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Most popular questions

Looking for a job in PR or Event Coordination

Q: I am a 26 year old graduate with an Honours Degree in Communications and a Fashion Arts Diploma. I want to work for a fashion retailer head office in either PR or event coordination, but am finding it extremely difficult to land a job. Any advice?

Susan Langdon says:
If you check the websites of the companies you're targeting, you'll discover that most companies don't have their own in-house PR and event teams. These positions are usually outsourced to public relations firms and/or to special events firms. On the TFI website under "Resources, Promoting Your Line" here bit.ly/19tDCFh, we have a list of Public Relations firms who have fashion clients (retailers, designers etc.). My advice is to start by contacting the companies on the list because many PR firms also do event planning and management for their clients. You don’t mention if you studied communications or event planning in school but it’s very important to an employer that you have some basic skills and experience in these areas. If you don’t have any experience, start volunteering to work backstage at fashion shows, at fashion galas and events, and start writing a blog to demonstrate your written communication skill and style.

Press Kit: How to Make a Great One!

Q: I started my clothing label about 2 years ago and now I have 3 seasons under my belt. I'm working on my press kit and would like to know what makes a GREAT press kit? How can I make it stand out? Which is more impactful:sending it by email or snailmail?

Christine Faulhaber says:

Press kits should include as many visuals as possible. Keep it clear and on brand. For example, if red is your colour for the season, use a red folder. Or carry red in the headings and ribbon to tie it up. Be concise and interesting. Keep information new. Ensure your contact info is on each page in case it gets separated from the pack.

Materials that can be included in your press/buyer kit are:

* A new message, image, current season information, press release story ideas, hint of upcoming party/event, contact for appointment or interview etc.
* Bio (on you as the designer)
* Head shot (of you)
* Company History
* Contact information (tel, fax, email,web)
* Philosophy (what your collection is all about)
* Collection focus (women’s day, evening, menswear…)
* Image Photo (photo shoot of collection)
* Sketch (of your best outfit(s))
* “Quote” (one or two sentences describing your “thing”)
* Retail store list
* Line list (prices and sketches or photos)
* Fabric swatches (key colour story)
* List of previous media coverage
* Tear sheets

When sending it out, I recommend researching who your targets are and ensure it will be of interest to them to eliminate the possibility of wasteful efforts and wasting your and the recipient’s time. Printed pieces and printed pieces in colour, along with a sample or CD of hi-res images, is always best. A slick PDF in colour with an appropriate title page is second best.

Hope that helps.

Fashion Designer: Getting Started

Q: I have the financial ability to start a small business but I don't have any design background, connections or design skills. Can you give me some advice to get started?

Susan Langdon says:
I strongly urge you to take some fashion design and pattern making courses at a local college or university. Many offer continuing education programs that are available in the evening. Without basic knowledge you will end up wasting a lot of money and time because you’ll be outsourcing everything and you won’t know how to check the quality of the work you receive. You also won’t know if a creation is do-able if you hire a patternmaker with limited skills.

You should also purchase three books: TFI’s How To Start a Fashion Business guidebook, TFI’s How to Prepare a Business Plan for Fashion Entrepreneurs and The Entrepreneurs Guide to Sewn Products Manufacturing. The first two books are available through the TFI website in our “Shop” section. The last book is available from Apparel Ontario in Ottawa. All of these resources will give you some insight into the timing, cost, process and preparations that you’ll eventually need to undertake. Do as much research as possible and don’t jump into this business blindly. Another year or two won’t make a big difference; the industry will still be waiting for you when you’re ready.

Fabric Sources: What's Avaliable

Q: What are the different types of fabric sources available? What is the protocol for getting sample yardage and then for manufacturing? And finally, do you have lists by type of fabric (ie. cotton, silk chiffon etc)?

Susan Langdon says:
To find suppliers by fabric type, visit www.apparel.ca. To find additional fabric suppliers by company name, check out the "Resources" page on this website and visit www.infomat.com. Check out the Canadian Apparel Directory and Fashiondex guide; both available through the Canadian Apparel Federation.

Every fabric supplier has a different protocol for taking orders. Some will let you take a small swatch clipping in advance of you placing an order; some will not. Some will require payment by C.O.D. and others will require a deposit. Most will require minimum sample yardage and production yardage amounts and that the production order be placed by a certain date to guarantee delivery. It's best that you ask for each company's policy directly.

Looking For A Manufacturer

Q: I was wondering how one finds a trusted manufacturer to create/sew their designs?

Rosa Costanzo says:
In order to find a trusted manufacturer there are a few steps involved. First, you must contact a manufacturer that has a staff with good sewing abilities, who understands and sews the type of garments related to your target market. You can find a manufacturer through such industry magazines as Style, looking through telephone directories, or by word of mouth. Once you have found a manufacturer, you must test them out with your goods. Give them a few samples in different materials to see the extent of their quality and knowledge with different fabrics. You need to work with the manufacturer closely to get the end results that you seek.

TFI Tip:
TFI also has a list of Toronto-area manufacturers (contractors) that you can purchase. For more information please contact us at tfi@fashionincubator.com

How To Sell Limited Edition Jewellery

Q: I produce a sleek and edgy fashion jewellery and accessory line. Half of the collection incorporates vintage beads and unique materials such as toys while the other half uses new materials. How do I go about marketing and selling collections to retailers that are produced in limited amounts (usually 3 to five of a kind)? How does a company like Imitation of Christ sell their limited collections?

Susan Langdon says:
You can tell retailers that some pieces are "limited edition" due to the uniqueness of the beads. The best way to offer your accessories is either in small batches as you're already doing, or sell an item "assorted". That means you have the right to produce that item in an assortment of colours and beads as long as it's in the same style as the sample and as long as the price doesn't change.

Who pays for custom pieces for a fashion show?

Q: If I've pursued another designer to collaborate creatively with them on their project i.e a fashion show which requires some custom pieces that I will have to design, my question to you is, is it still okay to ask the other designer if there is a budget in place for the show to cover those costs, or am I expected to expense that as I am the one who pursued the collaboration?

Susan Langdon says:
If you don’t ask, you’ll never know so it’s perfectly fine to ask if there is a budget in place to cover the cost for you to custom-make some pieces for the show.

Getting Your Label Out There With Minimal Finances.

Q: For someone starting out with little money, what should be my first step in getting my clothes and name out there? Should I hit some retail stores with a few pieces and go from there?

Rosa Costanzo says:
I think that if you start slowly and target a few stores (depending on the amount of money that is available to you) this is the best way to start. This way you can feel how the market is. If you invest too much money, get too many stores, have too large of a line to produce, and can't financially meet the deadlines for production; you could find yourself and your line in a very uncomfortable situation. Most stores will not take your line if you do not deliver the goods on time, or have no goods to deliver. If you take it slowly and understand the market that you're dealing with, you will do fine.

Looking For Sales Rep

Q: Our company is a fashion collective made up of some incredibly talented Canadian designers working independent of one another, under the same label. We are in the midst of trying to find sales reps in order to get our stuff out there - any suggestions?

Susan Langdon says:
The best way to find a reputable sales agent is to ask your targeted stores for some recommendations. The buyers will tell you who they like working with and why; they'll also give you names of agents they don't like dealing with too. Keep in mind that sales reps won't be interested in representing your line until after you reach $100,000 wholesale sales minimum per year. If you do find someone who's interested before you reach that point in sales, then they will likely charge you a high commission or they're trying to break into a new area of the market than what they usually do. In either case, you don't want to go there as it will cost you money and/or sales in the end.

Profit Margins and Retail Mark Up

Q: What are the profit margins in the fashion industry? What is the mark up for retail?

Susan Langdon says:
The basic costing formula for ready-to-wear apparel is this:

a) total of all raw materials (fabric, notions, cutting, sewing cost i.e.labour, label, ) x 2 = wholesale price*

b) wholesale price x 2 = suggested retail price**

*You should round up this figure to the next full dollar amount to look professional. For example, if your calculations show that your real wholesale price is $49.43, round this up to be $50.00.

**You always need to provide the suggested retail price because this gives all of your retailers the same opportunity to sell the goods at the same price. It puts all of your customers on a fair playing field so that no one undercuts another.

The above basic formula is called "keystone" pricing and it's suitable for selling in domestic markets. It builds in a basic profit margin of 100% from raw material cost to wholesale and again from wholesale to retail. A lot of new designers think that they need to undercut their competition by taking less than 100% profit margin but this creates two problems. First, you'll find soon enough that you're not making enough money to grow your business.

Secondly, you're setting an unrealistic or false price expectation to the customer. If you set your price range at one level then have to raise it, you'll find a lot of opposition and may lose customers. If you find that the suggested retail is higher than you would like it to be, you'll have to reduce your raw material costs somehow by finding less expensive fabric or streamlining your production methods.

If you wish, you can also choose to increase the profit margin to be more than 100% between raw material cost to wholesale (not between wholesale to retail) so that it covers additional expenses like retailer discounts, sales rep commissions etc., but be careful not to price yourself out of the market. Look at where your competition is priced (both the high and low ranges) and try to remain around that.

Becoming a Fashion Stylist

Q: I am interested in becoming a fashion stylist and I was wondering what is the best way to approach this. Do I need any type of "formal" training?

Susan Langdon says:
If you don't have any experience or knowledge in this field, you should try to get some. Contact fashion magazines and inquire about interning with the fashion editor. In Toronto, contact style agencies like The Artist Group, Plutino Group and Judy Inc. to see if you can apprentice with one of their professional stylists. You can also contact professional fashion photographers to see if they need an intern. Usually these assignments are for free, so you'll be volunteering your time in return for gaining practical experience, gaining behind-the-scene insight and meeting contacts such as fashion designers who might lend you clothing for a photo shoot when you're on your own. Designers don't lend their clothing to just anyone; you have to be credible and working with someone established will give you that. Many stylists have fashion design or fashion merchandising education. Ryerson University in Toronto offers a certificate program in styling that you may want to investigate.


Q: I have no previous experience in the fashion industry, but I want to apply to be a volunteer during Toronto Fashion Week in March. I am wondering what to put on my resume since I lack previous experience.

Susan Langdon says:
Don't worry about not having previous fashion experience. Instead, focus on the skills, qualities and experience you have that could be transferable to any situation or position. For example, if you're responsible and good at meeting deadlines, refer to past situations and put that down on your resume. Are you outgoing and do you love speaking with people or are you shy but detail oriented? That's really important info to include in your cover letter. If you've worked in an office somewhere and are proficient on a PC, be sure to mention this. From our own experience working with volunteers, we do our best to match the volunteer's capabilities with a task that needs to be done because often there's little training time yet we want to make sure the person feels comfortable doing what's required. Keep in mind that most volunteer positions are not overly challenging but they are still essential to the overall success of the event.

If you're interested in volunteering for the Toronto Fashion Incubator, send your cover letter and resume to tfi@fashionincubator.com. We present many special events throughout the year including during Toronto Fashion Week and often need volunteers to help in a number of areas from stuffing gift bags and setting up chairs to greeting guests and dressing models.

Fashion Design Jobs in Canada

Q: I'm from Brazil and work in the fashion industry as a fashion designer for 4 years. I'm thinking about moving to Canada. I'd really like to know if I'll have difficulties finding a job or if it's better to start over and go back to university. Tks!

Susan Langdon says:
Unlike many countries, fashion designers in Canada are expected to also do patternmaking, draping and sometimes grading. Unless you have these skills, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to find a job here. Also keep in mind that the industry jargon we use to describe things may be different than in your country. For example, we call basic patterns "blocks" whereas in the United States, these are referred to as "slopers". If you lack the skills mentioned above, it may be a very good idea for you to take a course at a technical college such as George Brown to learn patternmaking and construction. Here, you'll also learn the "language" of Canada's fashion industry.