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Lump of Coal
22 December 2006

I promised you a few holiday goodies, but for various reasons, the treats didn’t work out, so I get a lump of coal and you get…well, nothing. Perhaps a lump of coal would be better than nothing; I don’t know. But I do know that I intend to have those fashion treats for you in the New Year.

I’m heading to Calgary for the holidays, so I won’t have any updates for you until the week of January 8. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Best wishes for 2007. Maybe it’ll be the year you start your fashion company!

Holiday Sales
20 December 2006

No, I’m not talking about holiday sales as in last-minute, high-pressure mall shopping. I’m talking about local DIY holiday sales. I’ve noticed tons of them this year and want to tell you that it seems to be a great way to start your company and get your name out.

What are you waiting for? Get working on things to sell in next year’s holiday sales.

Pink Tartan and Porter Airlines
18 December 2006

Just returned from a quick weekend getaway to Montreal and flew on the new regional airline, Porter. There’s much buzz about this airline, and I noticed that whenever I told anyone about my flight, he or she usually mentioned that Pink Tartan designed the uniforms. Even fashion unconscious guys tell me about the Pink Tartan uniforms! I’m really amazed with how much brand awareness this has created for the company. That’s great PR.

Note to all you designers: partner with an airline to create cute new uniforms!

The Holiday Rush = No Interviews
15 December 2006

Since everyone is busy with holiday festivities, I couldn’t get any interviews for you this week, but please return soon for a few holiday goodies.

Goodbye, Website
14 December 2006

Today was the day the BoastToastie website died. It should have been off the Internet a long time ago, but it was such a great site that I didn’t want to get rid of it.

Thanks again to my brilliant friend, Derek Lee, who designed the site. I’m sorry I couldn’t keep it posted, Derek.

It’s Official: No More BoastToastie
13 December 2006

Aw, it’s a sad day. After much procrastination, I finally got around to start the process to end my company, BoastToastie.

I was waiting to hear back from my business partner, who wanted to investigate selling our concept and designs. In the spring, we agreed on a deadline of September, but it wasn’t until last month that we spoke about it. She hadn’t done any research, so we decided to end it for good. I’ve just been putting off the official dissolution because it’s kind of sad.

Today I started the process. Did you know you have to file a Dissolution Kit (http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/epic/site/cd-dgc.nsf/en/cs01005e.html) to the Canadian government? And it costs $50. Ugh. As if I want to bug my ex-business partner for $25…

Even though I learned a lot from the experience of starting my own company, I still find it hard to accept that I had to kill it. Guess I’m a bit sensitive. Oh well.

TFI Resource Centre Review:
An Introduction to Sales and Marketing
12 December 2006

This guidebook was the one document that I didn’t buy when starting BoastToastie. Why? My business partner handled sales and marketing. Now I get to look into this myself.

The TFI’s Introduction to Sales and Marketing is an excellent resource to help you refine your sales, marketing, and branding strategies. For me, a lot of it seems like common sense, but I’ve done a ton of research on these topics. If you’re just starting out, I recommend you read it.

For those of you who are shy about selling, you’ll want to check out this document. Everything is there to help you start and continue sales, including an introductory speech for you to use when pitching buyers. The Buyer’s Kit information is also helpful.

Broadcasting Your Message is the last chapter and one that could be most useful since it discusses the pros, cons, and costs of conventional marketing routes. This will help when you’re starting your business plan budget.

It makes a lot of sense to read this at the same time as the TFI’s other documents, How to Start a Fashion Business and How to Prepare a Business Plan.

…and just to let you know, I do not get any financial kickbacks for writing this! I recommend resources to you when they’re good because I want to help you save time and avoid mistakes. One of the best ways to do that is to read these documents.

Interview: The Dolls Behind Doll Factory by Damzels in this Dress
8 December 2006

I know you’re out there: you’re looking in your closet at a Damzels dress, wondering what happened to your favourite Toronto dressmakers, Rory and Kelly from Damzels in this Dress. You haven’t been able to find one of their new dresses forever, and you wonder if you’ll ever be able to buy such a fun dress again. A tear falls into your glass of Merlot.

Hold on! Dry those eyes, buttercup!

I have fabulous news: you can find Damzels dresses in the new store, Doll Factory by Damzels (www.dollfactorystudios.com). Yes, I did mention it last week, but Rory and Kelly are such great businesswomen that I thought you deserved to hear the whole story.

So…what’s the story? In 1993, Kelly Freeman and Rory Lindo started Damzels in this Dress, a Toronto company that made the cutest rock ‘n roll inspired dresses. Then last year, they had a FUNeral for the beloved label (note the FUN part!).

Many people thought Damzels was dead, but Kelly gave me the truth: The FUNeral was for friends and colleagues. Plans were in works for an accessories line and store, but clothing line production demands wouldn’t allow them to do necessary research and design, so they took a year hiatus to break the chain of production.

Why accessories and a store? Rory and Kelly always wanted a store and loved the idea of having their own environment to showcase products, but they didn’t want just a dress store, which they would have had if they remained Damzels in this Dress. They wanted to expand their product offerings and since accessories are a growing market and are trans-seasonal, Doll Factory was born. The gals saw the need for accessible gift items that could be translated into the Damzels rock ‘n roll aesthetic, so they combined those ideas and launched a retail shop that incorporates Damzels and Doll Factory. It’s heaven to a girl like me.

I was so happy to hear this and see Damzels dresses back in the store! I thought the FUNeral was a funeral, but I was wrong. Kelly and Rory brought back the dresses and made many other gals very happy. The dresses you see in the store today are a holiday relaunch exclusive to the store, but are you ready for this? The Damzels dresses will have a retail relaunch in the Spring! Can you sense my excitement?

Rory and Kelly are excited, too. With the new store and new line come fun, new challenges. They’ve always been do-it-yourself kind of gals, so they did almost everything themselves. This could be a combination of their self-admitted control freakishness or nervousness about spending money on a new venture. They aren’t saying what really determined their DIY approach, but they do admit that they’re very conservative with spending, which is why they’re probably still around. They calculate risks carefully, which necessitates a small budget.

Apart from maintaining a budget, they say that their biggest challenge is that they are new to retail. They had shallow concepts about how much merchandise to buy, how to set up displays, and run a store. There’s a learning curve, but they’re proud of the response.

The Doll Factory by Damzels store has only been open a week, but the response has been wonderful and the biggest reward so far was opening night turnout. The girls say that they are always nervous the day of a show or launch, but it’s always gratifying when they see a full audience. They recognize that they are super-fortunate to have a great group of friends and followers, but they work hard to earn the support. New designers can learn a lot from these gals who had a line up of people down Queen Street begging to get into the Doll Factory launch a few months ago and packed their new store with friends and clients last week.

Okay…I’ve made their company sound idyllic and glamorous, with all this talk of dresses, relaunches, and parties, but what do Kelly and Rory do in a typical workday?

Though no day is typical, you’ll find them in the roles of designers, accountants, and garbage gals, and this can change every moment. They do a lot of schlepping around, breaking a sweat, and find themselves saying, “This busts anyone’s idea of fashion being a glamorous gig!”

Glamorous or not, they love their work and you can see it in their store and their dresses. They say that to be successful, you have to be completely organized and when it works, it really works.

When I ask them for advice for new designers or storeowners, Rory and Kelly encourage you to do as much research as you can. They say that everyone is surprised when they start out, so don’t be afraid to take small steps in the beginning and work to a longer-term goal. Canada is different than other countries, and you’ve got to work hard, start small, but keep that big goal in mind.

Now that you know it all, finish that Merlot and get over to the Doll Factory to see how those goals are working out.

Save the Date!
7 December 2006

The Fashion Design Council of Canada sent a “Save the Date” e-mail, so I thought I’d let you know that the Fall/Winter 07 L’Oréal Fashion Week (www.lorealfashionweek.ca) will be from March 12-17. See you there!

TFI Seminar Review:
Fashion and Sustainability: Bamboo Fabrics
7 December 2006

This was what I’ve been waiting for: a way to blend my development experience with my love of fashion!

Seriously, this seminar was so effective on selling sustainable fabrics made from bamboo and soy that I’m considering sending my resumé to Michael Correoso from Thynque (www.thynque.com). I’ve seen enough sales people and government bureaucrats give sustainability spiels that I know the real thing when I see it, and this seems to be the real deal.

I was so impressed with this fabric that I’m telling you to go and search out the stuff so you can feel it; it’s amazingly soft and apparently it has super-wick properties. You’ve got to check it out.

If you can’t find bamboo fabrics, then stop into the TFI Resource Centre because they have an information kit with fabric swatches from SYKA Textiles (www.syka.ca). You’ve got to feel these fabrics!

Interview: Danielle Ker is a Knotty Girl
6 December 2006

Some of you might know Danielle Ker as TFI’s Program Coordinator, but did you know that she’s knotty?

No, I don’t mean naughty; I mean knotty! She has a line of wearable ribbon accessories called Knotty Girls (www.knottygirls.ca). A graduate of the Ryerson Fashion Communications program, she was inspired to create wearable ribbon jewellery when she was a manager of Mokuba Ribbons (Okay, I didn’t find a Mokuba website in a 2-second Google search, but I do know that it’s a Japanese ribbon company that makes AMAZING ribbons. Once you’ve been in a Mokuba store, you’ll never want to see a wholesale ribbon again…).

Anyway…Danielle has a job that keeps her busy most workdays, so I wondered about the challenges she faces holding down a job and starting a business at the same time. She says that time is her main challenge. She doesn’t have enough of it to do everything, such as PR, design, sales, and website updates. She hasn’t quite solved that problem, but she has improved her prioritizing techniques.

What’s her other big challenge? Money. This is the common challenge with every designer I meet. So how has Danielle dealt with the money crunch? Like everyone else: month-to-month payments and credit. It’s tough to start a business and Danielle’s goal is to keep the money flow even and balanced.

How does she bring money in? Danielle is at almost every fashion and craft show in the city! I saw her at Style Revolution at the Design Exchange, at Nathalie-Roze’s Crafternoon Teas (www.nathalie-roze.com), and expect to see her at the following shows:

Not only does she attend these sales, but she organized her own sale recently. She and her friend created a studio sale, so I asked her about how she prepared for such a sale.

It turns out that Danielle only had three weeks notice because she discovered that her neighbourhood organized a studio tour event. She and her friend wanted to participate, so they did as much as they could in a short period of time, which included sending information to press and distributing tons of flyers. The press paid off: Danielle was mentioned in Metro and the Roncesvalles Villager.

Even with that great press, they needed more time and a better location. It turned out that they required a higher-traffic location. Luckily, it was a profitable night, but she recommends two months to plan and prepare for such a show.

Hopefully we’ll see Danielle at the Clothing Show and other local shows in the future. She thinks it will be a while until she is accepted into the One of a Kind Show because it is very competitive for jewellery, but don’t worry; you can find her beautiful creations on her website (www.knottygirls.ca), at Made You Look (1338 Queen Street West), and at www.snazzygirl.com.

She always has a beautiful booth and was interviewed on TFI-TV about tips for a good display. You should really check out her stuff. She’ll show you her knots and I’m sure she’ll also give you some good business tips. For instance, she wanted to give you this advice:

Be focused, know your target market, and stay on brand. I say this because after a great response to my first collection (ribbon jewellery) I expanded and created a collection with mainly beads and metals. I had a hard time marketing this, and realized that what people liked about my line was that it was different and non-traditional.

When a knotty girl tells you to be focused, know your target market, and stay on brand, you should listen!

TFI Members Meeting
5 December 2006

I had some more fun with my Fashion Support Group tonight, and the accessory designers almost outnumbered the clothing designers!

It’s interesting to see how many accessory designers are TFI members. If I designed jewellery, bags, scarves, or other accessories, I probably wouldn’t think to get a membership, but all the accessory designers I’ve met who are TFI members seem to get a lot out it.

Since the Promostyl books are my new obsession, we talked a lot about trend forecasting. When people got me to shut up about that, we discussed a bunch of other fun things, such as:

It was another great meeting; I hope to see you all again on Tuesday January 9!

TFI Resource Centre Review:
Promostyl Trend Forecasting
4 December 2006

I spent some time in the TFI Resource Centre looking at Promostyl Trend Forecasting books and had tons of fun!

They just added the Spring/Summer 08 Promostyl Womenswear Trend Forecasting book to the resource centre, so I thought it was the perfect time to check it out. I never looked at the Promostyl books before, but I got lost in them. There are so many reasons to look into these, but all you have to do is check back to previous years, you’ll see that they are right on target and will help you with inspiration and colour palettes. You should check them out. If you’re a TFI member, you can call or e-mail to book an appointment to check out the Promostyl book.


Buy Canadian:TFI Holiday Gift Guide
1 December 2006

The TFI came up with an amazing idea: a Holiday Gift Guide!

If you need some gift ideas and want to support Canadian designers, check out the list of TFI members at this link to the TFI Newsroom (http://www.fashionincubator.com/happenings/newsroom/tfi-holiday-gift-guide.shtml). Hmmm…what can I find for my mom and my sister-in-law? A Swarovski-coated Gypsy necklace from Loranne Kettlewell Jewellery (www.lorannekettlewell.com)? Crocheted waist bands from Pricila Gomes (www.pricilagomes.com)? A scarf or wrap from Jabberdust (www.jabberdust.ca) or Leah Bazian (www.leahbazian.com)? There are so many ideas…

Shopping Experience: East End Holiday Wanderlust
30 November 2006

Something was stirring in Toronto last night, and it wasn’t a mouse. It was Queen Street East.

Most of the businesses from Leslie to Pape streets got together to celebrate the holidays for the Holiday Wanderlust spectacular, and I thought it was a brilliant way to promote the area and the stores. For information, check out www.eastendnoise.com and see my noisy and fun neighbourhood.

My night started fashion-tastically at my loft with Andrew Sardone, the style writer for NOW (www.nowtoronto.com), Samra Habib, Assistant Editor for Rouge Magazine (www.rougemag.com), and up-and-coming designer, Philip Sparks. I forced the holidays on them with some mulled wine, homemade peppermint bark, and The Grinch soundtrack, which made us all forget about the Autumn monsoon outside. Eventually we braved the weather and walked down to Nathalie-Roze & Co. (www.nathalie-roze.com), where I finally got to meet N-R herself! It was about time, and it was worth the wait. One of these days we’ll get together so I can interview her and tell you all about her adventures as a store owner/designer.

We walked past some great restaurants and stores and Andrew made us stop in Winkel. In my 5-second Google search, I didn’t find a website, so you’re just going to have to go down there to check out it’s fabulosity. I can’t tell you how much I love the record-inspired goods.

The new Doll Factory Studios (www.dollfactorystudios.com) store was the destination of the evening. It’s my new favourite store, opened by Rory and Kelly from Damzels in this Dress. I thought they’d killed off Damzels, but lucky us…I spied some gorgeous dresses in the store. The store is a blast: there are a million gifty ideas for any of your coolest girlfriends, dogfriends, or babyfriends. You’ve gotta check it out. And if you’re hesitant, check back here for more information because I’m going to try to get an interview from them next week.

Oh, and I’ve gotta tell you about my best new discovery: Sarah Doucet makes the cutest charm-inspired jewellery and she’s got a fun display at Six Shooter Records (www.sixshooterrecords.com) until December 10. Apart from love-love-loving her accessories, I love-love-love her PR photos: she’s got a beautiful Golden-type girl sporting her stuff, which I thought was brilliant. It illustrates the versatility of her designs. Sarah told me that her wonderful model was her university dance instructor, which I think was brilliant. I look forward to seeing more of Sarah’s designs and letting you know more about her when she’s got a website.

Can’t you just feel the fun emanating from Toronto’s East End? I love my neighbourhood!

Interview: Rodney De Freitas, Hard Wear Athletics
29 November 2006

I met Rodney De Freitas through my friend Gail, an agent at B&M Models (www.bnmmodels.com). She told me that Rodney owned a clothing company and is a member of TFI, so naturally, I had to ask him a few questions. Here’s what we discussed…

Carolyn: What's your story? (e.g. What did you do before, and how did you end up here)

Rodney: Well that will take about 2 hours to explain, so I will give you the short version.

Fashion wasn't in my initial career plans. I was actually on a path to a Sport Medicine degree, even though sewing became a hobby of mine at a very early age. While I was a toddler at home, my mother made custom wedding dresses and graduation gowns. She would give me little projects to do (like getting out the fabric and patterns) and by the time I was 12 years old, I was helping her sew the wedding dresses and gowns.

That took a back seat to my athletic and sport medicine career. While training for the ‘88 Olympics in Gymnastics, I had a serious fall on my head and had to give up both the dream of competing in the Olympics and my Sport Medicine career. After doing a short stint in the financial industry at a Bay Street brokerage firm, I realized I wasn't happy and packed up my bags and moved to New York after being scouted by a model agent. I spent two years in the States flying between New York, Miami and L.A. enjoying my newly found "hobby".

One night I was in bed, wondering where I would be if I didn't get injured and my mind started to wander about how those circumstances led to where I was in my life and what I wanted to do with it. Upon my return to Canada, I still had the athletic desire within me, but since I could never compete again, I decided to fuse my earlier passion for sewing, my love for athletics, my knowledge of the human body, and my new found passion for fashion to develop an athletic wear line.

Since then, it evolved into an active lifestyle collection that has been on Top TV Shows Like Baywatch and Melrose Place, as well as some of North America's top fitness, health, and Wellness/Lifestyle magazines. My collection can hold its own in today's marketplace and is constantly evolving to meet the demands of the active lifestyle industry.

C: Please describe your company and the products you produce.

R: HWA Active Wear & Lifestyle Collections is a fashion design company specializing in women's designer active lifestyle apparel.

Emphasis is placed on quality, versatility, and unique styling. The collection is comprised of 20 to 30 pieces, all designed to coordinate together or to be mixed with a customer’s existing wardrobe. The designs are clean and modern with particular attention to quality, texture of fabrics and construction. Our target customers are career oriented, working women, aged 25 to 50, who are aware of fashion trends, who lead healthy active lifestyles, and who have an affinity for travel.

C: What do you do in a typical workday?

R: What DON’T I do!!!

At the present time I am the designer, Accountant, PR REP, Sales Rep, Marketing Exec, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, and anything else you think of that I might have forgotten to mention.

C: Do active-wear ordering seasons vary from fashion seasons and the ordering/production timeline?

R: No, they pretty much follow the same ordering seasons and production timelines as other fashion apparel companies. The smaller independent boutiques have more room to set their own time lines since they carry a smaller inventory, so they might order again well into a season if a particular design is selling well.

C: Hard Wear Athletics has a long list of Sales Offices in North America. How has your experience been with shipping in Canada?

R: So far I haven't had any real major shipping problems.

C: What about your experience shipping in the United States?

R: Most of my sales have been to the United States and I must say I've been very happy with shipments going to the U.S.

The only shipment that I really had to scream and yell about was bound for Antigua (obviously not part of the US). They lost the order and took 3 days to find it because they gave the paperwork to the wrong person.

C: Do you have any plans to export beyond North America?

R: Yes! I think every designer's dream is to be able to export worldwide; however, learning about shipping and exporting within North American should be the first step. Get the experience and knowledge before you try beyond North America.

Shipping to Europe, Africa or the United Emirate States have very different rules regulations and standards, so if one is not experienced in at least the guidelines of shipping within North America first, it can be an extremely expensive venture.

C: You expanded into baby wear. What made you realize that you were ready to expand your line?

R: When I had my first child! It was my way of celebrating his arrival into my life.

C: Hard Wear Athletics has an extensive online catalogue. How have Internet sales been for your company? Would you recommend online sales to other designers?

R: I would have to say that Internet sales are more difficult than if one had a storefront on a major street.

Mind you, being online automatically puts you on the international stage, and I have clients that start right here in Toronto and stretch out as far as the Netherlands and Australia. Being on the international stage means you are also competing with tens of thousands of similar companies as opposed to a fraction of that with a storefront.

To sum it up, I would suggest trade shows and a storefront as the main source of income and the website as a supplementary tool to help increase your presence on a global scale.

C: You’re a Toronto Fashion Incubator Outreach Member. How has TFI membership helped your business?

R: Being a TFI member keeps me on the right track and focused on attaining my goals. The resources and seminars available to me are unsurpassed and second to none.

C: If you have one piece of advice to new designers, what would it be?

R: The world of fashion can be an extremely intimidating place to be and chances are you are not the only one who feels lost or like you are being swallowed up or have bitten off more than you can chew.

My advice then to all of the new designers out there? JOIN TFI!

There, you will meet other designers who can be a great peer support system. The seminars are held by renowned experts in their field, which help you make crucial decisions and avoid potentially big mistakes. The resource centre is filled with invaluable information at your fingertips for you to succeed in an industry that is quite possibly the most competitive industry on the planet.

And most importantly: be true to yourself....NOW GO OUT THERE AND KICK SOME ASS!!

C: What has been your greatest lesson learned as a designer/business owner?

R: My greatest lesson learned so far is this:

Success is a result of Good Judgement...Good Judgement is a result of Experience...Experience is sometimes a result of Bad Judgement. Don't let mistakes or bad judgement get you down. Learn from them and grow from them. Use 1% of your energy thinking about the mistake and 99% on the solution.

Do You Need to Sew to be a Fashion Designer?
28 November 2006

A lot of people ask me whether I think it’s possible to start a clothing company without knowing how to sew. I received another one of those e-mails this week, so I thought I’d share my answer. Hope it helps all of you aspiring designers who haven’t been able to conquer the art of sewing.

First, I'd recommend submitting your questions to the TFI Mentors since they have much more experience than I do.

Second, I'd say it's too bad that you've had trouble learning a little bit of sewing because I find that you really have to understand how a garment works in order to design. But if you have a good relationship with a patternmaker and sample maker and can express your ideas clearly, then it might work. So I'd say that a MUST know is how to clearly communicate with people that you hire (They should be able to sort out all that measurement stuff!). If I were in your position, I'd meet with a bunch of different patternmakers and sample makers to determine if you can work together, if they can achieve your goals, and if you can agree on fees. Note: it will take a lot of extra money to work with a patternmaker and sample maker if you don’t understand garment construction. It's important to do that research! Get familiar with the TFI resources online. They're extremely helpful.

Interview: Ilona Hassan
27 November 2006

Ilona Hassan is a TFI Outreach Member who I ran into at the Style Revolution show at the Design Exchange. It was her first show, so I obviously had to get some tips from her to pass on to you.

Before the tips, though, you’ll want to hear her story. Five years ago, she was an economic consultant in Lithuania. Then she met a Canadian and they both moved here. While processing paperwork, she was a housewife who found herself sewing in her spare time. After six months, she thought about turning it into a career, so she did some research and attended the International Academy of Design as a mature student. Ilona gained some internship experience and now she has a home-based studio.

Ilona’s image-consultant sister inspired her to create a company that focuses on simple, perfect basics. One day they went through Ilona’s closet and her sister noticed fashionable items, but a lack of white shirts, pencil skirts, and classic jackets that match any outfit. As a designer, Ilona realized that she completely neglected these basics and immediately found a new wardrobe philosophy: If every woman could recognize the power of basics in her wardrobe, she’d always have something to wear.

The collection debuted at the Style Revolution show, so I had to ask how it went. It turns out that she had no expectations of turnover, traffic, and sales. For her, it was more important to get out in public to get reaction and experience. She did realize, though, that her price point was too high for that kind of event and is now thinking about creating some items under $50 that people could pick up easily.

Sharp presentation is essential to a successful show presence, and I noticed that Ilona had a clean, sophisticated area that matched her designs. I thought she must have invested a lot of time and money into the preparation, but it turns out that she only bought a freestanding mirror and dividers to make a change room. Everything else was from her studio space, so I guess you don’t have to spend a ton of money to create an effective booth.

What would she do differently? Ilona thinks it would have been smart to interview previous participants to help prepare for a show to ask what works and what doesn’t. Also, since she thinks her price point may be too high for public shows, she is going to target private shows.

Ilona is quick to mention the TFI as an excellent place to find the information required to participate in a show and launch a business successfully. As a newcomer to Canada, she learned a lot about the Canadian fashion industry from the TFI and she is a fan of the seminars and sales events. So, if you’re thinking of participating in a sales show, take Ilona’s advice and contact some previous participants and do some research at the TFI.

Library Love
24 November 2006

I re-discovered the library and I’m in love.

I didn’t think that the Toronto Public Library would have many fashion or pop culture books, but I found tons. I was recently looking for Jeanne Beker’s autobiography, “Jeanne Unbottled: Adventures in High Style” which was out of print and difficult to find in used bookstores, but guess what I found at the library? Yup, Jeanne! Seriously, I love the library.

Store Opening: Noir
23 November 2006

Went to a store opening tonight, and it was pretty much what I expected: a well-designed, but sterile store in Yorkville (on Bloor Street) with tons of beautiful, but unattainable clothes. I do wish I had more money. Sigh.

Anyway, it was a nice opening with stylish, nice people and nice appetizers and nice drinks. Unfortunately, it wasn’t memorable.

Apparently my colleagues and I weren’t memorable either, because the staff largely ignored us. Maybe it was because we looked like we didn’t have any money to spend, but still…wouldn’t you want to create a store where people have a memorable experience and want to strive to shop there? I’d expect to have been approached by the owner or at least the manager at a store opening so they could learn more about who was interested in their business, but I only talked to one staff member. Okay, that staff member was a friend, which is perhaps why the owner or manager ignored us. I can understand that, but a business owner should recognize the power of a store experience or story for the customer. Unfortunately, I left Noir without any story at all.

Chatting Wine and Fashion with Tracy and Suzanne from Discover Wines Ltd.
22 November 2006

“Wine is Fashion!” Suzanne Mick pronounces as we (somewhat predictably) chat over a glass of wine. She answers my question about the similarities between the wine and fashion industries before I can even ask it. Anticipation is a sign of a great business owner.

Another sign of a great business owner is winning a prestigious national award, which is why I’m with Suzanne. She co-owns a wine shop called Discover Wines Ltd. (www.discoverwines.com) in Kelowna, British Columbia, with my cousin Tracy Gray. They’re in Toronto to pick up the award, and I thought it would be interesting to interview them. Business is business, right? So what can fashion business owners learn from wine retailers?

Tracy and Suzanne started their business for the same reason as many fashion designers: they wanted to take control over their lives.

And as many new fashion business owners experience, they quickly realized that taking control over your life by starting a company means working more, not working less. For the first year in business, neither one had time to think of anything but the wine store and family obligations. It was so busy, that neither scheduled a haircut for six months! I know…Six months! That’s a dreadful reality for a fashion business owner.

To make things crazier that first year, the Okanogan Mountain Park Fire threatened their store a month after it opened. One third of residents were evacuated from homes (including Tracy), but Discover Wines remained open and the women seized the opportunity to introduce themselves to the community and make the store a place for residents to forget their troubles. They could have easily gone out of business but guess what? They planned for it in their SWOT analysis and made sure their cash flow anticipated a disaster beyond their control. Open with a cushion.

What would be the fashion equivalent of this experience? A business could have disastrous sales by miscalculated and off-trend designs. Or maybe a late fabric shipment delays production and order delivery. Whatever it could be, make sure to anticipate slow sales in your cash flow projections.

Now the entrepreneurs face far different challenges than a raging forest fire. Demand for BC wines outweighs their supply; Suzanne and Tracy can’t get enough stock for their waiting lists. How did they solve this problem? They diversified before this challenge negatively impacted the business. In case wine supply is low, they sell wine accessories and host educational seminars.

The more we talk, the more Tracy and Suzanne confirm that fashion business owners can learn from these wine retailers. Here’s what I learned from the women who “discover wines”:

As with Suzanne’s ability to answer interview questions before I ask them, the pair always discusses the company’s next move. They anticipate the future all the time so they can be ready for whatever’s ahead. Sounds a bit like trend forecasting, doesn’t it?

Suzanne was right: wine is fashion! I love hearing about how they search for the hottest new wineries as I search for the hottest new designers. They say that wine is a trendy product that everyone wants to know about, and that the snobbishness of the wine industry – like the fashion industry – is breaking down. The owners of Discover Wines believe that everyone should be allowed access and not be judged by what they’re drinking. Doesn’t that sound like fashion show snobbishness where people are judged by what they’re wearing?

I like how Tracy and Suzanne discuss the democratization of wine and fashion. Suzanne says, “If it feels good, wear it. If it tastes good, drink it.” If Suzanne and Tracy maintain their momentum and increase access, a glass of BC wine could be the hottest fashion accessory next season.

Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards
21 November 2006

Tonight I attended the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards because my cousin and her business partner won the Deloitte Start Up Award. The criteria was that the company has been in business between 3 to 5 years, is now profitable, has a comprehensive business plan, and is ready for second-stage growth.

More than 800 women were nominated for awards in 6 categories, and it was such an inspirational night that I had to tell you about the winners:

Deloitte Start-Up Award: Tracy Gray and Suzanne Mick, Discover Wines Ltd.
Intel Innovation Award: Yvonne Tollens, ComputerAid Professional
RBC Momentum Award: Susan Niczowski, Summer Fresh Salads Inc.
Bell Trailblazer Award: Lola Rasminsky, Avenue Road Arts School
BDC Exporter Award: Kyle MacDonald, Phoenix Interactive Design Inc.
Energy Savings Group Lifetime Achievement Award: Lisette (Lee McDonald), Southmedic Inc.

The winners were from varied fields: Tracy and Suzanne are wine retailers; Yvonne started an agricultural software company; Susan manufactures prepared foods; Lola runs an art school with programs for everyone from disadvantaged youth to corporate executives; Kyle began a company that improved the technology behind banking institutions’ self-service products (such as ATM machines); and Lisette develops and sells medical equipment.

I got all business-inspired after learning about these women’s accomplishments and heard one of the best mottos ever, courtesy of Kyle MacDonald: World Domination is a Full-Time Job!

To make the evening even better, Linda Lundstrom and a colleague introduced themselves to my cousin Tracy and her business partner, Suzanne. Of course I had to give her a hug and talk about what a great success she has been to Canadian fashion. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to interview her for this blog; I’m sure she’ll have tons of great fashion business advice for you.

It turns out that Linda won an RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Award, which was nice to hear because I noticed the absence of the fashion industry at the awards gala. But let’s fix that for next year, shall we? Nominate a fantastic fashion female for the 2007 awards! Nomination information isn’t up on the website yet, but here’s the site for this year’s nominations: http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/sme/women/canadian-women-award.html.

TFI Resource Review:
How to Prepare a Business Plan
20 November 2006

Okay, I know you’re probably sick of hearing about how much I love the TFI, but I really do think it’s an amazing organization and the document I’m about to review proves that the TFI really does everything it can to help new designers.

How to Prepare a Business Plan isn’t just how to prepare a business plan; it’s a template for a business plan. You open it on your computer and customize it to suit your business ideas. What a smart idea!

This guide saves many steps and includes valuable information about finances. If there’s one thing I learned from starting my own company, it’s the importance of ensuring proper cash flow. While this guide won’t actually generate all your numbers, it will give you a good idea of basic financial requirements that all potential financiers would need. You’ll just have to do a bit of research and calculation.

One thing I found very important was the employment overview and the employment plan. The charts divide employee roles and outline appropriate times to create employment positions. That was something I didn’t do in my business plan, but it’s a smart way to anticipate your company’s future needs.

There are great sections on the state of the industry and information on trade barriers and how these will affect your business. The suggested appendices are also helpful, and it includes sample templates for cost sheets, cash flow projection, and proforma balance sheet.

The guide ends with a glossary and required reading list, but I have to say that the entire document should be required reading if you’re thinking of starting a fashion business.

Style Revolution
19 November 2006

After brunch, Anita (from www.blogto.com and http://iwantigot.geekigirl.com) and I went to the Style Revolution show and sale at the Design Exchange. It was the first Style Revolution exhibition and I thought it was great. Entrance only cost $5 and guests received a complementary copy of ELLE Canada with entry. The booths stood in a nicely thought-out floor plan, were neat and innovative, and the participants were all top-quality. There wasn’t any crap at this show, and it was nice to see so many skilled designers and business owners.

There was one problem, though: traffic was low.

This was sad because I could tell that the organizers at Goldfish & Company put a lot of effort into their show. We couldn’t figure out exactly why there weren’t any customers, but thought that it was perhaps that nobody goes to the financial district on the weekends. It was also the Santa Claus parade, which could have kept the show’s target market away from the area.

I hope the organizers will be able to solve this problem in the future and plan another event, because even with the low client turnout, it was a nice event and a pleasant shopping environment. It deserves a second chance.

Fashion Blogger Brunch
19 November 2006

Could a Sunday start any better than with the Toronto Fashion Blogger Brunch at The Drake Hotel (www.thedrakehotel.ca)? Nope. I love a good brunch, and when it’s combined with fashion talk and the fantastic-ness of the Drake, well, I’m happy.

Thanks to Danielle at www.finalfashion.com for organizing it, and thanks to Rachel and Sonja (www.torontostreetfashion.com) and Anita (www.blogto.com and http://iwantigot.geekigirl.com) for coming out to chat.

The Drake treated us to a fabulous dessert tray, so we left feeling full from baked goods and fashion chat. We decided that the Blogger Brunch has a home, so we’ll see each other again in two months. If you have a blog that none of us know about, please let me know. We want to include as many Toronto fashion bloggers as we can, so if you get excited about discussing everything from the cultural relevance of black nail polish to the difficulties of being environmentally friendly in an un-environmentally friendly industry, come out to say hi.

P&G Beauty: Gift Bag Hit or Miss
18 November 2006

It’s time for your favourite fashion game, Gift Bag Hit or Miss. This time it’s the gift bag from the P&G Beauty sponsored TFI seminar, Working with the Media. It was held on November 16, so this is a delayed game of Hit or Miss, but it’s so great, I had to write about it. I opened the bag to find one item:

Before you say, “A perfume sample…big deal”, I’d like to tell you that this is no sample; it’s the full size bottle! You know I usually leave the Hit or Miss judgments to you, but can I say that the simplicity of this gift bag with a single rockin’ gift that fit the audience is a huge Hit in my opinion. Way to go, P&G.

TFI Resource Review:
How to Start a Fashion Business
17 November 2006

This is the first review of TFI Resources I’m going to do for you. If you’ve been wondering if it’s worthwhile to purchase a guide or to get to the TFI to spend time in the TFI Resource Centre, hopefully these reviews will help you make the decision. The first review: How to Start a Fashion Business guidebook.

I bought this guide before I started my business, and thought it was amazing. It answered all my questions, and gave insight into things I wouldn’t have thought about. On reviewing it again after starting (and ending) a business, I still find it extremely helpful.

I don’t know if there’s any way to sum this up except to say that if you are thinking of starting a fashion design business, you really should get this guide. Seriously, it’s invaluable. You’ll find all sorts of information, such as:

* Getting Started: In this chapter, you’ll learn about preparing business plans; types of business ownerships; all the legal stuff that designers tend not to think about; required government documents that you wouldn’t know about without this guide; financing options; and fashion industry standards.
* Marketing to the Industry: The second chapter discusses names, labels, logos, markets, and sales.
* Low Cost Promotional Strategies: As if you don’t need to learn more about keeping PR costs low. This chapter is about fashion shows, the internet, business cards, networking, PR materials, and other strategies.
* Getting Export Ready: You’ll find information on government support and exporting business. If you’re thinking of exporting, this is a great place to start researching.
* Resource Index and Bibliography: If the guide doesn’t already give you enough information, the index and bibliography should lead you down the path of fashion resource knowledge. It saves a lot of research time.
* Sample Forms: If you don’t know how to draft a Sales Order Form, Order Confirmation, Packing Slip, Credit Invoice, or practically any other form required of a fashion business, this section will help you. It’s filled with sample forms, letters, invoices, lists, and spec sheets.

Okay, so maybe this review is biased, but I think the TFI’s guide on How to Start a Fashion Business is the best way to start researching. If you have a fashion design business idea, I recommend this as your next step to making that idea a reality.

TFI Webinar Review:
P&G Beauty: The Businss of Beauty: Working with the Media
(Guest Speaker: Rita Silvan, ELLE Canada Editor-in-Chief)
16 November 2006

6:15 Log in. Not as much excitement as the last webcast, but the background sound is JazzFM; much better than Billy Joel, who was in the background for the last webcast.

6:39 Susan Langdon introduces Rita and asks how she became the Editor for ELLE Canada. Rita says that she became a journalist by not doing any of the things you’re advised to do (such as attend journalism school and get an internship). She was too intimidated, even though she liked to write, so she studied medicine at the University of Toronto (isn’t it funny how she thought medicine was less intimidating than fashion?). Eventually she applied for a senior editor position at Flare magazine and got the job. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. She realized that “sometimes the thing you love most is the thing you do last.”

6:45 An online chatter gets impatient that Rita is not answering questions. I’m interested in hearing Rita’s story since she didn’t take a traditional route to becoming a magazine editor. I think other people want to hear Rita’s background because many people enter fashion after other careers. I find the impatient person distracting, so in the future, if online chatters have negative comments or suggestions for seminar improvement, please save them for after the seminar and let the TFI Administration staff know your ideas. The web chat is not the time or place for venting your frustrations.

6:48 Susan starts the questions by asking, “what is an editorial?” Rita says that an editorial is anything in a magazine that is not a paid ad. She also says that before you approach a magazine, you have to do two things:
1) Read the masthead to learn research names and titles of the key people. You’ll have a better understanding of how to pitch and who to approach.
2) Understand what people do at the magazine. For instance, the Fashion Director is a better person to approach than the Editor-in-Chief who is usually too busy to reply.

6:56 Someone in the audience asks if magazine staff would mind if a designer dropped by the office. Apparently that’s a terrible idea since magazine offices can get crazy especially around deadline time. Rita says to call first, acknowledge that the editor is busy, and ask who would be best to approach and when. She stresses that it is important to make personal contact first, and don’t forget to be polite!

6:57 I know that many people want to know the answer to this question: What does Rita like to see in a press kit? The answer: Images! You must send images so editors can get a feeling for your product. JPEGs can be sent in e-mails.

6:58 Here’s another good question: How often should a design company send a press release? Rita says that you should have something new and relevant to say each time so the timing depends on you. Follow-up by phone or e-mail to ensure someone received your release. Keep in mind that a newspaper that’s published daily needs more content, more frequently than a publication that’s published quarterly or monthly.

7:00 Susan mentions that it’s important to make sure that if you approach a publication, ensure that it makes sense with your brand.

7:01 Rita discusses PR reps and warns that some can be annoying, but recommends hiring a publicist if you are shy or if your English is poor and you cannot create a good press release. She prefers a personal touch and likes to hear from designers.

7:04 Listening to Rita, I realize that before approaching media, you must do a ton of research. When PR reps are mentioned, Rita said that it would certainly help to get noticed and mentioned in the magazine if you work with ones that work with ELLE advertisers. Discovering those reps would take research. Then, when Rita discussed timing about when it is appropriate to send information about our products, she encouraged us to look at past issues and observe patterns because there are rhythms to editorial. For example, ever notice when the swimsuit issue comes out in Vogue, ELLE and Flare? Doesn’t the Toronto Star usually run a “Back-to-School” editorial just before Labour Day and a “Prom” issue in the spring? Do your research to make sure your content matches the publication’s editorial goals. Just as much as you want to have your line published, editors need to fill a magazine every month, so they’re always hunting for new but relevant content.

7:06 An audience member asks how much influence do stylists have on garments selected for editorials and Rita answers that she relies on them a lot because she doesn’t have time to visit all the designers’ studios. Stylists bring what they feel is appropriate for a particular shoot.

7:07 Rita encourages designers to consider an editor’s time. Any kind of event where there is one-stop shopping, is great for them because they can see many designers in one place at one time. For this reason, Rita seems to really love the TFI’s Press & Buyers Breakfast held in September each year at The Drake Hotel.

7:08 I think this is a neat point: Rita notes that since consumers (not designers) are the magazine’s target market, editors tend to do trend research at runway shows. How do you get them to your show? Make sure your show quality is high and your garments are innovative. If you help an editor do his or her job, you have a better chance of getting them to your show.

7:12 Oh, here’s a fun tip: Don’t send cheese to a magazine editor! Okay, send cheese if you actually produce cheese but send this to someone who writes about food. So to get a fashion editor’s attention, make sure you send information and packages that are relevant to the magazine. Rita says that a box filled with cash works too (ha ha).

7:18: Canadian Content Alert: Susan asks Rita if ELLE Canada shares content with other ELLE issues around the world such as ELLE Quebec and ELLE France. Rita says they do, and it is usually content that is uniquely Canadian. ELLE Canada tends to include products that are available across Canada, but sometimes the publication will feature a product available only at a special boutique.

7:22 Rita describes the ideal press kit as being newsworthy. Before making one, she tells us to ask ourselves:
* What is newsworthy about what you’re trying to promote?
* Why should an editor spend time reading your kit?

7:27 There’s a lot of giggling when Susan asks Rita if ELLE Canada has a “sample room”. Rita says that it’s in Montreal and not in Toronto since all of the fashion shoots are done there.

7:28 Less giggling when Susan asks what Rita looks for as a New Labels judge. If you’re applying to TFI New Labels, pay attention! Rita says that clothing quality is number one. She’s actually insulted if the samples that she sees are not up to industry standards. The press kit should be perfect (no typos). Make sure you do all the things necessary to be professional; make it as good as you can make it.

7:30 A webcast attendee asks how to get entry-level employment at a magazine and Rita says internships are the way to go. ELLE pays a modest honourarium (fee) but most internships are free.

7:31 Someone asks if there’s a list of media somewhere. Hey, guess what? The TFI has a media list! Check out the Resource Center for more information if you’re a TFI member. If not, check out TFI Shop at www.fashionincubator.com.

7:39 Here comes the inevitable discussion about celebrities and magazines. Rita says that celebrities on the cover do increase sales. Someone online asks how to get celebrities to wear clothes, so I answer that it’s a job for a good PR person and stylist, not a magazine editor.

7:43 Strangely enough, an audience member – not a web attendee – asks about getting content on ELLE’s online magazine. It turns out that it’s easier to get on the web because content changes frequently. Make sure you supply good content and high quality photos.

7:44 Rita ends the seminar by answering questions about the ELLE brand (empowering women to make choices and decisions in their lives) and her favourite designer (Issey Miyake). It was a fun seminar and I learned a lot about approaching magazine editors. I think I’ll go and format some of my blog interviews and send them off to Rita.

7:45 Re-think sending my interviews to Rita. I figure I’ll pick up an ELLE Canada, read the masthead and phone the office to determine who I would be the best recipient of my articles. Thanks for the advice, Rita.

Q&A With Rosa Costanzo
15 November 2006

I was lucky enough to meet designer Rosa Costanzo (www.rosacostanzo.com) during L’Oréal Fashion Week and was thrilled to learn that she reads my blog! Naturally, I had to ask her for an interview, and here’s what she had to say:

Please describe your company and the products you produce.

My style is a blend of creative elements combined with commercial aspects. I love to mix new, fresh ideas onto a garment that I believe could be attractive to the masses. My customer is a refined, independent women longing for comfort, and the dynamic needs of urban life. She loves quality goods that have a feminine flirty edge.

What do you do in a typical workday?

A typical day consists of checking e-mails in the morning. Then I start working on pattern making, grading and sample construction. I make sure the fabric orders are complete, that store orders are being filled and that the accounting is being balanced. I prepare designs and samples during the high seasons, twice a year.

You showed at TFI New Labels and at Toronto Fashion Week. What did you learn from those experiences?

TFI New Labels was an invaluable experience. It was the best way to be introduced as a new designer to the Canadian industry, as there is so much exposure to buyers, media and consumers. Toronto Fashion Week was the next logical step, to continue showing the line and attracting new clients.

If you have one piece of advice to new designers, what would it be?

If you want to be involved in fashion, do not get into it for the wrong reasons. You truly have to love being a part of this industry. Be prepared to work extremely long hours and dedicate 100% of your time to your work.

I see on your website that you sell to stores in Ontario and Quebec. Any plans to expand to different provinces or other countries?

I would like to expand the line across Canada.

You’re a Mentor on the TFI website and offer advice to new designers. What are the common questions asked by aspiring designers?

Common questions are usually how to start your business, and where to find certain resources within the fashion industry.

My readers always ask about how to source fabrics, patternmakers/graders, and sample makers. Most designers I've interviewed recommend the TFI resource lists. Do you have any recommendations on how/where people should start looking for sources?

The TFI resource list is probably the best source for fashion industry sources. They continually update their list, and have the best resources in the Canadian fashion industry available at your fingertips. This alleviates having to pound the pavement, saving you valuable time that you can spend growing your collection.

I've also had readers ask about the best strategies to get internships or employed. If you were an HR person, what would you look for in a designer/employee?

If I were HR, I would be interested in the following criteria:

* Hands on work experience in the design sector
* Knowledge of the design sector (fabrics, patterns etc.) and labour skills (i.e. computer skills)
* Organizational and verbal skills
* Business skills
* Punctuality
* Creativity

What has been your greatest lesson learned as a designer/business owner?

As a business owner, my greatest lesson learned is that in North America, consumers and marketing strategy drive the market. Quality is also a plus. There are no friends or favours in the business world.

As a designer in the North American market, the main lesson I learned is to stay true to your style and your passion. Follow your heart.

What are your thoughts on the state of Canadian fashion? Are there any Canadian designers who inspire you?

I find that Canadian fashion as a whole is slowly advancing and consumers are quick to embrace the trends. I do admire Philippe Dubuc for his determination, skills, and the fact that he has sustained many years in the fashion industry.

Men’s Etiquette
14 November 2006

Tonight I attended the launch party for www.xyyz.ca, a men’s lifestyle website that covers etiquette, entertainment, style, food and drink, culture, sex, and a whole bunch of other stuff that fashion-forward (and really, fashion-behind) guys should read. It’s a great site!

Arie’s Answers
13 November 2006

If you read my November 1 post, you’ll know that the TFI had a seminar about what buyers want, with Arie Assaraf, owner of Toronto-based TNT stores (www.tntthenewtrend.com). I attended via webcast and due to time constraints, there were some unanswered questions, so I sent them to Arie and received the following responses. I hope they help you:

1. What (if any) trend forecasting do you follow? Is there a specific company?

We currently use WGSN.

2. Do you see designer/manufacturers who sell online as competition and as a result might not carry the line?

At this time, TNT only views a very limited number of designers/manufacturers who sell online.

3. How important are price points for you when looking at a garment?

The quality of the garment comes first, and the price point is the second consideration. That said, the price point must reflect the quality/value of the good.

4. Do you accept COD terms?

Very rarely. TNT's policy on this matter varies depending on the vendors. TNT has done this in the past with small vendors that are not factored, but moving forward TNT will not be working with COD terms.

5. How can we (The Industry) make the customer more open-minded towards Canadian designers?

Canadian designers need more exposure, and we need more designers with better fabrication.

6. Will you buy from a designer if the line is carried in a store that does not have a good reputation?

It is difficult to define 'not having a good reputation'. Regardless, TNT approaches each situation differently and specific to each designer since TNT has its own identity separate from other retailers. That said, designers should not be selling to stores that do not have good reputations.

7. I import a line; what's a good way to present this line to you?

Please contact Melissa, my assistant, at the TNT head office to schedule an appointment.

8. Should a designer offer an exclusive to one store in a city?

No designer should be offering an exclusive to one single store in a city. However, the designer must be exclusive with regards to whom they will sell.

9. After you view a line and decide that you like it, what is the next step in the buying process?

Once the buyer decides that they like a line, we place an order with the vendor.

10. You were talking about the importance of a garment's feel and construction. Is this important to knitwear too?

Yes, this is absolutely very important in knitwear as well.

Ontario Fashion Exhibitors
10 November 2006

Got my hands on the Ontario Fashion Exhibitors Buyers Guide from March 25-28 (thanks, Diana!), so I thought I’d flip through it and tell you what’s there.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I know nothing about the Ontario Fashion Exhibitors (OFE), so I immediately checked for information about the organization. Obviously, the exhibition participants knew about the event since I found an introduction in the Buyers Guide, which said nothing about the organization. I had to check out the website: www.ofeshows.ca.

So what is the OFE? The website tells me it “is the number one source for the Fashion Retailer. These marketplace events are held twice a year to cover the Fall/Winter and the Spring/Summer Seasons in the ready-to-wear fashions and accessories.”

From the site and the Buyers Guide, I gather that the exhibition is filled with sales reps and agents promoting clothing lines to retailers/buyers. The guide lists exhibitors/agents by name and what labels they represent, there is an Agency Index, a Label Index, and a schedule to make appointments.

To be honest, it doesn’t seem too interesting at first glance, but then I find it exciting to learn which agencies represent what labels.

If you’re at the stage where you’re ready to consider sales agents, you might want to attend the exhibition to do some rep research. You might have to be a member or a buyer to attend, but check out the website and contact the OFE to find out.

Interview: Diana Vucicevich
9 November 2006

The best are like water
Water benefits all things
And does not compete with them
It flows to the lowest level
In this it comes near to the Way
The best are like water in their dwellings, they love the earth.
In their hearts, they love what is profound.
In their friendship, they love humanity.
In their works, they love sincerity.
In government, they love peace.
In business, they love ability.
In their actions, they love timeliness.
It is because they do not compete.
That there is no resentment.

-Verse 8, Tao Te Ching

The above verse inspires Diana Vucicevich through every aspect of her life. Like many TFI members, Diana had previous careers that all led to fashion design. She studied business and has been a dancer, musician, advertising rep, interior designer, mother, and wife. All these experiences flow into an overarching design sense embodied in her company, Flow Like Water (www.flowlikewater.com).

Her studio exudes a calm that one would expect from a designer who draws inspiration from the Tao Te Ching. I suspect that her previous experience implementing Feng Shui principles into interior design is responsible for the serenity in her studio because I rarely experience calmness when I walk into a design studio. Sure, there are pattern blocks, inspiration boards, and fabrics everywhere, but they aren’t in the tiny explosions that usually litter design studios. It feels like a great place to create.

So how much time does Diana get to create?

Her most creative (but busiest) days are at the beginning of a line when she designs, sources fabrics, and makes samples. She says that her designs are constantly changing and almost gut wrenching because there is so much to do, but so little time. When basic patterns are done and fabric is sourced, Diana and her seamstress spend two to three weeks worth of 14-hour days cutting, sewing, ripping, and re-cutting, re-sewing, and re-ripping. It’s a tough challenge, but Diana stresses that any career involving a creative process is something you have to love because it comes out of your gut. And, obviously, that gut can get wrenched.

Even though it’s the hardest, most challenging career she’s had (Note: That comes from a mother of 3 sons!), Diana is quick to express how much she loves designing and making clothes. Not only that, but she loves the Canadian fashion industry and praises the TFI for being the catalyst for a supportive community. She stresses that any new designer must become a TFI member.

Diana cites the TFI as a great first resource for sourcing fabrics and production contractors. She started by researching at the TFI and getting referrals from the businesses she found through initial TFI contacts.

Through her initial research at the TFI, Diana received important advice from Executive Director, Susan Langdon. Susan told Diana to choose one thing and do that really well.

Starting small and then expanding is what Diana has in mind for a new creation called the peanut hat (www.peanuthat.com) for babies and toddlers. She is even considering developing that into another line. As Diana’s experience shows, a business can begin with something as small as a peanut or a drop of water; you have to let the idea grow and flow.

Members Meeting
8 November 2006

Last night I had a great meeting with my Fashion Support Group, also known as the TFI Members Meeting. It was held it on a weeknight for the first time to a packed meeting room, so I think we might try to keep it on Tuesday nights from now on. I’ll keep you posted.

What did we talk about?

I couldn’t contain my excitement for TFI-TV. I love it! Read my October 27 post for more info, but I’d like to clarify something: on that post and at last night’s meeting, I mentioned that new content is promised every month. That means new content will be added every month; none will be deleted (unless it becomes dated). So if you buy a TFI-TV membership in a few months, you will still be able to watch what is on the site now. It’s a great fashion-business resource, and I totally recommend that you watch. There will be some great content added throughout November and December.

We talked a lot about the last seminar, What Buyers Want, including people’s online experience and in-person attendance. The consensus was that even though some of the online questions weren’t addressed, we didn’t miss any content by not attending in person.

We also talked about marketing and PR. One member would like to take her bridal wear design business to the next step, but found trade shows did not yield the wanted results. I recommended that she contact the TFI mentors (http://www.fashionincubator.com/mentors/index.shtml) for advice (I think that she might want to contact Christine Faulhaber, the PR and Media Relations Mentor or Dina Brode-Roger, the International Marketing Mentor) and use her two consultation sessions with industry members (you get two free meetings with TFI Outreach Membership). Another member suggested that she place ads in the back of wedding magazines because potential brides tend to keep those for future reference.

A few members are just getting started in the fashion industry and are thinking about starting businesses, so attending the meeting was a great way to get ideas flowing. We talked about how to get more involved in the industry (hello, volunteer work!) and how other people are starting.

It was a fun night, but the hour flew by quickly. Can’t wait for the next one, which will be at least an hour and a half!

Insurance Lesson
6 November 2006

Here’s an unfortunate example of why you need to insure your business: the new Plastik Wrap store had a fire emergency on the weekend. Can you believe it?

The apartment next door caught on fire and now there is some smoke damage at Plastik Wrap, but the good news is that the damage wasn’t major and they’ll be back in business soon. Plus, they had insurance – that necessary evil. It sure paid to have it!

You should go to their store at 2235 Dundas Street West to give them some post-fire moral support. Their hours are Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 8:00pm and Sunday from noon to 6:00pm, but check their website (www.plastikwrap.com) for news on when they will re-open. I think it will be this Saturday.

Isn’t it amazing how you can plan for everything and then something you don’t expect happens? That’s the nature of running a business.


Weekend Wrap-up
5 November 2006

You’ll be happy to know that my weekend didn’t turn out nearly as horrific as the knife and gun hallway would have led me to believe.

It was a pretty good weekend, actually. But I did get wrapped up in serger thread. Seriously, I had to re-thread the thing a million times and it took a couple of hours to get it working again. Whoever thinks fashion is easy has clearly never had to rethread a serger. Those machines are so picky!

Futurstate Follow-up
4 November 2006

As promised, here is a follow-up interview with Laura from Futurstate. I wanted to hear about her experience at Alternative Fashion Week, and she was happy to tell me everything.

Carolyn: Can you describe what you did the days before the show? And what did you do the day of the show?

Laura: The days before the show were spent on promotion and regular work (sewing etc.). I also spent time making sure all the outfits were together with the right fishnets and accessories, and making something to wear for myself!

C: I noticed your collection was well-edited from the racks of clothes I saw at your studio. How did you decide what to show? Did you work with a stylist?

L: No stylist; I just picked outfits that I thought worked together the best, most similar in colour (not too hard for my line!) and chose the items that I thought would look the best from the runway.

C: How was your experience at Toronto Alternative Fashion Week? Postitive? Negative?

L: I was really happy with the night. I felt there was a lot of energy and excitement in the crowd and a larger turnout than what I had anticipated. The make-up team was amazing and headed by Melissa from Stellardesignz – very creative makeup that worked well with my collection. The backstage was really well organized, especially when considering how many designers and models were involved. It was great to meet many of the other designers from the night as well. Photos were also taken before the models went out on the runway, which was also great (check out www.zaiden.com to see the pictures). I loved the location for the show; thought it had a really great atmosphere. The music could have been better overall though!

C: There were a lot of new and local designers at [FAT]. Would you recommend the experience to other designers?

L: I would definitely recommend it to others, it is a great way to get your name out there, maybe even get some press! It’s also very good for making connections with other designers, photographers, models, and makeup artists. It is also a good experience to learn about how shows are run.

No Fashion. Just Knives and Guns
3 November 2006

As I stepped out my door this morning, I saw rows of knives and guns stretched down the hallway.

Don’t be too worried; I live across from a prop house, so they were fake knives and guns (I hope).

I know this has nothing to do with fashion, but thought you’d like to know that my weekend may be off to a strange start.

What Buyers Want: A Follow-Up
2 November 2006

Since there were so many questions left from yesterday’s seminar webcast, I volunteered to follow-up with Arie. Hopefully I’ll be able to post answers next week.

There were quite a few jewelry-related questions, so I’m going to hold those for an interview with TNT’s new accessories buyer. TNT is primarily a clothing store, so Arie would not have been able to answer some of the jewelry questions.

To get the most out of any seminar (TFI or otherwise) or meeting, it is always important to do your research. In this instance, a visit to TNT would have revealed its merchandise, so it would have been reasonable to conclude whether it would stock your type of product and focus questions to the speaker’s experience.

Regardless if an accessories or clothing designer did a pre-store reconnaissance mission, I’m sure that everyone who attended the seminar live or via web learned something that could be applied to his or her own business.

Just a note: the webchatters all seemed interested in talking longer online since we had such fun, so I suggested to Susan Langdon that a longer post-webinar chat might be a good idea. Unfortunately, she told me that it won’t be possible because TFI is charged a per minute online rate and webcasts already cost a lot to produce. The TFI is only able to offer it for as low a fee as they do because of sponsorships and grants. So at the moment, post-webinar chat will not be available. Once the number of user fees makes it cost effective for the TFI, it might be an option. Susan apologizes, but hopes that everyone understands.

TFI Webinar Review:
What Buyers Want
1 November 2006

Since this is my first time attending a web seminar, I thought I’d do a live-blog (But it’s only sort-of a live blog. They’re my live thoughts, but it won’t be posted live. Hope that’s okay with you.):

2:42pm - Receive a reminder note about today’s seminar with instructions on where and how to log in, computer requirements needed to access the webcast, and a link on how to view previous workshops and interviews and subscribe to TFI-TV. It seems easy. We’ll see.

5:00pm - Log in early (the seminar is scheduled for 6:00pm) to make sure I don’t have any problems. Follow instructions and have no problems. The whole process takes about a minute.

5:01pm - Find myself at a screen with a video feed on the left for the live webcast and a live chat box on the right. The chat box says, “OUR BROADCAST WILL START AT 5:45PM WITH MUSIC AND THEN THE WORKSHOP AT 6PM EASTERN TIME.”

5:45pm - Music and video feeds start as promised. See the guest speaker figuring out where to sit. Hear Neil Diamond on the audio feed.

5:47pm - Wince as Billy Joel plays while the guest speaker does a microphone test that I can’t hear. I’d rather not listen to Billy Joel. Think I should offer some musical suggestions to Cory, the communications guy.

5:50pm - Chat with other web guests.

5:51pm - One guest can’t see the video feed, so I tell her to wait for Cory to help her out.

5:59pm - Make fashion friends. Want to chat more, but the seminar is about to start.

6:01pm - Guests enter room. Chat group gets excited, but some people have technical problems.

6:03pm - Susan Langdon introduces seminar. Two dozen people are logged in to the webinar! How fun! Everything (audio and sound) is all clear for me.

6:05pm - Listen to guest introduction and short bio for Arie Assaraf, the owner of Toronto-based TNT stores www.tntthenewtrend.com

6:06pm - Arie talks about his history and starting his first store with $12,000.

6:09pm - Empathize with Cory while he juggles technical problems, operates the camera, and types updates in the chat box.

6:10pm - Arie discusses the importance of making yourself known, even if you’re not ready to do business.

6:12pm - Realize that Cory’s chat updates are posted before our video feed. He must be psychic! Or maybe we have a delay on the feed.

6:14pm - Think that I could be eating dinner right now, but I’m at the office and didn’t think about bringing it. Too bad; eating during this webinar would have been a great idea.

6:15pm - Arie discusses the importance of budgets and sticking with them.

6:18pm - He keeps emphasizing passion and vision. I suspect most of us at the seminar are wealthy in those areas.

6:22pm - Web Question: Is it important for the actual designer to sell the line or do you think an agent could sell you the same passion?

6:23pm - Arie says that is a great question. You must have an agent when you are very comfortable with what you do and have the infrastructure behind you to support it. An agent must be involved in every step: the showroom, sell the image and idea, but you are the best person to sell your line because you have the most passion for it.

6:25pm - Arie discusses branding. I’d tell you some of his secrets, but I don’t want to give away absolutely everything from the seminar or the people who paid for it would be mad at me…

6:27pm - Web questions pile up. Cory will try to ask Arie, but it’s getting hectic on the web chat.

6:29pm - Arie gives some great advice: only expand when ready. Know your market. He starts discussing the importance of garment quality, brand vision, and uniqueness.

6:36pm - He tells us to visit stores to research what the retailers are doing.

6:40pm - Here’s the question everyone wants to ask: How do you get in the door at TNT?

6:41pm - Arie wants designers to call his assistant Melissa to arrange an appointment and he promises that they will see every collection; even if it’s only for five minutes. In five minutes, he’ll be able to determine if your line is right or not for TNT. He can’t promise to go to your showroom, but bring your collection to him. Best time to arrange an appointment: a month before the selling season starts.

6:49pm - Think about all the girls I met in Ryerson who wanted to be buyers when Arie describes the job of a buyer. It is hard work and there is not a lot of glamour. Those girls who dreamed of being professional shoppers are going to be disappointed when they start working.

6:50pm - Arie talks about examples of good Canadian designers, how to market creatively, and pricing, but this post is getting long, so I’m not going to write everything. I will tell you that he’s passionate about fashion and his store. I can feel his excitement through the monitor.

7:00pm - I feel good about starting and quitting BoastToastie because Arie discusses the clothing line he started and had to end. You learn from mistakes.

7:05pm - Web questions are really backing up, but we agree that we’re still learning a lot from this webcast.

7:06pm - Take a break from recapping because this is getting too long to post and you’re going to get bored.

7:22pm - Realize that the seminar is about to end, so the online chat turns into a flurry. Questions and comments everywhere!

7:35pm - Seminar ends. The online people want more, so we chat for a bit. Think there should be more time allotted for online questions, but I offer to follow-up with Arie on missed questions and to post them on the blog.

7:36pm - Remind people to come out to the members meeting because I’d love to meet some of the people I’ve been chatting with.

7:41pm - Log out. Think about retail on the subway ride home. Looking forward to reviewing Arie’s webcast again on TFI TV in the near future…

PlastikWrap Q&A
31 October 2006

I’ve seen Plastik Wrap designs around Toronto and thought they had a great booth at the Clothing Show, so I thought you could learn something from them. So check out their website (www.plastikwrap.com), visit their new store (2235 Dundas Street West, south of Dundas West Subway station) and take a look at my Q&A with Adriana…

Please describe your company and the products you produce.

Plastik Wrap was created in 2000 by two individuals, Adriana Fulop and Ryan Webber. We create men's and women's clothing and accessories. Our style is sophisticated, modern but with an edge. We use only the highest quality materials and finishing. Our cuts are sleek, flattering and future oriented. Our style can appeal to many different customers. You can find our clothing in alternative boutiques and also at the One Of A Kind Show.

What do you do in a typical workday? In other words, how glamorous or unglamorous is your job?

Usually we start working around 10:00am. Although sometimes even earlier, it depends if there are any production crises.

In the morning, I make a schedule for the whole day, give some work to my employees, answer all the emails, and check the mail. If it is a production time, I will get right in to figuring out numbers for fabrics, notions and ordering them. I’ll also arrange grading for patterns and production schedules with production companies...all while answering phone and running bank errands...nothing too exciting. Now that we have a store, add to that list that I run up front every time the door rings and to take care of customers.

Sometimes when in crunch, I sit behind a sewing machine and make samples or little alterations for our customers.

As you can tell, we are a small company and everybody working here (Ryan, myself and Sarah, our part time employee) have lots of different jobs.

On a glamorous day (there is not enough of those, trust me), I sleep in and start designing or musing about inspiration or run around fabric/notion showrooms. Or organize our catalogue shoot, find models, makeup artist, and photographers.

If you have one piece of advice to new designers, what would it be?

Find out what you are good at; be inspired, but don’t copy.

You’re in the process of opening a boutique. What was the catalyst that prompted the need for a store? When did you know you were ready to open a boutique?

To tell you the truth, we kinda got bored with the way we were working. Also, our lease was up in our old studio... So we decided to take on a challenge of opening a boutique.

I think we really missed the social aspect of interacting with the customer. After 6 years of working in the studio and dealing only with industry, we needed a change. Plus the bonus was, we got to design the store, which is always fun to do. This was a way to show people how Plastik Wrap thinks and feels.

You have online sales on your website. What has been your experience with online selling? Would you recommend it to other designers as a way to sell garments?

Online sales are a big part of our income. Ryan built our website and did an amazing job at promoting it. We have customers all over world, we have people collecting our style...as funny as that sounds.

I don't think we would get where we our without the Internet, to tell you the truth. I always highly recommend selling on-line. People are really getting used to it. Personally, I always shop online, even for shoes. :)

Now that you’re opening a store, what are your next steps/goals for the future of Plastik Wrap?

Well, down the road, we wouldn't mind opening another location in Montreal. It would be interesting to go and live there for a while.

If you have one piece of advice to people thinking of opening a store, what would it be?

Find a good location, but be wise; while choosing, high rent can kill even the strongest. Not everything cool needs to be on Queen West. When it comes to store décor and furnishings, don't be afraid of recycling; it’s fun to rework old into the new, even when it’s just a sales desk.

What has been your greatest lesson learned as a designer/business owner?

Never employ friends.

Being a business owner is an ongoing challenge.

Fashion and Hair
30 October 2006

Got a nice e-mail from Sharon, who’s looking for thoughts on hair styling and fashion. She’s considering a career change, loves fashion and hair, but is wondering how and if they have a strong link.

I’d say that yes, Sharon, hair and fashion do have a strong link. In fact, the TFI recently held a seminar about styling with one panellist that specialized in hair, one in makeup, and one in fashion.

Howard Barr was the hair stylist on the panel, and he mentioned a couple of career paths for a hair stylist. The first is to apprentice at a salon. There, you will focus on technique and building a clientele, but you won’t be as involved in fashion shoots as you would if you were a freelance stylist. But you have to get experience, right? Plus, many salons get involved with fashion shows and shoots.

Another path is to be a freelance stylist who works on shows and shoots. It is a more artistic route since many hairstyles would not be worn on the street.

I can’t comment on which road would be easier, harder, or more fulfilling for you, so I recommend that you investigate hair schools in your area and discuss your interests with the instructors. I’d also go to salons and try to arrange some information interviews with stylists that you admire (I can almost guarantee that you could lure a hairstylist out of the salon to talk to you for half an hour about his or her work if you promise a coffee or glass of wine).

Hope that helps!

P.S. I recommend information interviews for any career you think of pursuing. I’m in the middle of doing that right now, and I just had a great one with a TV station and now I’m really convincing myself that I’d be a great producer (specializing in fashion and pop culture shows, of course!).

27 October 2006

How much do I love the TFI? SO MUCH!

As I write this, I’m watching TFI-TV, and I’m so excited! This is an amazing resource and fantastic use of multimedia technology.

What do I love about this? I can watch it at work! (Don’t worry; my boss has confidence in my multi-tasking abilities. But I admit that I may not have told him that I’ve been watching TV at the office…) I can also watch it whenever I want since the archived shows are available any time! Content is geared directly to people in the fashion business!

My favourite episode is the recap of the TFI Press Breakfast because there are interviews from designers, models, buyers, and other attendees. It’s full of great advice.

Actually, all episodes are full of great advice. There are some very interesting episodes about exporting and trade that you may not have considered. I also enjoyed Susan Langdon’s demonstration on how to build an effective press kit.

I totally recommend this resource to anyone who is starting a fashion-related business. I’d write more, but I want to go and watch all the episodes…

You can check out a demo at www.tfitv.com/promo/ but the promo doesn’t do the real site justice; it’s way better to invest $54 for a 3-month subscription to see what I mean. (Go to TFI Shop at www.fashionincubator.com/shop/index.shtml to subscribe if you’re interested.) New content is promised every month.

TFI Seminar Review: Working with Stylists
26 October 2006

Even though I usually show up just on-time for TFI seminars (thanks, public transit!), the half hour networking session before the seminar start is one of my favourite things. As you can tell from my enthusiasm for members meetings, I love meeting new people who are starting fashion companies. It’s always fun to share stories.

But let’s get to the seminar, shall we?

This was the first P&G Beauty-sponsored seminar, and it was great! Three stylists from the Artist Group (www.artistgrouplimited.com) discussed their experiences and took questions from the audience:

* David Goveia talked about makeup;
* Howard Barr discussed hair; and
* Michelle Paiano dished about fashion styling.

Each of them shared fantastic information and I think everyone in the crowd (from clothing to jewelry designers, model reps, and wanna-be stylists) learned about working with stylists. Here are just a few things they discussed:

* What do stylists do?
* How do stylists and designers or editors work together to create a vision?
* How do stylists get known?
* How do designers make themselves known to stylists?
* What rates do stylists charge?
* How do stylists get started in the business?

I thought working with stylists was self-explanatory, but I’m glad I went to the meeting and learned there was more to it than showing them an inspiration board. When you’re working with stylists for print, television or fashion shows, a designer has to be ready to step up and lead the team with a strong vision.

As you can tell, the seminar was fun, but the fun didn’t end with the seminar. I got to play a game of Gift Bag Hit or Miss!

Ready? Let’s go:

* Olay Total Effects Daily Moisturizer
* Crest Whitestrips Renewal Age-Defying Strips
* Pantine Pro-V Style Smooth & Shine Anti-Frizz Serum
* Cover Girl Outlast All Day Lipcolor
* Pantine Pro-V Style Ice Shine Hairspray
* Pantine Pro-V Colour Revival Complete Therapy Conditioner
* Pantine Pro-V Restoratives Time Renewal Conditioner
* Pantine Pro-V Colour Revival Shampoo
* Infusium 23 Leave-in Treatment

Okay, you get a comment with this gift bag: Most of these were full-size products; not samples! I was blown away!

Fashion Week Hangover
22 October 2006

Ummm…I’m kind of dead, so I have to have a fashion-nap for a few days. Will write later.

TFI Members Meeting
21 October 2006

Oh, how I’ve missed my Fashion Support Group!

Today was packed, and it was fun to talk about Fashion Week. None of the members at the meeting attended any of the shows, so everyone got an earful of fashion stories from me. I swear, they said they weren’t bored.

But this was an interesting thing: nobody realized that they could attend L’Oréal Fashion Week. Hey readers: if you are in the fashion industry, (even if you own a small business), you can indeed register for Fashion Week as “Industry”. So keep checking the Fashion Week website (www.lorealfashionweek.ca) for next season’s dates and register!

Apart from fashion show planning do’s and don’ts, we also talked about the TFI Press Breakfast. Jennifer Reilly (www.jenniferreilly.com) is a jewelry designer who participated in the breakfast and had nothing but great things to say about the experience. She said she learned a lot about making an effective press kit and the value of having an outgoing model who represented the spirit of your brand. She recommended the event for designers who are ready for press coverage.

I love chatting with my Fashion Support Group and hope to see you at the next meeting, which will be on Tuesday November 7, from 6:00 to 7:00pm. Register by contacting Danielle or Nina at the TFI, 416-971-7117 x 21.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: Pink Tartan
20 October 2006

At 6:05pm, I ran into the MUZIK building, sure that I missed the 6:00pm start of the Pink Tartan show. Since it’s such a success story and a professional company, I expected the best.

Imagine what I thought when we didn’t get seated until 7:15pm. The show started well over an hour and fifteen minutes late! That was the worst delay for the duration of Fashion Week. Sure, the runway looked great, but was it necessary to make guests wait over an hour just to lay a branded runway and hang chandeliers?

I’m torn about how to answer that because yes, those items contributed to the mood of the show. The chandeliers, the music, the lighting, the styling (hair, makeup, and accessories), and – of course – the clothes all said the same thing to me: Paris – When it Sizzles. I didn’t get a press kit, but Audrey Hepburn could have worn every outfit that went down the runway. Everything was on-brand and on-theme. It was a perfectly edited show. Too bad it wasn’t a perfectly timed show.

Fashion Week Party Review: Dean Horn at Ultra
19 October 2006

This was one of those unofficial fashion week events I discussed yesterday. I didn’t want to go to, but I passed Ultra on my way home, so I thought I’d drop in since I missed Dean’s show on Tuesday. Plus, the PR person for the promotion company, INK, promised me that Fashion Week media passes would be accepted and that my name was on the guest list.

Unfortunately, there was a crowd when I arrived and I was told everyone was on the guest list. The door people wouldn’t even acknowledge me when I asked if my media pass would let me in. I didn’t make a big deal about it because I know that my little blog isn’t Vogue, but what if I was a writer for Vogue? The door people didn’t even bother asking what media outlet I was with; they just ignored me.

Now I’m exercising the power of the pen (okay, Internet…) to stress the importance of efficient organization of your event entrance. The door people made INK, Ultra, and Dean Horn look snotty, rude, and disorganized.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: Charles & Ron
19 October 2006

Charles & Ron are two designers from Malta.


Yes, Malta.

Why were they showing at L’Oréal Fashion Week?

I have no idea.

But I do know that their show was a pleasant experience. It was simple with elegant clothes and a wonderful, consistent theme throughout. It started with a clip from The Women, which is a 1939 film about New York society ladies with AMAZING fashion show scenes. Anyone interested in fashion MUST watch it. The music matched the film clip: 1940’s big band-type tunes, but the twist was that they were songs such as “The Tide is High” done in big-band style. It rocked, and matched the clothes perfectly.

It was a relatively simple show, but I felt like I was at a 1940’s society fashion show, so Charles & Ron did their job.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: Joeffer Caoc
19 October 2006

I like Joeffer’s staying power and influence on Canadian fashion. His clothes were elegant and sophisticated, as was his show. I was completely drawn into the clothes rather than the models, the crowd, the songs. It was simply a wonderful clothing experience. I recommend any designer (especially if you’re Canadian) to attend one of his shows or seek out his clothes.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: Izzy Camilleri
19 October 2006

Izzy made everyone focus on the clothes. That’s why we’re there, but some people have been forgetting the clothes this week.

Let me tell you about the amazing-ness of these garments: Izzy works primarily with leather. I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t wear leather clothes, but Izzy made me want to wear leather from head to toe.

Okay, I do wear leather on my toes, but I don’t want to get into an argument about it; I just wanted to make a point. Did it work?

Ms. Camilleri is a genius with a difficult fabric (vegetarian or not, I would never want to sew leather…yikes!), and this season’s collection was perfectly wearable and looked amazing on the runway. It was an impressive example of how to combine excellent design with wearability and business, so I’m sure she won’t have a problem selling it. At least I hope she doesn’t have a problem selling it…

Izzy also cast her show perfectly. I’ve never seen so many angry (yet feminine) blonde biker (yet red-carpet) chicks ever. They rocked the runway and sold the clothes. The girls looked great, but weren’t distracting in any way.

Seriously…I think I need a leather outfit.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: DC Clothing
19 October 2006

Missed this show because it’s not a Canadian company, so I didn’t think I needed to see it. Turns out I was right because DC put a nice little pamphlet in the media lounge with all the information I needed. Plus, I was on the bus with Tommy from the great Toronto fashion site, www.jakandjil.com, which was probably more fun than the DC show anyway.

Fashion Week Party Review
Bustle Afterparty/GOTSTYLE Fashion Show
18 October 2006

There’s an interesting trend this week: random clubs are hosting “fashion week events”, but these events are not affiliated with L’Oréal Fashion Week officially. I’m a bit worried about this trend because many of the events show international brands such as Versace, Betsey Johnson, J. Lindeberg, Ben Sherman, and Lacoste. To me, that’s not what this fashion week is about. We’re celebrating Canadian designers, aren’t we?

Since Maro hosted the official Bustle afterparty, it didn’t count as one of those random clubs, but with so many parties, it was hard to know what was happening and where to go. I was glad that I ended up at that party, though.

The men’s lifestyle store, GOTSTYLE, co-hosted the event with Toro magazine and they organized an energetic party, complete with perfect menswear show highlighting their fall clothes. Okay, so it wasn’t a Spring/Summer 07 show, but this was a way for the show to pull the clubgoers into the store to buy merchandise. I’m sure it worked, because it made me jealous for men’s style this season. Sure, they had some women’s looks, but it was all about the menswear.

My main critique about the show was that even though they had graphic displays on plasma screens, they didn’t correspond to the looks. I know it can be tricky to get all the AV materials to work properly, but when they do work, it makes the show more effective.

Even though GOTSTYLE showed international brands, it is a local store and I’m happy to see people in the city excited to celebrate fashion. It feels like fashion week is catching on.

Now that you know a bit about the event, it’s time to play your favourite game: Gift Bag Hit or Miss!

* Toro magazine (current issue)
* Gsus football shawl (that’s another word for muffler)
* GOTSTYLE gift certificate for $50 off a purchase of $300 or more
* Grand Marnier travel notebook (which is really a recipe book)
* Grand Marnier cocktail shaker
* Oral Fixation mints
* Ice Rocks spring water ice cubes

L’Oréal Fashion Week vs. Toronto Alternative Fashion Week
18 October 2006

How to sum up the difference between these two fashion events?

At L’Oréal Fashion Week, there are free tubes of Colgate Visible White Advanced Whitening toothpaste.

At Alternative Fashion Week, there are free testers of Probe Personal Lubricant.

Toronto Alternative Fashion Week [FAT] Review
Night 2
18 October 2006

Night 2 was fantastic! The shows were professional and entertaining, the clothes were well-made, the music was more upbeat, and the crowd was huge. The collections were fun, wearable, and well-edited.

I was impressed, and so was everyone else. A designer friend who has participated in her fair share of poorly executed group shows at clubs thought it was the perfect event for new designers to debut their lines.

So, to all you new designers: check out the show tonight! It’s your last chance for this season because the event ends today.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: Bustle
18 October 2006

The Bustle crew know the value of a good stylist. Wow – was I impressed.

The collection was sleek, well-made, edited with strong pieces, detail-oriented, and followed a strong theme. You could tell that they focused on organizing a kickin’ show, and they delivered. Models were professional, they had fun, and they oozed the feel of the clothes.

If you want to see an effective show, go to Bustle.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review:
Fashion Show Etiquette – Part 2
18 October 2006

I’m starting to realize that sometimes the guests hold up the shows rather than the organizers.

When the show is about to start, people still chat on the runway. Please stop doing this and visit after the show; that’s why there’s a giant mingling space. The runway room is to see shows, so get in, find your seat, and then discuss the show with friends and colleagues later. There will be more to talk about after the show, anyway.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: Common Cloth
18 October 2006

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I like to encourage designers and promote positive encouragement in the fashion industry.

That said, I feel bad writing that I learned a lot from Common Cloth about how not to put on a fashion show. I found that there wasn’t a strong theme and the clothes weren’t ready for the runway (they didn’t fit well, moved in unflattering ways, and there were seam puckers).

Furthermore, there were a lot of basics, which made me wonder why someone would work so hard on creating designs, spend money, and use valuable time to show things that a client could buy cheaply at the Gap, Old Navy, or Club Monaco.

Common Cloth is opening a new store, so I hope that the garments will be better than what I saw on the runway. I’m so sorry to write this. I do wish Common Cloth success with the new business.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: Zoran Dobric
18 October 2006

Must start by saying that I loved the skirts, particularly the innovative hemlines. And I was intrigued by the construction of the last dress shown. I don’t know how he fused the top to the bottom, and I’m still thinking about it hours after I saw it. That’s what I’d call a good garment.

One thing confused me about this show, though: there was definitely a Japanese theme, but there were so many different fabrics for the jackets that it didn’t feel like a collection. This week I’m definitely learning the importance of having a stylist and an impartial person who can edit and improve your work.

This show reminded me about the impact of hiring professional models. I talked about this last season, but I have to say it again: it is obvious when you have a friend on the catwalk. When planning for your show, allocate money to hire models. You do not want distracting models to take attention away from your clothes.

Toronto Alternative Fashion Week [FAT] Review
Night 1
17 October 2006

Yesterday I talked about supporting our young fashion industry and not cutting down designers, so I’d like to constructively discuss [FAT].

For an event in its second year, it was well-organized. I had no problem with media registration. Volunteers knew what they were doing and were able to provide intelligent information.

Held in a warehouse-style space in Toronto’s Distillery District, the event was the farthest thing from the sleekness of L’Oréal Fashion Week, which is what I hoped it would be. If there’s an event called “alternative”, it must offer legitimate alternatives, and this one did.

There will be a different theme each night and the first night was “Fanatsy”, so I entered a place where girls wore shoes that looked like giant pieces of cake and the fashion shown was more wearable art than wearable. Wonderful! That was alternative fashion.

Unfortunately, I heard some crowd comments about the unwearability of the fashions. I did want to remind them that the event is Alternative Fashion Week.

Alternative or not, here are some things that should be considered when planning any fashion event:

Editing: There is a difference between alternative fashion and bad fashion, so the organizers and the designers must learn how to edit collections. Every designer had neat pieces, but some of the better ones were buried under average pieces.

Seating: Four to five designers were grouped together for 20-minute shows, which were great, but with a shortage of seats and unedited collections, the crowd became restless (especially the fashion people who are known to wear shoes for form rather than function). When planning a show, always remember that people have short attention spans.

Music/Ambience: The importance of keeping a crowd’s attention was obvious later in the night when attendance slipped for the last show. I’m sure many factors were the cause, but the thing that would have driven me away was the monotony of the music for the show and between the shows. Don’t misunderstand me; it was great music, but it was the same relaxed, electro-loungey vibe throughout the night. For fashion shows at 10pm on a Tuesday night, though, a show planner must punch up the atmosphere to keep the audience there.

I know that the organizers thought of ways to keep the audience because art installations surrounded the warehouse perimeter and bands played at the start and end of the nights. There were many interesting artists and people around, and I loved the concept of combining music, art, and fashion. They’re integral to each other, so it’s about time that they were celebrated together.

[FAT] started off well and I’m looking forward to experiencing many more intriguing designers, musicians, and artists over the next few days.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: Fashion Show Etiquette
17 October 2006

There’s one thing that I hate about fashion shows: bad etiquette.

Every now and then, I sat near someone who comments (loudly!) on the models: their walk, their look, and their hair. They never mention a word about the clothes!

A designer can’t control guests or their obnoxious comments, but as a guest, you can always display good fashion show etiquette. I like to focus on the clothes and try not to talk during the presentation. Of course, if I see something amazing, I usually HAVE to tell my neighbour (if it’s a friend), but I try to refrain from making any negative comments.

What’s the point in saying, “That girl’s boob is falling out!” or “Ohmigod! She broke her heel!” so that everyone can hear? If there’s an obvious mistake, everyone knows about it and talking only distracts from the show.

You never know who could be sitting nearby. The designer’s parents might be next to you, so how do you think it makes them feel when you say, “That’s the ugliest pair of pants I’ve ever seen”? A potential colleague could also be close. If you go for a job interview and he or she remembers you as the catty person from the fashion shows, you might not get the job.

For those who chat about a model’s alleged cellulite: I don’t see you on the runway in a bathing suit, so until you do that and realize how hard it is to maintain your composure, please don’t be nasty!

As a designer, you know how much time it takes to make an outfit, let alone a collection. You’re seeing months of someone’s life walk past you, so the least you can do is clap. If you don’t like the collection, please try to save the bad words for private. Good fashion show etiquette is especially important in Canada when we’re still building our industry. We need to support our designers, not cut them down.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: David Dixon
17 October 2006

My day job kept me busy today, so I couldn’t see Arthur Mendonça, Dean Horn, Katya Revenko, and JUMA. I need to look into fashion journalism full-time because missing the shows broke my heart. At least David Dixon’s show mended that sad heat of mine.

David always puts on a clean event. I remember my Fashion Week volunteer days, though, when his shows were late and everyone fought for entrance (it was scary to work the door at some of them). Those days seem to be over since he’s been on time for the last few seasons and nobody fights for admittance any more. He has a wonderful philosophy of allowing everyone in: once invited guests are seated, anyone who wants in is welcomed.

Perhaps the pre-show reception buoyed that welcoming mood. Vin de Pays d’Oc sponsored a wine sampling, and it is usually a nice idea to provide people with a smattering of alcohol before the show.

There was that idea of brand partnering again. It’s a theme that I saw last season with watches, jewellery companies, and even music labels (Chulo Pony), and I got more interested in seeing how it will develop. I think that if the correct brands can partner, more Canadian fashion companies might be able to grow.

The relationship between David Dixon and Vin de Pays d’Oc didn’t extend to the collection, which didn’t have much to do with wine. But there was a shared elegance between the two companies.

David’s inspiration and theme for the show was “reunion”, a sweet tribute to the passing of his mother and her reunion with his father. It was so touching that I could barely see his clothes through the tears in my eyes. I think most people felt the same thing, and that’s what impressed me most about this collection: his inspiration was so clear that the audience felt it.

It made me want to touch and wear the clothes, which is what a designer should want a collection to do. Would you not want people to get so excited about your clothes that they want to place orders or seek them out in stores? David definitely knew that a way to a girl’s heart is through her closet.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: Marie Saint Pierre
16 October 2006

When I think of Marie Saint Pierre’s clothes, I do not think of Bratz dolls, but there was a Bratz folder on every chair. Huh?

Explanations lay inside the folders: we were at the unveiling of the world’s first Bratz couture collection, designed by Marie Saint Pierre.

This got me thinking of brand partnership. And unfortunately, that preoccupied me at the start of the show when models walked the runway with Bratz dolls knotted in their hair. Luckily the clothes were amazing enough to make me focus on why we were there in the first place: the clothes. They really were beautifully cut and constructed, but I’m not here to critique the clothes. I really do want to discuss brand partnerships.

Obviously the Bratz thing distracted me, so I imagine that other guests thought about it as well. But it was so interesting because if there’s anything you’ve learned from this blog, it should be that having enough money is important for a fashion company to survive. And I’m beginning to think that creative partnerships might be the way to build a successful independent clothing company. You know how Renaissance painters had patrons? Well, maybe the Bratz (or a liquor company, or a jewelry company) might be a new form of patron.

Instead of the Medici family, could the Bratz be the future of art?

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review:
L’Oréal Paris Spring 2007: Fragmented Time
16 October 2006

Since I found my seat easily, I had time to play my favourite game: Gift Bag Hit or Miss!

Ready? Here we go:

Next, I had time to review the media kit, which I have to say is the best media kit I’ve seen. Here’s what was in it:

Seriously, this media kit was so thorough that I almost didn’t have to see the show to understand the Spring/Summer makeup and hair looks and how they will translate from runway to the street. When I received the invitation to a makeup and hair runway show, I didn’t know what to expect, but the concept of walking two models (representing runway and realway) together down the catwalk was effective.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review: First Impressions
16 October 2006

As the title sponsor, L’Oréal took Toronto out of Toronto Fashion Week, so it’s natural that the brand would be everywhere. Strangely, though, I didn’t find enough branding.

The event moved out of the Liberty Grand and to the Muzik building, so I expected much more signage for guests who weren’t familiar with the building. Each season, I always discuss how important it is to have effective signage. For your shows, always assume that people do not know where they’re going. Make things easy for your guests.

When I entered the building, I was practically bombarded with the PR team from the Runway Room. Everyone wanted to make sure that I knew where I was sitting. It was almost overwhelming, but since I was one of the first few people to arrive, I could understand their excitement. It’s better to have too much customer service rather than no customer service.

Set with a seat, I wandered the venue and was happy to find a space that allowed for mingling between shows. From the boutiques and mini-salon in the fashion environment to the bars with comfortable couches, I could tell that guests would be comfortable between shows for the week.

Not only would guests be comfortable, they would be occupied thanks to the generous magazine collection.

After grabbing a magazine and a Fashion Week programme, I sat down to plan my week. Unfortunately, the programme didn’t make it easy to plan. There were some letters from people such as the Mayor of Toronto, the Fashion Design Council of Canada’s Board of Directors, and the Advisors. The schedule was at the back and there was only one page of designer information. I know about the designers already, so the programme didn’t affect me too much, but what about foreign journalists or guests new to fashion? Again, you want to make things easy for your guests and give them as much information about you and your event as possible.

L’Oréal Fashion Week Review
15 October 2006

It’s the day before Fashion Week and Alternative Fashion Week, so I’ll let new readers know how I report on events.

I approach the shows from the view of what designers can learn and will comment on aspects such as event planning, PR, and runway presentation. I usually don’t comment on the clothes – unless they’re particularly stunning or distractingly poor – because there are other reviewers who do that. I do hope that you learn from my week of fashion.

Futurstate Interview: The Un-Glamour of Preparing a Fashion Show While Running a Business
14 October 2006

Laura Stewart – designer/owner of Futurstate (www.futurstate.com) – sees the future as a sleek, dark energetic place.

This future will soon to catch up with her at Toronto Alternative Fashion Week (www.alternativefashionweek.com) when she shows her industrial military-inspired collection on Wednesday. It’s her second show for the second Toronto Alternative Fashion Week (strangely reverse-acronymmed to FAT). She’s done it before, so what’s she doing now to prepare for the show?

Laura says that FAT is well-run and easy to plan because the organizers choose models, makeup, and hair. Model fittings are completed well in advance, which makes her happy.

The only downside to participating in a smooth, group show such as FAT is that the designer must be willing to relinquish control. Laura is fine with allowing the organizers to choose looks, but she is concerned about music. Unfortunately, she has to forget that worry because the organizers make those decisions.

On the plus side, though, Laura does not have to worry about venue issues, models, hair, makeup, lighting, or choreography. That’s all done, which leaves her time to spend in her live/work studio-home. She’s able to make last-minute garment changes without worrying about other show plans. She can also keep up with the day-to-day business operations such as e-mailing, sewing, pressing, shipping, sourcing, ordering, cutting, and picking up supplies. She says that every day varies, but there are a billion things to do.

Online sales are an aspect of Laura’s days and she has been successful with reaching a global clientele. Since she sells directly to clients, she says it is not like exporting, so online sales have been simple. During her time in business, she has only had one return, but that was exchanged for a better size. Overall, Laura has been happy with her online sales experience; it hasn’t been too overwhelming or too slow.

With this much to do, Laura says that being in this industry is always a struggle, but anything is possible. Maybe the future isn’t dark after all.

We’ll check in with Laura after the FAT show to discuss the experience.

Jason Meyers
13 October 2006

Last night, Jason Meyers (www.jasonmeyers.net) showed at new club, Maro.

Even before clothes appeared, people were having a fun time. The venue was perfect for a few reasons: it was a great way for the crowd to check out a new place; the size was just right for an emerging designer (it wasn’t too packed or too empty); there was enough space for a runway; and the lighting was good for the crowd and photographers.

It was risky for Jason to show before fashion week, but I think his timing was right and he served up an appetizer for a crowd that’s hungry for more fashion.

For many of you who are considering fashion as a second career move, you might want to check the bio on Jason’s website. He left one career to pursue his passion for fashion, and from what I can tell, he made the right move.

TFI Seminar Review: Get Inspired
12 October 2006

The TFI hosted a seminar on inspiration boards last night, and at the risk of being too obvious, I have to say that it was inspiring.

Erin Keatch (a New Labels finalist last year) and Christelle Sofonkine (owner of trend forecasting company, Meso Funky) showed effective inspiration boards and discussed how the inspiration process works from idea to garment. Here are the main points that I got from the seminar:

There you go. Are you inspired?

Fashion Game: Gift Bag Hit or Miss
11 October 2006

Just picked up my L’Oréal Fashion Week media pass and accompanying media bag, so guess what time it is?

It’s time to play my favourite fashion game, Gift Bag Hit or Miss!

The rules are simple: I open the bag, pull out the items randomly and list them without comment. You decide if the item hits or misses the event’s image.

What’s the point of this game? Well, if you’re a couture company that gives fast food coupons in your gift bag, you’d tarnish your brand. This fun exercise illustrates how important it is to pay attention to little details when planning an event.

Ready? Here we go:

Fashion File Audition Fallout
10 October 2006

Guess who auditioned to be the new host of CBC’s Fashion File?

Yup, me.

Guess who blew her audition to be the new host of CBC’s Fashion File?

Yup, me.

I don’t know how much to tell you because I signed a confidentiality agreement, but I can say it was an interesting experience. I’ve never auditioned for anything on-camera before and thought I’d be a natural because I’m outgoing and can talk about fashion any time to almost anyone. Was I wrong!

Instead of the intellectual witty answers I prepared, I stammered out things like, “I’d be a great Fashion File host because I love fashion.” How many hundred other people said the same thing? Argh! My personality and knowledge didn’t come out at all. I felt too much pressure to answer quickly, which was absolutely crazy, since the director and crew were all calm.

At least I gave them an amazing information package, so I hope they read through it and check out this blog to confirm that I am smart, know fashion, and have the experience and personality to do an amazing job. I’d love for Fashion File to look at more Canadian fashion and local design scenes all over the world, not just the big names. Argh! I didn’t even say that either!

Oh, I did wear the cutest outfit (had to wear the fantastic pants I bought after the Rockitqueen interview!), so that must have counted for something, right?

Rockitqueen: Store It
8 October 2006

Nell from Rockitqueen (www.rockitqueen.com) designs clothes similar to the ones I made for BoastToastie (naturally I loved her vintage-y, rock ‘n roll inspired clothes!). During our chat, I was surprised how similar our fashion industry experiences have been, but she was able to take her business to the next level and opened a store space. Opening a space could be scary, so I had to ask her all about it.

The Rockitqueen herself says that her typical day is so far from glamorous that it’s not even funny. Each day is different, but always busy. She could be in her studio without leaving or running between contractors, patternmakers, and fabric wholesalers. Add the pattern drafting and sewing that she does herself with all the business stuff (checking e-mails, accounting, marketing, and financing) and she’s got a packed schedule. How did she find time for a store?

Nell says that since she is so busy, she never wanted the added stress of a retail space, but she did love the idea of selling her clothes personally to see how people react and give her feedback on fit, colour, and design. She was also having trouble finding suitable stores to sell certain items – such as her fun leopard print creations that she loves to make – and she was frustrated with consignment. An opportunity opened at an existing store, so Nell and some friends with similar design aesthetics decided to share a space within Black Market, a vintage clothing store on Queen Street West.

As you would expect, sharing a retail space was tricky at first, but splitting rent and staffing times helps with costs and time management for a small business owner.

Things can get tricky even when a shared routine has been established and you decide to expand. Nell stresses that you should pick your partners well and make sure they are people you trust. If you plan to carry other lines or add designers, be sure to establish expectations clearly. Agree on roles within the store and exactly what items they intend to sell. Definitely keep good records of everything (especially inventory) to make sure you know what’s happening at your store. If you have a shift-sharing plan, ensure that all parties are trustworthy and dependable. Even if you know the people you want to share space with, don’t forget to do reference checks.

Obviously Nell learned a lot from opening and sharing a store space, but what was her biggest lesson? I’ll let her tell you:

Don’t give up! If you love creating and have a passion for what you are doing, keep at it. Lots of times this industry can knock you down and make you feel like you’re never going to make it, but if you believe in yourself and your dream, you will do great!

The F-List
7 October 2006

Blogging has its benefits: I received an invitation to join the f-list, a website (www.f-list.ca) for everything about Canadian fashion.

The f-list is an effort with the Fashion Design Council of Canada (yes, that’s the organization behind L’Oréal Fashion Week) and Divine Lab. The site is starting with all things related to Toronto fashion and will expand to other cities next year. So far you’ll find designer profiles (I am personally excited to see a list of Canadian designer profiles in one place!), fashion events, sales, and special offers for f-list members.

They promise that there is more to come, so go check out the site to see what’s there and how it grows. It’s kind of fun to be on the list.

Juma: Past, Present, and Future
6 October 2006

JUMA’s brother and sister design team Jamil and Alia debuted on the Canadian fashion scene as finalists in the TFI New Labels competition. A few years later, they are TFI residents with two labels: JUMA (www.juma.ca) and soon-to-be-launched JUMA Movement. They’re busy preparing for their L’Oreal Fashion Week show, but took time to chat about their New Labels experience, what it’s like to be a TFI resident, how the TFI experience prepared them for Fashion Week, and what’s planned for the future.

Jamil and Alia agree that participating in New Labels was a great way to launch their line, largely because of the recognition they received from the competition. They got great press and made efforts to retain the press contacts from that season. Now media members follow up with each collection. Apart from the press, they learned how to put on a good show (for instance, they discovered how to work with stylists, choose the right hair, makeup, and models) and highly recommend the New Labels competition to all new designers.

In fact, they had such a great New Labels experience that they became TFI residents, which, Jamil and Alia say is a wonderful experience for the following reasons: Susan is always there to help and give advice; there is office space, equipment, the TFI Resource Center (which was where they first found their fabric and contact sources), and a show room for everyone to use; and contacts are easy to make and maintain.

Now that they are experienced business owners and show producers, how are Jamil and Alia using that TFI experience for their Spring/Summer 07 show at L’Oréal Fashion Week? They’re busier than ever, working with PR reps, producers, models, hair and makeup artists, and stylists. Hayley Atkins, their stylist from the Judy Inc agency, seemed particularly important to the JUMA designers. Jamil and Alia agree that finding the right stylist is a must: he or she can edit your collection and should stay true to your vision and not inflict his or her personal style.

Preparing for Fashion Week isn’t the only thing occupying the siblings. It’s a hectic time. They recently returned from U.S. trade shows, have clothing production to manage, shipping to complete, and sales to make. They stress to anyone wanting to get into fashion that you have to be able to put in long days and long hours to be successful.

Even though they keep long hours, JUMA is worth the work to Jamil and Alia. This is evident because it appears that they could double their workloads with the launch of JUMA Movement. They’re excited about this line because they hope it could increase their online sales. So far, JUMA’s internet sales haven’t been as high as they wanted because people are hesitant to buy higher priced garments without seeing them. JUMA Movement will be more approachable and will have an easier fit with familiar fabrics.

Jamil and Alia are set for the future and are following their own advice to new designers: they say that you can do anything, but don’t forget to be realistic about what you design and how you market it.

TFI Seminar Review: The German Market
5 October 2006

This is my first TFI seminar review, but perhaps I chose the wrong one to start with since I wasn’t too interested in the subject, how to break into the German market. It was a great information session for companies interested in exporting to Europe, though.

Who knew that Germany is the biggest market in Europe?

And you probably think that Berlin would be the best German city to target, but that would be wrong. Since there are high unemployment levels, Berliners have less disposable income to spend on clothes.

Marc Lugert presented the seminar as a representative from the Fashion Alliance de mode Europe (FAME). It’s a group of Canadian and European professionals in the fashion industry whose purpose is to introduce Canadian and North American fashion designers to European markets. The group manages showrooms in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and France.

What advice did Marc repeat for designers wanting to sell in Germany? Hop on a plane, attend some trade fairs (CPD, the Munich Fashion Fair, Premium, and Bread & Butter) to meet German fashion representatives, understand the country, and find a sales agent.

So if you want to break into the European market, take a trip! If not, you might want to stick around Toronto (or your computer for the webinars) for the next TFI Seminars: Get Inspired (October 11), Working with Stylists (October 25), What Buyers Want (November 1), and Working with the Media (November 16). The seminars are filling up fast, so you’d better register soon.

Insider Tips: Foxy Dishes PR Secrets
4 October 2006

If you haven’t heard about Foxy Originals (www.foxyoriginals.com), you’ll hear about them soon.

Jen Kluger and Suzie Orol started this jewelry company while studying business at the University of Western Ontario. Though they started small (by selling pieces to friends and acquaintances on campus), the company grew when they participated in summer festivals and sales events. For each unit they sold, they re-invested it back into the company until it grew large enough for them to focus on full-time.

Jen and Suzie committed full-time to Foxy in 2003, and now they’re PR experts (as well as TFI members). Foxy has appeared in numerous publications: NOW Magazine, Wish, TV Guide, The Toronto Star, Homemakers, Lou Lou, Glow, Cosmo Girl, Fashion 18, Flare, Fashion, Scoop, Teen People, and the list goes on. The jewelry has been seen on Paris Hilton, Tori Spelling, Nelly Furtado, Sienna Miller, and on Elsa Pataky in Snakes on a Plane. Foxy accessories even got into the coveted Toronto International Film Festival gift bag.

Those are amazing accomplishes for such a young company and lucky for you, Jen and Suzie were willing to share some of their secrets:

What about that Film Festival gift bag? How did they score the fashion-equivalent of beachfront property?

One of their PR connections works at the Film Festival, so Jen and Suzie weren’t shy about using those contacts. They weren’t shy about their marketing/PR budget either, since 200 necklaces ended up in the bags. That’s a lot of product to give away for free, but Foxy doesn’t follow traditional advertising routes, and this word-of-mouth approach works well for them.

The Foxy method of advertising has been successful, but there is no standard way to monitor what celebrities received the necklaces or if anyone wears them. As a result, they spend a lot of time on Google looking for celebrities wearing Foxy.

Jen and Suzie have done a great job of advertising Foxy without really advertising. They’re even back in the news this week with their new Rethink Breast Cancer necklace, and guess what? The silver ones sold out of the first production run! Foxy is definitely doing something right, so maybe you should go back and memorize those PR secrets.

TFI 20th Anniversary Update
3 October 2006

The Steering Committee met again to discuss the TFI 20th Anniversary. TFI’s New Labels show is going to be more amazing than ever, with the competition, an after party, and even the possibility of a TFI alumni retrospective. I can’t wait!

As usual, I encourage you to get involved as a volunteer. You don’t have to be a member, so feel free to contact Danielle or Nina (tfi@fashionincubator.com) at the TFI to discuss volunteer opportunities. When you do so, it is best to include a resumé, describe your skills, and write about what areas of fashion interest you most.

Retail Beef!
2 October 2006

Hannah at Wonderlust sent me a link to a blog that will be helpful to many of you: Retail Beef (http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=29544181&postID=115000801548499183).

It’s a site where designers are encouraged to post objective opinions about their experiences with American boutiques, buyers, and retailers. The goal is to educate new, inexperienced designers about retail experiences, highlight outstanding boutiques and buyers, and draw attention to the stores that screw over designers.

I encourage you to check out this site if you’re thinking of selling in the U.S.

Designer Interviews
29 September 2006

Hope you liked (and read) my first official interview yesterday. Please e-mail me to let me know what you thought and if you have any questions you’d like me to ask designers.

There will be more interviews in the future, but it’s been crazy trying to organize them since designers/business owners are so busy. If you read any of my postings from last Spring to Fall, you know what I’m talking about. At least I can empathize with them and understand when they have to reschedule.

So…yes. I’ll try to get more interviews next week.

Wonderlust Interview
28 September 2006

If it’s not fun, I’m not going to do it.

That’s been my motto for a long time and from looking at Hannah Melville’s studio, I can tell it’s her motto too. She’s a resident designer at the Toronto Fashion Incubator and her workplace is filled with what you’d expect at a studio for a label called Wonderlust: Café del Mar CDs, stickers, Anime illustrations, glittery skull and cross-bone pins…

Hannah was about to show me her Fall/Winter 06 clothes ready for shipping when the phone rings. Encouraging me to explore the world of Wonderlust, she answers the phone. Then others follow that call. It’s a good thing we decide to go to the Drake Hotel for end-of-workweek drinks because it’s late Friday afternoon and the phone is still ringing. How can she tear herself out of the studio?

Leaving the phone behind for fun chit-chat, I wonder about all those phone calls and ask her about a typical workday. Is it as glamorous as we all want a fashion designer’s life to be? Does she play with lengths of fabric draped around the studio? Does she make fabulous clothes all day long?

Sorry to tell aspiring designers this, but even though Hannah is the owner and designer, she spends more time in front of the computer and less time behind the sewing machine. Her small company is growing, so her design dream has turned into a kind of office job where she communicates with stores, buyers, and contractors to manage production. Production management involves following-up with stores, ensuring contractors are on time and shipments are ready, and then obtaining payment from stores for the clothes. Sometimes that can be tough. Line sheets and spreadsheets also keep her busy. Sure, she does some sewing, but her full-time assistant and contract sample sewers do most of it.

That’s what she has to do to make the step from a small to a medium-sized company. She would love to hire more people, but she faces the tough challenge of smart money allocation. Wonderlust is at a level where sales could and should grow, but Hannah needs more funds to hire people to increase production. That would require another loan, which means more debt. She says it’s not easy to find more money, and then when she does get it, she has to put it back into the collection.

Allocating money is a balance of exposure versus revenue. Hannah is ready to increase business, but just when she’s starting to make money, she has to spend it again to hire PR people, sales agents, and marketers. She thinks it is extremely important to invest money in the following items:

But showroom costs of $500 to $1,000 per month in the United States are huge for a small business. Trade shows cost money, and it’s always easy to forget about the costs of shipping and reps that might be overlooked in initial budgets.

What about income? Hannah worries about something all designers fear: what if there’s one bad season? That’s six months without income.

Apparently even getting clothes to stores doesn’t guarantee income. Hannah tells stories of designers getting screwed by stores, so she advises to do credit checks. Even though they might be costly, they are a wise investment.

What other advice does Hannah have for new designers?

Since she’s following all of her own advice, Hannah seems ready for that transition from small to medium-sized company. How will she do it? She has fashion shows on her mind, but of course she wants to do it right. She knows it takes money, media, PR, stylists, and the right time.

Right time or not, if it’s not fun, she’s not going to do it. So Wonderlust must be lots of fun.

Even More Advice
27 September 2006

Laura from OK47 (www.ok47.com):
"Prepare to make deals! I always find our damaged/ 2nd goods sell better than newer more expensive items. People that go to the clothing show are looking for a good deal.”

BC Rocks It
26 September 2006

BC Fashion week (www.bcfashionweek.com) starts today and runs through to Sunday. They seem so organized, I’m sorry I can’t attend. Somehow I got on their mailing list and consequently received an e-vite for almost every show. They’re doing a great job at getting the event known. I hope it’s as good as I think it will be.

If anyone attends, please let me know how it was.

More Advice
25 September 2006

Adriana from PlastikWrap (www.plastikwrap.com):
“If you are exhibiting the first time at the show, make sure that you have all the sizes available in each of your designs.”

24 September 2006

Thanks to Danielle from www.finalfashion.ca for organizing a wonderful Toronto Fashion Blogger’s brunch today. It was well represented by Toronto Street Fashion (www.torontostreetfashion.com), I Want I Got ( http://iwantigot.geekigirl.com/), and a relatively new blog, Fashion Verbatum (http://fashionverbatim.blogspot.com/). We even had a fan join us!

Obviously we talked about fashion and kept a nice focus on local stuff. And – get this – we got a little techy talking about bloggy computer stuff. Whoever thinks fashion is an easy field of study or a simple, shallow career should join us for a chat.

But we’d rather not have fights; we really would like to talk about fashion, blogs, the Toronto fashion industry…that kind of stuff. We’re going to try to turn these into monthly meetings, so if you’re a fashion blogger or reader, you’re welcome to join us. I’ll keep you posted on the next one.

Shopgirls Sale
23 September 2006

The TFI sent an announcement to its members about a local-designer sale today, so I thought I’d check it out, and I’m happy I did.

There were designers I never saw before, and it was a nice mix of art, accessories, and fashion.

Two “Shopgirls” (www.shopgirls.ca) organized it, who claim they “are avid Shop-aholics who not only love beautiful things, but can appreciate local talent when we see it! Our motto is to showcase unique products from local designers that appeal to others who ALSO love beautiful things. All artists represented by SHOPGIRLS are hand picked by both owners, Tina Griffin and Michelle Germain.”

They told me that they started by hosting home-based parties that were so successful that they need to find bigger venues. This sale was their first outside a home, and it looked like a great start because they chose some wonderful designers. I’ll try to interview them soon about what they look for in a designer, what (if any) sales commission they charge, and future events.

Clothing Show Advice
22 September 2006

As promised, I contacted the designers behind my favourite Clothing Show booths, and they kindly offered the following advice for creating great booths (thanks, guys!).

You’d better read this if you’re considering the Clothing Show as an outlet for your designs.


Wendy Wong from House of Spy (www.houseofspy.com):
“In my opinion, the Clothing Show is a great stomping ground for new designers to test out their designs without spending a fortune at trade shows. For more established designers it’s an excellent way to get rid of overstock and to actually meet some of your customers that you don't normally, since most of us only sell wholesale.”


Jane from SOOS (www.soosrocks.com):
“It’s best to get a great night sleep the night before the show. That way you’re guaranteed to be in a good mood! It can feel really long working in the booth for 12-hour days, and you don’t want that to come across to your customers! So rest up, and you’ll really benefit from all your new contacts at the show!”


Pamela from PinkPamplemousse (www.pinkpamplemousse.com):
“This was our first time participating in The Clothing Show and we learned a lot. The most important piece of advice we could give is: "For maximum profit it is necessary to offer the consumer an option that as a designer you can manufacture at a competitive price."


Kelly from fix eight (www.fixeight.ca):
"Take the time to create a unique eye catching space that is well organized, creatively merchandised with proper lighting and signage."


Joseph from The People Have Spoken (www.thepeoplehavespoken.com):
"DEALS! People love a deal - it's a show primarily for end-of-line close-outs and overstock / back stock."


Eileen from Miss Bad Betty (www.missbadbetty.com):
“Stay on the sunny side…always stay on the sunny side…”


Hannah from Wonderlust (www.wonderlustclothing.ca):
“My advice to other designers doing the Clothing Show is to get a good location (down a main aisle or by the front is good). Sign up early so you can make your selection. Also, call your customers, friends, and family and get them to come and see you!”


Lauren from Lola (no website yet):
“As an aspiring fashion "something", I enjoy this show partly because of its educational purpose. For me this show has been an opportunity to try new things out and gauge what works and what doesn’t work. I am always surprised at which item is my biggest hit and every show I learn a little bit more about what my customers like. It is a really low risk launch pad for a new idea and a great testing ground”.


Nicole from Fleurtje (www.fleurtjebags.com):
“My advice is to have a well organized and memorable booth, to leave a good first impression about your product”.


Laura from Futurstate (www.futurstate.com):
“The clothing show is a great show to be a part of when you are starting out - it is an excellent way to test out new products, promote your line, and get direct feedback.”

69 Vintage
21 September 2006

Just returned from the 69 Vintage fashion show, and I’m happy to say I’m excited about fashion again. What a great week it’s been!

Anyway, for those of you who don’t live in Toronto, 69 Vintage (www.69vintage.com) is the funnest vintage store ever!

One thing I love about the store is that I was able to buy the best Barbie-inspired fuchsia ball gown only after promising that I’d wear it to my wedding one day. I have no plans on getting married, but I already have the dress! The folks at 69 Vintage obviously care about their clothes and make sure that prized pieces go to deserving homes…and I deserved the Barbie gown.

Another thing I love about the store is their re-designed vintage, which was shown at tonight’s show. The store has a constant, revolving network of designers called The People’s Boutique. It’s an in-house collective of designs developed under the art direction of 69 Vintage. Some members are established designers with their own labels, while others are just starting out. The whole point is to get designers to experiment with vintage fabrics, patterns, and colours.

To me, another point is to have fun, which is what everyone did tonight. I love club fashion shows. This one was at the Social – a bar beside the store – so the models walked and danced across the bar after being torn from what looked like garbage bags. This sounds kind of odd, but with models coming from a backstage set designed from cardboard boxes, it looked like they were kind of like pieces of trash being reclaimed, just like their revamped vintage clothes.
Loved it, loved it, loved it…the cheeky nods to high fashion, where old suits were decorated with Louis Vuitton symbols…the adorable re-use of superhero bedsheets on shirts…

I really do love it when fashion is fun.

On Inspiration
20 September 2006

Some of you wrote to ask me what inspired me last week, so I’ll tell ya...

It’s partly just that time where I’m ready to be super-busy again, partly from walking around a lot (my mind wanders when I go for long walks), but mostly because I just discovered The Eagles of Death Metal and have been listening to their two CDs nonstop. For some reason, listening to these guys makes me want to laugh, dance around, and make stuff. As I’ve said before, music really inspires me.

The Clothing Show
19 September 2006

What was the big fashion event this weekend? The Clothing Show!

For those of you not in Toronto, I’ve gotta tell you about this: it’s a huge exhibition hall filled with everything fashion, from vintage to wholesalers to indie designers. It is held twice a year, in the Fall and the Spring.

This was my fourth year going, and I get really excited about it, but this time I felt kind of let down. I’ve seen a lot of the stuff before, and it seems as though you can’t escape silkscreened shirts and homemade buttons. But at least those are fun and creative compared to some of the things I saw.

Stuff I didn’t like were the poorly-made designs that people tried to sell for too much money. I know it takes a long time to make clothes (believe me, I really do know!), but finish those seams and take pride in your work! And booths selling knock-off designer bags and trinkets never inspire me. I go to the Clothing Show to find things I can’t find anywhere else.

I did find some new and exciting things, though, and since I want you to learn from the best, I’m going to ask for advice from designers with original and professional displays and products. Responses will be posted at the end of the week.

Lost in Cyberspace
Sept 18, 2006

In case you've been wondering, my blog went missing about a week ago! One day it was there; next day it was gone. So while TFI attempts to re-create my diary (from the very start), please accept our apologies for this inconvenience.

Designers on TV
15 September 2006

Last night when I was flipping channels, I found a TV show called “Fashion House”. The description said something about an unfulfilled wife who leaves her husband to pursue her dream of fashion design. Naturally, I had to check it out.

Unfortunately, I could only sit through 2 minutes of it, so whatever I have to say about it will be totally unfair, but it was a terrible portrayal of the fashion industry. Now I know what doctors must feel like when they cringe through medical dramas. Would it have been so hard for the show's writers to do a little research into the industry before setting a show around it? Am I going to have to start a lobby group for a fair media portrayal of fashion designers?

TFI Mentors
14 September 2006

Since this is the Week That Everything Goes Wrong, I decided to take a break from trying to set up interview appointments and review what information is out there for new designers, so I started close to my internet home and spent some time with the TFI mentors. It's an amazing resource! If you haven't looked, what are you doing reading my stuff? Go get some answers from people who know what they're talking about!

13 September 2006

On the same day as I find a TFI-related e-mail in my Inbox titled, “Get Inspired!”, I found inspiration!

Though silkscreening t-shirts and undies are clichéd, I have some cute T and undie ideas and can't wait to play around. I'd tell you more about it, but I don't want to get ahead of myself, which I tend to do. All I'll tell you is that they're all about the Rock. Rock ‘n Roll, that is…not the wrestler.

It's nice to get excited about something again.

Oh, and by the way, the TFI “Get Inspired” e-mail was about a neat-sounding seminar about inspiration boards that takes place on October 11th at TFI. We'll learn about what works and what doesn't by examining successful board samples. See you there!

Canadian Fashion at the Film Festival
12 September 2006

I've been trying to figure out how to tie-in my film festival experience with this blog, so I try to bring up Canadian fashion while out at events. Usually the conversation moves away from Canadian fashion to slagging what the latest star was seen wearing. It's a sad indication of how people care or know about Canadian fashion.

So Sad…and Feeling Bad
11 September 2006

Apologies for standing up everyone at the Members Meeting on Saturday, but I couldn't talk! The Film Fest barely started and I already had a case of fest-throat.

Luckily, the lovely Gail McInnes from B&M Models stepped in to run the meeting. She was scheduled to discuss working with models and agencies, and I hear she did a great job. Thanks, Gail! I owe you one.

Now I can't wait for the next Members Meeting. I miss you all!

Attention all Fashion Employers!
8 September 2006

Feeling guilty about paying nothing to interns? Do you want to hire someone but don't have enough money for a decent salary?

Check out http://www.apparel-hrc.org/ahrc/programmes/career-focus.en.html. The Apparel Career Focus Program offers salary subsidies of up to $12,750 per internship.

Thanks to Danielle at www.finalfashion.ca for the tip. She said that only 9 applications went through last year, so what are you doing still reading me? Go and check this out!

Note to proactive students: you might want to research this and present it as a subsidy option when looking for jobs. Employers will love you for finding ways to give you money without actually paying!

Film Festival
6 September 2006

The Toronto International Film Festival hasn't even started and I'm finding it hard to keep up (for those of you who haven't read the start of this blog, my day job is in the film industry). There's so much action this week, and it'll just get crazier next week.

So how can I translate the film fest experience to my “I wanna be a fashion designer” diary?

To be honest, I don't know. I figure I'll go out to the events and hope that I'll figure out some way to give you designers an insight into the film industry. Wish me luck.

McQueen's Advice
5 September 2006

finally getting around to reading the weekend's newspaper, and found a Jeanne Beker/Alexander McQueen interview in The Globe and Mail . It caught my eye because McQueen usually isn't too chatty, but Jeanne asked a key question that you might like:

Beker: If you really had to give young designers now one piece of advice, the most important piece of advice, what would you tell them?

McQueen: This may be a bit harsh: I think you really need to look at yourself and decide whether you're good enough. Life is too short. There are much better things to do if you're not.

True enough, Alexander. Thanks.

This is What it's Like to be an Entrepreneur
1 September 2006

Nathalie-Roze and I tried to get together for an interview all week, but it never worked out because she was always called away by different demands.

That she couldn't find time is a strong indication of what your life becomes when you start a business. It consumes you and you're always thrown challenges and pulled in many directions.

Don't worry; we'll make time for that interview eventually.

TFI 20th Anniversary Update
31 August 2006

Last night's TFI Steering Committee meeting was productive. We decided against the original gala idea and instead opted for a big, blow-out New Labels celebration. It's going to be amazing! But it's coming up fast (in Spring 2007!), so there's a lot of work, and jobs are starting to emerge.

I'm investigating bands and DJs for after-party entertainment possibilities. Fun! But I wonder if I'll be able to convince them to waive fees because it's a fundraiser for a great cause: fostering the growth of Canadian fashion! I'm sure I'll have lots to report. I'll also be working on VIP gift bags, which will be a new interesting challenge, and just to keep myself busy, I think I'll volunteer for the logistics and production team.

Now I know you're dying to know how you can help, so I'll let you know the teams:

We'll soon be able to allocate tasks required for each team, so if you have a particular field of expertise or would like to learn more about a particular team, please let me know.

Susan's Got Flare
29 August 2006

Even in my quest to do nothing, fashion still finds me. Okay, well, I find fashion. I picked up a copy of Flare and who did I see looking fabulous? The TFI's own Susan Langdon! If you want to get a bit of insight into Susan's style, pick up the September issue.

No Newsprint Hands
28 August 2006

It's my week off, and I've decided to do…umm…nothing. That's right. I'm turning my brain off to recharge. All I want to do is go for long walks around Toronto.

For that reason, I know I'm not going to complete the NOW Design Challenge. I am looking forward to seeing all the designs, though. I'm sure I'll have a lot to say about them when the ten finalists are announced, so keep reading.

Designer Interviews
25 August 2006

I'm working on it…I'm working on it.

A lot of designers are in the midst of preparing for American trade shows and Spring/Summer 07, so it looks as though I won't get many interviews until September.

I am looking forward to meeting Nathalie-Roze at her new boutique next week, though, so I hope you're looking forward to hearing about her experience and multi-tasking finesse. She's not only a new store owner, but she makes tons of stuff, organizes craft parties, and writes fashion columns. We'll probably sit around and talk about how being an entrepreneur takes up all your time…

Style Revolution
24 August 2006

What did I find in my Inbox this morning? An interesting announcement for a design show.

Thought you'd be interested in this, and if you want more information, contact Nikki and Carrie at the contact information below.

Goldfish & Company is pleased to announce their Style Revolution Show at the Design Exchange just in time for Christmas, November 18th, 11am - 6pm and November 19th, 10am - 6pm.

The show will be called The Style Revolution and will include Canadian designers showcasing their creative masterpieces, featuring jewellery, accessories, purses, clothing and more. Goldfish & Company have formed a relationship with Ryerson University and will be extending an invitation to the students from the fashion and design department to participate in a silent auction. The students will be asked to create a purse that assimilates both 1930's fashions with modern times. The purses will be judged by celebrity fashion judges for example a stylist from Torontoista.com and one of the co-owners for Foxy Originals. A part of the proceeds received from the silent auction along with a portion of the ticket price from the door sales will be donated towards the winner of the silent auction.

The silent auction will be judged on Sunday November 19th at 5pm. This unique show not only gives Canadian designers a chance to sell their creative designs but also provides up and coming designers from Ryerson to be encouraged to follow their dreams.

An application is required in order to reserve a space for the show. There are several different booth sizes, the smallest being 5x5 promotional booth. The purpose of this booth allows vendors to be able to promote their company without having to provide a large amount of merchandise. This would be a great opportunity for someone interested in promoting freelance work for example, or perhaps you have a new line coming out and want to show your samples. The other booths are standard sizes and provide a larger space for display purposes. In order to secure your space a deposit of 50% of the cost is due on September 20th, no exceptions. There are a limited amount of booths available, thus it is a first come, first serve basis. PLEASE MAKE SURE TO READ VENDOR TERMS AND CONDITIONS.

We will be advertising in EYE, NOW magazine, and are in the process of establishing press releases with ELLE magazine, CityTv and the Globe and Mail. We will also be distributing flyers at the University of Ryerson and all over city of Toronto.

If you have any questions or would like to contact feel free to do so via email (gold@goldfishandco.com) or telephone: (416)488-6550.

Nikki Goldman & Carrie Fisher
Goldfish & Company.

Newsprint Hands
22 August 2006

So I finally got motivated to play around with some newspaper to see if I could get any inspiration for NOW's design challenge.

Unfortunately, all I got were newsprint hands and piles of crumpled paper. But it was fun to play with, so maybe I'll keep at it and come up with something interesting for their anniversary.

Canadian Artists
21 August 2006

Thought I'd give you an update on how the TFI's 20th Anniversary is keeping me busy. I volunteered to research Canadian musicians and actors to see how they might be incorporated into the event.

I like being part of the entertainment committee and it's making me wonder how Canadian artists are influencing Canadian designers. Since I'm on the topic, I always listen to music when I write, draw, or sew, so I have to tell you that my favourite CD is the new MSTRKRFT release. It's full of energetic sounds to dance while I work. And they're Canadian. Yeah!





Unfashionable Week
18 August 2006

It's been a slow fashion week for me, but not for others.

I spent a lot of time trying to contact designers to chat for interviews, but this week and next are busy for everyone. It's to be expected, but I hoped to have at least one interview for you this week. Unfortunately, you're going to have to wait. Sorry.

I Love Being Media
10 August 2006

It's great to see party invitations in my inbox! I think I get them because of this blog and my new “media” status. Yay! It's amazing how influencial blogs are becoming for PR (take note, all you designers: what a great way to build buzz without spending a lot of money!).

Anyway, since I received an invitation to the media launch of Grass lounge and was treated so well, I had to say thanks and let you know that it's a fun rooftop patio escape. You know…in case you need to escape from your sewing machine. The lounge really made me want to have a rooftop patio. I need to start a new company that makes some money so I can build my own.

There wasn't anything particularly fashion-y about Grass, but I did run into Milka Mili, who used to be the Executive Assistant at Toronto Fashion Week when I volunteered for it. So the company and the venue inspired a lot of fashion talk.

Blogging About Blogs
9 August 2006

You know how I said I'd review some Toronto/Canadian fashion blogs? Well, Anita at blogto beat me to it. Even though it was posted in June, her list (www.blogto.com/fashion_style/2006/06/get_your_online_toronto_fashion_fix/ ) is an excellent start.

Thanks for doing my work, Anita!

Google: Everybody Does It
8 August 2006

I know you've done it: you've googled yourself, haven't you?

It starts with a bit of embarrassment, but then you start having fun. And you realize that everybody does it.

So…I googled myself today and realized that my web presence gives a good indication of my experiences in fashion, film, urban planning, and development.

My favourite discovery was a sweet, year-old entry on a Japanese blog called Tote Designs at http://totedesigns.blogspot.com/. I love Japanese fashion, and it was a treat to see a Japanese designer was learning from my blog. It is written by a designer who recycles materials and hopes to evolve the line into an eco-label. There are great posts about garment construction, business-type stuff, and – my favourite – Japanese street trends.

NOW is the Time to Design
7 August 2006

Andrew Sardone – Fashion and Design Writer for NOW Magazine, one of Toronto's alt-weeklies – sent me a reminder about NOW's Designer Competition.

If you're dying to create an amazing outfit made from newspapers to celebrate NOW's 25th birthday, then go to www.nowtoronto.com/designerchallenge for competition details. You could win $1,000.

What designer doesn't need $1,000 and tons of media exposure?


Support from The City of Toronto
4 August 2006

Yesterday I met with Laurie Belzak, the City of Toronto's Sector Development Consultant for Fashion/Apparel and Design. I requested the information interview to determine how I might be able to bridge my planning/development and entertainment experience, but I found something that might be beneficial to all you fashion entrepreneurs.

There are grant opportunities and business development centers in four quadrants of Toronto. I don't have any details, but you might want to spend some time at www.toronto.ca/business to see if you can find anything that might help your business.

It will take time and patience for you to find aid, but it will probably be worth it if you can get business advice and a grant!

Oh, and if you're wondering, Laurie had some excellent suggestions about my career
path, so I'll check out some City Hall reports (The City of Toronto Act, the Culture Plan, and Imagine a Toronto…Strategies for a Creative City) and try to arrange more information interviews with Business Improvement Areas, Design Review Panels, the Festival of Architecture and Design, Clean & Beautiful. The City of Toronto seems to be taking a strong interest in design, so there are many career options open for me now. It's so exciting!

Pattern Makers and Contractors
3 August 2006

A few of you have asked me to recommend patternmakers and contractors, so I figure there are more of you looking for answers, so here you go:

I didn't work with a pattern maker or sample maker who I would recommend. What I would recommend is that you look at the TFI resources; they have lists of each here. You do have to pay for this resource, but the time saved with a convenient list is worth it. And I believe that the same list that's housed in the TFI Resource Centre includes comments provided by members on some of the contractors, so you might want to call the TFI and set up a time to go (Note: you have to be a TFI member first and book the resource centre in advance).

I ended up choosing contractors that were close to me because I found out that traveling took up a lot of my time. When you're on a tight deadline, the last thing you need is to spend hours on public transit.

Speaking of time, I'd leave A LOT of time for you to get to know your contractors and try them out. Nothing's worse than being in a rush and then being unhappy with the output, especially if you have a lot of garments to pay for and produce.

You can always try looking for students if you need to cut costs, but their work quality will not be guaranteed and chances are they might be slower than professional contractors. But if this appeals to you, post a message at local schools and don't forget to see work samples and ask for references.

Inside the Fashion Closet
2 August 2006

There ARE straight men in fashion. This has been an interesting topic to explore because a few of you guys have written to say that their sexuality does not affect their treatment or success, but it is always assumed that they are gay. If that bothers a straight man who is interested in fashion, then maybe it's the wrong industry to consider. But if you can get past it and not really care what people might think, you can move on to using your minority status to empower yourself and follow your dreams.

Thanks to Michael who directed me to the following forums where many guys (gay and straight) discuss fashion:

Happy reading, boys (and girls who like menswear).

Bust and Bitch Fashion Issues!
1 August 2006

As faithful readers know, I'm a big fan of Bust magazine. And what is the focus for the latest issue? Fashion! Imitation of Christ's Tara Subkoff is on the front cover, and the content is filled with many D-I-Y and alt-fashion goodies.

I don't think I mentioned the “BustShop” section before, so I'll do that now. There are about 10 advertising pages at the back of each issue dedicated to “she commerce, services, and more”. I could spend days looking up all the websites for these fantastic clothing, accessory, literature, and music shops. I know a couple of local designers who have advertised there, with amazing results. If you've got an online store with girl-oriented products, you should consider this outlet for your PR strategy.

But back to Fall Fashion Issues: If you're interested in a “feminist response to pop culture”, you might want to check out bitch magazine's “Style & Substance” issue. While some of the feminist responses are a bit too…ummm…I don't know…intellectual for some people's tastes, there are some great articles about Tom Ford's Vanity Fair issue, the cattiness about celebrity and fashion-bashing blogs, why fashion writers don't get respect, complete with “an annotated guide to some iconic fashions” (from Bea Arthur to Underoos). This issue is definitely an alternative to traditional fashion writing.

I usually feel better about my love of fashion when it's intellectualized, and these two magazines elevate fashion-talk beyond chatter to near-thesis proportions. They make me realize that I should have combined a fashion element into my urban planning master's thesis. You know…something about documenting the geographical spread of fashion trends among urban centers. That would have been way more interesting to write than trying to determine a set of transportation indicators to monitor greenhouse gas emissions.

Whoops…Did I just devalue my comments about intellectualizing fashion?

This Blog is Posted Weekly!
31 July 2006

For those of you who check in here daily, but get frustrated when you don't find new posts, I'll give you a tip:

This blog is posted weekly, usually on Mondays.

I know that a great thing about blogs is that they can be changed instantly. So why post weekly?

Well, the TFI is a non-profit organization with only one full-time staff member: the Director, Susan Langdon. Since it is a well-respected organization, Susan reviews my entries before they're posted. Don't worry, it's not censorship; it's more to ensure that I don't post any misinformation. You can imagine that Susan is extremely busy, and reading my diary can take up a bit of time. When everything is approved, the part-time TFI Office Assistant posts my entries. We all decided that it is most efficient for me to submit my entries on Fridays so Susan has plenty of time to review and ask me to clarify anything. Then the entry gets posted when the Office Assistant is back in the office.

There have also been times when I was too busy to send in my blog postings, like when I was working 24/7 for weeks on end without sleep. Trying to meet my shipping deadline was a priority and then getting sleep (after the deadline) came next.

So sorry to keep you waiting every week, but this system works best for the moment. If weekly posts drive you insane, just remember that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Keep smiling & thanks again for reading!


The Diary: A New Direction
28 July 2006

Since you want to know what it's like to start a fashion business, I'm going to start interviewing TFI members and alumni. I'd like to profile their work, get business advice, and discuss the state of Canadian fashion. If you're interested in a profile, please carolynrohaly@rogers.com.

Inside the Fashion Closet
24 July 2006

Will it surprise you to know that I received some responses from straight guys in the fashion industry who were interested in talking about the gay stereotypes and discrimination? Yes, there are straight guys in fashion and they do experience discrimination. Here are two common issues that surfaced:

Either way, it's important for people to know there are gay and straight guys in fashion, just as there are gay and straight women. Sexual orientation should not affect one's job, and if you're passionate about your work, you shouldn't have to defend your orientation to enjoy it.

23 July 2006

Although I'm not a fan of Bad Religion, I read an interview with Greg Gaffin, the lead singer, who said, “I really feel terrible if I don't create something every day of my life.”

To create something every day of your life is a great goal. I think I'll adopt it. Does the creation of lime margaritas count? Because I made some delicious ones today. I'm only half-kidding. I did practice my bass guitar today, which has been my creative outlet lately, even though I'm still a beginner. It's nice to make some sort of music.

Career Counseling – What Happened?
22 July 2006

It was great to discuss career opportunities with Susan. She was a great help with resumé improvement and career path suggestions.

You want to hear the funny thing? Project management and production (film, television, event) came up in our conversation more than fashion. Hmmm…

So unfortunately, I didn't discover any great, hidden fashion jobs that seemed suitable, but I did discover that the TFI has a list of fashion placement agencies on the website (http://www.fashionincubator.com/resources/working_in_fashion/fashion-placement-agencie.shtml). I'll check them out and let you know what I discover.

Career Counseling
21 July 2006

As a TFI Outreach Member, I get some time to talk to Susan Langdon with my membership. Today I'm going to use my time to seek her advice on alternative fashion careers. You know… the ones beyond Designer, Buyer, PR, and Marketing. I'm curious to learn about what I may be overlooking.

>From my BoastToastie experience, I grudgingly admit that I discovered my weaknesses: average design skills, I'm a slow sewer (but a good one!), and I'm definitely not a pattern maker.

On the positive side, though, I identified my strengths and interests: organization, staying on schedule, project management, multitasking, knowing when to share jobs and ask for assistance, independent motivation (though I realized that I do like working and leading teams), communication, and trend spotting.

So even though I lost money – and almost my mind – with BoastToastie, it was not a failure. I learned a lot.

Now I wonder what Susan will identify as my strengths and weaknesses. She's read every diary entry, so she learned a lot about me too.

Canada's Next Top Model…So Canadian!
20 July 2006

I haven't posted anything about CNTM because this is supposed to be a diary about what it's like to be a designer and start a business, not a random fashion blog.

But since my business is coming to an end, I'm reorganizing the diary, so until that happens…

…I've got to say that my favourite thing about CNTM is that it was so Canadian! Yes, the girls stayed in a swank place, but it was in the middle of a forest; it wasn't a hip loft in a newly gentrified urban area (as what happens on the American version). There was even a clip of the girls cooing over a beaver that was lounging on the dock. It was hilarious.

Oh…should I mention something fashion-related about CNTM rather than focusing on the awesome Canadian scenery? The girls were much more sophisticated than the American ones. I loved how Andrea thanked every judge individually. Classy.

Fashion Boys: Gay or Straight?
19 July 2006

Guess what I got in my mailbox?

A dirty little secret: a straight guy confessed his love for fashion!

He's been in the (fashion) closet for some time because he didn't know how people would react to a straight fashion-guy. I can relate to his fashion apprehension. It took me a while to admit my passion for fashion too. It wasn't until my late 20's that I embraced it because I was worried about the industry's superficiality. So here are two people who kept their fashion infatuation under wraps for quite a while, but for different reasons.

Since the coming-out process can be traumatic, I reassured him that I've met quite a few straight fashion guys, but now it's got me wondering: is there a kind of straight/gay discrimination happening in the fashion industry?

I'd be curious to hear from any of you guys on this issue so I can give my new fashion friend some advice.

Quote of the Week
18 July 2006

You don't believe me when I tell you to read a book? Well, check out this quote from Fashion Babylon:

Fashion is a strange business. It claims to be an art, but really it is all about business. If you don't conform to the rules you are dead in the water. And the rules dictate that no matter how devoid of ideas you are, no matter how knackered and uninspired, you still have to get models into frocks and, twice a year, shove them down a catwalk.

I love this book!

Carolyn's Book Club
17 July 2006

A UK friend just sent me the BEST BOOK EVER! It's basically a high-fashion version of all my diary entries. I've only read the first chapter, but I know that if you want to get into the fashion business, you must read:

Fashion Babylon
From High Fashion to High Street – Looking up the skirts of the world's most glamorous industry.
By: Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous.

“Anonymous” is a collection of industry insiders, and this book is CAT-TY, but it's a necessary Meow Mix. This is valuable information.

Since my friend sent this fantastic book to me, I'm going to send you to his site. He's part of a collective called Blacksmoke, which produces art (music, prints, photos…) as a reaction to the “War on Terror”. As you'd suspect, it's kind of dark. And it might take you time to navigate the site, but they're working on an ambitious Greenpeace project called “Danger Global Warming”, which is worthwhile checking out. Personally, I love the remixes. Enter www.blacksmoke.org at your own risk.

14 July 2006

Since you're reading these diary entries, you know my mandate has been to tell you about the ups and downs of starting a fashion business.

And since you're reading these diary entries, you know my fashion business is no longer.

So where does that leave the diary?

The TFI and I get wonderful responses to my postings, so we're going to continue with it. I'll still focus on the issues new designers face while trying to start a new business, but they might not be my own experiences.

For the next little while, I'll research existing resources to lead you to what's out there, and I'm sure I'll do some of my own researching and interviewing to bring you much more advice and information. Stay tuned!

Carolyn's Book Club
11 July 2006

My latest read is Diana Vreeland's biography by Eleanor Dwight.

For those of you who don't know her, she was a legendary Vogue editor.

You know what? It's the perfect book to read while I'm down, trying to decide what I'll find next on my career path. Ms. Vreeland's life took a few different, unexpected turns, and she dealt with them with sophistication. Obviously I never met the woman, but I think she's a great role model.

I just finished the part where she got fired from Vogue and didn't know what to do next. You know what she did? She found an excellent opportunity at the New York Met in the Costume Institute, revamped all their exhibitions and basically put the Institute at the forefront of all the Met's initiatives.

Way to go, Diana. Thanks for the inspiration.

10 July 2006

After seeing the Warhol exhibit, I realized that it's been a long time since I've been inspired by anything. I think I've been deadened by the failed-business experience. Time to snap out of it and discover some new things…

9 July 2006

My boss is guest-curating an Andy Warhol exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which opens this week. Last night the AGO celebrated with an opening night party for Toronto artists. I thought it would be a great opportunity to invite some of my fashion-friends.

Unfortunately I got sick. I think it was heat exhaustion or something, but I felt terrible. What a terrible hostess I was. At least my friends had fun without me (or at least I hope they did).

Anyway, the exhibit is on until September, and I highly recommend it. It'll make you re-think Warhol and make you realize there was more to him than Campbell's soup cans.

Crisis: Round Three
6 July 2006

I'm revamping my resumé, which is turning into a difficult task. I have tons of different experiences, but that might be daunting to an HR manager. It's so crazy that I think I have to develop a few different versions: event planner, project manager, planner, marketer, PR manager…it's kind of crazy. There's so much that I can do, but I don't know what I should do. I see a lot of information interviews in my future.

Crisis: Round Two
5 July 2006

Okay, I'm going to tell you a secret: I wrote a book.

Yes, it's about fashion. And yes again, it's about Canadian fashion. It's about the experiences of a girl involved in the planning of the fictitious “Canadian Collections Week”.

I wrote it for friends and family who always asked me about my fashion adventures, but thought they'd want something spicier. With adequate spice, I finished it and got great feedback from everyone who read it.

What's more, I even found a literary mentor and advocate who sent it to literary agents. I got kind of excited, but didn't want to say anything for fear of jinxing myself.

Turns out it didn't make any difference. I received my third agent rejection today. The first two were okay to deal with since I didn't think they'd rep my book anyway (based on the research I completed), but I thought the third agent would like my writing. Nope.

And this brings me back to my crisis. I was holding on to this neat dream that if my business failed, I might be able to start a writing career.

Now I'm bummed. It's getting hard to stay positive.

My Second Quarter-Life Crisis
4 July 2006

Mid-life crises are so passé. Quarter-life crises are where it's at. And I'm so hip, that I'm having two.

I acted on the first one when I turned 30 and retired from urban planning to be a fashion designer. The second is now…four years later.

I've gotta tell you that even though I needed to experience this, and I talked myself into being okay with dissolving BoastToastie, I'm feeling bad. Yup, I've been hit by the Depression Truck and I'm going nuts trying to figure out what to do next.

It's hard to admit when you've failed at something, and I'm the kind of person who makes sure I never fail at anything. That's why I started BoastToastie in the first place. I was sure it wouldn't fail. Oh well. It failed. At least I know that the world doesn't end if a business idea doesn't succeed.


The LaCroix Connection
30 June 2006

We're starting a “wish list” for the TFI 20th anniversary events and Susan Langdon mentioned that Christian LaCroix (who was a huge influence on her as a designer) started his business the same year that TFI started. Hosting M. LaCroix at the TFI celebrations was at the top of Susan's wish list.

Then I remembered that my friend's boyfriend is a designer who helped launch LaCroix's ready-to-wear menswear line. Do I ever feel special. Years ago when watching Fashion Television in Calgary, I never thought I'd know anybody in fashion. And here I am, contacting the office of Christian LaCroix for a fashion event that I'm working on.

Sometimes looking back helps me look forward.

TFI Memories
29 June 2006

Since yesterday's meeting, I've been thinking about the TFI and what it means to Canadian fashion.

I first heard about the TFI on CBC radio. When I was an urban planner in Calgary, we always had the office radio tuned on CBC and one day there was a story about this place in Toronto that helped fashion designers. It brought my deep, dark desire to be a fashion designer back into my consciousness. I had given up on that dream after deciding on a fun, practical career, but after that show, I kept thinking about the possibilities of changing careers.

So, in a way, I have the TFI to thank for making me follow my dreams.

The TFI turns 20!
28 June 2006

That's right; the TFI will turn 20 next year and they're planning a big party. And I'm involved!

Tonight was the first Steering Committee meeting for the 20th anniversary celebrations and there were tons of great ideas shared among many interesting people.

I'm looking forward to helping plan this event. I think it's just what I need to regain my fashion enthusiasm.

There are sure to be many different sub-committees and opportunities to get involved, so when the event takes shape, I'll let you know. I'm sure I'll be begging for volunteers soon.

Fashion Exploits
27 June 2006

Following up on yesterday's post, I'm wondering if I'll have any more fashion exploits to share.

You see, I'm kind of stuck right now. Wondering what to do next. Do I want to design clothes? Do I even want to do anything in fashion? Do I still have the passion that brought me to this spot?

I don't know, but I do know that I'm still sort of burnt out from my attempt to start a company. It was tough, but now I know what I did right and what I did wrong, and I've got to figure out how to put that knowledge and experience to good use.

Chocolate Barred
26 June 2006

You know what's funny? The first time I post something non-fashion related, I got the most responses. Strange.

Does this mean you guys don't want to hear about my fashion exploits anymore?

Last Night
23 June 2006

Instead of going to the deluge of fashion shows last night, I ended up going for drinks with my friend who works in wardrobe for the film industry.

After working on costumes for stage and a few films, I knocked costume design off my career list for a number of reasons:

* You're working on a director's vision; not your own vision.
* Working in wardrobe offers no chance to be creative unless you're the costume designer on some amazing film.
* You become a glorified laundress and shopper.
* The hours are terrible and difficult.
* There's a lot of waiting around and you're required to be alert during the waiting around.

But with a potential new career move, I thought I should revisit this possibility. The pay is excellent, but there's a lot of crap to deal with. My friend offered a helpful, disenchanted view, which is great, and solidified my conclusions about costume design.

Strangely enough, though, it's still in my mind. I think it's because money potential blinds me.

Been Caught Stealing
22 June 2006

Okay, this has nothing to do with fashion, but it's so absurd, I have to post it: I got accused of stealing a chocolate bar today. A CHOCOLATE BAR!

I can't believe it. I've never stolen anything, and this cashier at my corner grocery store (that I've been going to for three years), accused me of putting chocolate in my bag! I was so shocked that anyone would think I'd do such a thing, that I emptied my bag's contents on the counter.

The accusatory cashier just looked at the stuff and shrugged her shoulders. SHE DIDN'T BELIEVE ME! And on top of that, she didn't offer an apology!

Sorry for the un-fashion rant, but now that I have more time on my hands, I realize that I should make myself busy so this kind of stuff doesn't bug me. I think I'll start a dress.

It's Nice to be Love, Love, Loved
20 June 2006

Oh! I see that Toronto Street Fashion (www.torontostreetfashion.com) posted photographic evidence (http://www.torontostreetfashion.com/blog/fashionblog.html) that yes, indeed, Toronto Fashion Bloggers will take over the world and we'll do it in style.

Toronto Fashion Bloggers Unite!
15 June 2006

Beloved fashion blogger Danielle (www.finalfashion.ca) organized a night to introduce Toronto fashion bloggers to each other. It was a great idea!

We had Rachel, Irene, and Sonja, from Toronto Street Fashion (www.torontostreetfashion.com) and Tammy from Endangered Couture (www.endangeredcouture.com), but we missed Anita from I want – I got (http://iwantigot.geekigirl.com/) since our agreed-upon venue choice was closed. We sat on Ciao Edie's patio, hoping to see her walk by, but no luck. Nonetheless, it was fun to talk fashion with an appreciative and understanding crew.

It's always great to connect with supportive people, so I can't wait for the next Meeting of the Bloggers.

What's Next?
14 June 2006

So…I'm finding myself on a new path. Do you still want to read my adventures? There's no doubt they'll still have a lot to do with fashion and I'll always be looking for information about starting a fashion business since I still see it happening.

Well, it will happen for me in the future, because right now I need to save some money since I spent a bunch on starting BoastToastie. So what do I do now? Find a new job? Contract out sewing? Hmmm…I don't know. Stay tuned.

Closure. Finally.
13 June 2006

She called.

And had excuses like, “I'm working 12 hour days, so I couldn't call and haven't been able to think about things.”

That's a good indication that this partnership will not work.

I could tell she wasn't ready to give up the BoastToastie dream yet, so I asked if she had any ideas to salvage it. She thinks we can get people to buy the designs or the idea, but to be honest, I think that's an urban-fashion-myth and wishful thinking on par with winning the lottery. I can't see myself putting energy into that part of the dream, so I'll let her run with it. If she's successful, that will be great. If not, we'll dissolve BoastToastie in September.

And now I have to figure out what to do next.

Where is my Partner?
12 June 2006

Ugh. It's been a week and I haven't heard from Lana. I know you guys are going to think I'm crazy for giving her all this time. I'll call her tomorrow.

Share the Love/Hate
8 June 2006

I forgot to mention a funny thing that Danielle (from www.finalfashion.ca) and I noticed: we get more responses to our blogs when things are tough.

It's great, because people send us support when we need it most; when we're in our black-holes of sewing. For some reason, people can relate to the pain. Between the TFI Members Meetings and e-mail I get, I realize I've got a great fashion support network. Thanks, guys!

TFI Members
5 June 2006

Saturday's Members Meeting was short, but fun.

It had to be cut short because of my Fashion Cares obligations, but nobody seemed to mind. We spent a lot of time talking about what we're all doing, which was fun.

A member named Tetyana told us she's starting a company that will help designers find fabric. She intends to have a fabric store inventory online, complete with sample descriptions and photos. Since I spent many hours going around Toronto on transit, this sounds like a fantastic idea.

The best advice I can give to Tetyana for this site is to include a map because as a transit-reliant person, I always start at places close to me first. So please include a map, Tetyana!

If you want to see the evolution of this fabric venture, check out www.gofabricconnect.com.

Crazy Day Part Two
4 June 2006

What did I actually do when I said that I coordinated the hair/makeup/wardrobe for the dining room talent? Here's a rundown:

* Find a responsible team (This year, I had Danielle, Lindsey, and Gail).
* Survey the venue to know where my team is based and where they go for hair and makeup.
* Sign-in talent.
* Escort talent backstage to hair and makeup.
* Check-in with stylists to ensure everything is on schedule.
* Glance at watch every 5 minutes to stay on time.
* Monitor talent to make sure you don't lose anyone.
* Schedule a time for talent to return to room and prepare for evening.
* Meet at scheduled time to outline the evening's tasks.
* Call stylists for last-minute touch-ups.
* Ensure talent looks perfect.
* Send the guys to the dining room to do their jobs.
* Wait 2 hours for the talent to finish.
* Collect costumes and accessories and monitor who returned everything.
* Dismiss talent.
* Place costumes and accessories to drop-off location.
* Enjoy the fashion show and after-party.

And that's what I did yesterday.

Crazy Day!
3 June 2006

Had a blast today. It started with the TFI Members Meeting and continued with volunteer work for Fashion Cares. I'll tell you about Fashion Cares today and the Members Meeting over the next few days.

What happens at Fashion Cares? Well, obviously there is a huge fashion show. I think it's the largest fashion show in North America. It is a true spectacle and any fashion fan should attend at least once.

Apart from the show, though, there is a dinner, auction, shopping boutique, and after-party, which make for one amazing day.

For the past three years, I co-ordinated the hair/makeup/wardrobe for the dining room talent, and it's the funnest volunteer job I've ever done. I had 12 guys who were wine runners, which meant they delivered wine to diners. There were also 3 aerial artists, and that was it! This year was so great; everyone had a wonderful time, and it's nice to donate time for such a deserving cause (ACT Toronto: www.actoronto.org).

If you want more details about what I do and how the night turned out, check out tomorrow's entry.

Feeling Needy
2 June 2006

I couldn't attend the last members meeting, so I'm in fashion-discussion withdrawal. I can't wait to see everyone tomorrow.

Keeping Secrets
1 June 2006

Okay, I admit it. I'm keeping a few secrets from you. They're about what's happening with my business partner and me. I'd love to tell you EVERYTHING I'm feeling, but I don't think that's fair to her. She's a great friend and it's best for us to work things out before I blab about it all. I'll definitely keep you updated.

Hopefully this blog won't end up being about how to dissolve a business, but you know what? That's part of the experience. If it happens, I'll be sure to tell you about it.

There She Is!
31 May 2006

Finally heard from my business partner today. She says she needs more time to think about what we should do about our geography, timing, and investment issues. Okay, I'll give it to her.

I hope she has better ideas than I do because mine are dissolution of the company or one person buying out the other. Those aren't great options.

Feeling Crafty
30 May 2006

Despite my slight “Project Catwalk” depression, I'm feeling inspired. I can thank “Bust” magazine (www.bust.com). For those of you who don't know it, you must read it!

Every issue has a craft idea and I've decided that from now on, I'm going to try every craft they present. I'm not that fond of the towel-bag in this issue, but I'm going to do it anyway, and then I'm going to go through my back issues. I've been meaning to make etched glasses for a while, and now I'm going to get off my butt and do it.

Unreality Television
29 May 2006

Ugh. I suffer anxiety attacks whenever I watch “Project Runway” or “Project Catwalk”.

The stupid shows (I say that because they're wildly addictive even though they cause anguish) make me doubt my sewing and design skills. I think the designers are so talented because they produce evening gowns in 15 hours and I know I could never do that.

But every now and then I come to my senses and realize that we aren't actually looking at the garment. As if they haven't pulled out the glue guns at the last minute. I doubt the edges are finished. So you know what? I probably couldn't complete an evening gown in 15 hours. It would be so substandard that it would drive me crazy.

Oh, and on “Project Catwalk” this week, one judge criticized the designs by saying they were substandard to anything that would be shown at London Fashion Week.

OF COURSE they were substandard! You'd be an idiot to show any outfit at London Fashion Week that took you 15 hours to conceptualize and make.

Crafternoon Tea
27 May 2006

Nathalie-Roze Fischer (www.nathalie-roze.com) was the lovely journalist who wrote those kind words about my blog in Metro last week, but it turns out she's more than a journalist. She's a designer, soon-to-be shop owner, and event organizer.

She invited me to a “Crafternoon Tea”, which turned out to be a celebration of indie/DIY goodness. There were such creative ideas; it felt like a nice little crafty community and inspired me to think of new projects.

I hate to play favourites, but I just have to. I loved:

* Monster Factory (www.monsterfactory.net) - OH MY GOD! I love these fleece monsters! The quality is amazing and they're the cutest monsters you'll ever see. They're even blogging too: www.monsterfactory.blogspot.com.
* Knotty Girls (www.knottygirls.ca) - Hey! It's Danielle Ker, the Office Assistant at the TFI with her ribbon jewellery. Great idea, Danielle.
* Heartbeat (I couldn't find a website) – Witty jewellery and tees.
* 2-Mile Jewellery (www.2-mile.com) - As a retired urban planner, I love the idea of recycling maps (among other things) into jewellery. Brilliant!
* iisa Designs (www.iisa.ca) - I can't help but giggle when I see a belt made out of a Wonder Bread bag.

Apologies to those I didn't include, but please know that it was great to see so many talented designers. Thanks for the inspiration, and thanks for inviting me, Nathalie.

I couldn't complete a great evening gown in 15 hours and I'm proud of it.

Meeting of the Bloggers
26 May 2006

Meeting of the Bloggers: Doesn't that just sound frightening? A new horror movie? Nah, it was Danielle M. and me hanging out chattin' fash'in.

Danielle was with me during my first (and only) year at Ryerson and she recently graduated. She had a great blog (www.finalfashion.blogspot.com) about creating her final collection and now she's writing about what it's like to try to find employment in Toronto fashion. She's doing a great job at investigating the Toronto fashion industry and I look forward to reading her interviews. You can read them too: www.finalfashion.ca.

Great job, Danielle. Keep it up; I'm sure you'll find a perfect-fit job soon.

Consignment Can Be Fun
25 May 2006

Got an encouraging message from Angie, who wanted to share her consignment experiences. She said:

“I started out doing my designs on consignment, really small runs, keeping things creative and really working with each individual store. It wasn't a full time job, and definitely didn't pay all the bills, but it led to larger things and enabled me to get a lot of experience without taking huge risks.”

So there you have it. Consignment can be fun.

And it might be more fun soon in Montreal…

Angie (along with her boyfriend Tyson) will open a gallery and boutique in June. It will feature independent designers from Canada, the U.S., Asia, and Europe.

Intrigued by all indie-stuff, I had to check out their blog (www.HQgalerieboutique.blogspot.com) and was impressed with the care and attention they give to the designers who will be in their boutique. They're open to new designers and by the looks of the blog, I think they'll treat you nicely if you approach them and I suspect they'll take good care of you if they like your goods.

Will Fashion Bloggers Take Over the World?
24 May 2006

It's always nice to receive a nice e-mail from someone who likes what I've written. It's even better when I can look at what they've written and understand their fashion outlook. And you know what? There are tons of fashion bloggers! It's a pretty fun community.

The latest one I was directed to is http://jaredljohnson.blogspot.com/.

Jared is in an editor and stylist in Chicago, and even though he just began his blog, I can tell how much he loves fashion. This was great for me to read because if you couldn't tell, I haven't been as passionate about fashion lately as I usually am. But Jared snapped me back. I like that he adds what he's listening to while writing.

Are you a fashion blogger too? Or do you know any sites I should know? Feel free to write me because I love learning new things.


Best Advice?
23 May 2006

With most of my Ryerson friends are graduating, many of them are asking me what it's like to start a clothing line and whether they should do it.

I tell them to try and read through my diary because that's why it's here. I want to share my experiences so you know what it's like to figure things out on your own. But if you don't have enough time to read from the start, here are the highlights of what I've learned:

- You need a lot of investment money to start: at least $20,000 for your first year. And that doesn't really include your own living costs (unless you don't have to pay for rent or groceries).

- Starting your own company requires a HUGE time commitment and if you have a full-time job already, adding your own company will make it feel as though you have three jobs. You'll never sleep. I'm not joking.

- Accept that you might have to start small. If you have to start your company part-time while earning a living at another full-time job, then go for it and design/patternmake/sew in your spare time. You can do it, but you might have to start selling at clothing shows on weekends rather than getting your line into stores. There's no shame in slowly building your line and your reputation.

- Be sure to join TFI, attend their seminars and listen to their advice. Being a part of a support network and the TFI community makes you realize that you're not the only one facing challenges – which is very comforting. And having access to information and resources tailored for new fashion entrepreneurs is really beneficial to a new business.

Good luck to all recent graduates. Hope this bit of advice helps you with your tough decisions.

In the News
19 May 2006

It's nice to know people are reading and learning from my experiences. The Frugal Fashionista at Toronto's Metro News highlighted my diary in yesterday's issue. Feel free to check out my name-check: http://www.metronews.ca/column_frugal_fashionista.asp?id=16157

Thanks for reading!

Sewing Doesn't Make me Vomit
18 May 2006

I'm happy to say that I have fully recuperated from my self-inflicted sewing-nausea inflicted after last summer's four-month nonstop sewing marathon. Made myself another skirt today. Yay me!

But seriously, I've got to think about ways to sew things that I can make easily, rather than the demanding patterns I created last year. I'd be much happier finishing things quickly so I can make a bunch of them to sell.

Hmmm…still thinking. I'll let you know when inspiration hits.

Fashion Cares
17 May 2006

Fashion Cares is a fashion show fundraiser for the AIDS Committee of Toronto and this year is its 20th anniversary. I've been honoured to volunteer at this event for the past four years and figure I should mention it to you. It's always an amazing extravaganza (for a great cause!) and you should go on Saturday June 3. For information, go to www.fashioncares.org.

What do I do at Fashion Cares? For the last three years, I co-ordinated the hair/makeup/wardrobe for the talent in the HBC dining room or the RBC Boutique. That means that I have to dress guys in skimpy outfits and make sure they have enough body paint to last the night. Not a bad volunteer gig, I must say.

Apart from volunteering for a good reason, I admit that I love the show and how local designers and artists are incorporated. I checked the Fashion Cares website for a list of designers, but couldn't see one. If you're a designer who is participating, please let me know and I'll be happy to spread the news.

Want to Design, but Can't Sew?
16 May 2006

Even before starting this diary, people would come up to me and say, “I want to be a fashion designer, but I can't sew. What should I do?”

My quick answer is always, “Take a sewing class!”

How can you expect to design garments when you don't know the mechanics of construction? Sure, designers who are heads of the world's best fashion houses are more likely to sketch their ideas and give them to teams of patternmakers and sewers, but if you're just starting out, you – like me – probably don't have the funds for those people.

If you have great fashion ideas, go and take a sewing class at your local community centre, college, or university, and make those ideas a reality.

Didn't Even Say Goodbye
15 May 2006

Just returned from a trip to Calgary and Vancouver and I realize I didn't even say goodbye to you. Sorry about that, but now I'm back.

What was I doing in Calgary and Vancouver? Nothing fashion-related, I'm afraid. Well, I did try to meet up with my business partner while in Calgary for a weekend, but she didn't return my messages. Yes, I'm concerned, and that's why BoastToastie's on hold right now. I don't even know if she reads my posts, but I hope she does, and I hope she calls me soon. I don't like being stalled.

But in good news from my trip, it was my niece's 4th birthday and I discovered that I can make the best Barbie birthday cake in the world. All the kids went nuts over it. I love being an aunt.

Buy Design
28 April 2006

If you need to do something fashionable AND responsible this weekend, you should attend Buy Design in Toronto's Distillery District (www.buydesignbywindfall.ca).

It's a fantastic fundraiser for the Windfall Clothing Service (www.windfallclothing.ca), Canada's only new clothing bank.

You'll see a fabulous fashion show, shop in the Designer Cutting Room, experience the star treatment of getting glammed up by stylists, pose for photo shoots, get creative at the DIY Couture Station, and enjoy yourself immensely, I'm sure.

Maybe I'll see you there!

27 April 2006

How fantastic; I saw Isaac Mizrahi last night!

He was in Toronto to launch his line for Fairweather, and it was a nice event. Girls stood on risers scattered throughout the event space to model the clothes. They stood in each spot long enough for you to go and inspect each piece, which was great. The designs were well suited to the Fairweather customer.

The one criticism I have is that the model in the ad campaign looks too young for the clothes and the target market. After Model Week here on this blog, you should also be able to recognize this. It's a good example of how important it is to cast the appropriate model.

It's What You Do With It
25 April 2006

I receive quite a few e-mails asking whether you should join the TFI, and my best response is that your TFI membership is what you make it.

Susan Langdon uses this analogy to explain things:

Say your goal is to lose weight. You join a health club, you pay your fee and then you never show up to work out. A year goes by and you still haven't lost any pounds so who have you got to blame? The club was there; you knew where it was and when you could get to it, and you knew that it had all of the equipment you needed to achieve your goal. So even though you didn't put any effort into reaching your goal, you've decided the membership wasn't worth it. Conversely, the person who joins a health club and works out regularly meets his or her goals, loses the weight and gains side benefits as well, such as a stronger heart and a renewed sense of self confidence. Well a TFI membership works the same way. What you put into it, is exactly what you get out.

So if you're dreaming that the TFI will find funding for your fantastic clothing idea, it's just not going to happen; you have to do the work yourself. Besides, that's not what TFI offers.

Use your membership to access the resource center, meet with Susan Langdon, attend seminars, come to our members meeting and go to events. Then you will learn a lot and discover that it's worthwhile to be a member.

Hope that helps you decide if you want to join.

Dishin' on Commission
24 April 2006

I got a message after Model Week was done, that corrected Dan's points on commission.

It turns out Canadian modeling agencies charge 20% service charge plus GST on bookings. That's apparently standard in Canada.

Good luck with your bookings!

Model Week – Final Thoughts
22 April 2006

(Okay, it's not quite April 22nd, but TFI is busy tomorrow so I've sent this in advance.) I'd like to thank Dan Grant, publisher of Modelresource Canada (www.modelresource.ca), for offering tips to new designers on how to work with models. Since he was kind enough to give me some advice, I thought I'd let him end Model Week with his final thoughts…

Dan: As much as you can, take your time and try to meet with as many models as you can before making a decision. If you hold a casting away from school/office hours you will get a better turnout.
You have the ability to change the face of Canadian fashion. Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world, yet this city's major fashion magazines almost never use ethnic faces unless they are celebrities like Eva Longoria or Naomi Campbell. Your campaign is more likely to stand out if you choose not to alienate the majority of Toronto's population.

Model Week – Dispelling Myths
21 April 2006

Carolyn: What are some modeling myths that designers should know are untrue?

Dan: Canadian clients tend to have a better understanding of the industry than Americans. The misinformation I see circulating on U.S. websites frightens me. That having been, the following are myths:
Most models are bitchy and difficult. Don't let America's Next Top Model fool you: The majority of Canadians are kind, responsible types that just want to be part of the exciting world of fashion. They love having their picture taken, they love runways, and most enjoy the chance to sit down with you and show you their book. Most models are very proud of their photos and if you sincerely compliment them, you will make their day.

Models are irresponsible. Some are, but they almost never last. I've talked with most of this country's top models and they view modeling as a means to make really good money while they're young, so they can do whatever they want with the rest of their lives. That's why Canada is producing the top models in the world – agencies and clients around the globe are impressed with how seriously our models approach opportunities.
Models are too thin. If they are, it's because clients demand it. Fortunately Toronto is a more commercial market and most of the working models here have a more athletic appearance than those in the world's major fashion markets.

Models are too young. Again, Toronto's commercial nature means clients have a greater range of models at different ages. Most of the work done in this city is by models in the 25-35 age range.
If youth fits your collection however, this city has some of the best young talent in the world. Those models need the chance to develop and appreciate any chance to work.

Model Week – Agencies
20 April 2006

Carolyn: What do designers need to know about agencies?

Dan: If you have your heart set on a certain model but can't afford the quoted rate, mention it to the booker. Most want to see their models work, and almost every booker sincerely wants to see Canadian designers succeed. If you can offer something to help offset the difference in the price, that might help sell your sincerity.

Agencies generally charge 15% on top of the quoted model's rate. This is the agency commission. Figure tax into the equation as well.

If your shoot or show relies on an ideal climate ask about weather permits, cancellation fees.
Generally time devoted to hair and makeup will also be billed to you.
Agents take a lot of pride in being part of bringing shows and campaigns to life. Don't be afraid to ask their opinions, or for appraisals of certain models' weaknesses. More than anything agencies want repeat business, and will usually go out of their way to make a paid booking successful.

Agencies will want to know the intended purpose of any photos you are doing with the model. There are different rates for print, web, billboards, etc.

Model Week – The Model's Perspective
19 April 2006

Carolyn: How do models approach a job?

Dan: Models expect some guidance from the designer, especially if they are new. More experienced models often know how to turn it on and will leave even the best designer feeling inspired. If you're looking for a newer, edgier image however, and want a brand new face, be patient and as clear as you possibly can about what you expect.

Any specific requirements you have – hair washed the evening prior, no makeup, bring running shoes, etc. – should be communicated to the agency beforehand, so they can relay it to the model.
Also, it's wise to provide the agency with a phone number on set (such as a cell phone) so the model can call you directly if they are going to be late. Traffic does happen in Toronto, and delays are sometimes unavoidable.

Model Week - Etiquette
18 April 2006

Carolyn: What are the etiquette rules between a designer and a model?

Dan: First, NEVER discuss the price of the booking with a model. That is between yourself and the agency, and if you discuss it with the model it will only make them uncomfortable. If you need to change any terms of the booking you need to call the agency.

A model should never attend a casting or booking with a boyfriend/girlfriend, unless the agency has cleared it with you beforehand. If the model's current love interest is also their ride, that's understandable, but the insignificant other should know when to hit the road.

If a booking is going to extend more than 15 minutes beyond schedule, you need to call the agency and make arrangements. The model may have another commitment and may not feel comfortable mentioning it. It is incumbent upon you to make sure everything is taken care of. If you feel the model is the reason things have fallen off schedule, mention that to their booker. They need to know.

If there is going to be any use of fur, swimsuits, underwear, sheer, implied nudity or actual nudity, that too has to be arranged beforehand. Some models refuse certain assignments out of conscience, while others are more than happy to take any work, but command higher rates for more revealing bookings.
If you are working with a model that is under the age of majority, especially if you are a male, it is in your best interest to have someone else on set. Lawsuits are extremely rare, but you'd be wise to protect yourself against something you thought was innocent but the model felt differently about.

Payment following the booking should always go to the agency. Never pay the model directly as it creates accounting headaches for everyone.

Never ask how to contact a model directly, unless you have known them on a social basis for a long time. Asking for their number will only make them nervous, since their agencies have made it clear to them that all correspondence should go through the bookers.

Carolyn: What are some common mistakes designers make when working with models?

Dan: People sometimes forget that models have feelings. Most start when they are quite young, and when you criticize their appearance, they don't hear an appraisal – they hear a judgment on something deeply personal that they've been taught to believe in, and will live with for the rest of their lives. Please remember when you deal with models they aren't offering something they've drawn or cooked – they're offering themselves. If you don't find their appearance appropriate to your current campaign, don't book them - but don't leave them with the impression their body is unsuitable.

I know money is tight for Canadian designers, and I appreciate that, but honestly one of the biggest mistakes comes from not budgeting enough to get the right model. Sometimes, if you're really on the ball, you can get a great new model at a low rate. But considering how much money goes into your materials, rent, equipment, P.R., photography, makeup & styling, website and all your other related business expenses, it isn't worth sabotaging an entire campaign by saving a few dollars on the model. If you're getting a brand new model, get a REALLY good photographer that works a lot with new faces. Ideally though, get a really good model and photographer, and show your collection the way it was meant to look.

Carolyn: What constitutes a good model/designer relationship?

Dan: That's tricky. Chemistry would be the obvious answer, but too often designers use the same model season after season and ignore the fresh new face that could inject some life into their campaigns and shows
A good working relationship, realistically, is one of convenience. If the model is appropriate to your current collection, book that model. Save your other model friends for the fashionable after-party.

Model Week - Expectations
17 April 2006

Dan Grant, publisher of Modelresource Canada (www.modelresource.ca), loved the thoughts about models that I posted after L'Oréal Fashion Week, so I thought I'd ask him some questions that might help new designers when working with models.

He provided some great responses, so I've decided to make this Model Week! Here we go…

Carolyn: What should a designer look for in a model?

Dan: First, look for a model that is represented by a credible agency. Freelance models generally choose to be that way because they believe they are the experts, and don't need the perspective of an experienced team behind them. That should give you a good indication of what to expect when they get on set.

Second, decide how long you want the images to last. If your looks are very much for the current season you'll do well to pick a model with a very modern look. If your collection is more classic however, more commercial-looking models are plentiful in Toronto.

Third, and probably most important, look for a model that shows an interest in being part of your project. If they are late without a reasonable excuse, if they didn't note the details you gave their agency or if they don't follow your instructions you probably are better off continuing your search.

Carolyn: What should a designer expect from a model?

Dan: Depending on the booking (runway, photo shoot, showroom, etc), you should be very clear with the agencies what YOU expect from the model. Unless they are brand new, models should, at a minimum, have their portfolio and composite cards (a model's calling card, with a selection of photos, relevant stats and contact info). Females should also have basic makeup with them. If they are coming for a runway casting, and they are female, they should also have heels.

It is fair to expect the models to attend an initial casting, and then a follow-up "callback" if you have narrowed your selections to a short-list. A third callback is okay if you're really beating your head against the wall, but remember most models have competing priorities and often take time away from school or day jobs to get to you. Unlike unionized actors they don't get paid for callbacks, so please be considerate.

It was Fun…
16 April 2006

I did it. Made two dresses and a skirt. Just for me. I deserve it. Am very happy.

Sewing for Myself
14 April 2006

It's been a while since I bought new clothes or sewed for myself, so guess what I'm going to do this weekend?Yes, I'm going to make myself some clothes and I'm going to have a fun time while doing so.

Killing a Company?
11 April 2006

I've been alternating from relief to sadness over whether or not we should end our company. I'm still waiting to hear back from my business partner, which, to be honest, contributes to the relief part. If we end BoastToastie, then we don't have to answer to each other.

But we've put in so much time, money, and energy that I don't want it to end. We've got a good idea and I can see it succeeding…

But this is an issue of timing, money, and location, and none are working right now…

But if we decide to end it, I've got some other projects I want to start…

Hmmm…there's so much to think about. You can tell I've been a little schizophrenic lately. Oh, the joys of having a company…

In Sickness
10 April

Okay, I've been sick lately and to be honest, the last things I wanted to do were sew or write. Sorry, but I needed to take some time off. I'm sure you can understand.

Graduating Collection
6 April 2006

If I stayed in Ryerson, my graduating collection would have premiered last night.

Part of me felt sad that my clothes weren't there, but mostly I was happy that I ended up doing things my way. Through BoastToastie, I made my own fashion classes and learned so much while being able to maintain a job and not be a poor student. Sure, I made mistakes with BoastToastie, but it's been a great experience and I was able to do what I wanted. It's been an interesting experience, but is it coming to an end?

Since I'm waiting for my business partner to get back to me on how we should proceed, I've been wondering about how I'd feel if we just ended it. It makes me sad, especially when my classmates showed their collections.

I'll let you know how things go.

Members Meeting – Look Books
5 April 2006

Are look books archaic and a waste of money or are they an important part of your marketing and PR campaign?

We talked about this after looking at some of the media materials I received at Fashion Week. Some pieces, such as those from Mackage, chulo pony, and Fantine, were professional, high quality, and – no doubt – expensive, but they provided strong, lasting impressions.

Some members mentioned that Hyphen sent out a virtual look book: e-mails with all their looks. It probably cost considerably less money, but they were able to give people the experience of seeing their collection without having to see the show.

So is it better to make the investment in a paper look book or do it electronically? We had arguments for both sides, but most members liked the idea of old-fashioned paper.

Members Meeting – Branding, Marketing, and PR
4 April 2006

What's the difference between branding, marketing and PR? Should you go to a branding company that does everything or go to separate marketing and PR companies? How much of your marketing budget should go to PR?

We spent a lot of time discussing these issues, but didn't come up with solid answers. I asked Susan for her input and she summarized it this way:

* Branding, marketing and public relations are all different but complementary
* A branding company will help you to define the core values of your brand and how to keep these values consistent through all of your communication and collateral materials. Before you go to market, you better know who you are, what you stand for and how you're going to say it.
*Once you've got your brand figured out, you'll want to promote it. Here's where the PR firm comes in. Their objective is to help you get your brand in front of media, stylists, editors, retailers and celebrities. Exposure in the media gives you brand recognition and credibility, and it can create consumer demand.
*A marketing company will help you to develop a strategy to get your brand into domestic or international markets. Their objective is to help you increase your sales by coming up with creative and successful ways in which you can do this so that you get the best return on your investment.

At our meeting, we decided that our best solution was that you have to research branding, marketing, and PR companies to determine what will fit best with your company's needs and your budget.

Members Meeting - Fashion Designer Advocate
3 April 2006

We talked about a new Toronto store that sent an e-mail to many TFI members about selling their clothes. I think sales were offered on a consignment basis, so we ended up discussing designers' rights and whether or not you should sell on consignment.

The consensus was that you should trust your gut when selling to new stores, make sure you sell to the right stores (the ones that match your brand), and know that you can say no if you are uncomfortable with a vendor. It is always flattering and exciting to have someone interested in your stuff, but make sure it's right.

One member brought up the fact that there is a Graphic Designers Guild that ensures rights for graphic designers. Should there be one for fashion designers?

Members Meeting – BC Fashion Week
2 April 2006

At this month's meeting, we started by talking about BC Fashion Week.

Many of us are getting tons of e-mail from BC Fashion Week, and are impressed with their press releases and invitations. It seems so inclusive and positive; it would be easy to attend any event and the organizers are happy to promote it.

In contrast, it seems kind of difficult for people to get into L'Oréal Fashion Week. Many TFI members asked me how to attend shows and many of them didn't know that if you are involved in the fashion industry, you can sign up as “Industry” on the Fashion Week website (www.torontofashionwek.ca).

With that information, I'll see you at L'Oréal Fashion Week next season and maybe one day I'll get to experience BC Fashion Week.

If you didn't get to see the shows, you can check them out online at http://www.torontofashionweek.ca/lfw/lfw_new-shows.html.

Members Meeting
1 April 2006

I love my fashion support group meetings on the first Saturday of every month at the TFI. This month, we discussed BC Fashion Week, reputable printers, designer advocates, what trade shows are good to attend, the concept of pattern editors, branding companies vs. marketing and PR companies, look books, and different types of pattern drafting software.

As usual, I'll give you some highlights over the next few days.

What's Next?
30 March 2006

So you've read all about my crazy weeks of fashion shows, but what about BoastToastie?

Thanks for asking. Unfortunately, I don't have much to report. My business partner and I are at a crossroads. We're at a stage where we need more money to contract out sewing, at least one of us needs to devote all of our time to the company, and we really do need to be in the same city. We're going to be talking about this and hopefully come to a conclusion soon about where we should take this company. I'll keep you posted.

Farley Spins
28 March 2006

Yay! It was my friend Farley's show tonight. I love his shows because they combine beautifully constructed garments with gorgeous men. Life can't get better than when I'm at one of Farley's shows.

Seriously, if you want to see perfect construction, check out Farley's clothes. When I see his stuff, I experience sewing-envy.

No Show!
25 March 2006

I was supposed to go to yet another show tonight, this time at the Design Exchange, but you know what? I'm fashioned-out. I seriously can't do it. I never thought I'd ever refuse a fashion show, but I feel a fashion-induced cold coming on. I need sleep.

Doll Factory Studios Launch
24 March 2006

The girls behind one of my favourite labels, Damzels in this Dress, decided to bury their dress line and focus on accessories, so they launched Doll Factory Studios last night (www.dollfactorystudios.com).

As Damzels, Rory and Kelly always produced professional fashion shows and they did so again at their launch at the Bovine, a Toronto club that matched their new collection of music-inspired accessories. They have a great idea and I wish them the best success.

My First Media Mistake
23 March 2006

Uh-oh. I gave you misleading information about chulo pony, even though I loved their collection and thought I was being a pretty good fashion journalist.

Chris Kopeck from chulo pony e-mailed me to say that they have been around for 8 seasons (4 years), not 8 years as I wrote. And it turns out this was their second showing at L'Oreal Fashion week and their first at LA Fashion Week.

All that information was in their fantastic press kit, so I've learned something else from fashion week: even if you provide a detailed press kit, journalists still get things wrong, despite their best intentions.

Sorry, chulo pony. Please forgive me. I love you.

TFI New Labels Show
22 March 2006

I always love watching or volunteering the TFI New Labels show. This year I watched it.

The registration tables were well organized: guests picked up their tickets according to last name, and I didn't see anyone waiting at all.

You can't go wrong when you start a fashion show with hors d'oeuvres and wine tasting. It was a great way to catch up with everyone and discuss last week's collections. The only problem was that there was very little mingling room because the event was so packed, but that was soon rectified when people started taking their seats. All the volunteers knew what they were doing, and it was quite easy to find my seat.

The things I love about the TFI New Labels show are the optimism, love, craftsmanship, and dedication put into the collections. You can tell the designers have lived those clothes over the past year and it means so much for them to show at the New Labels competition. There were a couple of technical glitches in the show, but the clothes were the focus, so technical problems didn't really matter.

I find shows like this truly inspirational; they help me create.

Fashion Week Hangover – Timing and Seating
21 March 2006

On the first night of L'Oreal Fashion Week, some colleagues and I joked about starting a Fashion Week Show Start Pool. It would be similar to an Oscar pool, but where you guess the actual show start times.

This led me to wonder what would happen if a fashion show actually started on time. Would fashion professionals miss it because they're used to late shows? I don't think so. I think it's more important to be courteous to your guests and aim for a show start no later than 15 minutes from the scheduled time.

I was impressed with the shows this past week. It was rare that one started more than 15 minutes late. People expect the shows to be 15 minutes late, but if they're later, crowds get restless.

Things were a bit chaotic at the shows when media people began to swarm the PR people on the first night. Journalists wanted to find their seats before entering the runway room, and when one person approached the seating list volunteers, the rest followed.

This season was well organized. At the start of each show, I checked in with Desia Brill (www.brillcommunications.ca), or one of her colleagues who found my seat on the list. I'd get a piece of paper with “G2” on it, which gave me my section (G) and row (2). I was in the same area for all the shows that week, which always made it easy for me to find my seat.

Before each show, I'd watch the door to the runway room and realized people were allowed in. Stanchions with velvet ropes corralled people into different groups: media, industry, sponsors, and guests. Unfortunately people stood in front of the signs, so sometimes it took a while to get inside.

When I did get to the chairs, it was amazingly easy to find my “G2” section and there were two volunteers with the seating list who found my seat. It was so simple! Not only that, but it was a fantastic seat. Thanks, Fashion Week, for putting me in a nice place so I could enjoy the event.

Unfortunately, not everyone found it to be as easy as I did. People visited, stood on the runway, and didn't bother finding their seats. Volunteers seemed scared to approach people and get them to their seats, but they must understand that since they weren't proactive, the show took longer to start.

Note to designers and event organizers: make sure you have confident, well-trained volunteers.

Fashion Week Hangover – Media
20 March 2006

The mere existence of a media lounge, speaks volumes about how important media members are at a fashion show. They communicate about the event to other people, and if you give a bad impression, they can say some unfavorable things.

That's why I found myself in a calm land of comfy couches, pillows, more L'Oréal samples, free food, and beverages; everything I needed to write happily. How could I write anything bad when I was drinking mineral water out of the coolest bottle ever?

With that in mind, here are a couple tips to keep media members happy:

*A quiet place.
*Space to spread out paper or laptop.
*Laptop and Internet access.
*Press kits.
*People around to answer questions.

Fashion Week Hangover – Sponsorship
19 March 2006

One thing the door volunteers did very well: they distributed gift bags from L'Oréal, the event's key sponsor. The event is now actually called L'Oréal Fashion Week, not Toronto Fashion Week. Did you know that? The name changed in February 2005, resulting in a fashion event with “L'Oréal” splashed everywhere. Is that good or bad?

Sponsorship isn't a dirty word anymore, nor is the concept of selling-out; it's almost expected now. Most events have sponsors now since they are so expensive to organize. Liquor seems to be the most common form of sponsorship, but the phenomenon is growing. Is it getting out of control?

Would it really kill you to have the name of a razor on the back of the registration pass you hand out to every guest in exchange for some well-needed funding? How about a shoe store? What about a plastic surgery clinic? I guess the answers depend on you, your brand, and what image you want to portray.

Here is an example of one sponsorship/marketing initiative I saw:

A fleet of girls wandered around wearing tank tops that said, “International Call Girl” on the front and “Try Me Free” on the back. What were they doing? Promoting long-distance cell phone rates, of course. How does that reflect the event?

Still, it was nice to sort through all sorts of freebies.

Fashion Week Hangover - Access, Entry and Communication
18 March 2006

I never stop learning from fashion shows. For those of you who didn't get the chance to go to L'Oreal Fashion Week, here are some things I learned from the event:

It took an hour to take transit from my loft in Toronto's east end to the Fashion Week venue, the Liberty Grand (at the exhibition grounds). I knew it would take a while, but my first thought on what I could learn about running a show from this event concerns access.

There are so many things to consider when choosing a venue for your show:

*Does it match your brand?
*Is it easily accessible?
*Will you get outside/street traffic or is it a private space?
*Is there signage?
*Is it a destination? For instance, will people want to make the trip there?

Since I had been to the Liberty Grand before, I knew where to go, but the entrance shifted to a different part of the building than from where it was in previous seasons, so I saw a lot of lost people and no signage.

I was happy to see building security enforcing passes and checking I.D. In the past, volunteers – who have no experience dealing with unruly crowds – did this, but usually with difficulty. Professional security makes a difference.

I'd also like to report that I didn't have to wait a single minute. Fantastic!

Knowing where to find the show and coat check, I tested the volunteers to see if they also knew such key information. The first person didn't, but the second volunteer did. Hopefully they will share knowledge.

Communication is key, from the director at the top to the volunteer at the door.

Fashion Week Special
Fashion Hangover: 17 March 2006

There you have it. Fashion Week is over, and boy, did I learn a lot. After all that time watching the shows and analyzing how I can learn from them, this is the most important thing I discovered as a new designer:

It is important to experience as many shows as you can and try to see them from different perspectives: as designer, volunteer, buyer, journalist, colleague. With each show I see, I understand clothing more, and therefore, I want to see as many shows as I possibly can.

Fashion Week Special
Day Four: 16 March 2006

Chulo Pony

Chulo Pony (www.chulopony.com) had the best press kit of the week. There was a history of the designers, along with a full storyline to go along with their collection. I knew about their partnership with Nettwerk Music Group, and was I excited to see a CD in the press kit. Since they were so nice to add it, I'll be happy to plug the band, Goldspot. I listened to the CD when I got home and loved it. The music fit the show; brilliant bit of cross-promotion.

For me, apart from falling in love with the cute clothes, I was infatuated with this collaboration between a record/music management company and clothing label. It makes so much sense! I'm not sure if it's a sponsorship-type of deal (I get the impression it is more of a design collective), but having a clothing company that reflects one design aspect of a larger company makes such sense. An arrangement such as this could help new labels through their growing pains, and it takes the ideas I had from Andy's show one step further.

The press kit informed me that the label had been around for eight years, whereas I thought it was a lot younger. I've only known about them for about two years. This was their first showing at Fashion Week, so it made me kind of happy to learn it took them eight years to get to this point. Fashion success is not made overnight and takes a lot of work; it is sometimes easy to forget that when you hear stories about someone such as Zac Posen. So thanks, Chulo Pony, for making me feel better about plugging away at my own little sewing machine, thinking it will take forever to get my company off the ground.


There were two shows in one, which was fine, but it ended up being an endless parade of jackets. Plus, I didn't know how the two labels fit with each other. Since I didn't get a press kit or sheet of information, I couldn't know why they showed together. When I first saw a fashion show, I was like, “What? It was only fifteen minutes! That's it?”

Now, I think, “Wow! Forty outfits in fifteen minutes! That's amazing!”

Could there be such a thing as over-saturating your audience? Too much of a good thing? I loved the coats, but since there were so many, it was easy to get distracted.

Pat McDonagh

Pat McDonagh has been a Toronto fashion fixture for a long time and it was interesting to see how important it is to build a strong client base and treat them well. They were all there to support Pat and cheered throughout her show. They seemed to be a more mature demographic, and appeared to be very loyal. I may have to re-think my own target market and launch a different sort of label.

Since Pat's clothes and clients are more mature, I thought the young models seemed out of place. When mentioning this to a model-industry friend, she agreed and said that older models would have worked well and would not have compromised the integrity of the collection.

Speaking of models, I noticed a lot of them slipping in the night's shows. Someone must have polished the floor or none of the shoes fit. Here's a tip I learned: when casting models, ask them to walk in the shoes you want to use in the show. If she cannot do it, ask her bring her own shoes or do not cast her. A disastrous walk can be distracting.

Another disaster can be show timing. The producers were in such a rush to start Pat's show that guests were on the runway while the show started. Sometimes there is not much you can do to control your guests, but you can take the responsibility to find smart, mature models. The first girl on the runway dealt well with the pokey guests: she waited for them first, and then strutted past. But it would have been better to avoid the problem in the first place and ensure that backstage workers are communicating clearly with show producers and front-of-house staff.

Pink Tartan

Ashley MacIsaac opened the show with a few songs. Star power is truly effective in getting an audience's attention.

I ended up watching this show on a screen outside the runway room because it was too packed to bother going in (it gets hot in the runway room). The good news was that I watched with a model agent, who gave me tips on what makes a good model:

There you have it. As strange as it may sound to some people, it really does take talent to be a good model. Don't forget, though, that it also takes talent to cast your show correctly.

Fashion Week Special
Day Three: 15 March 2006


Yet another nearly on-time start. This is great, especially for a world-debut and launch of a new label. It was a well-organized show, with press release and look book on every seat, along with flyers from Yuki (www.yuki.ca), the company that provided the show's jewellery.

The press release was perfect: it provided the designer's history, inspiration, and contact information.And how professional was the look book? It reflected the label's attention to detail and communicated the message that the designer does not compromise quality. Along with the professional photos and layout, my favourite part was the notes section.

Well done, Fantine.


This was a theatrical show with almost costume-y clothes, so the main thing I learned was that there is a thin line between art and clothing; serious and fun.

What I mean by that is that there were some beautiful clothes, but with the theme of “Children's Dress-up”, a designer can run the risk of going overboard. For instance, there were many elements to the collection: Alice in Wonderland, Pirates, Cowboys, Royalty. Somehow they got muddled up, especially when a model walked out in a gorgeous suit that was completely overshadowed by a giant pink cowboy hat. Not only did the accessory take over the clothes, but the model obviously felt ridiculous and tried hard not to laugh. I couldn't blame him, given the circumstances. Sometimes artistic vision might have to be toned down so you can actually sell your clothes.

On the other side of the accessory continuum, ENVERS exercised partnership with AMASWISS to great advantage: the diamond jewellery looked as though it belonged with the clothes. It was an intelligent pairing.

The main thing I thought when watching this show is how a live show is useful for highlighting tailoring techniques. The clothes were expertly crafted and I'm sure that photos will not adequately capture the designer's technical skill. Watching it made me wonder if I can really make it as a designer because I can't do half of the stuff I saw on ENVERS models.


I really want to keep this blog positive because I know how hard it is to make clothes, organize a fashion show, coordinate PR, and everything else involved in making a clothing company work.

Unfortunately, I have to say that this was an event that taught me how not to present a fashion show. The models were obviously unprofessional and the DJ played music tracks completely unrelated to the collection.

Here is the best lesson: refrain from holding a fashion show until you have the financial resources to host a show that adequately represents your work.

Andy Thê Anh

Andy's show made me think about three fashion show elements: sponsorship, fit, and theme.

Sponsorship – Andy did this well. He paired with Ford and designed an interior for a Ford Fusion to be auctioned on eBay Canada. It was on display throughout Fashion Week, and when I saw the clothes, I saw how the car interior tied nicely with his collection. The Fur Council of Canada, who likely provided him with the materials to make his fur creations, also sponsored him. Though not a fan of fur, I thought these pairings worked well for Andy and probably offered him great PR and investment opportunities. Could we see more corporate sponsorships for labels in the future? As a struggling designer, this sounds appealing.

Fit – Unfortunately, there were some beautiful dresses that just didn't fit the models, especially in the bust. It is a hard balance to make clothes and then find models who fit, so maybe it's more important to get an idea of model proportions before making samples.

Theme – This show's soundtrack was comprised of Prince's raunchiest tracks, which was great, but I didn't find the clothes particularly raunchy. Sure there was some lace, which Prince used to wear a lot of in the eighties, but I kept trying to think about how everything fit together. It wasn't until the finale, when “The Glamorous Life” played that everything made sense. “Glamorous Life” was what the collection meant to me and the finale tied it all up in a little bow, kind of like a surprise ending.

David Dixon

David's shows are always professional and his designs are always consistent. If you want to learn how to run a show that reflects your business, try to see David's shows for a few seasons. You'll learn a lot.


This is the only club show I attended during Fashion Week, and even though it started one and a half hours late, it was well worth the wait. It was the most energetic show I saw, which fit the clothes perfectly. It opened with a band, a TV personality from Entertainment Tonight Canada, and with rocker Fefe Dobson, all of whom kick-started the audience. Everything worked well together.

I've seen many club shows that are not cast with professional models, but this one was completely professional and all the models were perfect. They had fun; the show's organizers obviously gave good direction and had a smart choreographer.

The production was great and – I assume – costly, but it left me with an amazing impression of the company. I need to know how these guys got the money to put on such a show, but if there was one thing I learned from this, it is if you're going to put on a show, don't do it halfway. Do it all the way or don't do it at all.

Fashion Week Special
Day Two: 14 March 2006


The Fairyesque (www.fairyesque.com) show was supposed to start at 6:00pm and you know what? It did! Well done.

What did I learn?

Izzy Camilleri

Only fifteen minutes late to start. Fashion Week is starting with a great track record.

I've never seen an Izzy Camilleri (www.izzycamilleri.com) show, so I didn't know what to expect. Here's what I discovered:

Pierre Jale

A floor show is a great idea for new designers since they tend not to draw the large audiences that veteran audiences do. This sounds weird, but when there are empty seats, it affects the impression of the show. A smaller alternative might be better for a designer's first few shows.

This technique worked for PierreJale because their show was packed; I arrived late and therefore had a hard time seeing the clothes through the standing-room only crowd. At least their show was packed.

Joeffer Coac

Scheduled to start at 8pm, this show was only fifteen minutes late. I'm impressed with fashion week.

This was my first time at a Joeffer Coac (www.misurainc.com) show, and since he is a well-known Canadian designer, I was looking forward to the experience. This week in Dose (www.dose.ca), Jeanne Beker described him as “a true talent and a real survivor. Joeffer is really emblematic of the kind of tenacity it takes to make it in this business, especially in this country.”

So the first thing I learned is that I must learn more.

After seeing the Fairyesque show, then Izzy's and Joeffer's, I have to say that I really know why professional models are important. At the very least, they know how to walk without taking away from the clothes, they know how and where to pose for maximum effect. After investing all your time and money, at the end of your fifteen-minute show, you will have photos and video to show for it. You want it to look good and you want your models to know what they're doing.

One thing that surprised me was that I thought I saw pins on the gorgeous evening gown that closed the show. Was it pinned for fit or due to a faulty zipper? It left me wondering if it is better to show a pinned dress or not show it at all. I might have to ask around to get an answer.


If you want to learn how to run a fantastic show, attend a Comrags (www.comrags.com) event.

The greeters at the door handed out colour-coated seating cards to guests in line. When we were allowed in, it was easy to find our section. Not only that, but it was easy for the greeters to monitor the guests and keep everything organized.

A product list with garment description was provided on every chair, which was a fantastic way to keep track of what you saw.

The music suited the clothes. For instance, I'm sure that whenever I hear David Bowie's “Jean Genie”, I'll now think of this Comrags show and its gender-bending clothes. I felt as though these were the songs the designers listened to when making the collection.

I can't tell you how happy I was to have seen this show. Comrags was the first Canadian label that I knew, thanks to Fashion Television in the ‘80s. Watching them from then to now, I can say that when I see a Comrags garment, I know it is a Comrags garment. That's a brand consistency I hope to achieve as a designer.

It was a perfect end to a well-organized fashion day.

Fashion Week Special
Day One: 13 March 2006

I wrote a detailed account about my first impressions of L'Oréal Fashion Week and what a new designer can learn from the event, but you know what? I had too much to say.

Since it is the week before the New Labels show, TFI staff are swamped and don't have time to review and post my super-long entry, so I'm going to save my overall impressions for the end.

You can look forward to tips on Access; Entry; Communication; Sponsorship; Media; Timing; and Seating.

For now, I'll start by telling you what I learned from Fashion Week's opening show and after party:


Okay, so the show was supposed to start at 8:30. It started at 9:15pm. Imagine how your audience feels waiting around for 45 minutes.

Now, on with the show…

I wrote earlier that I would not critique clothes because my mission here is to share what we can learn from Fashion Week. May I renege on that just for a bit? The Mackage jackets are amazing! Check them out at www.mackage.com. I already found a beautiful black winter coat (with giant collar and amazing gathered sleeves) that I want/need next season. I don't know the price, but I'm fairly certain that I can't spend any money for the next four months.

So, what did I learn from Mackage?

Overall, the Mackage show was the perfect way to start Fashion Week since it celebrated our cold-weather climate.

After Party: Network

Personally, I'd rather see clothes than go to a fashion party, but parties seem to go well with fashion and people expect it, so why not throw a good party? They are great places to network.

I ran into a fellow TFI member, Corrine Anestopoulos, who has attended member meetings. She's a jewellery designer (www.bikodesigns.ca) whose work was also featured in NOW this week. Congratulations, Corrine (even if your necklace was uncredited).

The designer from men's streetwear line Bully (www.bullygarments.com) was there too, and he had an interesting marketing scheme: a couple girls wearing “We love Bully” t-shirts dancing around and he gave out Fashion Week gift certificates to his store. There was also a guy handing out live fish in plastic bags to promote some sort of weekend party that involved the label. I don't know the details because I didn't want to be responsible for the life of a fish that was carried around at an after party.

Time to Leave

Something I learned all on my own is that I must leave the opening night at a reasonable hour or else I'll never make it through the week.

TFI New Labels Advice – Michelle Turpin
12 March 2006

Thought you'd like to hear some words from the TFI New Labels finalists before seeing their collections on Wednesday March 22. Michelle Turpin, designer of the Karamea label, was the first to respond to my questions. Thanks, Michelle, and best wishes in the competition.

What advice would you give to future New Labels competitors or new designers?

1. Start earlier than the deadline - make sure that you have your blocks established and that they fit the runway model that is being used - this means if your blocks are a size 6 but fit someone who is 5'6 convert them to fit someone who is 5'11, 34,26,36. The fit is for runway and if you do this it saves so much mucking around. If you can get a head start on your drafting then do it- make the patterns you know you will be making anyway regardless of whether or not you get into the competition. Timing is so much a part of this that anything you can do to get ahead will help you later.

2. Money - make sure you can cover the cost of the show fee, a stylist, show promotion material - then look at what fabric will cost you, pressing and a sample sewer if needed. You will find it difficult to work during the competition so make sure you can cover rent, living etc for a couple of months.

What has been the most difficult aspect of completing your collection?

The time frame - There is a reason for this but it does not make the 16 hours of standing drafting any easier. Getting home at 3.00am and returning to work at 7.00am is just not much fun. There is not really much time for anything else and it causes a huge amount of stress if you're not prepared.

What has been the easiest part of getting a collection together?

The creative - comes easily and is the most rewarding. I love seeing a collection come to life.

Fashion Week - RSVPs
10 March 2006

As mentioned earlier, I RSVP'd online for the shows I plan to attend. This was through the PR company that is organizing Fashion Week.

Then I got invitations via e-mail and snail mail from PR companies working for individual designers. Some are duplicates, so which PR company should I send my RSVP to?

I decided it best to RSVP with both companies because I wouldn't want to miss a show. Isn't it interesting how potentially mixed messages can happen when a designer is involved in a group show such as this? Usually if you have your own show, you would have your own PR team looking after the guest list and seating arrangements.

It'll be interesting to see if I get a seat at any of the shows to which I RSVP'd. I'll certainly let you know.

In Print
9 March 2006

If you're interested, I'm in the “my style” section of NOW Magazine this week (http://www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2006-03-09/goods_mystyle.php). It's pretty cute, but boy, they sure like to edit. Granted, I did write a million words describing my outfit so they'd have lots to edit, so I asked for a total reworking of my words.

I didn't realize my style elicits so many exclamation marks.


My Favourite Magazine
9 March 2006

Strut is my favourite Canadian fashion magazine (www.strutmagazine.com).

Why? It covers all the best things about pop culture (music, clothes, movies, trends) from a cool Canadian perspective. Love it!

..and they throw fun parties. So I'm a bit hung over and tired today (Please don't tell my boss), but it was worth it. There was great music (Morningwood, the Stills, and smart DJ selections), but even greater people. It was nice to see such a friendly mix of people. Thanks, Strut.

First Day as Media – Gift Bag Perusal
8 March 2006 – 7:00pm

Not wanting to dig through the gift bag on the subway, I waited until I got home to examine the goodies. It was difficult to wait, kind of like Christmas present anticipation.

What did I find?

I'm going to make you wait for a second, then I'll tell you what was in the bag. I first want to say that with a company, everything you do should stay on brand and portray a consistent message, right from registration, to gift bags, advertising, events, promotions, and the product, of course. There's more to think about than those points, but you know what I'm saying.

So as I fill you in on the secrets of the magical media gift bag, ask yourself whether the contents fit with the image you think Fashion Week is trying to portray.

Ready? I'll randomly pull out stuff (Look, sponsors: you're getting me to talk about your products. Do you love me?). Here we go:

There you have it. Do the contents scream “Fashion Week” to you?

Oh, and when I volunteered for Fashion Week, people would accost volunteers for these bags, even though they were strictly for media. Are they that cool? People will do almost anything for a gift bag, so the ones you provide better be that cool.

First Day as Media – Registration
8 March 2006 – 6:00pm

Registration was extremely efficient, which resulted in a great first impression. Here's what I did:

And that was it: well organized and easy. This was a great system. Fashion Week was ready for me, so now I'm ready for it.

First Day as Media
8 March 2006 - noon

It's neat that blogs count as media because I can bring you my L'Oreal Fashion Week experiences, and I intend to cover it from a different angle than you'll read elsewhere: from the perspective of a new designer. In other words, what can the event teach me (or you) when the time comes to have a fashion show?

For the first time, I'll attend as a media member, and I'm sure the experience will be way different from when I was a volunteer or fashion appreciator. Can't wait to tell you what happens.

When to Give Up the Day Job?
6 March 2006

This was a question we all asked at the meeting. We're at various stages of starting companies: writing business plans while working full time; working full time at a day job and part time starting their company; giving up the day job to focus on the fashion company; or maintaining the business.

We all seemed to agree that giving up the day job is one of the scariest things to do, so when do you do it?

The simplest answer is to do it when you have enough money to work and survive. As I said before, I'm finding it too hard to work full time and start a company at the same time. Plus, I didn't start with enough investment money to contract out some of the workload, and it almost killed me. But you know what? I had to do it, even though some wise advice from the TFI was to start after I had at least $25,000 ready. I didn't listen, but I'm happy that I tried, and am still trying. I wouldn't have been happy if I didn't try.

So when do you give up that job? When you're ready, I guess. And I don't think I'm ready yet.

Jewellery Designers
5 March 200

There were quite a few jewellery designers at yesterday's meeting, so we talked a bit about how to get your designs noticed. The consensus seemed to be that it's best to make contact with stylists, editors, and clothing designers. You've got to get out there and network.

One thing to note while lending your work is to prepare yourself for loss, theft, or damage. If you're worried about a piece, it's best not to send something out, especially if it's an original.

Foxy Originals (www.foxyoriginals) is a jewellery company that has very good PR representation. And they're TFI members!

Jennifer Reilly (www.jenniferreilly.com) was at the meeting, so check out her designs. If you're a clothing designer who needs accessories, feel free to contact her.

My Support Group
4 March 2006

It was another wonderful, inspiring members meeting. As usual, we shared experiences, stories, resources, and learned we're all having similar experiences while starting companies.

Canadian Music Week
3 March 2006

For me, music and fashion are inseparable. When I design, I'm inspired by music. When I sew, I listen to music. I love going to see bands. So what's better than Canadian Music Week?

…Fashion and Canadian Music Week.

Apart from the great shows I saw, I noticed something and heard a story to confirm my sightings. A lot of independent bands are wearing clothing by a large athletic company. Why? Well, I heard they have a marketing budget to try something new, and that new thing is outfitting bands.

It's a great idea because we all know that having a celebrity wear your stuff can do wonders for brand awareness, and these people are accessible local celebrities and trendsetters. You see a cool guitar player wearing the label and you just might wear it too.

The funny thing, though, is that I saw a LOT of people wearing this particular brand; those who wouldn't usually wear it. No struggling musician can resist free clothes, so it's fantastic for them and the company. It's not a new idea, but I'd like to offer a new twist to local designers: why not work with bands? There are a lot of similarities between indie bands and new, local designers. Let's build relationships in the local art scenes.

I am Media.
1 March 2006

Guess who is accredited to attend L'Oreal Fashion Week as media? Yup, for the week of March 13, I will let you know what's happening at the event through the eyes of an aspiring designer.

24 February 2006

Did I give away a secret by telling you that NOW asked me to be in the My Style space? I think so, because it's supposed to be as though the photographer keeps running into cool people on the street. We all know that's not how it goes, right?

I'd love to tell you what happened, but it's probably better to maintain the mystery.

A Big No!
21 February 2006

After talking to Lana, we decided we don't have the means necessary to do the liquor marketing outfits. It's too bad because I got excited about it, but I'm realizing something about myself: I get excited easily, work really hard at the start of a project, but then lose interest near the end because I burn myself out. Not good. At least I recognize this and now have something to work on.

22 February 2006

I keep trying to think of BoastToastie-ish accessories that might be easy and inexpensive to make, yet nicely mark-uppable. You know what? It's a hard thing to do.

Am I Media?
23 February 2006

I've been thinking about Toronto Fashion Week, which is about to happen soon, and thinking about my attendance. Usually I just go to shows I'm invited to, but this year I realized I'm part of the fashion industry and maybe even the media, since blogs are so popular and there are a ton of you who read about my fashion adventures. I'm going to apply for a media pass and see what happens. Then I'll be sure to tell you all about it.

24 February 2006

Did I give away a secret by telling you that NOW asked me to be in the My Style space? I think so, because it's supposed to be as though the photographer keeps running into cool people on the street. We all know that's not how it goes, right?

I'd love to tell you what happened, but it's probably better to maintain the mystery.

A Big Yes!
20 February 2006

I decided to create a proposal for the liquor company and show them samples of my work. It sounds like fun and a neat opportunity to work with a corporation. I think I'll be meeting with them next week, so it's back to the sewing machine! Yay!

Another Proposal!
19 February 2006

I got an interesting e-mail from NOW, one of Toronto's weekly papers. It seems as though I'm a good example of the local fashion entrepreneur/local fashion fan, who would be good for their Toronto Fashion Week preview. I'd be in a section called MyStyle, where you talk about your outfit.

Fun, but do I want to do it?

Sometimes I think it's a bit crazy to talk about how you found a certain rubber bracelet at a garage sale for ten cents. But on the other hand, it's pretty hilarious. Maybe I'll have to do it. I'll let you know what happens.

A Contract Proposal!
17 February 2006

Hey – I got some neat news: a marketing friend is working on a campaign for a pre-mixed alcoholic beverage for women aged 25 – 35 and she needs uniforms for PR girls. How very BoastToastie!

Sounds like fun and the motivator I need. I'll spend the weekend assessing whether or not I can do it.

Where am I?
14 February 2006

Well, BoastToastie seems quite stalled. I don't think we can do this as envisioned without more investment and as a part time thing. It would be much easier to do it full time, but I need to pay bills.

Maybe I could still try to sew and build inventory for clothing shows and such, but not worry about stores at all. Is that like doing a craft, then? Hmmm…it's sort of hard to accept.

Or do we just give it up? Chalk it up to experience? I'm not ready to do that yet.

Just sew for fun and take orders from friends whenever someone wants something?

I don't know. We'll see.

Invest or Loan?
13 February 2006

This is a question I've been pondering for a while and we talked about it at the Members Meeting and at TFI's “Show Me the Money” workshop.

I'm scared of loans. What happens if I can't pay back money? Will I lose my possessions? The answer is sort of yes. But I'm beginning to understand that if you have a good relationship with your bank, they will try to establish re-payment schedules so you don't have to lose your stuff. Suddenly the risk seems less risky. It's still scary, though.

I always thought investments were better, but at the Members Meeting, it was mentioned that very often you are tied to what investors want. You have the creativity, but they want return. Suddenly your creativity might be stifled. It was recommended to obtain a ten-year agreement if you consider an investor. Since years 5 to 8 in the fashion industry are difficult (due to high growth and expansion), some investors get scared. The last thing you need is for your investor to bail.

Once again, I have to mention how great it would be to win the lottery.

Mentor Etiquette
10 February 2006

Has someone offered to be your mentor? Or are you looking for a mentor? Here are some mentor tips we discussed at the meeting:

*Do background research. If the person has gone in and out of business, you might want to reconsider him or her as a mentor.

*Accept that you both have limited time. Establish how much time your mentor can devote to you. Is it an hour a month or an hour every six months? Will that work for you?

*Think about how someone could benefit from being your mentor. It has to be a give-and-take relationship.

Where do I Find a Good, Inexpensive Sewer?
9 February 2006

That's a toughie. I've been researching this since I burnt myself out with over-sewing during the summer and though our first reactions at the members meetings were to hire students, sometimes that is not the best idea. They might not have all the skills you need and some members found that work became shoddy around school crunch-time.

I researched TFI lists, called a bunch of contractors, and then met those who I thought sounded reasonable. I had to check their work. And I got references. Don't forget those references.

What? You're Out of My Fabric?
7 February 2006

So…you chose fabric for your samples. You have orders for those fabulous designs. You go back to the store where you found the fabric, but…THERE'S NO MORE IN STOCK!

What do you do?

Well, in that scenario, you'd have to kick yourself for not planning better. Then you'd have to wish for a time machine so you could go back and do the following:

*Address potential future fabric needs with vendors.
*Discuss timelines for placing orders.
*Buy early.
*Estimate your needs and try to get assurance your vendors will fulfill your orders.
*Establish a good relationship with your vendors.

Or you could be like me and choose basics that I know will always be in stock. But your designs are likely very different from mine. I like solids. You know, I looked through my wardrobe and realized I don't have very many pieces with patterned fabric. I never realized that before.

Members Meeting
4 February 2006

Thanks to everyone who braved the weird sleet-storm and made it to the TFI Members Meeting. And thanks for being excited that I'm going to chair the meetings from now on. It was a lot of fun. Susan came in near the end to answer any questions that we couldn't answer amongst ourselves.

In case you missed the meeting, I'll be happy to give you an update over the next few days.

You Love Celebrities!
6 February 2006

How do you get celebrities to wear your clothes or accessories?

Do I have to back up and explain why designers seem to be desperate to have celebrities wear clothes? Pamela Anderson and Britney Spears wore them, Oprah mentioned them on her show, and what happened? You saw UGGS everywhere. That's a good example of celebrity influence. Would you have given them a second glance otherwise?

That was great marketing and PR for UGGS, but how does a designer get near a celebrity? Here are some ideas:

*Find out if any productions are being filmed in your city. You might be able to contact the costume designer and show him or her your clothes. Perhaps they could be part of the wardrobe. (Note: The TFI website's Resources section has a link to films being made in the City of Toronto.)

*You can try sending gift baskets to the celebrities starring in shows and movies in care of the production office. Don't try to contact them yourselves or you'll be considered a stalker.

*Get to know stylists and magazine editors. Show them your stuff. If you don't know where to begin, start by cold-calling the magazines or sending them press/info kits. It will likely take a while to get a response.

*Research PR companies in your city to determine who organizes swag boutiques (please excuse this crass term, but you know what I'm talking about: the rooms filled with all sorts of goodies for famous people to get for free). Note: you'll likely have to pay for the “privilege” of giving away your stuff. And you'll probably have to pay the PR company.

*In light of the above statement, don't forget to build freebies into your marketing budget.

2 February 2006

Well, as you can see, I haven't been too productive with BoastToastie for a while, thanks to accounting, lethargy, and the fact that my business partner and I haven't talked.

Don't despair: I'll still keep writing and hopefully I can let you know what's happening. And I also have some good news. I've been distracted by writing lately, and not just for this blog. If anything comes from my efforts, I'll keep you updated.

I'm also occupying some of my spare time with learning to play the upright bass and bass guitar. The object of that is to steer me away from the TV when I get home from work and to aid my creative process. The TV is dreadfully addictive and it makes me not want to work. Creating music helps a lot and now I'm itching to do a lot more sewing. It took a while, but I'm back!

Taxing Taxes
1 February 2006

Even though I know it's essential to have an accountant (or at least someone who does the books), our company just doesn't have the money to do that. This week's spare time is filled with my first foray into Canadian Corporate Taxes. Can starting a business get any funner?

Member's Meeting
30 January 2006

I'm pretty excited! Since last month's members meeting was so successful, guess who's going to lead February's? Me!

It's a good way to meet people who are experiencing the same things as you and to get answers to some of your questions. There was a lot of brainstorming at the last one regarding clientele and sales ideas.

Hope to see you at this one!

Un-Fan Mail
26 January 2006

I got my first piece of un-fan mail a couple days ago. Rather interesting.

For anyone who wonders about why my blog seems like a love-in for the TFI, it's because I genuinely love the TFI. Since I came to Toronto, I found Susan and her staff to be extremely helpful and they always helped me with any questions I had. I think the TFI is a great resource centre that has always been welcoming and supportive to anyone interested in fashion. Because of the Incubator, I learned – among many other things – how to run an organized and efficient fashion show.

It's purely out of gratitude and shared love of fashion that I write this. And no, I'm not paid to do this. I enjoy volunteering, especially when I'm able to give back to people who help me.

Book Club – part three
27 January 2006

I saw “Freakonomics” by Steven D. Levitt and had to pick it up. An examination of how economic choices affect well, everything, appeals to my past days of international development worker/urban planner.

That reminds me of another great book, “Our Ecological Footprint”. If you're wondering how your clothing business might impact the environment, this is a must-read.

25 January 2006

Hmmm….Lana and I keep missing each other. This makes our BoastToastie re-evaluation difficult. I thought it was a smart idea to have business partners on the two different sides of the country. With today's communication technology, it shouldn't be too hard.

Starting Smaller
24 January 2006

Ralph Lauren started with ties. I think we've got to figure out a BoastToastie equivalent.

Book Club – part two
23 January 2006

I received an e-mail from Kathleen, who recommended her book, “The Entrepreneur's Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing”. I haven't read it, but her website, www.fashion-incubator.com has a lot of useful information. Please note that her site isn't related to the Toronto Fashion Incubator, so I hope I'm not stepping on anybody's toes by suggesting it.

Oh! I just remembered a great book I read a while ago: “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” by Paco Underhill. It kind of made me realize that I could have done my whole Urban Planning Master's project about shopping. What was I thinking writing about transit design and climate change?

I also love “No Logo” by Naomi Klein. I'd rather sell high priced clothes and make myself my own sweatshop labourer than do it to someone else.

Education – part two
20 January 2006

You guys have great questions. Here are a couple:

- Is one year of school enough to then design and construct clothes independently? Quick answer: no. I only did it because I had five years of experience working in a small business behind me.
- Did I find the Parsons Summer Intensive Course helpful? For sure. I realized I loved studying clothes and wanted to be in the fashion industry.

My best advice would be to follow your passion. If you're constantly thinking about clothing, explore those thoughts.

Fashion Education?
18 January 2006

So many of you have sent me such great e-mails; I'm a bit amazed to know you're learning from my successes and screw-ups. Thanks for writing.

A lot of you ask for advice on fashion schools and wonder about my education, so I'm happy to clarify. I did go to Ryerson, but dropped out after a year.

No, I'm not really a university dropout since I do have bachelor's and master's degrees in non-fashion subjects. I thought Ryerson was a great program and would have stayed with it if it had been my first degree. But since it was my third, I was anxious to get right into making clothes and start my company. Due to my work experience at a small business, I figured I had enough sense to make it on my own, without all the university theory slowing me down.

It was a wise move in some senses, but dumb in others. Wise in that I was beyond broke when going back to school. After working for 5 years, I got used to having a bit of money. It was hard to be poor again. I'm still paying for that year in school, but now I have a full-time job and as you have read on this blog, it is extremely difficult to stay focused on building a company when you have a different full-time job. Then again, I would have had more difficulty starting a company while at school because I also had 2 jobs to support myself at the same time. It was insane.

So what should you do? I'm flattered that so many of you ask my advice. While I don't want to be ultimately responsible for your life decisions, I don't mind sharing my thoughts…

…If you're going for your first degree and know you love fashion, then go for it. Ryerson is the best program in Canada. It's a lot of hard work, though. Consider yourself warned.

…If you completed one degree only to realize you love fashion, then you might also want to go for it. Life is too short for regrets. Do what you love. School is a good way to help you along.

…If you have a great job but realize your life is nothing without fashion, You could quit and go into school as I did. I'm happy I did that. But note I did that after taking night classes in Calgary and going to the Parsons summer program in New York. I had to make sure I made the right choice.

…If you're not ready to go back to school but are interested in pursuing fashion, take night classes. I know George Brown in Toronto has a great continuing education program, as does Ryerson. Most major schools have some sort of continuing education design component. See if you like it. If you do, then consider going back to school or starting a business full-time.

I hope this helps you with your decisions. If not, I'm happy to answer any more e-mails!

What about Models?
17 January 2006

I met my friend Gail when she was the TFI's administrative assistant. She still works at the TFI the first Saturday of every month (so I get to see her at members meetings), but now her full-time job is at a Toronto modeling agency. During the last members meeting, someone asked about hiring models, so I asked Gail to give us some brief tips on designer etiquette when hiring models. Here's what she told us:

*Feel free to call agents and ask questions. Be specific: state how long you will need the model(s), the location (is it a photoshoot or a fashion show?), and what type of business for which they will be used (is your company wholesale or retail?).

*In Toronto, model rates start at $185 per hour. There is always an agency fee on top, which is likely 20%.

*If you need a model for a day, the minimum is likely $500 to $800. But the best models command at least $5,000 a day. You remember Linda Evangalista's famous quote, right?

*A fit model can start at $50 to $75 per hour

*Runway models are charged on a sliding scale. The following price estimates include a 1-hour fitting prior to the show, the day of the show, and 2 hours of hair and makeup. “C” models (those who are starting out) begin at $150 to $250. “B” models can cost $350, and “A” models will be $450 or more.

*Some models will do charity work for free, but chances are you will get a “C” model.

*If you're nice to the model, the model will be nice to you. Many designers have lifelong working relationships with models.

That's a start for understanding to hire a model. There's so much to learn in this business…

The TFI Book Club
16 January 2006

What books are TFI members reading?

* “Guerilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad Levinson
* “Lovemarks” by Kevin Roberts
* “Footnotes” by Kenneth Cole

Let me know if you recommend any other fashion, business, or fashion-business books.

BoastToastie Weekend
14 January 2006

Okay, I'm getting back to BoastToastie and I have a very un-fun thing to do: finances. No, I haven't hired a bookkeeper or accountant yet. We have no money to do so. Yikes.

More Fabric Questions?
13 January 2006

It's so hard to find that perfect fabric, and designers take fabric source secrets to their graves. What to do?

As mentioned last month, check the TFI website (Resources section) and pound the pavement. Once you get more experience in the industry, you'll build relationships with manufacturers, other suppliers, and colleagues, who might end up giving you leads on fabric suppliers. The moral of this lesson: don't burn bridges.

Sometimes it's difficult to get appointments with some suppliers if you have a small company, so it would be great if the TFI could bring in some suppliers for a session on fabric enlightenment. I'll have to ask Susan about that.

Unemployed? Try this…
12 January 2006

Apparently the federal government has an excellent program called Self Employment Benefit (SEB) for people on Unemployment Insurance but who want to start a business. If you fit this description, you might want to do a little Google research or contact your local UI office for more info.

Building Clientele – Part 3: Trunk Shows
11 January 2006

Trunk shows sound like fun, don't they? You have a little party at a store selling your clothes. Meet your clients. Show off your designs for next season. Take orders. Have a blast.

Sigh…it all sounds so easy, doesn't it?

But I like the idea of trunk shows. BoastToastie is all about being friends with our clients. I want to have another BoastToastie party…

Building Clientele – Part 2: Consignment
10 January 2006

Here's what some people said about consignment shops:

*Deals should be in the designer's favour; just because you're a new designer doesn't mean you shouldn't make money.
*Mark up should be approximately 2.25% and the split at 70-30 (in the designer's favour); worst case scenario 50:50.
*Make sure you get samples returned if you've lent them out
*Educate the sales staff about your company and leave some marketing brochures with the store
*Investigate whether the store needs product for its own label. Perhaps your dead stock could work well for them or perhaps you can make some money by designing and sewing for them.
*Ask if you have to provide insurance to protect your goods or if the store provides it. Think about how much you'd lose if something was stolen or went up in flames.

Some designers have had success with consignment, while others had terrible experiences, so be smart about any deals you make.

How do I Build Clientele?
9 January 2006

Okay, today is insane at my day job, as will the rest of the week (it's movie award season, and hey, my boss has been nominated for some, so it's pretty cool). I'll try to keep up with my diary submissions (New Year's resolution, dontcha know…)

So…back to the members meeting. One woman recently moved to Toronto and opened a couture business, but is having difficulty finding her clients, so we discussed clientele-building.

For high-end clients, people suggested attending social events for your target market and wearing your designs. You know what? As I write this, I realize that would work for any target market. For instance, whenever I wear BoastToastie out to a concert, I get quite a few questions. When I don't wear BoastToastie, I always get asked if I'm wearing my own clothes. So yes, get those clothes on people, get them out, and get that word-of-mouth going.

Here were some other clientele-building suggestions:

*Work identifying and knowing your target market; do not waste money and time on broad marketing. If you are selling high-end goods, advertising in free local papers may not be the best way to invest your marketing money.
*Members found fashion shows always increase interest and awareness.
*Think about alternatives to traditional shows and shops. For instance, one designer mentioned that she is working on setting up a display/sale space at her bank branch! Corporations support art displays, so why wouldn't they support clothing designers?
*Work with a group of like-minded designers (say, ones that you meet at TFI members meetings) and organize a show that suits your target market.
*Investigate local spaces that coordinate fashion shows or approach your favourite venue with a fashion idea and run with it.

Hmmm…after writing this, I realize that many members feel fashion shows are extremely important when looking for clients. It's too bad they're so expensive to produce.

TFI Announcements
8 January 2006

We always start members meetings with TFI announcements. These are always updated in the “happenings” section on the TFI website (http://www.fashionincubator.com/happenings/index.shtml).

Some events that caused great interest were the Guilty Pleasures brunch and sale at the Drake Hotel on January 28th (http://www.fashionincubator.com/happenings/events/guilty-pleasures-3.shtml) and the opportunity for TFI members to show their work to Holt Renfrew representatives on March 17th. Two members discussed great experiences at Guilty Pleasures last year and recommended that it is an event best suited for accessories and ready-to-wear.

There were a few questions about these events that I couldn't answer, so if you still have those questions, feel free to contact tfi@fashionincubator.com.

7 January 2006

Well, it was another great meeting. At least I had fun! There was a great turnout: 18 people, all sharing stories and questions about their fashion experiences.

There weren't just clothing designers there, either. If you're reading this and are hesitant about coming to a meeting, let me tell you that we had jewellery and accessories designers, and it's always fun to talk to each other.

I must say that it was so nice to meet so many people that are in the same situation as I am: trying to start a business while working at another job full-time, feeling overwhelmed, and wondering if it's really the right thing to do. It means so much to me to hear that you like reading my blog and that when you do, you don't feel so alone. As I said before, TFI members meetings are like a fashion support group. It's a great feeling to share tips and suggestions and foster a positive Toronto fashion environment. See? Fashion doesn't have to be catty.

As I've done in previous months, I'll let you know what we discussed. Stay tuned.

TFI Members Meeting
6 January 2006

The TFI members meeting snuck up on me, and guess what? Susan asked me to moderate it because she is sick, unfortunately. I know I won't have the answers that guru-Susan does, but I hope I can do a good job.

Return to the Serger
4 January 2006

I did it! I did some sewing! And I enjoyed it again! It wasn't BoastToastie stuff – I just modified a t-shirt and a blouse – but I'm happy to say the world didn't end and I didn't break down in tears or anything. Yay! I can sew again!

Ready for a New Year
3 January 2006

Hey there! I'm back! And I'm swamped at work. Yikes.

What's that? What work? Oh, I'm swamped at the day job. Though I'm excited to get back to my sewing machine (I was seriously worried that I'd never want to sew again, but that's passed), I have to catch up on everything I missed over the last two weeks. I'll return to fashion and fill you in soon enough.


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