Thursday, January 17, 2013

What kind of designer are you? What kind of business do you want to run?

If you're interested in running your own fashion business, the Fashion Incubator blog is a great resource.  Two posts I would recommend if you're trying to figure out how your business will look like are "What kind of designer are you?" and "Where and how do you start a design business?"

In the first, Fasanella describes five archetypes of designers:
  • The artist
  • The artisan/engineer/technician
  • The mogul
  • The accountant
  • The project manager
 In the second, she describes categories of fashion entrepreneurs:

  1. The dilettante: one who aspires to a bit of pin money,
  2. the income replacer: one who needs income equivalent to a job -or maybe even a bit extra,
  3. the merchant: those who need to support their family and their employees families with the business,
  4. corporate: one who aspires to scale; growing their business to whatever limits there are.

In fashion, as this article about Tory Burch and her newly minted billionaire status describes, one doesn't become hugely successful (at least financially) by creativity alone:
In food-chain terms, she's probably Carluccio's rather than River CafĂ©. Power to her. Maybe she'll use some of that power to invest in the inventive designers who struggle to achieve anything like her level of commercial success, because here is the bottom line: in fashion, you'll always make more money packaging taste than lobbing little grenades of genuinely new design at the world. But without innovation, taste eventually becomes arid.
You need to be able to figure out how to marry creativity and commerce.  Predict the kind of products your target customer wants to buy but keep it fresh and new, so that they get excited and have a reason to buy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How to get a job as a clothing (fashion?) designer - part 1

I originally started this blog mainly as a chronicle of my journey in the fashion industry, but it's been almost a year since I've written anything about my personal career path, which categorizes most of the posts under the "becoming a designer" tag.  I'll admit that some of it was laziness, but most of it was a hesitation to write about it as it was happening, since I never know who could be reading this blog.

Anyway, in my last post about my line, I mentioned it was sort of killing me.  In hindsight, I realize I just didn't have a plan.  I was flying by the seat of my pants, and while I don't believe you need a 50 page business plan to run a successful clothing business, you do need to sort of have long and short term goals, at least for the next 6-12 months, and I didn't have that.  I was trying to design clothes, sell them, produce them (not myself), market them, AND support myself through freelance work.  The anxiety of not knowing where my next paycheck would be coming from, and the frustration with feeling like I was running in place with my line forced me to reevaluate my approach.

I decided I needed to take a break and recharge.  I needed to work for someone else, receive a steady paycheck, get health insurance, and not feel like I was in a constant state of panic about money and the state of my line.  It was a difficult decision to make but definitely the right one.

I put together a resume and started applying for jobs.  I spoke to recruiting agencies like 24Seven, I went through company websites (a lot of the larger companies have some sort of online job search/application engine), and cold emailed companies I wanted to work for.  Through connections and sheer persistence, I was able to get interviews, but I was having a hard time actually getting hired.  There were a few factors involved:

1) When I started looking for a job, we were in one of the worst parts of the recession, where there was high unemployment.

2) Having worked at small and/or high-end designer labels before launching my own line (where I produced domestically), I lacked some of the skills that most companies who were hiring look for -- namely, creating tech packs*.  Sure I could make my own patterns, sew a garment from scratch, sketch flats**, and be considered for Project Runway, but because I didn't have experience with creating tech packs, I was at a major disadvantage.

I could produce a fashion presentation, talk to stylists, editors, buyers, style and produce photo shoots, etc, but I didn't have the experience of working in a big company in mass production, where garments were produced overseas and there was a formalized manner of working.  It wasn't rocket science, and I knew I could pick it up if someone were to show me a couple of things, but it was hard to get someone to take a chance on me.  In some ways, my Harvard degree worked against me, as it made me stand out as a bit of a maverick among the sea of fashion school graduates.

3) My experience was in a different set of skills from most people who had been working as long as I had in fashion design.  Most people who were hired for the positions I was applying to had a) graduated from design school b) had started working for a company straight out of design school and had picked up skills like creating a tech pack along the way.  I had a) NOT gone to design school b) had worked in production first, not design c) started my own line early in the game, thereby picking up a different set of skills, namely fashion entrepreneurial skills.  I was too experienced for an entry-level position, but didn't quite have the right experience to get a position at the next level.

It took a while for me to figure all of this out, and I had to take several steps before I landed the kind of position I wanted.

*What is a tech pack? A tech pack is short for technical package.  Different companies use different formats, but it's a document that is sent to overseas factories that instructs a factory in how a garment should be made.  It usually includes a flat sketch of the garment, measurements, fabric and trim details, beading/embroidery details, how to finish the garment, photographs of original samples the garment is based on, etc.  Since most production happens overseas now, knowing how to do a tech pack is considered essential, as it is how designers communicate to factories how their samples should be made.

**Flats are short for flat sketches.  They are basically sketches of a garment as it would look laid flat on a table.  Most companies use flat sketches rather than sketches on a figure, despite all the time spent in fashion schools learning how to draw garments on a figure.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

ponies will bite you! debut EP release! FREE download!

My band, ponies will bite you! has released our debut EP, Argyle. We're letting people download it for free on our Bandcamp page because we want as many people as possible to hear it.

Please listen, download, and share!

We're playing an EP release show on Sunday, 1/27, at 5pm, at our favorite venue, Rockwood Music Hall.  Here's the Facebook invite:

We're also doing a concert on a Google+ Hangout On Air on Monday, 1/28 at 10pm for our friends who aren't able to make it to the show in NYC. Here's the Google+ invite:

 Download the EP here:

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! Fall in Scotland

Last fall I updated my portfolio. One of the collections (I did one fall, one spring) was inspired by the Scottish highlands. I ended up sewing one of the looks together and we shot it at the duck pond in Central Park to make it look like we were in the Scottish highlands. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the designs (i.e. whether they would be a collection in Graey or whatever), which is why I waited over a year to post these photos on my blog. They came out beautifully though. I love the way George photographed it to make it look like Rachel was transported to Scotland.

For now, this is all I'm going to do with the collection. You can see the sketches for the rest of the collection here.