looking for some Canadian designers. Perhaps you should check it out.
Are you trying to figure out the best way to send news to your client list?
I notice that most designers and the TFI use Constant Contact. You can format a newsletter to add colour, graphics, and text the way you intend it to be seen. Just be sure to time your e-blasts so they are sent at the right time intervals to keep your clients engaged and not annoyed with too many messages.
For those of you fashion business owners based on Ottawa or those who have a client base in Ottawa, you might want to check out the Capital Clothing Show during September 20 and 21.
There's a new magazine in town that's perfect for small fashion businesses: Profiles in Handmade Fashion.
The publisher/editor, Maggie, is seeking submissions and advertisers, so perhaps you'd be interested in checking this out.
Earlier this week, Toronto's fashion media community received an invitation for The White Cashmere Collection: A Touch of Pink. It's a collection of dresses made from white and limited-edition pink Cashmere bathroom tissue! And it stars eight of Canada's best designers: David Dixon, Arthur Mendonca, Joeffer Caoc, Comrags, Lucian Matis, Thien Le, Evan Biddell, and Ula Zukowska.
The invitation had uncredited illustrations, which sparked a fun game suggested by Danielle Meder (www.finalfashion.com, www.ragsandmags.com). Who was responsible for each illustration?
A flurry of back-and-forth e-mails between a few Toronto fashion bloggers revealed something a bit embarrassing: we couldn't identify Canada's top designers from one illustration! Did that say something bad about us as reporters or did that say something bad about designers since their styles aren't easily identified? If a designer has a strong point of view, one illustration should be enough.
I do have one piece of good news: we all agreed on David Dixon's illustration.
I can't wait to see the designs in September. The winner of our little game will receive a roll of Cashmere bathroom tissue!
A friend asked me for advice to give her friend who recently graduated from a cosmetics school. The friend wants to work in fashion, film, or TV, but doesn't know how to break into the business. Here's the advice I gave and thought some of you would like to hear it too:
The thing she should work towards is getting artist representation, but that will take time. I recommend that she check out Artist Agencies in her city (In Toronto, I recommend Plutino Group, Judy Inc., and The Artist Group). Agency sites should have artist portfolios online, so look through them to find a few makeup artists whose work she admires. She should contact those artists and the agencies with a resume, cover letter, and portfolio and tell them her goals and how she can help them and gain experience at the same time. A really good strategy is to find one or two people who she really likes and invite them out for a coffee for an information interview to find out how they got started in the biz. Most people are nice about that. She might even want to take an agent out to lunch to discuss the business and how to get started.
Volunteering at fashion shows in any capacity is a good start. She will not likely get a makeup artist position if she volunteers at fashion week, but if she has a backstage position or even a runway room position, she will start to understand more about the industry. Every bit of experience helps, so I encourage her to check out the fashion week site (www.lorealfashionweek.ca), click on "Volunteer" and follow the procedure. Now is a perfect time to ask about volunteering since Fashion Week is at the end of October. They'll be looking for volunteers in September.
Of course, the TFI is a great place to volunteer, especially for the New Labels show in the Spring. The TFI is also an excellent source of information about the fashion business in general. A morning or afternoon in the Resource Centre (available for TFI members!) would give anyone a good introduction to the fashion industry. I believe the Resource Centre has information on Artist Agencies.
P&G Beauty (www.pgbeauty.ca) sent me something interesting today: a list of contact information related to brands and products. This is a wonderful idea for makeup artists and beauty editors and a great example of how to make it easier to get your story to the media. When you want to promote your products, you want to make it as easy as possible for journalists to connect with you.
Today I received the invitation for the TFI Press & Buyers Breakfast and thought I'd use it as an illustration of good event planning. The Press Breakfast is 4 weeks away. Sending invitations a month before your event is perfect timing so guests can mark it on their calendars and plan appointments around your event.
Yesterday I looked through the TV listings and under The Shopping Channel, I saw "David Dixon Fashions".
I thought, "Really? Is David Dixon actually selling his clothes on The Shopping Channel?"
I'm not too sure about this sales strategy. I've always equated The Shopping Channel with with "discount" and "scam", so I was surprised to see David there. On the other hand, Canadian designers struggle to become a household name and The Shopping Channel has a large audience. I wonder if this could work. I hope it does and that David gets many new fans and some good sales.
The other day I ran into Michelle Turpin from Karamea (www.karamea.ca) on the streetcar and I was allowed a sneak preview to her Spring/Summer 09 lookbook. As usual, it was professional, well photographed and laid-out, and the clothes were elegant. I can't wait to see them up close.
This meeting made me think it was time to discuss fashion production timelines. It's mid-August and Michelle's samples were ready to photograph. Then she'll be able to to send lookbooks to stores and buyers before the end of August. She's right on schedule. As a fashion designer, you always have to be thinking ahead and balance design, production, and sales.
So I said I've been busy and I last told you in July that I'm managing the branding strategy for a retail launch, and it's been an interesting experience. I'll tell you the store's name when the website's up, but in the meantime, I thought you'd like to know what I've been doing:
- Implementing the branding strategy. My employers determined this before I came aboard, but a large part involves recruiting and managing Brand Ambassadors, which I've been doing for the past few weeks.
- Determining the company's voice. I'm writing copy for various outlets to ensure a consistent message.
- Working with the Public Relations team to create a media strategy in line with the brand message.
- Managing the tech team to create the website.
- Planning the launch event and fashion show.
Of course there are a lot of tasks to complete within those parameters, so you can see why I've been so busy. Stick with me; I'm still aiming to bring you news on starting fashion businesses, but it's been hard to balance all my commitments lately. I can't wait to tell you more about this project too.
After a summer hiatus, the TFI Members Meetings return on Monday September 8. In celebration of the Toronto International Film Festival, I think we should talk a bit about Members experiences with getting their products in movies. Of course, we'll talk about a bunch of other things too, so if you're interested in attending a Fashion Business Support Group, then register online and come out to the TFI on the evening of Monday September 8.
As you can tell, I've missed a bunch of posts. I'm sorry, but my summer schedule (with 3 jobs!) has been so hectic that I haven't had time to follow-up on interview requests or attend many events. I've also noticed that there haven't been too many events and I suspect it's because people don't plan much in the summer. Vacation schedules and holidays are points to remember when planning any fashion-related event.
I started my new contract position last week and I'm welcome to blog about it. So what am I doing?
I'm managing the branding strategy for the North American launch of a European retail store. I'm going to keep quiet on details for now until we've got the website running, but I'll let you know that I'm working for a company called Brand and Tonic (www.brandandtonic.com) and I might have an interesting opportunity for some of you in the near future. I'll be looking for some Brand Ambassadors to help spread the word and it could be a neat experience for those of you who want to learn about launching a store. I should have more information for you next week.
Today I had a quick phone conversation with Jodi Opsahl, the Fashion Leasing Representative of an exciting endeavour called Fashion Central (www.fashioncentral.ca).
It's going to be a high-end retail complex in a renovated heritage building at the heart of downtown Calgary, set to open in Fall 2009. There doesn't seem to be a particular focus on local designers, but on a fashion space in general.
I hope to talk to Jodi again and look forward to seeing Fashion Central's progress next time I visit Calgary.
Yes, you saw in yesterday's post that I was on my way to Calgary. I came here for a family wedding, but thought I'd take some time to check out the local fashion scene, so I tracked down Lincoln Phillip (http://lincolnphillip.blogspot.com/), a style writer whose reporting I admired when I was still living in Calgary. We met at a favourite coffee shop and talked Calgary fashion.
Lincoln was always into fashion, but never planned on being a writer. He wanted to be a designer, but then studied Business Administration at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and then Communications at the University of Calgary. His papers and research always related to fashion and then a professor encouraged him to write. Though Lincoln was more interested in television, he ended up writing PR content for artists and eventually wrote the style section for FFWD, Calgary's entertainment weekly. During that time, he worked at Holt Renfrew and while working there, he ended up meeting Pam Klaffke, a Calgary Herald writer. Now Lincoln writes a weekly column about fashionable Calgarians for the paper and is FLARE's Calgary correspondent.
Not bad for someone who hadn't planned on being a fashion writer!
He was the perfect person to fill me in on what's happening in the world of Calgary fashion. We began with a general discussion about the city's style and we both agreed that since Calgary is growing a lot, there are more independent boutiques, but that to promote local or Canadian designers, the boutiques have to educate customers and work hard to create customer loyalty for those who want to take risks on home-grown designers. Unfortunately, we also agree that Calgary customers are brand-driven and not likely to purchase local. Lincoln believes that Edmonton has stronger support for local designers.
On the upside, the booming Calgary economy means more disposable income for fashion. Lincoln also senses a Calgary entrepreneurial spirit and support for people who understand the importance of local business. He also thinks that retailers and designers are cautious of the Calgary Cowboy stereotype and are working on shaking it.
So where can Calgarians find clothes to shake that stereotype and support local designers? Lincoln provided three excellent suggestions:
- Worth Boutique (http://www.calgaryplus.ca/shopping_services/worth/1078034)
- Shisomiso (www.shisomiso.com)
- If Looks Could Kill Art Boutique (www.myspace.com/lookscouldkillartboutique)
And who are Lincoln's favourite Calgary designers?
- Kendall Yellowhorn (http://lincolnphillip.blogspot.com/2006/02/aline-kendall-yellowhorn-homme-fw-06.html)
- Haithem Elkadiki (www.kaadiki.com)
- Paul Hardy (www.paulhardydesign.com)
- 442 McAdam (http://www.442mcadam.com/)
After this meeting with Lincoln, I was sad I only had two quick days in Calgary. It wasn't enough time to check out all the new style initiatives happening in the city. Guess I'll have to stay longer during the winter holidays this year.
Today I travelled to Calgary and in the airport I found an interesting magazine. It's a business magazine for women called HEART. I admit that the leopard print stiletto on the front cover caught my eye.
The content kept me reading. There are some uplifting profiles of successful women, information on mentors, style in the workplace, advice, and exercises for improving your business talents. You might want to check it out. www.heartbusinessjournal.com/home.html
Losing My Virginity: Richard Branson: The Autobiography
As you know, I love reading and I especially love biographies, so I picked up Virgin Group founder and billionaire Richard Branson's autobiography. Thought I could get some business tips from him. What did I get?
"...it became apparent to me that business could be a creative enterprise in itself. If you publish a magazine, you're trying to create something that is original, that stands out from the crowd, that will last and, hopefully, serve some useful purpose. Above all, you want to create something you are proud of. That has always been my philosophy of business. I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive then I believe you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving; it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts."
"Even though I'm often asked to define my 'business philosophy', I generally won't do so, because I don't believe it can be taught as if it were a recipe. There aren't ingredients and techniques that will guarantee success. Parameters that, if followed, will ensure a business can continue, but you cannot clearly define our business success and then bottle it as you would a perfume. It's not that simple: to be successful, you have to be out there, you have to hit the ground running; and, if you have a good team around you and more than your fair share of luck, you might make something happen. But you certainly can't guarantee it just by following someone else's formula."
"I may be a businessman, in that I set up and run companies for profit, but, when I try to plan ahead and dram up new products and new companies, I'm an idealist."
Apart from those quotes, I learned a lot about diversification from this book. It's an amazing read if you want to learn about non-traditional routes to business success.
When lounging on my couch channel surfing, I’ve always skipped over the business-y stuff, but last night, the Business News Network (www.bnn.ca) had a special on LuluLemon.
Sorry, but I can’t find the actual documentary online, but perhaps it will show up soon. Google “Lululessons” and see if you find anything. It is worth tracking down because they discuss everything, including creating a strong corporate culture, positive branding, and intelligent expansion.
I’m sorry, but I’ve had so many ups and downs this week that I haven’t been able to follow any fashion business news for you.
In the up part of my week, I did accept a new part-time contract position that does involve the fashion biz! I’ll tell you more when I’m able to do so.
Last night during the Promostyl seminar, there was an epic thunderstorm and guess whose loft got flooded? Yes, mine. It wasn’t fun. I won’t go into details, but I think this is a very good time to remind you to review your business (and home!) insurance policies with care. Try to imagine all kinds of scenarios in which you can find yourself (lost or damaged samples, flood, fire, vandalism, theft, etc.) and see if your insurance policy will cover you. I cannot emphasize how important this is.
I really enjoy attending Promostyl seminars. They get me all excited and motivated for future projects. Judging from our TFI Members Meeting after the presentation, everyone else feels the same way.
I’m not going to give away all of the trend information because people pay hard-earned money for information from Promostyl, but I can tell you that environmentalism isn’t going away. If your business isn’t ecologically or socially responsible, I do think that you’ll have a tough time staying in business.
But that’s just my opinion, and that’s coming from someone who didn’t stay in business! I did have a neat social responsibility plan, though. Ask me about it the next time you see me.
The next time TFI Members will see me will be in September. We’re taking a summer break from Members Meetings, but they will return on Monday September 8. Read here or watch your inbox for information.
Since this was the week of blog reviews, I thought I should bring up the subject of business blogging. It’s an inexpensive, quick way to gain attention for your company and distribute current news, but is your business blog interesting? That is the question posed by Business and Blogging (www.businessandblogging.com).
If you’re planning to post a blog about your company, perhaps you should read this article (www.businessandblogging.com/is-your-business-blog-interesting/) first, because a lot of blogs do not say anything new and may be detrimental to your business. This blog has many fashion business discussions, so you might want to check out the site.
I want to thank the Business of Fashion Blog for taking me to the Indie Breakfast Club (http://indiebreakfastclub.wordpress.com/). It "explores the intersection of entrepreneurship, self-actualization and social responsibility." For those of you who appreciated my GOOD Magazine (www.goodmagazine.com) post, this blog is for you.
I honestly think that the future of business incorporates aspects of social and environmental responsibility. The Indie Breakfast Club examines this and is essential if you're planning a business with a conscience.
It's Canada Day, so I thought I'd talk about two professional fashion journalist blogs I admire: one from the U.S. and one from Canada. One belongs to Cathy Horyn (http://runway.blogs.nytimes.com/) and the other to Nathalie Atkinson (http://www.nationalpost.com/search_results.html?q=Nathalie+Atkinson) at the National Post's Arts & Life blog, The Ampersand (http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/theampersand/default.aspx).
It's got to be difficult to blog and write print columns at the same time because the audiences are different and choosing original content can be challenging, but these two excel at print and electronic writing. They are concise with design critiques, they know the business side of fashion, and like to highlight new designers. I like them both. In this case of the U.S. vs. Canada, I'd call it a tie.
While reading The Business of Fashion site yesterday, I found an article that discussed Canadian brand JUMA and the Los Angeles design scene (http://www.businessoffashion.net/2007/08/juma-exploring-.html#more).
What's more, the site highlighted JUMA's blog, so I thought you should see it too (www.juma.ca/content/blogcategory/7/13/). Recent posts have wonderful illustrations of their organic cotton designs.
It's been a hectic time for me with work, band (www.myspace.com/satanscandyrocks), Rags and Mags (www.ragsandmags.com), and other obligations, so I've had trouble finding the time to arrange interviews with people in the fashion business. I do have some planned, but I just haven't been able to make them work. While trying to sort them out, I’ll use this week to search for sites that will help you with your fashion business. The first is The Business of Fashion (www.businessoffashion.net).
Imran Amed, "a professional advisor, investor and commentator operating at the intersection of business and fashion", edits the site, which balances fashion news, trends, and - of course - the biz. I highly recommend it, especially the section on how to find the right investors and partners (http://www.businessoffashion.net/2007/06/the_business_of.html).
Rags and Mags (www.ragsandmags.com), the comic-blog that I created with illustrator Danielle Meder (www.finalfashion.ca) has enjoyed some wonderful press (http://ragsandmags.com/press-and-praise/). Today we were highlighted in the T.O. section of The Globe and Mail, which made our weekend. We’re thankful for the attention we get from journalists, bloggers, and readers and I’m happy to say that the praise is genuine since we haven’t had a traditional PR strategy.
I figure that if you’re a new designer trying to get your name out, you’d love to get your name into The Globe and Mail, National Post, or other publications, you’re wondering how we did it. Our initial PR strategy was simply “networking” since formal press releases have saturated inboxes. Since Rags and Mags isn’t formal, we figured a more natural, social communication stands out.
We deliberately launched our site quietly a week before L’Oréal Fashion Week and linked to our blogger friends to see if they’d notice us. They did. Then we made up simple Rags and Mags cards to distribute at Fashion Week. During the week, we talked to almost everyone we could about our new endeavour, hoping they’d go visit the site. They did, and we slowly learned that we had a fan base of dedicated fashion insiders, which was our goal. Our strategy is not about reaching the masses; we are reaching out to specific people.
We didn’t issue a standard press release until recently, when we launched a contest for readers to style Much Music Video Awards outfits for our two characters, Max and Lucinda. We chose that route because we had something visceral to offer (in this case, a contest). As Danielle says, “The ‘Hi we exist’ pitches don’t give the media anything ‘newsworthy’ to grab on to – plus people develop an immunity to people who pitch without a point.”
We received mentions in TFI News and NOW, which increased our readership. The TFI News announcement was especially helpful.
Now we’re exploring new PR ideas as our site grows (if you’re a new reader, click on “Start Here: At The Beginning” or “Who’s Who”), but from this experience I have some PR advice for you:
1. Make sure you have a unique product. It will get people talking.
2. Start small (unless you have a large budget).
3. You can get your name out easily and inexpensively through blogs. Comment on sites that you like and admire and build a relationship. Bloggers notice readers and comments.
I received an e-mail today from a TFI Member and reader of this blog wondering if I have any recommendations for silk screeners in Toronto. Can you help?
If not Toronto, can you provide any advice for finding and working with silk screeners in general? Your suggestions are appreciated.
It’s really interesting to attend a completely indie event right after a completely corporate event; they have such different atmospheres. Yesterday it was Forever 21 and CoverGirl, today it was Eco Bags at Keep Six Contemporary art gallery (http://keep6c.com/main/).
The Keep Six launch was obviously lower key than the previous night’s affair, but each event knew its audience and catered to it. It took me a while to understand and accept why anyone would pay over $100 for a canvas bag, but it was art and making an ecological statement all rolled into one event.
I wondered how I could mention this event to you because I don’t think that ecologically conscious shoppers are necessarily the people who could spend over $100 on a bag. They would re-use existing bags, so I think it would be a bad business idea to charge a lot of money for an eco-bag. I guess Anya Hindmarch’s “This Is Not a Plastic Bag” bag would be an exception. Another exception would be an art collector.
An Eco Bag as art object? My mind is still trying to get around it, but I figured out a way to link this event to you fashion business owners with an ecologically and socially conscious agenda. I have a magazine/website for you. It’s called Good (www.goodmagazine.com) and while it doesn’t deal with fashion, reading through it might give you ideas on how to create an ethical business.
Tonight CoverGirl and Forever 21 combined forces to highlight summer trends and they did this by bringing in some well-known Canadian names: CoverGirl Makeup Pro Paul Venoit, Canada’s Next Top Model Rebecca Hardy, and Celeb Gossip Lainey.
I don’t know what to tell you about this event that would be different than any other corporate event I’ve blogged about. When you have the funds, you can get the names, drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and gift bags to make your guests happy. It was a nice event that was coordinated well, with competent door people and staff. We learned about summer trends and now I’m telling you about it, so it was effective.
I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned Etsy (www.etsy.com) already, but if I can’t remember, then neither can you, so I’m going to mention it now. It’s an online boutique that has been recommended to me by many new business owners. They say that it is an easy, inexpensive way to set up an online boutique, so if you’ve got a small DIY business, you might want to check it out.
With all my “club” posts this week, I suppose I should have titled this one “Carolyn’s Seminar Club”. I got tired of writing “club”, though, so you got stuck with this title.
Anyway, what timing: I wrote about fashion PR on Tuesday and today I received a TFI announcement for the next seminar, DIY Press Kits. Fashion PR veteran Nina Budman will be leading this seminar, so I’m sure it will be useful for new business owners who cannot afford a publicist.
Did you know that you can attend even if you aren’t a TFI member? Call TFI Admin for more information (416.971.7117).
NP and The Globe
Hermès opened a new store on Toronto’s Bloor Street on Tuesday and Christian Blanckaert, Executive Vice-President, International Affairs, was there. So were some excellent journalists who covered the event from fashion and business perspectives, musing on what luxury means in this economy. You should read Nathalie Atkinson’s article in the National Post and the story by Jennifer Wells in the Report on Business in the Globe and Mail.
Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success
A speaker at a panel discussion recommended the book, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success (http://www.amazon.com/Brazen-Careerist-New-Rules-Success/dp/0446578649). I picked it up and recommend it to you.
It’s useful for people looking for work or looking to improve their job satisfaction and productivity. It’s also useful for people like me who have tried a few different things and are building a career mosaic rather than a linear path. I appreciated the chapters titled, “Detours Are the Route to Happiness” and “Corporate Life Is Too Risky”. The “Risky” chapter is all about entrepreneurship and I liked the list of entrepreneurial traits:
1. Have knowledge of your market;
2. Build an extensive network;
3. Be committed to the business; and
4. Be ready to fail fast and move on.
I can relate to the fourth point and the first sentences after it was made: “Most business leaders fail once or twice before hitting it big. Think of failure as a necessary career step and don’t trip; recognize when things are going poorly, fail fast, learn, and get another idea.”
I’m happy to report that with my fashion company, I recognized, failed fast, and learned. Now I’m always thinking of other ideas.
If you can’t afford the book or don’t have time to read it at the moment, you might want to read author Penelope Trunk’s blog (http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/). You will learn a lot from her business advice.
Remember when I wrote that TFI was going to present Eleven Minutes (http://www.jaymccarrolldocumentary.com/)? It’s the documentary about Project Runway Season One winner, Jay McCarroll as he plans his New York Fashion Week debut show and it is amazing.
For anyone with runway dreams who is interested in starting a fashion business, this is the perfect film. It shows the ups, downs, ins, and outs of planning a collection, finding financiers, organizing a show; how difficult and rewarding it can be.
For those of you who don’t dream of making the clothes, but promoting them, you’d be interested in the large role that publicist Nancy Kane plays, but it was her boss at PR firm, People’s Revolution, Kelly Cutrone, who you should probably read about (http://www.observer.com/2008/dark-angel-hills?page=0%2C0). I’d say that you could learn how not to do PR work through her example, but she is wildly successful, so how could I really say that? What I can say is thank goodness for Toronto’s sane and nice fashion publicists.
If you want to start a fashion business, you’ve got to remember the business part, so here’s a resource to help you: www.canadianbusiness.com.
I wrote about the magazine before, when they published an article about Damzels in this Dress designers at the Magic Tradeshow in Las Vegas, and was reminded of it this week. It was time to take another look and I found a lot of interesting stories in the ENTREPRENEUR section, including entire sections on Exporting, Managing, Sales & Marketing, and Startups. You should spend some time on this site.
I’m so sorry, but I’ve been so busy this week that I haven’t had time to do any research or arrange any interviews related to starting a fashion business. All my projects (a band, another website, sitting on the Board of a condo corp, a sewing contract, and a day job) caught up with me and demanded attention this week. I hope I haven’t let you down and will try to have more news for you next week.
If you’re a Canadian designer and haven’t heard about the new season of Project Runway Canada, read on.
The deadline to apply for Season 2 is Friday June 20, 2008. You can download applications at www.globaltv.com and can send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can’t wait to see you on the show!
There’s a movie that everyone keeps telling me to see and I’ll finally have the chance to see it at the ReelheART International Film Festival (www.reelheart.com).
Eleven Minutes is a feature documentary about the first Project Runway winner, Jay McCarroll (http://www.jaymccarrolldocumentary.com/) and it will screen on Tuesday June 17 at 7:00pm. I hope to see you there. I’ll be checking out other ReelheART films too. And BTW, TFI is hosting the screening.
I received a reader e-mail asking for advice on how to get involved in the fashion industry and I’m happy to help.
Volunteering is always the best way to start. Research what is happening in your city. Is there a fashion week? If so, the organizers always need volunteers.
If there’s no fashion week, are there any local designers in town? They always need help too. Call their office or e-mail an introduction and a resumé (make sure your resumé is professional and error-free). Tell them your interests, experiences, skills and availability and offer to help them out while you determine where you want to be in the fashion industry. Check out the list of TFI members on the incubator website to start and read through EVERY BIT of the TFI website! It really is a goldmine of information, especially the mentors section (tip: do a key word search to quickly find relevant articles). And don't forget that you can also volunteer for TFI.
Read Jeanne Beker’s book, Passion for Fashion: Careers in Style. It offers advice on different fashion careers and how to break into the biz.
If you’re set on being a fashion designer, I recommend that you get some formal fashion education from an accredited college or university. You'll need to understand the basics before embarking on a fashion design career. Check out Kathleen Fasanella’s site, www.fashion-incubator.com. It offers all kinds of technical information on patternmaking, grading etc.; industry terms that you'll need to know as a designer.
You’ll also want to check out your local fashion blogs for information on reputable events you can volunteer with or attend.
Overall, I think research, education and volunteer work are your best ways to break into the fashion industry.
Hi. I’m going to shamelessly promote my other site, Rags and Mags. Illustrator Danielle Meder (www.finalfashion.ca) and I are holding a contest. You can style our two fictional characters, Lucinda and Max, for the Much Music Video Awards. We were invited to the Revolver Afterparty and thought this would be a fun way to share the event with you. For information, go to www.ragsandmags.com/contest.
Tonight’s TFI Members Meeting was great. Not only did we all get pizza, an ELLE Canada magazine, and a chance to win some P&G Beauty products, we all got to share some fantastic conversation and great tips.
We chatted a bit about our experiences with TFI seminars and suggested ideas for future ones. It turns out that the TFI is listening to its members and planning a fabric seminar. I know a bunch of you will be interested in that, so stay tuned for details.
Since you weren’t able to attend, I’ll whisper some secrets that we shared:
* To manage your own PR, try registering your name and your company’s name on a Google News Alert (www.google.com).
* When selling to unfamiliar markets, start your market research with similar designers. Where do they sell?
* For information on independent shops, check out www.jargol.com.
* If you’re a Canadian designer ready to export to the U.S., go to www.nebs.ca for information on legal and shipping. They offer a program that explains all exporting details.
* Wondering how to get PR buzz and celebrity attention? TFI member Patricia Sheng (http://luxual.blogspot.com/) recommends checking out the Balmshell site (www.balmshell.com) and blog (http://balmshell-balmsquad.blogspot.com/) to see how to do it right.
If you want to hear more secrets, share tips, and talk trends, come out to the next TFI Members Meeting. It will take place on Tuesday, July 8 after the Promostyl FW 2009/2010 Trend Seminar. I’m really looking forward to the evening.
Last night was a busy fashion night. The F-List (www.f-list.ca) hosted an event to celebrate the Sex and the City movie release and to introduce the Toronto style scene to Fashion High (www.fashionhigh.ca). It’s a non-profit association of Canadian fashion professionals whose aim is to educate the public about Canada’s fashion industry while encouraging local shopping and sustainable design choices. Fashion High is a fairly recent initiative and the organizers welcome new members and ideas for branching out into chapters across Canada.
Today, European clothing company Belstaff (www.belstaff.com) held a fashion show at Brasaii, which was more like a trunk show than a fashion show. It was a smart way to introduce the new collection to journalists, stylists, and buyers.
They did everything right: greeters, press kits, look books, and access to the clothes. The clothes were hung on rolling racks and it was a simple setup, but easy to see.
Even though this event is for an established brand, it is an excellent model for new fashion businesses; it’s a way smarter investment than a fashion show. Sure it may not be as glamorous, but it gives a new designer the opportunity to meet fashion industry insiders and it allows those insiders the chance to examine the clothes.
Mind you, if your construction and fabrics aren’t top-quality, you may prefer a fashion show so critical fashion colleagues can’t examine substandard clothes.
Tonight I attended my first Fashion Group International (http://newyork.fgi.org/index.php) event. It was well organized and offered an excellent opportunity to network with fashion industry colleagues.
It featured a guest panel where Lynda Latner (Founder of Vintage Couture) spoke about the history of music and fashion; Roz Griffith Hall (Stylist who works with musicians including the cast of Canadian Idol) discussed styling; Laura (I’m sorry, I can’t remember her last name, but she works at Maple Music) had some great things to say about managing the entire artist package; and Graeme Maclean (Founder of Ukula magazine and retail store) addressed fashion and music retail issues. Robin Black (musician, hairstylist, TV personality, and soon-to-be wrestler) guided the event and added a lot of dazzle to the discussion.
I don’t know if I learned a lot from the event, but was entertained and impressed with the networking opportunities. I’m now considering an FGI membership and think you should as well.
I used to love Nylon magazine, but then I kind of grew out of it when it seemed to seek out trends too desperately.
Today, though, the mag came across my desk, so I took a look at it after ignoring it for a few years. I was interested in a feature with two fashion show DJs. Since this blog covers event planning and I always say that whatever you do to promote your business, it should be professional and organized, I realized that I haven’t really addressed event music.
If you’re a dedicated reader, you’ll know that I’m in a band and music is a big deal to me. Song choices can make or break an event. I found the Nylon interviews interesting because the two DJs approached their fashion show gigs differently. One had two months to plan the music and the other had two weeks. But both were in constant communication with the designer about the collection’s theme.
When planning music for your event, I do recommend working with someone who has DJ and technical A/V experience. I also recommend giving the person longer than two weeks to plan the tunes.
Next Monday, June 2nd, is another TFI Members Meeting and this time it will be at the TFI home base. I enjoy chatting about the business of fashion to people who are either just starting out or who have been working for a long time, so I’m looking forward to it.
I’m also looking forward to the July meeting because we’re planning something special. On Tuesday July 8, TFI is hosting the Promostyl (www.promostyl.com) trend forecasting seminar and the TFI Members Meeting will follow. It will be an interesting way to chat about the trends presented and perhaps share some ideas on how to put them in action.
The evening is for TFI Members only and you can register at www.fashionincubator.com/shop or call TFI Admin at 416.971.7117. See you there!
Okay, I’m not learning to knit, but I might be tempted. Today, Danielle Meder (www.finalfashion.ca) and I were exploring Toronto stores, searching for clothing and accessories for our fictional alter-egos at Rags and Mags www.ragsandmags.com) when we were drawn into The Knit Café(www.theknitcafetoronto.com). Neither of us are that into knitting, but we just finished a conversation about how maybe we should start when a sign told us, “Free Beginner Classes”. “Perfect!” we thought and went in to learn more. The sign didn’t lie; The Knit Café hosts some free starting classes, along with more advanced ones. If you’re interested, check out the store to learn more. The owners are former Outreach members and attended some TFI Members Meetings in the past, so I may attend one of their classes.
If you read my blog last year, you might remember a post about marketing and targeting bloggers (it was on January 17, 2007). At that time, I felt weird taking some Herbal Essences stuff and telling you about it because this is not a beauty blog, but I thought it was an interesting exercise in how large companies use the web for marketing.
This time, the promotion company, Matchstick (www.matchstick.ca) contacted me again to see if I loved chocolate. It turned out that I was the kind chocolate lover that they were looking for, so they sent me a bunch of Dove chocolates to try and mention in my blog. They said it didn’t matter if I liked the product or not (side note: I did. Too much.). Again, I felt weird about taking the chocolate and blatantly mentioning it in a fashion business blog, but I was intrigued with what sort of package they’d send out and what independent fashion designers can learn from this type of promotional approach. Here’s what I learned:
Am I selling my blogging soul by writing about this?
Let me know.
My friend Jenny just started working at IMAGO Zine (www.imagozine.com), which features “the best in International Indie Culture.” I hadn’t heard of it before, so I checked out the site and attended the fashion show for the launch of Issue 4. I liked what they were trying to do, which was combine fashion, art, and music, but it wasn’t the smoothest show I attended. Here’s what I learned from the event:
This was a creative show and it’s an interesting magazine. I look forward to reading Issue 4 and seeing future shows.
Next week (on Wednesday May 28), the TFI will co-present an evening on environmentally-conscious design. It’s called Design Green: A Call to Action and will highlight eco-design in different disciplines. Fashion, architecture, graphic design, and interior design will all be represented. The event is free to the public, with a suggested donation of $10 at the door, which will benefit the Design Industry Advisory Committee (www.diac.on.ca )and the TFI. For more information or to register your attendance, go to this site: www.usinglessenjoyingmore.com\designgree.
I never would have thought I’d enjoy sewing someone else’s designs as much as I do. It’s fun, but I don’t think every contract sewing job would be as pleasurable as this one.
I found something that combines my old life (urban planning and mapping) with my new one (independent design): Modern Urban Guides(www.modernurbanguides.com). I’ve been seeing them in shops on Queen West and Queen East and finally picked one up. They do an excellent job of listing indie stores and restaurants and have maps in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, and South Georgian Bay. If you’re an independent retailer in those areas, you should check into listing opportunities.
If you read my blog last year, you might remember a few entries about my first foray into contract sewing with Revive 45 and now I’m at it again.
My friend Shauna Ireland co-owns Revive 45 with Lindsay Perraton, but she also does a million other things (kind of like me!). Shauna is a stylist, event planner, designer, and an excellent dancer. She is about to launch a line of supercool belts called Waisted, so watch for those.
Tonight we got together to tear apart and re-build cowboy shirts to be sold at the Calgary Stampede. Shauna and I get a chance to catch up while she decides on designs and I sew what she wants. There may have some wine involved. Definitely lots of fun and lots of “Oh, that’s so cute!” or “So rock ‘n roll!”
Something tells me that other sewing contracts just wouldn’t be as fun. When the shirts are done, I’ll let you know where you can pick them up if you happen to be in Calgary and require some cool cowboy shirts for Stampede Week.
Tonight I attended the Made You Look Re-Launch and felt kind of guilty for not checking out the store before.
Made You Look used to be one Queen Street West jewellery store and gallery, but now it is two, right across the street from each other. The North side has more formal pieces while the South side has more whimsical accessories.
The event was everything a store launch should be. It began with announcements and reminders from Rock-It Promotions that provided all necessary information. Rock-It staff greeted guests and answered any and all questions. Jewellery designers were easily identifiable because they all wore Made You Look aprons and they welcomed impromptu questions about their work and their store. There was a cheerful crowd of designers, media, and local scenesters who enjoyed the art work as well as wine, hors d’oeuvres, and wonderful gift bags. You know what that means. It’s time to play….
Gift Bag Hit or Miss!
Many people are grappling with online promotion, so let me provide some advice: Bloggers and their readers can identify “marketing” easily and know when a product or event recommendation is genuine.
Here’s an example:
Anita Clarke of BlogTO posted a sample sale flyer on her personal blog, i want – i got and then received three comments in three minutes of each other. She realized they came from the same IP address, which means one person concocted personas and stacked the deck. As a result, it doesn’t give the best impression of the event.
What can we learn from this? Be genuine.
Sorry for the not-so-exciting blog week. The day job was busy while I caught up on 2 weeks worth of work, and while I did, I didn’t have much time to research fashion business stuff for you. Don’t fret; I’ll be on top of it soon.
You might remember my interview earlier this year with Regina-based jewellery designer Rachel Mielke of Hillberg & Berk www.hillbergandberk.com">(www.hillbergandberk.com). We chatted about her experiences as a Western Canadian in the fashion industry when she was in Toronto for the TFI’s Guilty Pleasures sale. Guess who will be returning to Toronto very soon?
Yes, Rachel will be back this month to film an episode of Dragon’s Den for CBC. I told you about it before: it’s that show where entrepreneurs pitch ideas to successful Canadian business moguls for the chance of investment funds and guidance. The moguls are indeed dragons and there is always criticism. The new season starts in the fall, so watch for it and pay attention for Rachel’s episode.
Belated Interview with Judge David Dixon
What would my New Labels coverage have been without an interview from designer David Dixon? I’m sorry that I had to hold this from you until my return, but here it is. For those of you considering entering New Labels next year, this interview was worth the wait.
CR: You have a long history with the Toronto Fashion Incubator as a New Labels competitor, Resident Designer, Outreach Member, Mentor, New Labels Competition Judge, and now TFI President (congratulations!). Why is the TFI so important to you?
DD: The TFI is so important to me because it is what helped me build my business. It gave the tools with which to compete, and taught me the ropes of the industry in a creative environment.
CR: You competed in New Labels and now you're a judge. Because of this experience, do you think you approach the competition from a different perspective than the other judges?
DD: I think fashion is so subjective to begin with, so everyone has an opinion. However, being on both sides of the process, I believe I understand the value that TFI New Labels show has. It offers a chance to get all the people in the industry to see what you are doing, and the real benefit is that the TFI and its sponsors guarantee that your line will be seen.
CR: What do you learn about new Canadian designers while judging the New Labels Competition?
DD: What I have learned by judging is: listening to both the designers and of course the judges themselves. It is a really important information tool, when you have respected industry people critiquing your line before it is shown to press and buyers. The designers learn, and what I have learned, is the concept of vision, focus, and editing.
CR: What makes a strong New Labels contestant?
DD: A strong New Labels participant has great listening skills, a thick skin, an openness to new ideas, and of course great clothes.
CR: Can you give any tips to potential New Labels competitors who might want to apply next year?
DD: My advice to aspiring New Labels contestants is to have a point of view. Keeping an open mind is key, and listening to what the judges are saying. They are there to guide and help you to make your presentation memorable and professional.
I was a bit secretive about my vacation since I didn’t want to announce to the Internet that I wouldn’t be at my home for two whole weeks (between blogs, Facebook, and myspace, there can be too much that people can learn about you), but yes, I was gone for two whole weeks…to Ukraine!
My brother and mother explored family roots and saw where my grandmother grew up before emigrating to Canada at age 12 in 1914. We met some distant family too. What an amazing experience.
During the trip, I kept my eyes open for fashion information I could pass on to you and to be honest, I didn’t have much opportunity to explore the fashion industry in great detail, but I can say that it was interesting to see fashion exploding in a country that is experimenting with capitalism and consumerism. I saw a few independent boutiques, but most seemed to specialize in special occasion gowns and furs. The rest of the stores were the international designers you know (BCBG, Kenzo, Dolce and Gabanna, etc.), but I did see three instances of Canadian representation: DSquared, Bata, and Aldo. More reasonably priced non-designer clothes were found in markets. My conclusion was that Ukrainians were very hungry for international labels.
It was a fantastic trip and made me wonder about experience of fashion designers who are new to Canada. I know some new Canadians are TFI Members, so I’ll try to interview them in future weeks.
It's sad but true. The monthly members meeting scheduled for tomorrow, May 5th, has been cancelled due to a lack of attendees...or is it a lack of interest? It's hard to believe that TFI members have no interest in networking and sharing ideas, so what gives?
We hope to see everyone at the next meeting, scheduled for Monday, June 2nd! Please remember to register ahead of time through TFI.
Interview with Judge Kathy Cheng
Shortly after graduating from the University of Toronto in business management, Kathy developed her marketing skills in various posts, including managing the Canadian Education Expo in Taipei, Taiwan. In 2000, Kathy took on the position of director of marketing and business development for Wing Son Garments Ltd., a Canadian activewear manufacturer, which specializes in customized programs for international brand-name clients. Kathy serves on the board of directors for Fashion Group International, Toronto Chapter, as well as the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s Advisory Committee. This year, she also volunteered as a New Labels judge.
CR: You have worked all over the world and are back in Toronto and on the Toronto Fashion Incubator's Advisory Committee. Why is the TFI important to you?
KC: TFI is important to me on two levels.
Professionally, I have feel that there is a lot of design talent in Canada, Toronto specifically. With the diminishing landscape of the textile industry in Canada, we need to foster and nurture these talents. TFI assists these young talents execute their visions into reality.
Personally, TFI is important because it bridges the gap between Canada’s design talent and the “real world”. Canada’s fashion industry has given my family the opportunity for a better life in Canada when we first immigrated here in the late 70’s. Giving back to the community that has given my family so much is the least I can do.
CR: Why did you agree to be a New Labels Competition judge?
KC: There is a need for more manufacturing representation in Canada’s fashion community. Canada’s textile industry has been negatively affected by off-shore production competition, the strong Canadian dollar and now, the United States’ economic conditions.
Textile suppliers & manufacturers closing shops have been an on-going trend, which directly affects new Canadian designers. Designers’ sourcing capabilities, product development and ability to produce goods to bring to the market are all struggles that Canadian designers will have to continue to face if there is not enough support for Made in Canada products.
By being a judge this year, I hoped to share my production knowledge with the contestants to help them create a better product.
CR: Did you benefit from being a judge in the competition this year? If yes, in what way?
KC: Yes, I most definitely did! I have a broader understanding of how collections are developed.
As a contract manufacturer, we are given specification packages from our clients, rather than working with them from the initial design stage. Being involved with TFI strengthens the skill-set I can offer my clients; being the bridge between designs versus actual execution of ideas.
CR: On what basis was this year's winner determined?
KC: Marketability, viability and uniqueness of the line.
CR: Because of your background, did you approach the judging process from a marketing perspective or from a production perspective? Why are either of these perspectives important to consider?
KC: That’s a very interesting question. I initially embraced my judging responsibilities expecting to provide my thoughts exclusively from a production perspective; looking for construction details, fabric choices, etc.
I was extremely fortunate to be in the presence of a strong and seasoned group of judges. As the competition developed, I found myself inspired by the comments of other judges, broadening my perspectives and shifting my focus from solely production to the overall marketability of the line.
CR: Can you give any tips to potential New Labels competitors who might want to apply next year?
KC: Be forward thinking in terms of all-encompassing elements of a collection; consider bulk production costs and attainability of sourced materials.
There were many clever designs with the use of construction details; however the time required executing the designs drives up the cost of bulk production, which in turn affects the selling price and marketability of the line.
Being part of TFI’s New Label competition is great exposure, which may generate interested buyers. Being able to produce the presented collection is just as important as being able to develop the line. Put more effort in sourcing fabrics from mills that carry in-stock fabrics instead of purchasing from retail textile suppliers. This may be more time consuming and it could limit your creative juices in the beginning, however you will be glad to be able to minimize one less hurdle when you are faced with bringing your collection into the consumer market place.
Meet Kathy at TFI’s upcoming seminar,“Working with Contractors”, May 15th at TFI. Bring lots of questions about producing in Canada for a lively and interactive session. Registration deadline is May 7th so be sure to sign up today through TFI Shop.
Here is the official press release issued from Faulhaber PR:
For Immediate Release
Toronto - Budding Canadian designers Adrienne Butikofer, Ashley Rowe, Eugenia Leavitt and Lara Presber showed their dramatic Fall 08 collections to a jam-packed crowd of over 1,000 fashion media, celebrities and benefactors during the TFI new labels designer competition. The finale runway show celebration was in conjunction with the opening gala night of the inaugural ELLE Show presented by ELLE Canada. The night began with a wine reception by Vin de Pays d’Oc and a VIP gala dinner, with net proceeds from ticket sales going directly to Toronto Fashion Incubator.
Montreal native EUGENIA LEAVITT was awarded the generous prize package valued at $25,000 and named TFI new labels competition WINNER for 2008!
“All four finalists should be very proud of themselves. Chosen from across the country for their unique perspectives, these young designers are on their way to successful careers, a testament that Canadian fashion talent is thriving.” said Susan Langdon, Executive Director of Toronto Fashion Incubator.
The event was hosted by eTalk’s exquisite Tanya Kim, wearing a dress designed by one of the new labels judges, David Dixon. Rita Silvan (ELLE Canada), Nathalie Atkinson (National Post), Mary Jo Looby (Retail Consultant), Kathy Cheng (Wing Son Garments) and David Dixon (Designer) deliberated in front of the spectators, reaching their verdict within minutes of the last model’s exit from the runway.
“The designers go through several rigorous critique sessions with the judges that takes months of preparation for the final show ,”says Nathalie Atkinson. “Eugenia won not only for her collection's newsworthiness or because she made organic materials look fashionable and effortless, but because she was receptive to constructive criticism and came a long way in refining her style and fit to get there. The end result was a beautiful collection elevated by its runway styling and pure in its simplicity -- and the fit was impeccable.”
When the media asked “What’s next?” Eugenia focused on the desire to fulfill orders and begin work on her next collection. Her well heeled feet firmly planted in the exciting prospects of her company’s growth.
416 504 0768
Yes, it’s here, but guess who will not be able to attend?
I’m taking some time off, but will be back soon. In the meantime, can you please tell me what I missed? I’m curious to hear about your thoughts on the competition. Thanks and double air-kisses to you all.
Interview with Judge Mary Jo Looby
Mary Jo Looby has considerable merchandising and buying experience in the Canadian fashion industry and brings a strong retail and sales perspective to the New Labels judging panel.
CR: You are a former buyer for the Bay and Holt Renfrew and not only are you a TFI New Labels Competition judge, but you are also an Industry Consultant for TFI Outreach Members. Why is the TFI important to Canadian design and why did you agree to be a New Labels judge?
MJL: Toronto Fashion Incubator is Canada ’s launch pad for new fashion design talent. Designers can achieve an in-house apprenticeship or enjoy an out reach member status. Both positions offer Canada ’s newest designers support, mentorship, contacts, skill development, and marketing opportunities. The benefit to the design industry is a consistent flow of recognizable talent into the fashion marketplace. The Incubator helps groom this talent so that Canadian fashion can compete worldwide. I really believe in the mission and commitment of the Toronto Fashion Incubator. I meet incredible people with real talent during my mentoring sessions there. New Labels is an extension of my commitment to mentoring. It’s very exciting to be part of the wonderful selection process and, of course, the Gala evening, when we will select our New Labels winner.
CR: What do you learn about new Canadian designers while being a New Labels judge?
MJL: My strongest observation of the New Labels contestants was an overall focus on commercial success. The New Labels finalists are very aware of what it takes to compete in today’s marketplace and are hungry to take their vision to the next level.
CR: You are a TFI Industry Consultant, which means you donate your time and advice to TFI Members. What differences do you see between Outreach Members who you consult with and New Labels competitors?
MJL: I believe the New Labels competitors are further developed in their business plans and design strategies than the Outreach members I see at TFI. Many Outreach members are just formulating their business aspirations and ask me for feedback and direction as to their next steps. New Labels competitors have a confidence level with their product that is urging them to take their brand to another level.
CR: Have you approached the judging process from a buyer's perspective? In your opinion, what makes a strong New Labels contestant?
MJL: Yes, I definitely approached the judging process from buyer’s perspective, which is really with a view to “who is the customer” and “how does this product compete”. A strong New Labels contestant has a strong vision for his /her brand which encompasses style and price point. All design criteria should line up with vision with regards to: fit, construction, fabrics, label/hangtag design and marketing. Ideally, a strong New Labels contestant has a “wow” factor or that certain something that makes them special.
CR: Can you give any tips to potential New Labels competitors who might want to apply next year?
MJL: Go for it! This competition is a great jumpstart for an emerging designer. Your submission should reflect your design vision with an eye to commercial success. A balanced collection that includes some “wow” and some strong basics done your way. The Judging of New Labels allows for several meetings between designers and the judges. Judges give their input on every aspect of the submission, so the judging process itself is an amazing learning experience.
Interview with Competitor Ashley Rowe
CR: What's your story?
AR: Before I started my clothing line miss rowe, I interned at Flare and Fashion Magazine, worked for the Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC) for L’Oreal Fashion Week and worked at Holt Renfrew as an assistant to Micheline Burg.
CR: Please describe your clothing line and the products you produce.
AR: The miss rowe line is based on beautiful fabrics and tailoring to produce classic fashion forward separates.
CR: Why did you enter the TFI New Labels Competition?
AR: To receive constructive feedback and industry knowledge from the judges and grow the miss separates brand.
CR: How did you prepare for your New Labels entry? How much time have you put into the competition?
AR: I began preparing a month before the application was due. After I was accepted, there were a series of three judgings (one a month) before I knew I was in the final runway show (which will be held on April 24th 2008).
CR: What have you learned from your experience with the TFI and the New Labels Competition?
AR: I have learned a lot from the judges. It has been such a great experience to have 5 “mentors" as well as Susan Langdon as a sounding board and advisor throughout the entire competition.
CR: Have you seen your competition's designs? If so, what have you learned from your competitors?
AR: I have seen the three other finalist’s designs - the final runway show will be one that cannot be missed!
CR: If you have one piece of advice to new designers, what would it be?
AR: Never, never, never give up!
Interview with Competitor Lara Presber
CR: What's your story?
LP: Before starting my clothing line (and still today to help finance it), I worked – and still work – in the field of architecture. While I still enjoy being an architect, I never fully connected with the built environment and couldn’t bring the passion to my day-to-day projects required to be a truly successful designer, so I made the switch into the medium of fabric through fashion.
CR: Please describe your clothing line and the products you produce.
LP: My clothing line originated from a need that my coworkers and I had to have access to professional yet still ‘fun’ clothing. The collection focuses on quality of fabrics and construction with classic, clean lines, injected with a quirkiness to keep it interesting.
CR: Why did you enter the TFI New Labels Competition?
LP: I sometimes feel a little isolated trying to start up a clothing line in Calgary and entered the competition as a way to have mentors that could give me feedback about my clothes. The only way to learn is through experience so if I can gain knowledge through theirs, it saves me from making some pretty major mistakes. Also, the media exposure of the Elle Show isn’t so bad either!
CR: How did you prepare for your New Labels entry? How much time have you put into the competition?
LP: I prepared for the New Labels entry by travelling for fabric sourcing and inspiration and then locking myself away until I emerged with what I thought was a good start for a modest collection of 15 outfits. I don’t think that I could even quantify how much time I’ve spent on the competition. On average, I work about 14-15 hours a day, every day, and have been doing so since the beginning of the competition. A lot of what we do for the competition overlaps with what we would do for our own business anyway, so a time estimate is tough.
CR: What have you learned from your experience with the TFI and the New Labels Competition?
LP: The most significant thing that I have learned from this competition is the development of a fashion business. There is a very rigid schedule set forth from the beginning that guides you through essentially all of the steps to get your designs from paper to runway and the timeframe in which it needs to happen.
CR: Have you seen your competition's designs? If so, what have you learned from your competitors?
LP: Yes, we have all seen each other’s designs, but only recently. I think that the most impressive thing is the variety of talent that is in this competition and how each designer has worked equally hard and has brought something so entirely different to the show. Most of what I have learned from my fellow competitors happens when we spend 5 or so hours with each other while the judges review our collections. It’s a great time to chat about where each of us is at and to maybe fill in some of the blanks that each of us is encountering.
CR: If you have one piece of advice to new designers, what would it be?
LP: My one piece of advice is that you must be 110% committed and bring passion to your every day that you didn’t even know that you had. It’s a difficult business to get started in and you will need all of the strength you can command to push through, but when it finally starts to take root it’s better than you can even imagine.
Interview with Judge Nathalie Atkinson
As the National Post’s style and culture columnist and contributing fashion editor, Nathalie Atkinson is one of Canadian fashion’s biggest cheerleaders and a perfect choice for New Labels judge.
CR: In your reporting, you focus on Canadian designers. Why is the Toronto Fashion Incubator important to Canadian design and why did you agree to be a New Labels Competition judge?
NA: I am always interested in new and emerging designers, both personally and professionally. The TFI and any organization that supports and nurtures both a designer’s talent and business sense along the way in the business of fashion, from marketing to production, costing and sales, is vital to the survival and success of the industry. Our designers are the future of the fashion industry in Canada and they need to be equipped with more than just sewing skills.
CR: What do you learn about new Canadian designers while being a New Labels judge?
NA: I am always delighted when I meet an enthusiastic new Canadian designer, from the ones who dream big to the one who keeps it smaller and realistic -but viable- with a very focused business (just one city, say, or a very specific niche market). I have discovered that Canadian designers are a persistent, industrious breed. I love to watch their careers progress and keep in touch and support them when possible. I like to be a resource for them long after the competition is over.
New Labels is a learning experience for me, too. I have learned a lot along with the various designers over the years about the finer points of construction, fit, and tailoring, especially from fellow judge David Dixon this season. And about potential production and manufacturing challenges from judge Kathy Cheng of Wing Son. Each judge brings a different aspect of expertise to the table for the finalists.
CR: From a journalistic perspective, what makes a strong New Labels contestant?
NA: A designer has to have a point of view and confidence in their own taste (and back that up with talent and skill) to survive and thrive. Point of view is crucial because the industry is just glutted with fashion and accessory lines nowadays and consumers have more choice than ever. It’s great if you’re inspired by Marni, but chances are Zara, H&M, and other high street mass-marketers are too, and they are already giving consumers that, at a discount. There’s a lot of competition and unless a designer is doing something original - whether the design itself, the sourcing, the fabric, the manufacturing or the ethics behind the line - or all those things - it’s going to be a tough slog. That’s why it’s so important to do due diligence and know the marketplace and what competition and opportunities are out there. Just because you love to make expensive evening gowns doesn't mean the market needs or wants them. There are many talented designers, but I think it’s often it’s the latter knowledge that ensure success --or not. Also: Enthusiasm and energy. They’re gonna need that passion to make it!
CR: Can you give any tips to potential New Labels competitors who might want to apply next year?
NA: There’s no point in entering if you think you have all the answers. (No designer does. No journalist does, either!)
Be prepared to defend your point of view and spend a lot of time listening, too. An aspect of the judging process is really talking to the finalists as a buyer would, questioning everything from the width of a trouser leg to construction of a shoulder, market appropriateness, and other questions relevant to eventually getting the line successfully sold and produced (which is the whole point, right?). You don’t have to take all the advice and constructive criticism, but be prepared to be open-minded. And to work hard!
CR: What are the best ways for a new designer to get a journalist's attention?
NA: Gosh, where do I start...I could teach a workshop on the don’ts and dos.
Be well prepared before you even think about sending any press information or media materials out. Designers can’t do everything, but if you can’t afford a PR helper, then at least familiarize yourself with the specific work of the journalist you’re pitching and/or their publication to see what types of stories they tend to write. That means reading their byline. (The side benefit is that it’s also market research on the competition and industry.)
Do your market research. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do, and be.
Take a few pictures of what you design (low-res, please!) and have retail prices and retailer info ready and if there’s a human interest story potential, that too.
Don’t send gifts; save your money and spend it on your collection and materials. As for press kit medium, journalists vary - some, like me, prefer email and PDFs, while others like hard press kits in folders. Whatever you can afford, and is appropriate.
Follow-up after a suitable interval, but don’t be an aggressive stalker! If a journalist says they’re not interested, or that they will keep it on file for potential future consideration, then that’s that.
But above all, be honest. I wish designers and their PRs would dispense with all the hyperbole and superlatives in press releases. PLEASE. There is very little more off-putting than a press release that wildly overstates itself or is misleading. Not a day goes by I don’t receive at least one of these and while it’s one thing to have confidence and pride in your collection, but it’s entirely another to talk it up to the point of ridiculous overstatement. Let the journalist make up his or her mind with the information you’ve supplied. Because if there’s anybody who knows the fashion market inside and out (or at least, who should), it’s the journalist whose beat is fashion. If you’re a little handbag brand that sells at church bazaars and craft fairs, but not in actual stores, or a start-up with an online boutique at Etsy.com, just say so. Everybody starts small, and there’s no shame in that. In fact, that’s often a more interesting story!
A friend told me that she was thinking of starting a new fashion business and asked about the best way to approach the TFI, what membership option might be best for her, and should she become a resident. I thought you’d appreciate what I told her:
I think the best thing for you to start with would be to explore absolutely everything on the TFI website, especially "Resources" and "Mentors". Under "Resources", you should be able to buy a list of contractors, regardless of whether you're a TFI member or not.
Next, I recommend calling the TFI to speak with Nina Facciolo, who is one of the Executive Assistants. Tell her you're interested in becoming a member, but would like a tour first. She'll be able to make tour arrangements. When you go, take a list of your questions and do her best to answer them.
There is tons of info in the Resource Centre. It's only open to members, so if you decide that you like the TFI after your tour, then you should buy an Outreach Membership (you can find details on the website under "Our Members"). Then I recommend the Resource Centre as a stop before you start your business plan. Schedule a morning or afternoon to spend in there to get acquainted with all of the materials. Then you can go back when you need to research something further. The files about business plans and contracting will probably be where you want to start, but I recommend that you take a quick look at everything to get an idea of what's there.
And that's how I would start.
Interview with Competitor Eugenia Leavitt
CR: What's your story?
EL: Before getting into fashion, I did a degree in Fine Arts and studied mainly printmaking and textiles. I started to realize that once I had finished screenprinting a piece of fabric, all I wanted to do was make it into clothing. This is what lead me to fashion design. I studied fashion in Montreal and after graduating school, I worked for a textile artist for a children's apparel company, in costume design, and then became an assistant to a fashion designer. During all this time, I always had my own projects on the go: making bags, custom-made clothing, and mini collections, which I sold on consignment to stores across Canada. It wasn't too long ago I made the decision to really work hard on a bigger collection and try to get into the right cycle for stores to buy my line.
CR: Please describe your clothing line and the products you produce.
EL: For my ready-to wear women's clothing line, I aim to combine fashion and textile art to create garments to treasure over the seasons. The clothing is for a lady who seeks out hand-crafted pieces to add to an ecclectic, time-encompassing wardrobe. It's locally-made with mostly organic fabric.
CR: Why did you enter the TFI New Labels Competition?
EL: It was all because of an e-mail TFI sent out about the competition and calling for entrees. I read it, paused, and thought, “This time I'm ready and I want to give it a shot!” Also, since I wanted to make a fall collection anyway, being a part of the competition would only help me in this process.
CR: How did you prepare for your New Labels entry? How much time have you put into the competition?
EL: I spent a lot of time putting together my portfolio and doing illustrations of the collection. Since being accepted as a semi-finalist, with every round there has been more work to do! After hearing what advice the judges had to say, I had to complete some re-working too. It's been a really fast winter though, because I've been so focused on the work. Now it's spring and we'll soon be ready to show off our work!
CR: What have you learned from your experience with the TFI and the New Labels Competition?
EL: It's been a great experience, no doubt about it. Overwhelming at times, but all worth it. Susan Langdon has been a wonderful person to work with and learn from. She really wants everyone to do well and so do the judges. Having a very experienced and knowledgeable panel of judges all giving feedback about your work is so valuable, especially when you are just starting out. Now that the designers have been chosen for the fashion show, we've been working on the production of the show and have met with some amazing people on that side of the business. People in hair and make-up, the show producers, stylists and even Fashion Television!
CR: Have you seen your competition's designs? If so, what have you learned from your competitors?
EL: Yes, I've seen the other girls' collections. We've been meeting at TFI every month or so since January, so I've also spent some time with the other designers. During our time waiting for the judges to meet us, the designers are able to get to know each other, ask questions, and give suggestions. I've found everyone to be pretty open and honest and it's been helpful and encouraging to be around other people at the same stage as you. It's also great to see that we all have very different styles and points of view and this will make for an interesting and exciting fashion show!
CR: If you have one piece of advice to new designers, what would it be?
EL: Ask for help! Try to get as much advice and feedback as you can from a big range of people in the business. It's so much work getting a collection together (especially if you still have another job) that you should, where you can, let go of some parts of the process such as sewing your own samples.
If you log into www.pgbeauty.ca and look into the fashion section, you’ll find my oh-so-fashion-reporter-y review of the Sam McKnight event. Fun!
Interview with Competitor Adrienne Butikofer
CR: What's your story?
AB: I grew up in the prairies of Manitoba , outside a little town called Elm Creek (pop. 350!). I started sewing at around 9 years old. I was obsessed with pioneers as a kid; that was my thing. So reading about them constantly and learning about how they survived made me want to live off the land and be self sufficient- by sewing pencil cases and Barbie clothes mostly.
I moved into the big Peg city at 13 and started designing and making my own clothes in high school. I somehow ended up at UWO in sciences. Then I woke up and realized that I should be in fashion design, because half my wardrobe was made by me, I loved doing it, and I had a knack. I went to Fanshawe College in London and graduated in 2003, and moved to Toronto after. It seemed the only logical place to go in order to make it happen, although my heart occasionally pines for the Peg.
I have been making clothes and selling them in different boutiques in Toronto since 2004. My first store was Pho Pa when it was in Kensington and I still sell there along with The Rage, Magic Pony, Iki, Nathalie-Roze + co., Propaganda, Eye Spy, Boutique Le Trou, and Shopgirls. I have held odd jobs here and there as a wardrobe stylist, bartender, I worked at Suzi Roher for a while making belts, I’ve taught crafts and sewing programs to kids- whatever I could find to pay the bills and not make me hate fashion.
CR: Please describe your clothing line and the products you produce.
AB: My clothing line is indie-rock chic, with a 90’s grunge spirit. It’s kind of trendy, kind of timeless. The beauty is in the details, which are well thought and not always obvious. I love working with colour, and try for a youthful, spirited edge. My market is streetwear. I do a lot of separates, including knitwear and denim.
My other label is Caninja- a lighthearted, cool/uncool, super practical line of winter accessories. The name Caninja is derived from Canadian-ninja and is also known as the Canadian Climate Fighter. The first product I designed is the Caninja Original and is best described as a hooded scarf hat. I make most of them out of fun recycled sweaters, Cosby and bedazzled, and some plain for the less adventurous. Almost everything in the Caninja line is one of a kind or limited edition. For Fall ’07, I expanded the roster to include other products like the Caninja Gyspy, the Finninja,, Caninja Minis, and a few others. Caninja is all about funny punny taglines, polymorphic design, and embracing winter. It’s been selling around Toronto since 2004.
CR: Why did you enter the TFI New Labels Competition?
AB: Well, I have been doing this for a few years now, and really want to catch up with the fashion calendar and start doing full collections. I knew New Labels would be a great launching pad with valuable advice along the way. I had entered it in 2004 after design school, but didn’t get in obviously. I've pretty much been designing full collections on paper every season since then, but could never get the samples ready in time. I’ve had my eye on the prize for a while and it’s always been a goal of mine to be here. Last fall I gave myself a little ‘now or never’ push.
CR: How did you prepare for your New Labels entry? How much time have you put into the competition?
AB: I started thinking about it seriously last September. I contacted Danielle Meder right away, who did all my illustrations for me. My drawing skills are more utilitarian than impressive. It was fun and great working with her on it and she kind of whipped me into shape. Even though technically she was working for me, sometimes it seemed the other way around. I probably spent about 50 hours on my application. Since I found out I was a finalist it has pretty much been 80-90 hour workweeks since the beginning of January. I developed an entirely new set of blocks to establish the fit of my line and I also do all the work myself – patterns and sewing. I went through a ton of re-dos and redesigns. I have a rack of almost 25 extra samples that were cut and or redone from the line. I changed some fabrics half way through so that was a lot of extra work.
CR: What have you learned from your experience with the TFI and the New Labels Competition?
AB: I learned a lot about designing a collection. I kind of initially made it way harder than it had to be. At first, my collection was 15 outfits and 35 different ideas. I learned to take maybe 7 or 8 of those ideas and save the rest for another time. I learned how to be a better patternmaker, by using the same sleeve on everything it called for, for example, basically working smarter, not harder. There were more than a few “Duh!” moments. The whole concept of what a collection is has been developed for me throughout the competition. I am psyched for the next one, which I am anticipating to be a fun easy breezy time.
More philosophically, I think New Labels started me on a lot of little journeys that are going to last a long time. I still have a ton of learning to do, technically, professionally, and personally. This collection is not my magnum opus, but I think now I am headed in the right direction. The experience was invaluable.
CR: Have you seen your competition's designs? If so, what have you learned from your competitors?
AB: We haven’t really seen too much of each other’s work, minus it hanging on a rack. Ashley Rowe seems to have some great momentum. I think she made the whole process quite simple for herself from the beginning, something I learned the hard way.
CR: If you have one piece of advice to new designers, what would it be?
AB: Work at it.
Today’s review is kind of exciting because I get to report on [FAT] from a participant’s perspective. As I mentioned earlier, my band played and although you’re reading this blog from the perspective of a fashion business owner, you can learn from my performer experience.
Though I am a huge supporter of the event, the week before, I had to chase the organizers for detailed information about our performance day. They did respond quickly, so this wasn’t a huge deal. But if you’re organizing an event you’ll always want to send everybody details as soon as possible so you can worry about other things during the week of the event.
We got there on time, but had to wait around for another band to show up in order to do our sound check. If you ever participate in an event, always be on time, whether you’re a musician, designer, artist, or whatever. If you’re late, you could hold up the production.
If you’re in a group event, you have to recognize that you might have to give up some control over your work. Everything was great with our set, but photos and video installations were all displayed via flat screens, which left artists without any control over their visuals. It looked cool though. Sometimes you cannot be a control freak! Luckily, at [FAT], all the artists were in excellent hands with Vanja Vasic and her team. I was honoured to participate in the event and look forward to the next one.
If you didn’t check it out this year, I encourage you to do so next time because there are bound to be some fantastic surprises.
The best thing about this evening was the positive energy throughout the event. Many runway shows, performances, and installations revolved around the theme of improving the world. There was a lot of cheering, smiling, and dancing throughout the evening, which put the fun back in fashion.
Four to five designers were shown in well-edited groups that included collection highlights from designers. No show or designer went on too long.
The venue was set up efficiently as well. The bar area was far enough away for people to chat without disrupting the shows, but then again, all of us bloggers were chatting away in the front rows, enjoying the urban fashion experiment.
It was the first night of the Toronto Alternative Art and Fashion Festival [FAT] tonight and it was exactly what I expected: many different artists, genres, and styles of music, art, dance, and fashion. Some things I loved, others I didn’t, but it was a celebration of the variety of work around Toronto.
Some shows were late, but it wasn’t too bad, but overall production was smooth and efficient.
What designers and show producers can learn from this event is how to cast alternative models. Andrew Sardone from NOW Magazine describes the casting process here (http://www.nowtoronto.com/blog/view_post.cfm?post=657), which turned out to be a successful exercise in celebrating diversity. Sure, there were some nervous new runway walkers, but others were also cast from the Ben Barry Agency (www.benbarry.com), and all made for a more interesting catwalk experience than seen at L’Oréal Fashion Week. Then again, if some of these models were at LFW, I probably would have critiqued them, but they all suited the event.
Last night’s TFI Members Meeting at Gossip Restaurant was packed with people and conversation.
We began by discussing Sales Agents because Ken Forbes e-mailed me with that suggestion. It was a great help and I was able to prepare some information prior to the meeting (along with help from Susan, Nina, and Anne at the TFI). We also talked about contractors and how to find/hire one. For those who missed the meeting, be sure to attend TFI’s upcoming seminar on How to Work With Contractors (May 15, 2008). You can sign up today at TFI Shop.
If you are planning on coming to the next meeting on Monday May 5, be sure to pre-register before May 1st and feel free to send me questions or suggestions on discussion topics. Members Meetings are for you and are meant to help you solve some business problems in areas where you might be stuck.
They’re also meant to be a way for TFI members to connect, so if you can’t think of a specific question, that’s just fine.
Yesterday I helped judge the Ryerson University Second-and-Third-Year Fashion Show, and was blown away! It was a professionally executed production, from backstage organization and teamwork to signage and front-of-house reception. Everything was impeccable and I learned a few things from this amazing group of students:
[FAT] is next week, from Wednesday April 9 to Friday April 11 and I think you should check it out. Information is at www.getfat.ca.
If you can only go one night, you might want to go on Friday because guess whose band will be playing? Yup, mine! If you’ve been wondering what Satan’s Candy (www.myspace.com/satanscandyrocks) is all about, here’s your chance to find out. Plus, you can see a few fashion shows, enjoy some art, and see how we will match our outfits to the night’s theme: Conflict.
[FAT] will take place at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District. Satan’s Candy starts at 8:00pm sharp!
Interview with Judge Rita Silvan
The TFI New Labels Competition will be held as a gala event at the ELLE Show (www.elleshow.ca) on April 24. I have asked the finalists and judges a few questions about their New Labels experience and will give you their answers in the days leading up to the event.
First up, Head Judge, ELLE Canada editor-in-chief Rita Silvan:
CR: ELLE Canada has a generous history of supporting the Toronto Fashion Incubator and the New Labels Competition. Why is the TFI so important?
RS: The TFI is important because it actually provides real assistance to fashion designers in the form of studio space, mentorship programs, the chance to participate in New Labels and get input from retailers, editors, and other experienced designers on one's collection, as well as the opportunity to participate in a runway show seen by hundreds of industry "influencers".
CR: You have previous experience as a New Labels judge. Do you have a favourite moment from past competitions?
RS: It's always incredible to see how a collection evolves as the designers use the feedback they get from the judges.
CR: What do you learn about new Canadian designers while participating as a New Labels judge?
RS: To be a fashion designer, especially in Canada, is such a complete labour of love. The passion and dedication that the designers show always inspires me. How many people are willing to go out on a limb today and really go for what they want?
CR: What makes a strong New Labels contestant?
RS: You have to have a clear idea about what you want to do. Some contestants appear to flounder. Does the world need another dress or pair of slacks? No!
So if you're going to go to all the trouble to make these things, you better offer something that is unique and not already in the market.
Also, while a designer has to stand up for her work, it's also good to be open-minded and really take in the judges' comments. We may not be 'right' but we will always give an unbiased opinion that you get for free. Once you're in the marketplace, you may not get a second-chance to improve.
CR: Can you give any tips to potential New Labels competitors who might apply next year?
RS: Understand that it's a lot of work to be in the competition but the payoff can be tremendous as well.
TFI Member Michelle Germain opened her store, SHOPGIRLS (www.shopgirls.ca) to sell and promote Canadian designs. Last night, she held a spring launch and while it may not have been as swank as the Pantene one, she did it right and it suited her store and clientele.
Yes, there were refreshments, but the focus was on designer and product. Designers were there to discuss their creations and the night was a perfect way to connect them to consumers and journalists.
The kind folks at P&G Beauty (www.pgbeauty.ca) invited the TFI crew, hair and makeup specialists, and journalists to a special presentation by their Global Haircare Ambassador, Sam McKnight.
Who is Sam McKnight? He’s an amazing stylist who can practically touch a woman’s head and turn her into an instant Glamazon. He shot his first Vogue cover shoot in 1978 and his hair work has been on covers ever since. He worked with Princess Diana, all the supermodels of the 80’s and 90’s, consistently works with Linda Evangelista, Gisele Bundchen, and Kate Moss, and recently worked with Daria Werbowry, Gemma Ward, Jessica Stam, and Lily Donaldson.
P&G and the PR firm MSL know how to produce an excellent event. Sure, they might have more money and resources than you might, but you know how to stretch your creative resources. They did everything right, so here’s what you can learn from them:
If you’re wondering what we’re going to talk about at the next TFI Members Meeting on Monday April 7, I’ll let you know. Just got a request from someone who attended the last meeting and asked that we talk a bit about Sales Agents. So I’ll do a bit of research and ask Nina and Anne at the TFI if they can check the Resource Centre to see what’s in there about Sales Agents. That’s one thing we’ll talk about and I’m sure the topic of fabric suppliers will also be discussed.
Looking forward to seeing you there.
I’m honoured to have been asked to help judge the Ryerson University Second- and Third- year shows and thought I should remind you about the shows.
These students will participate in a show called “Original Sin” and I believe that five shows through April 6 and 7 and tickets are available at the Student Campus Centre. For more information, check out RyersOnline.
And don’t forget to check out the Ryerson grad collections at Mass Exodus on April 8 and 9. It’s always a great show.
If you read about Fashion Week, but couldn’t attend, here’s a chance to see the Pink Tartan show next season. Visit www.lorealfashionweeksweepstakes.com/lincoln for details on how to enter.
I hope that getting great press has to do with having a great product. So far Rags and Mags (www.ragsandmags.com) received raves from:
* Nathalie Atkinson at the National Post
* Andrew Sardone at NOW Magazine
* Nathalie-Roze Fischer at METRO
* Anita Clarke at blogTO
* The TFI News team
Danielle (www.finalfashion.ca) and I couldn’t be happier with such great press. How did we do it, you ask?
My years of volunteering with the TFI, Fashion Week, and other events have definitely helped getting to know the fashion industry. After being around for a while, I have made some good friends and colleagues and know who to approach with a project such as this.
Who did I approach? Well, practically everyone I came into contact with ended up with a Rags and Mags card. I was almost shameless, but I didn’t get too crazy. There’s something to be said for knowing the difference between self-confidence and overbearing. When approaching anyone with your product, make sure that you don’t get too pushy or obnoxious. Hopefully, I had just the right amount of enthusiasm to get people interested in my project.
That’s all we did, really. We talked to friends and colleagues and gave out cards and now we have some wonderful words about our work.
A friend steered me to David Graham’s interview with Project Runway Canada alumni Carlie Wong and we were both worried by her comments about the show’s costs and how she spent money on gift bags.
Sure, I play the game Gift Bag Hit or Miss, but that is to illustrate that if you can’t produce a gift bag that reflects your brand, then don’t do it. At no time should a struggling designer struggle to make gift bags. It is more important to put money and time into constructing garments and producing a professional show.
I am overwhelmed by L’Oréal Fashion Week media coverage. Traditional media journalists were blogging harder and faster than the bloggers to make sure everything was covered. If you missed what happened, last week, I recommend:
* Nathalie Atkinson’s blogs on The National Post’s The Ampersand. She worked harder than any other journalist.
* The Toronto Star had an entire team covering the event, posting photos, and submitting reviews.
* Fashion Television provided the most and best video coverage.
They gave us to-the-minute news, reviews, and graphics that we expect from traditional news outlets. Bloggers who have day jobs and limited press access can only do so much. These journalists did an excellent job reporting on everything and made me hungry to read more about Canadian fashion.
Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton
How did I recover from my Fashion Week cold? I watched a documentary called Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton produced for French television in 2007.
It was a rare and informative look into Marc’s creative process that explains why his shows are notoriously late. I recommend this to any aspiring designer or anyone interested in starting a fashion company. It does an excellent job of showing the imbalance of 99% hard work and sleepless nights involved in making a fashion business work and the 1% glamour that goes along with it.
Survival Brunch and DrakeSalon Fashion Week Wrap Up
I almost skipped out on the Wrap-Up hosted by Fashion Television’s Mary Kitchen, but I’m glad I went.
What a wonderful idea it was to have a panel of Canadian fashion insiders discuss L’Oréal Fashion Week with an intimate audience. I was especially impressed with comments from Barbara Atkin , Holt Renfrew’s (www.holtrenfrew.com) Vice President of Fashion Direction, Marlene Schiff, owner of boutique letrou (www.boutiqueletrou.com), and David Livingstone, Toronto Star (www.thestar.com) reporter and veteran journalist.
Everyone called for a defined Canadian Look and emphasized the importance of professionalism and quality in runway presentations. They mentioned a key difference in European and Canadian design: Europeans recognize the importance of working in established ateliers before starting their own labels. We don’t have that in Canada and many of us think we can start clothing companies without gaining work experience. On the other hand, Europeans see our industry as freedom from those ateliers.
Sure, I thought this was the highest quality Fashion Week that Canada has ever seen in terms of design, professionalism, and organization, but this panel discussion illustrated that we’ve got to improve our quality to get recognized internationally.
Robin Kay, President of the Fashion Design Council of Canada, (the non-profit organization that produces L’Oréal Fashion Week), promised that the salon was the first annual one, and I hope it is. It was a perfect way to wrap up Fashion Week.
Kid Robot and Project Munny at CiRCA
I was impressed by the two events at CiRCA (www.circatoronto.com) this week. At each event, the front registration was quick and easy; staff knew exactly what they were doing. The show stage and runway room setup were perfect for people on the main floor and okay for the second and third floors. This is the perfect venue for club shows and obviously the CiRCA crew know how to produce an event.
There is one area at CiRCA that is completely devoted to Kid Robot designs (www.kidrobot.com), so a Kid Robot fashion show made sense. It was a high-energy clubwear show with perfect casting and fun choreography. It was smart for Kid Robot to have some dancers as models since they were able to move freely and show off the clothes. Surprisingly for CiRCA, the sound wasn’t that great, but it didn’t matter much because the rest of the presentation was great.
Why was an American company showing at a Canadian Fashion Week?
Kid Robot worked with twenty Canadian designers on Project Munny Canada (http://members.ebay.ca/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=circatoronto), where the designers customized Kid Robot Munny dolls to benefit War Child Canada (www.warchild.ca). It was an interesting way to tie-in local design with a show from a non-Canadian company.
The GSUS (www.g-sus.com) show was a lesson in knowing your target market and planning a runway show for them. The first model was a dancer who did flips down the runway and got the party started. All other models were high-energy and well-casted.
I love Paul Hardy’s (www.paulhardydesign.com) clothes, but this season I didn’t like his presentation. He tried something new by presenting all tops at once and then all bottoms.
While I applaud anyone who breaks tradition, I don’t applaud them when it weakens the collection. In this case, it dragged out the show and made it seem like half a collection. If you’re planning an unconventional approach to your runway presentation, consider how buyers, journalists, and clients will react.
In past seasons, I critiqued RUDSAK (www.rudsak.com) for too much repetition and this season I don’t have to repeat my critique.
In fact, the RUDSAK show was the last one at the Fashion Week tent in front of City Hall and I’m finding it hard to critique all of the shows I attended. Overall, I’ve been impressed with the quality, vision, workmanship, and execution of the clothes. There were a few setbacks (the media lounge was too small for all the journalists to work and there were never announcements when doors were opening), but I thought it was the most efficient Fashion Week yet. Signage was helpful, volunteers and staff answered all questions, and entrance lines were slow, but smooth because they were divided into VIPs, Sponsors, Media, Industry, and Guests.
Everyone in the Canadian fashion industry seems to be growing and learning together and I look forward to what happens next.
Jeanne Beker and BRATZ present Diesel Kids
When I reviewed Jeanne’s book, (Passion for Fashion) last week, I didn’t know how brand new it was. Somehow I must have found a review copy or something because Jeanne launched the book today. She also premiered her new Jeanne B Bratz doll, who is a fashion reporter. Yes, it was kid’s day at Fashion Week.
The show was adorable, as was the fantastic media kit. It was a notepad with handwriting-style font and details that covered Jeanne, her book, Diesel, and Bratz. When preparing media kits for your event or company, you’ve got to provide enough information without giving so much that your important points get lost. I thought this kit gave the perfect amount of information.
I’ve never attended a bad Comrags show. They’re always consistent, right down to the model walks.
From a business perspective, they did the best thing ever at today’s show: on the outfit list, they included fabric information and colour availability. If I was a buyer, it would have helped me make important purchasing decisions. I think the outfit list was on every chair, too, which is something I love. It’s not too expensive to photocopy these lists for all your guests.
Andy’s show was another example of fantastic styling. I recommend that you check out the photos (www.lorealfashionweek.ca) to analyse accessories. Perhaps it may have been over-styled, but I want you to make that decision.
David’s show was late as usual, but I don’t think this had anything to do with David’s team. Every evening show was late tonight, so I think David’s suffered from the backlog. What I learned from this is that if you plan an event with multiple designers, make sure you leave enough time to clean up and reset.
What I always like about David Dixon shows is that they have very clear inspirations, complete with vision statements in programs and thoughtful slides at the beginning. These slides and quotes provide the audience with time to prepare for the show and get drawn in.
This was the first time I was invited to a Greta Constantine show and after I raved about the consistency of their invitations last week, I experienced something strange.
Last week, I received an e-mail confirmation of my attendance and then yesterday got a second invitation couriered to the TFI. I was going to write that I thought this was a terrible waste of money for independent designers, but upon arrival, I was whisked into a VIP area and was given a free drink from their sponsor, Campari. I reconsidered my critique and decided that I was very thankful that Stephen and Kirk spent that money. See? Now I’m saying great things about them.
Just joking. I would have said nice things about this event anyway. They were dealing with a late start due to tent tardiness, so it was nice of them to hold the show for everyone to travel between venues to CiRCA. They really thought about their audience and produced a great show.
The only criticism I have is that with long dresses and a set with stairs, designers should consider manageable hems. There weren’t any accidents, but it was easy to get preoccupied on the possibility of falling models rather than what they were wearing.
I was worried I’d miss the Lucian Matis (www.lucianmatis.com) show, so here’s a piece of advice: to ensure a large audience, consider a fashion show time between 6:00 and 8:00pm. That way day-job people can attend without too much of a problem.
Luckily I was able to run out of work early (thanks, Boss!) and catch the show, and I’m so happy I did. For a 35-piece collection, it was well-edited since every piece stayed true to his vision, but nothing was repetitive.
He referenced Coco Chanel’s revolutionary 1920’s designs and Hollywood flappers and showed a more refined and sophisticated colletion than he has shown in the past. Given this maturity, let’s check out the show’s gift bag to see if it matches the collection’s mood. Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time to play Gift Bag Hit or Miss:
* Modèle CD
* Ford Models Day Planner
* Marc Anthony Salon Preferred Card (that gives bearer 30% off)
* Crest SpinBrush
* Susie Love Business Card
* Look Book (I think it’s a Ford Model comp card package, but there isn’t a company name anywhere)
* Elli Davis Royal LePage pen
* Arm & Hammer Extra Whitening toothpaste
Canadian Heart Truth Red Dress
According to the media kit, this show “is the signature event of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s recently launched national public health education campaing – The Heart Truth – designed to raise awareness of women and heart disease.” To learn more, visit www.thehearttruth.ca.
I think it achieved this goal. With a perfect pairing of Canadian personalities with premiere designers, everyone at L’Oréal Fashion Week now knows about the campaign. As such, this is what I learned from the show: Have a very clear vision for your event and know your goals. This was a well-produced show, all the models had a great time, and the runway room was filled with great spirit.
I don’t know whether to play Gift Bag Hit or Miss with a charity show, but I know you’re curious, so here we go:
* Invitation to the launch of MAISON b at the Bay
* Heart & Stroke Foundation informational brochure
* Ocean Spray Craisins (a regular-sized bag, not a tester)
* Ocean Spray Cranberry juice
* L’Oréal Colour Riche lipstick
* The Bay discount card
* Becel Red Dress charm bracelet
* Chatelaine magazine
* Belle magazine
Nada Shepard (www.nadadesigns.com) was a TFI New Labels Competition Finalist and a TFI Resident. I could tell she learned from those experiences because she had professional, complete outfit lists and lookbook brochure on the chairs of the first two rows. Both are helpful for buyers and journalists. Not only that, but she has the entire collection online already.
Well organized, Nada. Now let’s play Gift Bag Hit or Miss:
* Fall 2008 Limited Edition NADA scarf
* Susie Love business card
* Catering with Style business card and two dark chocolate truffles
Like Joe Fresh, Bustle (www.bustleclothing.com/bustleSite.swf) is a big-draw, high-hype show. Their crowd demonstrates the importance of developing and maintaining networks and a strong client base. Their models, however, demonstrate the importance of fit.
Bustle usually have a problem with squeezing guys into the clothes and I don’t know why they do this. It only makes the clothes look uncomfortable. This season’s new focus on suits with a slightly more relaxed fit the models better, but still not perfect. Here I must emphasize the importance of pre-show model fittings that allow for enough time for alterations. Before a show, plan for a few days of “nothing” because I can guarantee those “nothing” days will get filled up with alterations.
The only critique I can give about Joeffer Caoc (www.joeffercaoc.com) is that he knows how to design and present a show suited to clients, buyers, and the press. He has an interesting and important role in Canadian fashion history, so I recommend that you seek out information about him because you will learn a lot from his experiences.
You know how impressed I am with Philip Sparks (www.philipsparks.com). He does everything right; all his press releases, invitations, design, construction, website, lookbook, outfit list, and styling are on brand.
You can learn a lot from Philip’s entire vision, but something I will point out is the effective pairing of designer and stylist. Philip works with Pascal Chiarello at Judy Inc. (www.judyinc.com/pascalc/). They make a perfect team and present a consistent, well-groomed, and edited look on the runway and print. This is an excellent example of the importance of a good stylist.
Since I have a full-time job, I can’t attend the day shows, but I can let you know what happens at night. Just a reminder that I don’t do trend analysis here; I evaluate collections from business, marketing, PR, and branding perspectives so that you can learn how to plan shows for your company.
I didn’t get to see this show, but someone gave me the card that was on the chairs and you’ll be happy to know that the illustration on the back redeemed the initial invitation horror. I still think he needs to become a TFI member and drop by the Resource Centre, though. All runway reports told me that he still has some improvements to make to run a successful clothing company.
Everything about the Denis Gagnon (www.denisgagnon.ca) show was perfection. He presented a mix of extremely wearable, exquisitely designed clothes. If you want to know what makes critics and buyers happy, check out his show at the Fashion Week website (www.lorealfashionweek.ca) and click the “photos” link.
If I had to criticize anything, it would be the late start time. Someone near me asked, “Is he Canada’s Marc Jacobs?” While the show wasn’t two hours late, it was about 20 minutes late, but I doubt that was his fault. I think it’s just what happens when you have an event with multiple shows. Last season’s start times were great, so I wonder what’s happening this season.
Joe Fresh Style
To learn about how to publicize your company, you should really study the career of Joe Mimran. Here are two articles to get you started: one in Canadian Business and one from City Life.
You’ve probably heard about Joe Fresh Style (www.joe.ca), which is why you should do your Joe research. The company gets a lot of attention for producing affordable clothes.
This was a highly anticipated show not just for the clothes, but because the company hired Canadian super model Coco Rocha to walk, which caused a lot of buzz. She was great, but the show needed an editor. It was too long and had many high fashion watchers complaining about the repetitive outfits.
On a runway, nobody needs to see the same design in 5 different colours. If a buyer or editor is interested, he or she will follow up and ask about colours. Hire an experienced stylist to help you make effective editing choices because you are likely too close to your collection to cut outfits.
I don’t know why Joe Fresh didn’t edit so well since the team has a lot of experience. Nevertheless, the collection got a lot of attention, which I suspect is what Joe wanted.
I started a new project with illustrator Danielle Meder (www.finalfashion.ca). It’s a peek into the thoughts of two fictional characters in the real world of Toronto fashion. I want you to be surprised, so all I’ll say is check out www.ragsandmags.com.
In her Frugal Fashionista column for Metro News (www.metronews.ca/column.aspx?id=109686), Nathalie-Roze Fischer mentioned that Sew Be It Studios (www.sewbeitstudio.com) will be hosting a fabric swap to benefit the Queen Street West Fire Trust Fund. It’s on April 4 from 7:00 to 9:00pm at the Sew Be It studio (2156 Yonge Street, south of Eglinton).
I thought you’d like to know about it because I assume that you’re probably like me and have drawers and shelves full of fabrics and trims. I’ve never been to a fabric swap, so I’m going to try to check it out.
This is the first time I’ve been invited to a Greta Constantine (www.gretaconstantine.com) show and so far I’m impressed by the level of professionalism. First they sent a Save the Date, then an Invitation, and after I RSVP’d, they sent back a confirmation with seat number and all necessary details (such as time and location). Graphics, fonts, and information remained consistent through all this correspondence. Well done.
If you are unfamiliar with Greta Constantine, designer Stephen Wong was on Project Runway Canada.
I know you’ve been dying to play your favourite game, so here it is. Here are the rules for new readers: When I get a gift bag at an event, I randomly pull out the contents and you decide if they reflect that event successfully. We play this game because when you start a company or organize an event, details are important. Every choice you make reflects on your brand. It sounds silly, but the gift bag is something you take home and it leaves an impression. So what kind of impression does this gift bag give you? Ready to play? Here we go:
Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer
Last month, I wrote about the essential fashion movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and mentioned costume designer Edith Head. This got me thinking about her contributions to film and fashion, so I picked up the book, Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer by David Chierichetti.
I recommend this book to anyone remotely interested in costume design. It’s a great portrait of Hollywood’s golden age when every single costume was made in the studio. Reading about it makes me sad that a lot of costume designers are now glorified shoppers. That’s actually a huge reason why I personally didn’t pursue costume design. On the few jobs I did, there was way more shopping involved than I ever wanted to do. I guess I always had the notion of costume design to be exactly as described in this book.
This book is also an essential fashion reference for designers and stylists since it describes the work that went into the films Edith Head worked on during her 44 years at Paramount.
For those of you who don’t even know who I’m talking about, Edith Head was nominated for 35 Academy Awards during her career and won 8 times, which is more than any other woman has ever won. Recently, Edna Mode, the costume designer in The Incredibles, seemed to be an homage to Ms. Head since Edna and Edith shared the same style, round glasses, and assertive character.
If you don’t know anything about Edith Head, you really should read this book.
heard about Green Shag’s amazing shirts and cufflinks for a while and kind of fell in love with the company at the TFI’s Guilty Pleasures event at the Drake Hotel. The display caught my eye and the amazingly enthusiastic sales rep, Andrew, epitomized the brand and encouraged me to check out the Green Shag Stordio.
How could I resist?
Green Shag (www.greenshag.com) started small with cufflinks and now makes custom, hand-sewn (bespoke) men’s shirts, ready-to-wear shirts, pocket poofs, and t-shirts. Clients book appointments with a style consultant at the appropriately named Stordio (half store/half studio) to choose fabric, style, and fit and end up with a unique shirt and experience.
Behind the Green Shag experience are the wife-and-husband mastermind team Victoria and Neil McPhedran. They met at an advertising agency job interview and that background is evident in the Green Shag branding, especially when they claim “a brand is like a person”.
From visiting their Stordio and seeing Neil in the best, craziest floral print shirt (complete with matching – yet fabulously unmatching – bow tie), I can see the devotion to their friend/brand, Green Shag, whom they aptly describe as a combination of Evil Knievel and Cary Grant.
How did they get from advertising to menswear?
Victoria needed a creative change, so she moved away from advertising and wrote for Vancouver publications when she realized there was a huge gap in menswear. To research more about the menswear business, she participated in a venture program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and concluded that her instincts were correct. Since she didn’t have any sewing experience, Victoria approached menswear from an advertising/marketing perspective (Now, after six years of working in the business, she is becoming an expert at garment design and construction).
Victoria started the company in Vancouver, but moved it to Toronto when Neil was transferred to Toronto for advertising work. The first three months in Toronto were hard, but Victoria says that being a TFI member helped a lot. She spent a lot of time in the Resource Centre and credits the TFI with being strong and influential in establishing the brand. Neil eventually joined the company full-time and the pair never looked back.
Victoria and Neil got out to the market and participated in a lot of shows, which they describe “direct market research” and a “billboard” where they can talk to customers and get direct feedback. One of a Kind was particularly good for establishing the brand, especially since they tend to be the only menswear booth. Even though everything kind of went wrong for the first show, they just did it, got out there, persevered, and kept returning.
When asked for new designer show advice, Victoria and Neil say, “Whatever show one does pick, one has to stick with it.” Buyers want to see that you’re sticking around and will see you after a year. They also recommend that in the Toronto area, designers should go directly to stores and they also stress that it is important to walk a show before participating.
As I mentioned at the start, I was impressed with Andrew, the Green Shag sales rep, who I thought represented the brand so well at the TFI event, so I had to ask when they knew that it was time to expand and hire someone. The Green Shaggers tell me they adhere to the TFI rule of thumb, which states, “Sales must be over $100,000 to hire”, so at the moment their sales rep is part-time, but they are looking to expand intelligently when they are ready.
Online sales might help that expansion, and Green Shag has a wonderful online store, with a planned website relaunch in the next few weeks. Neil and Victoria are confident of their e-store because of their combined online experience with large consumer brands. Not only that, but they offer products that are easily ordered online without much risk: cufflinks, poofs, and gift certificates.
They stress that there are many inexpensive solutions for new designers to establish an online presence and site Yahoo! Stores and Paypal as examples. They also recommend that it is worthwhile to budget about $2,000 for website requirements and encourage clothing designers to partner with web designers.
It is this kind of open working philosophy that makes Green Shag so, well, shaggable. Victoria and Neil are happy to share their experiences with other new Canadian designers and have found support and inspiration from other Canadians such as John Hardy and Mark James. They also say that Melissa at menswear store gotstyle (www.gsmen.com) has been wonderful by providing tips and feedback on their line.
The Vancouver-Toronto transition may have been difficult at first and the design community may be tough to crack, but Green Shag is looking forward to an exciting future and are happy to provide tips and feedback to new designers. After owning their own company for six years, Victoria and Neil say “you have to believe in what you’re doing.” They say it’s important to give it your all, put time in, and sweat it out. “You can’t just launch and expect everyone to know you; you’re going to get rejected and you have to work through that.”
After that advice, meeting Neil and Victoria, and checking out their fabulous designs, how could I not love Green Shag? Don’t tell them, but they had me at their cufflinks.
Passion for Fashion: Careers in Style by Jeanne Beker, Illustrated by Nathalie Dion
I didn’t even know that Jeanne wrote Passion for Fashion: Careers in Style, but I found it at a bookstore the other day and recommend it for anyone who wants an introduction to fashion-related occupations.
It’s a particularly good read for high school students wondering how they can fit into the fashion world if they can’t sew and do not necessarily want to be designers.
If you would like to know details about the business of production or the differences between model agents and bookers, this book is for you. Are you interested in fashion communications, but don’t know what job opportunities are available? You can read about PR, journalism, and illustration. If you wonder who works backstage at fashion shows with models and stylists, then you’ll want to pick up this book.
Jeanne provides a general overview of stylish career opportunities and Nathalie Dion’s illustrations make it a colourful read.
You previously knew Steven and Chris as the original Designer Guys and now they have a new weekday afternoon show on CBC. Guess who stopped by to chat about Canada’s Up and Coming Designers? If you read the title of this post, you’ll know that it was the TFI’s Executive Director, Susan Langdon.
You can see Susan, Steven, and Chris discuss Juma, YSO, Malak, and Jason Matlo through this link: http://www.cbc.ca/stevenandchris/2008/03/up_and_coming_canadian_designe.html.
Not only did the models wear Canadian clothing designs (all TFI members), but all accessories were by Canadian designers from local retailer Made You Look, and the shoes were from David Dixon’s exclusive new collection for Town Shoes.
The segment was a perfect showcase for Canadian design and for the TFI, so if you liked Susan’s appearance, be sure to contact the CBC to let them know how much you appreciated the spotlight on up and coming Canadian design.
I know you’re curious about what Project Runway Canada winner Biddell will do with his opportunity.
He’s got a show coming up during Fashion Week; unfortunately, his invitation is an example of how detail – or lack of – can affect your brand. The invitation has an amateur illustration that reflects very poorly on him. To me, it looked like a last-minute graphics job, which in turn makes me think that the collection will be a poor, last-minute job too.
Biddell should read this blog and visit the TFI’s Resource Centre to look at good examples of invitations and press kits.
Tonight we had an intimate and animated Members Meeting at Gossip Restaurant. Discussion topics included trade shows, credit issues (and how to do credit checks), delivery terms, sales policy terms, contracts, manufacturing, fabric sourcing, and where to find jobs.
We had such an interesting range of TFI Members at the meeting. For instance, there was a women’s coat designer, recent fashion grad, accessory designer, a dog coat manufacturer, and many others interested in different aspects of the fashion business. It’s not just womenswear designers who are TFI members!
I’d tell you more, but I’d rather see you in person at the next Members Meeting on Monday April 7. Be sure to registerbefore March 27th online at www.fashionincubator.com/shop/index.shtml.
This week I received a request about finding stylists for a photo shoot, so I turned to Gail McInnes for some clarification and guidance for new designers who might not realize the importance of hiring stylists for photo shoots, runway shows, or even trunk or trade shows.
Gail is an agent at Plutino Group (www.plutinogroup.com), an agency that represents artists in the following disciplines: stylists (wardrobe, accessories), makeup, hair, special effects, nails, off-figure stylists, prop and room stylists, creative direction, and production.
For those of you new to the fashion industry, these artists all play roles in creating and maintaining a clothing brand. Today we’ll discuss clothing stylists, who are often overlooked when designers are starting out. Often you don’t have any spare money to spend on someone who you think only accessorizes your outfits. I know that when I started my company, I thought that I would never have to use a stylist because I knew my designs and knew my accessories. After watching many disastrously styled and edited shows, though, I learned the importance of a good stylist and I thought that you should learn this too. So I asked Gail some questions for you:
Carolyn: I'm a fashion designer and I know clothes. Why hire a stylist? Is it worth it to spend all that money?
Gail: Stylists will bring a fresh perspective to your designs - that is the primary reason to hire a stylist. Stylists have the contacts to pull the best accessories and shoes to complete the look. Want the latest Christian Louboutin shoes for your shoot or next season's "it" bag? Stylists know who to call and how to get them. A stylist doesn't just put an outfit together - they understand the technical aspects of garments and design and have a global understanding of trends. As a young designer, it's important to build relationships with stylists to help build your publicity tears, or to potentially see your garments walking down the red carpet. As with anything when building a business, only you can decide what is worth investing your money in at each step, but when you can afford to hire a professional stylist - you will see that the investment is warranted.
Carolyn: How can I find a good stylist that fits with my brand?
Gail: When you are looking to hire a stylist, it is important that his/her own style fits with your brand. The only way to do that is to review the stylist’s portfolio and decide if you like his/her work, then meet to discuss your vision. Hire the stylist that you feel most confident will do the best job.
Carolyn: How should I prepare for working with a stylist?
Gail: Before contacting an agency, be very clear on what you need the stylist for. Do you want them to work with you from start to finish on fashion direction, or do you just need someone to pull shoes and be on set to make adjustments? Is it for print or for a runway show?
Carolyn: How does hiring a stylist through an agency work? Can you describe the process from start to end?
Gail: Agencies provide a service to both you as the client and the artists they represent. Once you know what you need, how many days and when you will need someone, what items you will need them to pull and prep, etc., then call the agency, let them know what you're looking for and ask them to send over portfolios of stylists who are available and who would suit your budget. The agent will help you through each step, so don't be afraid to ask questions, especially about terms you may not be familiar with.
Not only should designers consider stylists for shoots and shows, but Gail reminded me that designers should understand the importance of inviting fashion stylists to shows and making sure they get seats. Along with fashion editors, stylists select clothes to be featured in magazine editorials. Not only that, but stylists often dress celebrities for events. If they know you and your clothes, they will be more likely to go to you, so make it easy for them; get to know your friendly neighbourhood stylists!
How do you do that? Visit artist agency websites. There, each stylist is listed with examples of his/her work. In Toronto, there are three artist agencies at the top of their game: Plutino Group, Artist Group and Judy Inc. The top stylists at these agencies also shoot for international magazines, which could get you some international exposure.
How you approach the agencies and introduce your company to them is up to you and your individual style.
If you have any questions about hiring stylists or any other artists, Gail will be happy to talk to you, so go ahead and e-mail her. Not only does she have a soft spot for TFI members, but she is enthusiastic about supporting and helping all new designers.
Hopefully you read my interview with Ashley Rowe last month. If not, go and read it because she’s someone you can learn from. She’s in her second season of production and I’m impressed with her business approach.
Today I received an invitation to a “Meet the Designer” afternoon tea prior to the start of Fashion Week. This is an excellent idea for someone who isn’t quite ready to show at Fashion Week, but is ready to generate buzz, make sales, and establish a loyal client base.
I’m especially impressed because the invitation and “Save the Date” announcement arrived almost a month before the event. That gives me a very strong impression about the designer, the company, and the level of professionalism.
Today I received a “Save the Date” announcement from Philip Sparks informing me (okay, not just me, but all media folk) of his L’Oréal Fashion Week show date and time.
As I have mentioned before, designers can learn a lot from Philip, not only because his clothes are exceptional, but he is the ultimate professional and always on-brand, from styling to e-mails and press releases. All notices are sent in advance, and there are never too many (yes, sometimes you can send so many that it reflects badly on your company). Philip tends to do everything right by sending a “Save the Date” about 3-4 weeks before an event, followed by an invitation, and then a reminder before the show.
In this case, Philip included the Who, What, Where, When, and Why in a short and sweet e-mail, complete with teaser photo, link to a lookbook preview on his website (www.philipsparks.com), and a press release that provides more detail.
I love “Save the Date” announcements because they’re kind of whispers to journalists, clients, buyers, and other industry guests, letting them know that you’re planning an event. If presented well, they also make your company look polished and professional.
Patricia Sheng and I met at a TFI Members Meeting and reconnected at a Toronto Fashion Bloggers Brunch just before she flew to Las Vegas for her first trip to MAGIC (which I wrote about last week). She had a binder full of research, so I gave her an assignment: soak it all up and tell me everything! She was nice enough to do so and I know you’ll learn a lot from her experience.
What's your story?
I’ve been an IT consultant for the past 10 years. The whole time, I’ve been dreaming of opening my own clothing business and am finally taking the steps to make my dream a reality. This September I will launch an online boutique called Luxual.
Due to the wide variety of styles I plan to offer at Luxual, MAGIC was the ideal tradeshow for me as I’d need pieces from each of its three main categories: Contemporary, Casual Lifestyle, and Streetwear.
While in Vegas to attend MAGIC, I was also able to check out other shows such as POOL, which showcases emerging designers as well as PROJECT, which was much smaller but very fashion forward showcasing established lines and some even celebrity designers such as Lauren Conrad and Whitey Port both which I had the pleasure to meet.
The great thing about these shows is that they offer much more than just the chance to meet vendors and designers. I really enjoyed some of the free seminars from trend companies and retail presentations that included topics such as how to deal with vendors and tradeshow buying tips. All in all, MAGIC was a great experience that I would definitely recommend to anyone thinking of entering the clothing business.
Please describe your company.
As I mentioned before, I will launch an online boutique this September at www.luxual.ca. It will include sophisticated contemporary collections for the modern woman who appreciates beautiful, luxurious fabrics. Our clothing will fit your lifestyle needs from brunch with your girlfriends, urban professionals at the office, and even yoga. You will always make a statement.
This is your first time going to MAGIC in Las Vegas. What were your expectations?
Yes, this was my first trip. I knew it would be a big event, but I was still surprised at how huge it was. I thought the individual booths would be much smaller and was surprised to see the vendors had so much space to display their products.
I saw your binder filled with plans for attending MAGIC. What did you do to prepare for your trip?
Well, when you register for the tradeshow you receive a package that includes a map. I had done some research beforehand and already knew the vendors that I wanted to work with. Since they also provided me their locations, I planned my day according to where they were located so I could minimize time spent getting to each appointment. I also planned according to the workshops I wanted to attend.
When you arrived at the show, what were your first impressions?
WOW! – I stepped out of the cab into blasting music, a display of luxury cars, sounds systems, and huge rims, etc. The first thing you need to do is pick up your badge in order to enter the show.
Can you describe what happens at MAGIC? What did you do every day?
MAGIC is a huge, huge show. It is divided into 3 sections plus an additional section for Sourcing. Being my first time, I wanted to walk to whole show. This is how I planned my days:
Day 1- Attended seminars for trends and POOL Show in between
Day 2 - POOL Show, and MAGIC Casual Lifestyle
Day 3- MAGIC Streetwear and Sourcing + Project
Day 4 - WWINS, Project + back to MAGIC
How did your experience at MAGIC differ from your expectations?
I loved it! I really enjoyed seeing collections that I have come across in magazines or just by visiting blogs and doing my own research. The sales people were great, and everyone is willing to work with Canadian buyers.
Can you give advice to someone who is planning on attending MAGIC as a buyer?
Know the lingo when it comes to working with the vendors. You do not want to ask questions that will let them know you are new, as they can be very aggressive. If you are well prepared, the question you want answered should be answered first. You are the buyer!
Can you give advice to someone who is planning on attending MAGIC as a designer?
This I am not able to comment on as I have never exhibited at an event, but I would think that having your full collection, line sheets, and a look book with very good photos of your product will make the buyer remember you product much better. Also, I think that if you can hand out a little post card with your designs to anyone that walks by gets your name out there. You need to attract people to your booth, smile and ask people to "thumb" thorough you collection.
Patricia really did tell me everything! Now I really want to go to MAGIC. How about you?
I recently saw a very busy Danielle Sweeney at the TFI Guilty Pleasures sale and had to ask about her sales secrets. Do you think she’ll tell?
What’s your story?
I came to jewellery design and making as a result of an abrupt change in goals and future plans. I attended McGill University and graduated with a degree in Modern Languages, intending to enter the Canadian Foreign Service.
My plans changed when I took a year off after university, to travel and volunteer. It was through volunteering that I met an incredible jeweller and friend, who helped me realize that my jewellery-making hobby could turn into something much bigger.
I researched jewellery schools and programs around the world to see how much the entrepreneurial life appealed to me. I thought it was fate, when I realized that the program that suited me the best was the Jewellery Arts Program at George Brown College--less than 3 blocks from my front door! I haven't looked back since.
Please describe your company and the products you produce.
My company, Danielle Sweeney Design, is a sole proprietorship, and like most independently owned businesses, it has me in the role of designer, maker, janitor, sales rep and everything else. I am a resident designer at Toronto's Made You Look Jewellery Studio and Gallery, and work from
there to create jewellery in silver, gold and platinum.
There are two sides to my business:
One side is custom designed jewellery, where I work with clients on an individual basis to design and create a unique piece of jewellery . This can range from earrings for a special event to fine jewellery, including engagement and wedding rings. The latter categories tend to be the most common for custom designed pieces.
The other branch of my business is limited production jewellery, which I design and create for galleries, shows and exhibitions. I design and hand-make these pieces in quantities of less than 100 per design. My production pieces range in price from $28 to a few thousand dollars and allow me to be in complete creative control, which is a good foil to the custom design side of my business.
I currently sell my work in three stores in Southern Ontario: Made You Look, Corktown Designs, and Jeffrey Ross Jewellery, as well as through Etsy.com, and Gayweddings.com.
You recently participated in the TFI Guilty Pleasures sale. How did it go?
The TFI Guilty Pleasures sale was a fun, exhausting day! It was a great show to be a part of, as the patrons were really excited to have the experience of purchasing new labels and more exclusive clothing and accessories in a relaxed environment. I enjoyed chatting with people; most were interested to hear how my work was made and what my story was as a designer and maker.
The fashion show was a little intimidating at first (being a model for the first time in my life!), but again, it was done in such an informal and fun way that it created another opportunity to meet with and chat with potential clients. It was a very long day, with set up starting at 7:45. I didn't leave until 5:30pm, and was exhausted--but happy--by the end of the day.
What were your expectations for the sale?
I had hoped to sell a little more, to be perfectly honest. My sales were good, and fairly solid throughout the day; however, it can be difficult to justify higher prices to clients who are not familiar with handmade jewellery. In that regard, it was a good opportunity to educate those people about the techniques used in traditional metalsmithing. And as I mentioned previously, it was an opportunity to promote my business to new clients.
How did you prepare for the sale?
I find preparing for sales to be a huge challenge because it is difficult to accurately gauge what is going to sell. For this sale I took suggestions from the TFI into account and focused on putting together a collection of my production work that was moderately priced ($18-80), with only a few higher priced items thrown into the mix.
That strategy enabled a few follow up sales in the days after the show, as clients who purchased lower priced items at the show thought about and then purchased more expensive pieces from the same collection.
Prior to the show, I priced all of my items, prepared packaging, laid out all the materials I would need (postcards, business cards, tape, pliers, credit card slips, etc), and wrote an inventory list so that I was well organized and didn't have to think of anything on the morning of the event.
In terms of my display, I tried to put it together before arriving at the Drake Hotel. It gave me a good sense of how I was going to place my jewellery and work with spacial limitations. Of course, things always change when you arrive on site, so some changes were made at the last minute!
Do you have any advice for new jewellery designers about how to create effective displays?
I wish I could get some advice on displays myself! I was very impressed by my neighbour, whose display was up in a matter of minutes, while I fiddled with my racks, and the placement of each piece. So, that's one piece of advice: be organized!
Other than that, I would say that it is important for shoppers to interact with jewellery, as it tends to be an emotional purchase. My displays are usually open concept, which allows shoppers to pick up, examine, and try on pieces.
Using less traditional display materials – like rice or black beans in trays – has been a great icebreaker in addition to creating a surface that can be easily tidied after people pick up the pieces.
Also, jewellery racks for earrings and busts are a great way to show off pieces that don't have as much appeal when not worn.
Finally, WEAR YOUR JEWELLERY!!! I cannot stress this enough, and it is something that people sometimes forget to do. Even if you don't like wearing jewels, make sure you and your helpers are decked out completely in great pieces that you can talk about and show people how to wear. You are your own best display at a show.
You sell on www.etsy.com. How is that? Would you recommend it to other designers?
I have just started selling on Etsy, and so far I haven't had too many bites. However, within the first day of putting up my pictures, I had two people comment on my pieces, and a further couple added me to their favourites list. As someone who is fairly uneducated when it comes to the Internet, I am constantly amazed by its power. Etsy is just another way for people to find you, see your work and sell your work. Facebook groups, Myspace pages, websites, blogs...all of these things can contribute to your success.
What has been your biggest lesson learned as a business owner?
That's a tough one--there have been sooo many lessons, and some were much harder learned than others! If I had to think of one, it would probably be something that is only just starting to be really clear to me:
Work smart. It is so easy in your business to work hard all the time--seven days a week, crazy hours...That's not smart work. You need to prioritize your time to figure out what needs to be done, what can wait, and what you can outsource to other people to allow you to do the most important tasks. As a business owner, you need to be aware of what is coming into your business (new leads, customers, cash flow), and what is going out, especially with respect to your finances. This is something my husband, an accountant, has only just hammered into my thick head! So, have a plan and work smart.
Danielle was kind enough to share a lot of secrets! You can learn a lot of these by attending as many sales as possible and analyzing vendor sales tactics, displays, PR material, and location. Think about why some booths are super-busy and why others are not. Perhaps next year you should attend the Guilty Pleasures sale and check up on Danielle!
If you're a TFI member, you should have received an email from me this past week inviting you to our next members meeting on March 3rd. If you followed the link to www.fashionincubator.com/happenings/events/you-are-invited-to-the-ne.shtml you would have discovered that TFI has introduced a new online registration system and a $10 per member attendance fee.
I know what you’re thinking, “Why do I have to pay a fee to attend?”
Well what you don’t know is that each members meeting costs TFI about $250 in staffing and refreshments. The complimentary pizza appetizers need to be pre-ordered the Friday before, based on the number of people who have signed up. At the last meeting in February, 36 members registered but only 13 showed up! Ten people cancelled the day of the event and the others didn’t bother to call or arrive. Despite the number of attendees, TFI was still obliged to pay for the appetizers which were enough for 36 people.
TFI had tried for several months to creatively recover some of this cost through holding a door prize draw at the meeting, but on average the proceeds covered only 50% of the cost or less. In February, they might have come close to breaking even if everyone had arrived and contributed towards the draw.
Think about it this way: If you create a product and it costs you $200 to make, you would soon go broke if you gave it away for free. So instead, you would likely sell it for $400 wholesale in order to cover your costs and to make some money. Well TFI being a non-profit, is simply trying to cover its costs; it’s not trying to make money from members meetings.
So if you’re griping about having to pay a nominal fee to attend, please think about what Canada would be like without the TFI. I think you’ll agree with me that it would be huge to lose such a great, supportive organization that’s here to help new fashion entrepreneurs.
I'd still love to see you at our meeting on March 3rd at 6pm but we need a minimum of 25 people to sign-up. If you haven't done so already, please register through TFI Shop at www.beanstream.com/scripts/cart/view_products.asp?merchant_id=117481849.
Hope to see you there!
Sorry I don’t have any interviews for you this week, but scheduling was particularly difficult this week. I’ve got some in the works, so hopefully there will be more for you next week.
Many Canadian designers, buyers, stylists, journalists, and trendspotters spent last week in Las Vegas for the MAGIC (www.magiconline.com) tradeshow, called the MAGIC Marketplace.
What is MAGIC? It is the premiere clothing tradeshow if you are in any of the above occupations. If you’re a designer, you want to show there. If you’re a buyer, you want to shop there to fill your store with the most unique items. If you’re a stylist, you’ll find ideas there. If you’re a journalist, there are stories to be told. And if you’re a trendspotter, you will find the next big fashion thing at MAGIC.
Most people attend for the Women’s, Men’s, and Children’s Apparel and Accessories, but there are fashion shows, information sessions, and fashion industry sourcing exhibits from contractors, fabric companies, and trim manufacturers.
I hear the selection ranges from giant, glitzy exhibits financed by celebrity designers to small booths by independent designers, all housed in a series of football-field-sized convention centre rooms. I also hear the entire thing is completely overwhelming, crazy, and absolutely fantastic, so I hope to have a first-person account for you next week.
The new schedule for L’Oréal Fashion Week is posted! Check it out at www.lorealfashionweek.ca and don’t forget that if you own a fashion business, you can register for an industry pass.
If you don’t own a business, you can try for a guest pass. And if you can’t afford either, you should consider volunteering for the event.
If you’re at all interested in starting a fashion business, I strongly encourage you to attend any and all fashion events that you can. Yes, it counts as research if you want to start a clothing company! You can learn a lot by attending events and making notes about what worked and what failed.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Citing “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as an inspiration for a collection is tired, but there is no denying the film’s fashion influence.
Audrey Hepburn’s gowns were designed by Hubert de Givenchy and legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head supervised the wardrobe. You can’t find a costume team more classic than that. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” exemplifies good style.
So many designers reference this film that it is a must-see for anyone interested in fashion.
After writing about all of these Canadian fashion retail closures, I want to thank Michael Nguyen for sending me details about the opening of his new retail location. Michael owns Sprezzatura, a custom menswear company, and he has been considering a retail showroom for a while. Now he has one at 5B King Street East and he thought you might be interested to read about what to consider when making the step into retailing from a home office or studio based set-up.
Here’s what he did:
* Researched traffic counts, census data, feedback from clients, and spent a whole lot of time in that area before I decided this was the spot.
* A breakeven analysis to see how much volume I’d have to push through the store to make it worth it with a Best/Average/Worst case scenario to see how many months I could last if things went sour.
* An in-depth analysis to see if now was the correct time to seek outside investors, or to wait another 6 months. Where to look for capital, how to negotiate concessions with suppliers, etc.
* Made sure I was not locked into lease for too long a term, giving me flexibility since I am still a start-up in the infancy stage.
* Visited other retailing concepts that sell similar products to aid in interior design, store layout, etc.
* Hired a contractor to consult, but I and a bunch of friends are doing the build out and leasehold improvements ourselves with their direction, which kept costs down thus far. The stores in a mess right now, but it should look somewhat decent by the end of next week.
Thanks, Michael. If you want to visit the space, you might want to call ahead since hours of operation are not yet set.
Another clothing designer is leaving the fashion business to focus on art.
Annie Thompson – who has over 25 years of clothing design and retail success – is closing her Queen Street store, but as that retail door closes, many more are opening for her.
Annie is excited about this new evolution. She’s stopping at a high point in her career to explore her first love: fine arts. Though Annie says she is taking this time to get off the treadmill, take a breather, and reboot, she has a lot of plans, including solo art shows with galleries, travelling, painting, textile installations, and designing textiles for a company in France.
As a retailer and designer, Annie was not able to pursue such projects because business demands added up to three or four full time jobs. After working so hard for so long, she has some advice for designers starting out in the industry. She was quick to say, “They have to follow their own heart and make a product that’s unique to them. There’s room for everybody and the most important thing is to love what you do.”
Annie cautions against designing knockoffs and relying on trend forecasting and she stresses that people must be individuals. She said, “That was never my style; maybe that’s why I survived.” I think she’s right.
Before her store closes in March, you should stop in to 674 Queen Street West, not just to get a deal on discounted merchandise, but to check out some Canadian design history. For those of you in the fashion business, Annie encourages you to drop by for a fabric and fixtures sale on March 13, 14, 15 from noon to 6pm, where she will sell pretty much everything and everything.
We may see Annie designing again, but in the meantime, we will be able to see her art at New Gallery in late February, the Toronto Art Expo in March, and at a solo show at the Carriage House Gallery in October. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing her life-sized fabric “Dolls” on display during [FAT] – Toronto Alternative Fashion and Arts Week in April.
As her customers have been saying, “We’ll miss you, but we’ll support you.”
I heard stories about Sunny Choi closing up her design shop, but I never read any articles about it until today.
While browsing on the P&G Beauty site, I saw an article titled, “The Accidental Artist” about Sunny Choi’s retirement from fashion to focus on painting. It was posted on January 21, so this is kind of old news, but it is interesting to read following the Linda Lundström announcement. I think that any aspiring designer should pay attention to the following quote from the article:
“While we certainly appreciated the sales,” said Choi in the release, “I became less happy with the way the market dictated my fashion direction.” Further, she cites the day-to-day frustration of operating a fashion label, “regardless of the talent behind the brand,” as a key prompt to make a significant life change.
I hope she does well with her new endeavour and look forward to seeing her art.
I was sad to learn that we had a low turnout at last week’s TFI Member Meeting, so we’re discussing some options for future meetings. Stay tuned.
What sad news I read today in the Toronto Star. Canadian clothing success story Linda Lundström had to close her doors. I encourage you to read the recent article and research work.
Carrie Hayes always offers the best advice during TFI Members Meetings, and after seeing her and her designs at the Shopgirls media opening, it was time to ask her to share some of that great advice for this blog.
Carrie studied Fashion Design at The International Academy of Design & Technology and worked in the industry for six years. Like many designers dreaming of starting their own customers, she sewed on the side. Carrie designed custom corsets, which explains the exquisite craftsmanship of her eponymous label.
The Carrie Hayes label is a “women’s wear collection made for Canadian aesthetes.” The designs, fabrics, and high-culture inspirations combine to form a sophisticated style. The clothes fit in well with the Shopgirls style and Canadian-designer focus, so I asked how she got them into the store.
It began with a notice that Shopgirls owner Michelle Germain sent to TFI members. Carrie stopped in because the store was in front of her old studio. They chatted and eventually Michelle wound up with the pieces that Carrie had in her office. If it wasn’t for the TFI note, it may have taken longer for Carrie to learn about this new retail outlet.
Not only is Carrie a TFI member, she is its first Resident in the new space. Currently, she is the only member and she hopes that will change. Even though she has access to TFI staff and a lot of room to spread out and work, she looks forward to having company in the TFI studios and building fashion camaraderie. Carrie emphasises that being a TFI Resident provides great exposure to people in the fashion industry because they are always in and out and it is easy to see them on a regular basis. Not only that, but the space leaves a great impression when guests visit the office; it helps business. Carrie also benefits from TFI website traffic.
How did Carrie become a resident? She was the first winner of the Lulu B. Fashion Award, which provided a year’s worth of TFI studio space. To win that, she had to present a three-year business plan, photos, and designs to a jury. Now she’s a TFI Resident!
What does she do every day as a TFI Resident? She wanted me to tell you, “Fashion is not glamorous!” We laughed about that and agreed that maybe 1-5% is glamorous, but most of the workday is spent sending press releases, cutting, or doing work that always leaves you dusty and dirty. She says, “Even if you can afford to pay somebody to do this and you have loads of money, you aren’t going to be able to escape the hard work. You still have to be familiar with the technical work in order to direct your employees.” Carrie also stresses that “the people who make it in fashion are the people who love the process of building the clothing.”
From her designs, you can see that Carrie loves the design and build process and I suspect that the stores that sell Carrie Hayes can see the same. The label is carried in two of my favourite stores: Smyth & Kang in Calgary and Boutique Le Trou in Toronto. You can also find it at Cybil Scott in Kingston, and Butter in Collingwood.
How does Carrie get her clothes in such lovely stores?
She says it is important to know the professional lingo. To sell, a designer must be familiar with fashion industry terms such as wholesale and keystone pricing. Carrie advises to make sure you can answer all questions about your company and line and to check on questions before you contact a store and make an appointment with buyers.
When I ask Carrie what is her biggest lesson learned as a business owner, she replies, “Overcome fear. That’s the only thing that’s going to stop me from doing what I want to do with my business.”
Didn’t I tell you that Carrie gives the best advice?
When Planning a Fashion Show, Reconsider Late Start
Last night I was supposed to attend a street wear fashion show, but had to decline because of its 11:45pm start. I really wanted to go, but no night time club/street wear show I have ever attended has started on time. I do have a day job, so a good night’s rest won out over the potential of only three hours sleep.
I’m sorry to the organizers, but in the future, please follow this advice: if you want media to attend your show, please schedule it for a reasonable hour. Though a late show might be a fun concept, I don’t think too many journalists will stay out. Keep in mind that they have to file stories early. I recommend that if you organize a club show, you might want to start with the show and schedule entertainment (bands, DJs, etc.) to follow your fashions.
I stopped by the Guilty Pleasures sale event at The Drake on Saturday as it was winding down, but there was still a lot of action and everyone seemed to be having a great time. I saw designers talking to each other, establishing new clients, making PR connections, chatting with media members, and enjoying the event.
I saw TFI's Susan Langdon and asked her for her impression of the event . She said it had been a really fun, upbeat day. Foot traffic was a bit slower than expected due to the massive snow storm the day before, but generally most of the TFI designers who participated were happy. About half of the members did extremely well and the others did so-so. "We do our best to describe to TFI members ahead of time what the event is all about ," said Susan. "The City of Toronto's Winterlicious Festival is all about getting great deals at the city's best restaurants. People attending The Drake's Guilty Pleasures brunch and TFI sale (mainly women) are looking for a deal. They're coming to enjoy a 3-course brunch, a mini fashion show, a chance to win a $200 door prize and they get to take home an ELLE Canada goody bag -- all of this for $35 dollars. We advise designers to keep this in mind and to price their goods appropriately so that they will sell. Some people take our advice; others don't. But after doing this event for four years, we have a very good idea of who attends this sale and why."
Since I spoke with Rachel Mielke from Hillberg & Berk before the TFI Guilty Pleasures event, I was curious about her reactions to the event and if it met her expectations. Here is her response:
"The Guilty Pleasures show did not meet the expectations I had for sales, however I am still glad that I attended the event as I was able to talk to several potential customers and tell them where they could purchase my line in Toronto. I will now follow up with stores that carry my line to see if there are any sales as a result of the show. I also met the producer of a new fashion television show at the event and have collaborated with them to provide jewellery for their filming. This was just one of a few connections I made at the event."
As you can see, there are always opportunities when you keep an open mind and stay positive.
Sorry I missed the TFI Members Meeting last night, but with TFI Executive Director Susan Langdon in my place, I’m sure everyone learned a lot. I hope to see you at the next one on Monday March 3. Please call the TFI to sign up.
Regina-based jewellery designer and entrepreneur Rachel Mielke came to Toronto to participate in the TFI’s annual Guilty Pleasures Brunch and Sale at the Drake Hotel, so I wanted to discuss her experiences as a Western Canadian fashion business owner.
Rachel studied Business Administration and specialized in Marketing at the University of Regina and following graduation, she worked for Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan, where she gained valuable experience that led her to start her own company, Hillberg & Berk.
Hillberg & Berk began in 2005 and sells higher-end accessories to Western Canadian retailers. The spring 2008 collection was inspired by Rachel’s recent trip to Bali and uses semi-precious stones, sterling and Bali silver, and 18-K gold, along with natural organic elements. Now the company has two employees and Rachel’s goal is to expand through Eastern Canada.
As a designer from a smaller Canadian city, Rachel receives tons of support and people want to see local businesses succeed. She says there are many job and entrepreneurial programs and resources available to young people that are underutilized, so she encourages new designers to seek out such programs. Her former office would be a good place to start, especially if you live in Saskatchewan. Rachel also enjoys her central location since it provides easy travel access to all areas of the country.
On the other hand, a city such as Regina does not have a huge fashion community so she isn’t as involved in the fashion community as she wishes. Given this limitation, Rachel found that she had to reach out to other locations for assistance. That’s why she joined the TFI. In a smaller city, it’s difficult to research stores and hot locations in other cities, so she found the TFI resources to be helpful.
I thought that Rachel used her TFI membership to full potential by coming to Toronto for the TFI Press Breakfast in the Fall and by returning this weekend for Guilty Pleasures. When I asked about experiencing the TFI in the fall for the first time, Rachel said, “The TFI is awesome!” and thinks the membership price is reasonable. She was particularly impressed with the Promostyl book in the Resource Centre, which she never would have been able to get access to in Regina. She hasn’t found any place similar in Western Canada. When asked about her Press Breakfast experience, she said it was great; where else are you going to meet the high profile press? Did the experience meet her expectations?
Rachel admits that it seemed as though some journalists were networking amongst themselves during the event, but she did make some excellent contacts. For instance, www.sweetspot.ca profiled Hillberg & Berk and Tara Spencer-Nairn, an actress from Corner Gas, took note of Hillberg & Berk jewellery. (As an aside, I’d like to give Tara Spencer-Nairn a little shout-out because she’s a wonderful supporter of Canadian design. She’s at many shows and events and knows her designers. We appreciate your support, Tara!)
I was curious about Rachel’s expectations for Guilty Pleasures and she was honest in saying that she didn’t quite know what to expect, but was looking forward to making contacts and create brand awareness. Since she didn’t have too much demographic information for the event, she couldn’t predict sales projections.
It sounded as though Rachel had a lot of experience with trade shows, but it turns out that she prefers other sales methods. If you are mid-range designer looking to sell in Western Canada, she recommends that you check out the Alberta Gift Show and Alberta By Hand.
What other advice can she give you? She has so many words of wisdom:
* Definitely create a business plan.
* Make sure to start with your ethical and moral convictions; don’t do this for the money because you won’t make it for a few years. It takes a lot to get through the first years.
* Put money and energy into your business for it to grow.
* Keep your part-time job when you’re starting out.
* Get involved in community events; provide donations because it not only provides excellent PR, but it helps establish credibility, goodwill, and support.
Finally, what has been Rachel’s biggest lesson learned as the owner of Hillberg & Berk? She says it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity. Constantly promote yourself, exploit all opportunities, don’t be shy and don’t be discouraged by disappointment.
Are you now ready to expand your Western-based business to Eastern Canada or your Eastern-based business to Western Canada? We have a country filled with fantastic designers and I can’t wait to see Hillberg & Berk in more Toronto stores.
Two days ago, NOW Fashion/Design Writer Andrew Sardone was asked the questions rather than being the one who asked the questions and he gave you some great advice. Now he posted about the interview experience on his weekly blog and I thought you should take a look at how some people answered the question, “What is the biggest question facing the Canadian fashion industry today?”
Check out Andrew’s blog at www.nowtoronto.com/blog/view_post.cfm?post=589.
FutureFashion White Papers
When drafting this review, I started to write, “You have to read this book if you’re at all interested in the future of environmentally-conscious design,” but I decided to change my intro.
You have to read this book if you’re at all interested in the future of design.
While reading the essays in FutureFashion White Papers, it became clear that the environment is the future of fashion. If you want to start a company, social or ecological consciousness will no longer be a mere selling point, but a way of conducting business.
Published by Earth Pledge (www.earthpledge.org), this could have been a sleep-inducing collection of eco-essays, but I never yawned once while reading. In fact, the book kept me awake; I wanted to read more and had all sorts of great new business ideas.
In the preface, Diane VonFurstenberg writes, “FutureFashion White Papers is an exploration that signifies movement towards a more sustainable fashion industry.” She was one of the designers who participated in Earth Pledge’s first New York Fashion Week show last fall and you can tell that she was affected by that experience.
There are seven sections that follow the wrap dress creator’s words, taking the reader through different fashion industry phases. I learned everything about raw material production, fibre creation, fabric milling, dying and cleaning processes, and changing consumer expectations and demands. I even found answers to my fabric recycling questions I asked last week. There’s even a Canadian contribution from Susan and Yves Gagnon at SYKA Textiles (www.syka.ca).
You have absolutely no excuse to ignore this book. If you can’t afford it, but are a TFI Member, you can check it out at the Resource Centre. You should also spend time on the Earth Pledge website. We have a lot to learn and a lot to change.
You can (and should) buy the book here:
Andrew Sardone and I met way back when I was the Volunteer Coordinator for Toronto Fashion Week. That was when people made such a fuss to get into the Runway Room that I would yell announcements at everyone before the shows. I think he called me Screaming Girl. Now we’re good friends and he is one of the best local design boosters that I know. He is the Fashion and Design Writer for NOW Toronto, the city’s biggest weekly. It was time that I asked him some questions.
What's your story? (What did you do before? How did you get here? Did you always want to focus on style reporting?)
I always wanted to cover fashion and design but I tried to the resist it to become a “serious journalist”. I worked at TVOntario while I studied journalism at Ryerson and was designing handbags on the side as a hobby. That hobby turned into a small business and that business brought me to a job as a designer scout for a store that retailed exclusively Canadian labels. When the NOW opportunity came up, I was lucky enough to have a journalism background and an understanding of the local style scene so I snagged it.
Can you give any advice to aspiring fashion journalists? What could they do to have a good chance of getting a job?
I think interning is necessary. It might not lead to your dream job but you’ll clue in very quickly to what part of fashion journalism interests you. Some jobs on the masthead focus more on writing, others on styling, others more on research and fact checking and sometimes it’s a
combination of all three. If writing is what you’re after, you will want to develop your voice and immerse yourself in the industry to learn style jargon, study your contemporary and historic reference points and meet other writers, designers, etc. Nothing beats a blog for that kind of
experience. The added bonus is that media people love surfing blogs for sources, story ideas and to discover new writers.
As the style writer for Toronto's largest weekly paper, you are a champion for local designers. How do you find these designers that you write about? What grabs your attention?
I try to look at our style coverage the same way our music, news and arts people look at their pages. Our focus is very local but there’s an understanding of the worldwide trends and people influencing our beat. It’s the kind of job that feeds itself. I’ll meet a new designer at a fashion show for another designer. I’ll be borrowing stuff at a boutique for one story and discover a product that inspires the next story. That’s how about 70 per cent of the section comes together. The other 30 per cent comes from designers, PR companies and stores who contact us. We love anything fresh, local and under development. If it has an alternative or eco-friendly angle, even better.
Can you provide some media tips to new designers? What are some effective ways to approach journalists?
For a publication like ours, the personal touch works best. We want to tell the story behind a product and explain to our readers why they should take a chance on something new that might be missing all the glossy packaging of a big brand item. Send us an e-mail (email@example.com) introducing your product and always include a high resolution image. You can always follow up with more information later.
And don’t be afraid to follow up. If you’ve sent a press kit, call the publication to make sure the writer received it. If someone attended a fashion show, e-mail him or her when the collection is arriving in stores. Sometimes it takes a while to build a relationship with a journalist but it pays off when you stop being just another cold call.
On the other hand, can tell us what to avoid when trying to get media attention?
Don’t try to fake it. A new designer should avoid trying to look like an established brand. Be humble and simple but proud of your work and honest about why you think it will connect with a reader. Every fashion week, I read so many press kits that announce that a brand new designer
is the “star of this season’s fashion week” and destined to take over the world. Big talk like that from someone whose collection is only available for sale out of her mom’s garage doesn’t make a good first impression.
The secret is (and maybe it’s not much of a secret), journalists are a pretty competitive bunch and if I feel like I’ve discovered something great and will be the first person to write about it, I’ll pounce.
What are your thoughts on the current state of Canadian fashion?
I think the Canadian fashion system needs to pull back and figure out what our market and our designers actually need. I have a great respect for anyone who champions the industry including the FDCC, the TFI, Sensation Mode in Montreal, different levels of government, etc. but I don’t think there’s a dialogue between all the players or a clear understanding of how to sell and market outside of our borders.
Our designers need access to cheaper manufacturing within Canada, business loans, grants and subsidies administered by people who understand the garment industry and industry ambassadors who introduce their products to new markets and financial backers.
Our designers need to get on the international fashion schedule whether local fashion weeks land late or not. Sell your collection and then show it with a list of confirmed retailers tucked into each press kit. But also evaluate whether a show is right for you, right now. It’s a big investment of time and money in the middle of an open market.
Fashion should be creative, fun and, above all, glamorous. I’m just saying all that glamour is extra chic when you’re swimming in hard earned success.
Propaganda (www.propaganda.bz) is one of my favourite stores since it stocks and promotes local Toronto designers. There’s always something great and unique to be found in there. Since it opened in 2000, it has been one of Toronto’s most popular independent retailers of women’s jewellery, clothing, and accessories.
The owner is Regina Sheung, who has a background in sales, distribution, and jewellery design. Now she operates every aspect of Propaganda including sales, merchandising, visual displays, and customer service. I thought she’d be a perfect person to answer questions about the relationship between independent store owners and designers.
What has been your biggest lesson learned as a store owner?
Hire the right people. Get to know your staff abilities and strengths and use them to help your business growth.
You stock and support many (if not all) local designers. Why did you decide to focus on local work?
With local work, you can share immediate customer response to make positive changes. Most local designers offer custom works, which offers great customer satisfaction. Local designers can take part in our store events and talk about their designs. It creates great joint promotion opportunities.
Can you give any advice to new designers on how to approach store owners with their collections? What should they do? What shouldn't they do?
Avoid showing up without an appointment. Always visit your potential retailer before approaching them. Get an idea of their style, store layout, product pricing, and clientele. Be on time. Prepare proper documents: pricing, line sheets, fabric swatches, product samples and information, professional invoices with proper tax numbers, company and contact information, shipping info, return policy, and designer bios.
As a store owner and buyer, what grabs your attention?
Great designs, reasonable pricing, efficiency, and consistency.
What designers can we look forward to seeing in propaganda in 2008?
Anastasia Lomonova and Covet.
Over the weekend, I did a major loft cleanup and I found something I’ve been wanting to find for a long time: a list of fashion-related movies that I received from a professor at the Parsons summer studies course I took 6 years ago (it was an excellent introduction to fashion studies, by the way).
I can’t remember the professor’s name, but he taught a fashion history course and he rocked. I’m sure he won’t mind if I publish his list here with an ongoing review of the 90-ish films he recommended to watch. I will strictly review the fashion shown in these movies; who cares about plot, cinematography, or editing? Bring on the clothes!
Who cares if Elizabeth Taylor played a prostitute in Butterfield 8? She rocked a slip like nobody else, and for that, you should watch this movie, especially if you want to start a lingerie company.
There you go: a short and sweet fashion movie review. Butterfield 8 is all about the slips.
It’s been a while since I was able to attend a Toronto Fashion Blogger Brunch and it was nice to get a chance to connect with everyone again. We talked a lot about the Las Vegas Magic trade show, which I hope to visit one day.
For a complete list of attendees, check out organizer Danielle Meder’s update at http://finalfashion.ca/?p=706.
This week’s NOW Magazine Take 5 Style column featured illustrations by local blogger (www.finalfashion.ca) and fantastic artist, Danielle Meder. Writer Andrew Sardone went a step further in his blog and provided a quick look into Toronto fashion illustration. Check it out: www.nowtoronto.com/blog/index.cfm?ft=authors&fv=49.
For Toronto readers: I Just read about a play called Intimate Apparel, which is about two seamstresses in 1905 New York City and since it caught my attention, I thought you’d be interested in it too. Here’s a quote from the play’s site (www.obsidian-theatre.com/Intimate%20Apparel.html):
Intimate Apparel takes place at the dawn of the 20th century when opportunities for African-American women were in short supply. Esther, played by Raven Dauda, has a gift for sewing exquisite lingerie and her creations are worn by Park Avenue socialites and downtown prostitutes alike.
Despite her financial independence, Esther is lonely and risks it all to wed a Caribbean stranger whom she knows only through a romantic exchange of letters. When she realizes that he may not be the same person who wrote those impassioned thoughts, Esther must answer difficult questions about her own identity, about tradition and about a woman's place in the world.
The story sounds great, but I’m really curious about the portrayal of seamstresses in New York at the time.
If you’d like to get more fashion out of this play, there’s a fundraising gala for the Obsidian Theatre Company that includes a performance plus the debut of TFI Member (and Project Runway Canada participant) Kendra Francis’s Spring collection. Here’s where you can find more information for the January 20 event:
After talking to Susan Gagnon from SYKA earlier this week, I’ve been wondering about how to reduce waste from fabric scraps. She was kind enough to send me a link to one UK-based initiative between Marks & Spencer and Oxfam, but I’m wondering what we can do with unused fabric and clothing here in Canada.
I’m also thinking about clothing re-use because a friend of mine in Cote d’Ivoire asked if I could find any children’s clothes to donate and ship. I personally don’t have any and thought that if I shipped a little box, it wouldn’t do much good. But there has to be some unsold stock that Canadian retailers could donate and I’d be very interested in organizing an initiative to get clothes over to some needy kids in Cote d’Ivoire.
Do you have any ideas for clothing reuse or fabric scrap recycling? If so, please let me know.
I first heard about SYKA’s eco fabrics at a TFI seminar last year. It was my first exposure to luxurious bamboo, soy, and organic cotton textiles and it was love at first touch.
New eco fabrics are way different than the bulky, burlappy, scratchy stuff they once were and luckily, Canadian designers have a wonderful source to find them: SYKA (www.syka.ca).
SYKA co-owner Susan Gagnon came to the Vancouver TFI Members Meeting that I hosted over the holidays and she was so enthusiastic about her company and had so much information on the Canadian fashion scene and eco fabrics that I just had to interview her.
Susan and her business partner – her husband, Yves – had careers before they ended up in fashion. Yves was a trained economist working in the pharmaceutical industry and Susan was administrating medical research trials. They wanted to start a company together in an industry they both found interesting and it turned out they both loved high-quality, natural fabrics.
Three years ago, New York-based environmental agency Earth Pledge (www.earthpledge.org) introduced new eco fabrics to New York fashion week through clothing by designers such as Diane Von Furstenberg and Oscar de la Renta. Eco fabrics were starting to become less rustic, but more fashionable and luxurious, so after speaking to designers, Susan and Yves knew that it was a perfect time to present a product that was gentle on the environment and fit into fashion. Designers were ready for it.
Once they decided on an industry, they did a ton of research. Susan retrained by going to the Blanche Macdonald Centre, where she built up fashion industry knowledge. They visited all the major fabric trade shows and then Yves visited mills to assess the environmental and social impacts of their fabric production.
Finally, they had a collection of high quality, fashion-forward eco fabrics for SYKA that they branded as Eco-Lux. SYKA is a fabric wholesaler that is unique because they stock fabric, but don’t require buyers to purchase minimums. You read that right: NO MINIMUMS!
Minimum orders tend to be a fashion designer’s biggest problem and SYKA is erasing that problem, but what made them take a completely different approach to business than most other fabric wholesalers?
Susan said the business decision came from their research process. She and Yves looked for what designers needed and wanted. And what did they want? Resoundingly, designers kept saying that they wanted access to high quality fabrics without minimums. Susan and Yves also found that Canadian designers aren’t making huge quantities of items, but focusing on high quality items. SYKA wants to support new designers and Susan admits that stocking so much fabric might not be easy, but her customers keep returning.
SYKA has a great business model: listen to your market and make it convenient for them to place orders and make purchases.
Once Yves and Susan had their business model and product, they spent a lot of time promoting and introducing the fabrics to their market. One great introduction was at the event, Fashion Takes Action (www.fashiontakesaction), where they supplied all the fabric to leading Canadian designers for a fashion gala that was as environmentally responsible as possible. It was so well received that the designs were shown at L’Oréal Fashion Week this past Fall.
Susan’s advice to new designers is to always work towards building a solid business base. There are so many amazing, but you need a business background. If you don’t have it, look how you can build that up. She also mentioned that as a business owner, she is always learning new lessons and that it is important to make goals for yourself and to maintain your focus on those goals.
As you can tell, SYKA has achieved many of their initial goals and I can’t wait to see their collection of Eco-Lux fabrics grow. I recommend that you contact them for more information and try to get your hands on some samples (TFI members can check out the Resource Centre). You really have to feel them and you really will fall in love with bamboo and soy!
***Stay tuned next week for a discussion about what makes a true eco fabric and for information on a book called “Future Fashion”, which is an Earth Pledge publication about socially-conscious fashion. SYKA contributed a chapter, and I’ve got a copy to review. Can’t wait to read it and tell you all.
One thing I wanted to tell you in December was that the great fashion-culture-music-style site, www.shedoesthecity.com, officially launched and it’s great. The style writers are focused on local designers, so if you’re starting a new company, this website is a perfect one to contact and promote yourself.
I first met Ashley Rowe over e-mail when I discovered that she and I both shared the same job: Volunteer Coordinator at Toronto Fashion Week. Then I ran into her at the TFI Press Breakfast, where she showed me her basic, but beautiful clothes. Recently I heard from her because she’s looking for a sales rep. Since she’s already at the stage of seeking a sales rep, I thought it was time for a Q&A.
What's your story?
I graduated from George Brown College, The Fashion Management Program. While attending George Brown I landed summer internships at FLARE and FASHION Magazine. Upon graduation, I worked for the Fashion Design Council of Canada as the Volunteer Coordinator for two seasons. I then worked as a freelance wardrobe stylist for magazines, music videos. I was then offered a job at Holt Renfrew (where I currently am) and began designing my own line at the same time!
Please describe your company and the products you sell.
The main focus of miss rowe (www.missrowe.com) is on fit, fabric and quality. I draw from my English roots and rock and roll influences to create the collection. The product that I sell is contemporary womenswear-classic pieces, pieces that I would love to wear!
Congratulations on being a Toronto Fashion Incubator New Labels Competition Semi-Finalist. What did you do to prepare your application? How much time did it take?
Thank you! I am very excited to be a part of the New Labels Competition. I started by downloading the application months in advance and preparing a timeline and schedule of what needed to be completed. I took a lot of time to think about the application and how I could make mine stand out amongst all the other applicants. All in all, it took about a month to prepare and ready the application.
What's the next step for you in the New Labels Competition?
Three sets of judging over the next three months! There is a process and timeline to follow with the New Labels competition, which all culminates with the New Labels Runway show at the end of April!
You participated in the Toronto Fashion Incubator Press Breakfast, which was where I first saw your clothes. How was that experience? What did you learn?
The experience was amazing! I was able to debut my first collection to the media and buyers of Toronto all in one morning. I learned how much work goes into preparing an application (great preview to the New Labels application!) and preparing a collection (all of the little details that add up!).
I see that you are looking for a sales representative. What prompted the decision to hire a sales rep? Hiring someone is a big decision, so how did you know you were ready for that step?
I definitely feel that the selling one’s collection is the most important part and think that I can take miss rowe to the next level with a sales representative. [Note: If you’re interested in this position, please send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
What has been your greatest lesson learned as a business owner?
Time management! Learning from one’s successes and failures.
If you have one piece of advice to new designers, what would it be?
Follow your heart and your passion; where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I had a chance to meet with TFI’s Vancouver members over the holidays. While only two out of four showed up, Hannah Melville of Wonderlust (www.wonderlustclothing.ca) and Susan Gagnon of SYKA (www.syka.ca) and I had a blast.
You know what? We talked a lot about the same things that we discuss during the Toronto Members Meetings. Yes, fabric sourcing came up again, but this time we had an actual fabric supplier with us! I learned a lot from Susan and I love her eco fabrics and business model. I hope to have an interview with her posted soon.
I also hope that Susan and Hannah continue to meet and that other Vancouver TFI members meet with them. I’d like to hear more about the Vancouver fashion community.
I met Corrine Anestopoulos at different events throughout the city and then one day I was surprised to see her at a TFI Members Meeting. Then I saw her at more and more clothing and accessory shows. And then I saw her booth absolutely packed at the last Clothing Show. We’ve been trying to connect for an interview for a while and finally we did. I thought you’d like to know some of Corrine’s thoughts about participating in trade and retail shows.
What's your story?
While working with graphic design, installation art, and web design in my third year of Image Arts, New Media at Ryerson University, I began to crave a tactile edge alongside all the digital work I was producing. Out of pure experimentation, I decided to try making jewellery with odds and ends I bought at a local bead shop. While very crafty in nature, many of my first pieces were loved by friends, who urged me to approach a consignment store and try participating in a show. I couldn't believe it when Rubie's Beauty Bar (now closed) picked up my line, and somehow the earrings sold like hotcakes! I then participated in The Clothing Show, sharing a booth with two other designers. This was my first contact with the public, and their feedback was very positive and inspiring. I sold out of my stock on the first day, and stayed up all night making more for the second day of the show! After this, my wholesale clientele grew and thus I gained confidence and experience, which tightened up the quality of my work and added professionalism to the brand.
Over the past three years, I have focused on tweaking Biko to represent more of me and less of what a mass bead distributor provides for the public at a bead shop. Thus, I work with several suppliers to create elements (such as lockets and charms) that are unique to Biko, mixing them with new and vintage findings to create a piece that's different from the rest. I've also focused on bringing Biko to boutiques whose values and goals I truly believe in, such as Ukula on College Street, Made You Look and Fawn on Queen Street West. These boutiques sincerely support and promote the artist above and beyond, and carry other lines that I would gladly stock in my own
closet at home. It's great to be a part of other small businesses run by like-minded individuals who continue to inspire me in business and support Biko as a blossoming jewellery line in Toronto.
Today, my business is a steady flow of store orders mixed in with shows, photo shoot loans, and production/private sales. My latest and most exciting news was seeing Biko adorning the models in Common Cloth's show during Loreal Fashion Week this past October 2007, as well as Biko soon to be seen on The OC's Rachel Bilson in an upcoming movie called "Jumper", due out sometime in 2008.
Please describe your line and the products you make.
Some of this is covered in the question above.
Biko Designs (www.bikodesigns.ca) has a vintage-meets-modern feel, with jewellery that is whimsical but feminine in nature. Many pieces are multi-functional, providing the wearer with an array of options to go with any outfit. For example, the Clip Pendant Necklace can be worn long and sleek or short, doubled twice around the neck. The locket pendant also clips off, allowing it to be worn separately on a different chain, or on a keychain or purse zipper.
Materials used in Biko pieces include semi-precious stones, crystal, brass, copper, stainless steel, 14k gold, and sterling silver. Biko's latest endeavor is the "Golden by Biko" line, which features
thin gold chain necklaces with witty charms such as a camera, stingray, handcuffs or boxing gloves, all in 14k gold.
You just had a booth at the One of A Kind Show. How was it? What were your expectations before participating and how did they measure up to reality?
The One of a Kind Show went really well! This was my best show yet.
My expectations were more relaxed than in the past, as I have been trying to work with the idea that a relaxed attitude makes those around me more chilled out and comfortable in my booth. This in turn would lead to more sales. I think having an attitude that put others at ease worked to increase my sales.
You're getting busy showing at clothing and trade shows. What are your favourite ones and why?
My favourite show is the One of a Kind Show, because it gives me the chance to make my booth look like a little boutique, rather than a makeshift stand. I also like the variety of people who come to that show... you'll see it all: ladies who lunch, trendy young professionals in their 20s and 30s, teens on the hunt for the coolest new finds, and everyone in between. Even Jeanne Beker came by my booth this past show. It was so exciting!
In your opinion, what is the best show for an accessory designer?
Many people would say that the best show for accessories is the Mode Accessories Show, although I have personally never participated in it. However, in visiting the show, I found it to be quite saturated with mass-produced imported accessories. I personally love the One of a Kind Show, but recommend the Clothing Show for anyone doing a first-time show.
For the past few seasons, I've seen you very busy at the Clothing Show. What's your secret to drawing people in?
I always work hard at making my booth look as professional as possible, even if it takes all day to set up and it's a two-day show. I also like to have a corner booth, to make the space feel less cluttered. I feel this helps draw in customers, as well as keep my own mind focused and more relaxed.
Do you have any advice for new designers starting a jewellery business?
Anyone will tell you that a successful business takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but I will add to this that a balance of determination and daily allowance of fun is key. This keeps your mind fresh and creative, all the while eliminating the stress of taking on so many new things at once.
In designing a product, I would have to say to do what feels good...follow your intuition. When I started making jewellery, I did it because it was my hobby and I enjoyed seeing the finished product worn by myself and my friends. I now would tell others to not be scared of bringing what they love into a full-time hobby, all the while expecting to mix their fun hobby with the hard work mentioned above in order to properly market the product. And don't give up… it takes
time as well as trial and error to tweak your product into one worth selling.
What are your thoughts on Canadian fashion? Are there any designers that inspire you?
I feel Canadian designers are getting more recognized these days (for good reason!), and many stores across the country are even carrying only Canadian lines as a show of support to designers of their home turf. What I personally like about launching a line here is that it's not as daunting as the US market, and there is a great community among designers, especially in my west-end neighbourhood in Toronto and at the TFI.
I love Common Cloth and am inspired by Juma as well. The success of both lines in the Canadian fashion industry is a good model to all young designers. They, like me and so many others, work hard and are proud of their Canadian roots in this crazy and exciting world of
Last night was another TFI members meeting at the fabulous Gossip Restaurant, near the TFI’s new building on the exhibition grounds. The restaurant was great and contrary to what people think about fashion designers, we did not gossip! We talked all about the business of fashion.
I didn’t really take any notes this time because it was nice to sit back and chat. One thing that we discussed a lot was the Elle Canada gala benefit on April 24, 2008 for the TFI featuring the TFI New Labels Competition and Elle’s consumer and industry beauty and fashion show that will be at the Direct Energy Centre from April 24 to 27. TFI members have a fantastic opportunity to participate and the public has a wonderful opportunity to see what’s new in the fashion and beauty industries. See the TFI Happenings page on the TFI website or www.ellecanada.com for more information.
I owe you an apology.
As the holidays approached, I was so busy with work and preparing for my trip to Vancouver that I did not post much during December. To be honest, besides being busy, I didn’t have much to post because everyone was so busy with holiday sales that I didn’t have any interviews or smart sales observations. Part of that was because I didn’t attend many sales because I was trying to save my own money. Please excuse my self-preservation requirements; I resolve to post consistently in 2008.