Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is it December already?

I told you the new fashionCEO site would be up the week of October 29th. Okay, so its a little behind schedule. Its taking a tad more time as we get the new format up and running. Thanks for your patience. Watch for an exciting new fashionCEO on January 1st.

If you are a designer, the new fashionCEO format is going to give you more exposure and opportunity to promote your line. If you run an online boutique and are looking for new, fabulous designers to feature in your store, keep an eye on the new format.

More to come very soon...

Happy Holidays to all!

Friday, October 19, 2007

New fashionCEO coming soon!

Hi Guys. Sorry for the lack of posts recently. I have been focusing on getting the new fashionCEO format up and going. I'm getting close! These things always take longer then you think. But its worth it! The new format will have new updated content on a daily basis. I'm personally excited about it. I hope you all will be too.

I'm off to Vegas tomorrow for 4 days, so look for the new fashionCEO the week of October 29th!!

Have a fashionable weekend!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Designer Shares Tradeshow Experience

One of fashionCEO's wonderful and talented members, Sheela (of Kuukivi jewelry line), recently experienced her first tradeshow. She had a booth at Accessories The Show in Las Vegas in August and has been generous enough to share her experience with the rest of us.

Overall impression of the show?

Sheela: The organization of the show was good. The booths were set up and things that were missing were fixed really quickly. The staff (like electrical etc) were really helpful and the service was good. This was my first show but I heard that most of the shows don't provide any lunch etc. Here, they gave breakfast, lunch and beverage coupons and had nice sandwiches and even cappuccino:) The organizing staff were around the whole 3 days stopping by at booths and asking how things were etc.

Sheela: The amount of foot traffic and diversity of buyers were not what I expected/hoped for. It was quite slow, at least in our row, and didn't see many buyers that were interested in the handmade unique jewelry (although got heaps of compliments). There were at least two other major shows going on in Las Vegas at the same time, namely Magic and Project. I don't know if that helped or affected the foot traffic.

Were the exhibitors mostly established companies or were there alot of emerging indie designers?

Sheela: It was a mixture. I did meet a few new indie designers and a few that came to the west coast for the first time to expand their business.

What was traffic like in your booth?

Sheela: It was in bursts but never more than 3 people at a time. It was quite slow in our row in general where there are more indie designers. More than half the people who came in to see my jewelry were "just looking" and there were quite a few people from outside US (like Thailand etc).

What type of buyers were there (boutique, dept store, etc)?

Sheela: Mostly boutiques, although I heard there were a few department stores too.

Had you set up appointments before the show?

Sheela: No. I sent out invitations to the boutiques I know about, mostly in the Bay area and LA but that's about it.

What did you feel buyers were looking for?

Sheela: The buyers who actually gave feedback before leaving (and after complimenting the designs) said that they were looking for low price items and hence gemstone handcrafted jewelry might not be the thing for them right now. We did see that the booths with mass produced goods had quite a few buyers in them. Within Indie designers, I saw more buyers at booths with jewelry that are much bigger in size than that of Kuukivi (like multiple strands of big pearls/corals/resin beads).

What tips did you learn from the other exhibitors?

Sheela: Since it was slow traffic for all of us in the aisle, I had the opportunity to talk to the neighbors and learn a thing or two. I learned that gift shows might be worth trying especially in the NY area. In one of the neighbors experience, the San Francisco gift show is way better than the California gift show. Shows in Florida also seem to be good for indie businesses.

Sheela: One of the main things I learned was about booth setup. Probably not a problem for most of them, but I felt I wasn't prepared enough for the show. I didn't even have a curtain to close the front (didn't know i needed one) and one of the neighbors lent me an extra they had. I learned different ways/techniques of setting up a booth and how to present the pieces to catch the buyers attention. One of the designers (fourth daughter.com)came by and actually helped me with the setup on the second day. She also put a Kuukivi piece in her booth and when that sold, told me that its presentation and marketing that gets people's attention and the designs will sell themselves. Seeing the slow traffic on the first day, she hired her friends teenage son to wear her jewelry and walk around the show passing brochures and she said it paid off quite well.

Sheela: One of the booths had a TV with a slide show running about their jewelry and another had a small digital picture frame showing a slide show of her jewelry pictures. They said it helps catch the eye and make them look at a design or two which might trigger enough interest to stop at the booth to look at jewelry.

What were the biggest lessons you learned?

Sheela: That I/Kuukivi was not ready for a wholesale show. That I needed more designs and better display units to get attention. Although in this particular case, even people who have been doing shows for a long time weren't quite busy as they usually are at other shows. And that really new Indie designers might need some time to get the name out and can't expect instant sales in the first show. And that I need to learn to sell my designs and talk to the customers when they walk into the booth:) (yes, I know it seems so obvious but I feel like I am intruding on them while they are looking and I'm mostly nervous).

What would you do different next time (booth, appts, etc)?

Sheela: I would definitely have a better setup in the booth and would do one or two retail shows before going for wholesale. I would wait till products are in a few boutiques and expand it at the shows than start off with the show to get into boutiques.

Will you do another tradeshow?

Sheela: Yes. Can't decide not to based on one show although I would pick a retail show or a gift show to attend next. I would probably wait a while before going back to Las Vegas too.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Gift from Stephanie Johnson

If you read the main fashionCEO site, you know that we featured Stephanie Johnson in this month's "Behind the Brand". Stephanie is a really dynamic, smart, wonderful person. I love that she left a high paying executive job at MCI to start a line of cosmetic bags. Those stories are the ones that inspire me the most. After the interview, I sent Stephanie a little thank you gift for giving fashionCEO her time. Well, a few days later I got a huge box from Fedex. To my complete delight, it was a few bags from Stephanie's collection! I have to admit, I've never had a nice cosmetic or toiletry travel bag. When I travel, I put my hairspray and perfume in a ziploc bag (because I've had my perfume leak one too many times). And for makeup, well I always use the free bag with purchase at the Lancome counter.

Well, no longer will I be needing a Ziploc bag next time I travel. I am a converted woman now that I own Stephanie Johnson bags. They are so fabulous. I was like a little girl at Christmas when I opened the packages. I took some pictures so you can see why I'm so giddy with these gifts.

href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_DNkz-51JH9w/Ru3fFW0waFI/AAAAAAAAAG0/jxwbXv0avkA/s1600-h/Stephanie+Johnson+bag+pictures+001.jpg">



I love how you get 2 makeup bags in 1 with this beautiful little case. Its perfect for all of my makeup and hair accessories (and I have alot!).



This is a fabulous travel bag. I can now put my hairspray, mousse and perfume in these vinyl pockets. If they leak, no big deal...just wipe them clean! There are so many compartments and pockets...its wonderful!



She also sent me this large tote bag below. I love it...this bag will hold the other two bags while also fitting my hairdryer and curling iron (yes, I'm high maintenance and a girly-girl, so what?). All of my toiletries will be nicely contained in this tote bag. Now I won't be digging for my ziploc bags wrapped in Target plastic bags. I'll be in style with all of my goodies organized!! I recommend treating yourself or a friend or loved one to a Stephanie Johnson bag (or two). If they have the reaction I did, they will be one happy girl! SJ bags can be found at Nordstroms or at the Stephanie Johnson website.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

fashionCEO new format

It's been busy around the fashionCEO HQ. I am busy working on a new format for the main fashionCEO site. The new format is going to be great, I can't wait to show it to you all. But please bare with me as my posting has slowed down just a bit. But I'm not going anywhere, so planning some exciting new stuff for the main site and the fashionCEO blog! I'll keep you posted (pun intended!)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bottomless Closet Organization

If you are a designer and would like to make a donation to a worthy cause, I suggest donating one of your designs/products to the Bottomless Closet organization out of NYC. Bottomless Closet helps disadvantaged women get back into the workforce. They have an incredibly wonderful cause and have helped so many women improve their lives.

Here is their official mission statement:
"The mission of Bottomless Closet is to promote economic self–sufficiency by providing interview skills, business clothing, and ongoing career development and support programs to economically disadvantaged New York City women. By enhancing their self-confidence and self-sufficiency, we enable them to enter and succeed in the workforce and transform the vision for their lives."


They are always accepting donations of handbags, clothing, jewelry.

"To ensure that the contributions are meaningful to our clients, Bottomless Closet asks that clothing donations should be professional, clean, new or gently worn, and work appropriate. Acceptable items include suits, jackets, pants, skirts, blouses, and sweaters. In addition, larger sizes (14 and up) are always in demand and particularly appreciated.

We also gladly accept accessories, including gently worn shoes, scarves, belts, bags, jewelry, and new pantyhose; however, we are unable to accept undergarments, jeans, tee shirts, sneakers, or used make-up.

To encourage women to view this as an entirely new phase in their lives, Bottomless Closet provides women with head-to-toe outfits to reinforce the importance of overall appearance. Each client is assisted in selecting two outfits for their interview and three additional outfits once a job has been secured.

All clothing donations are tax-deductible. Bottomless Closet will supply a letter acknowledging each donation and a form for taxes."


If you would like to donate one of your designs, please send them to:

Bottomless Closet
545 Eighth Avenue, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Monday, August 27, 2007

Indie Designers - more stylish and affordable

I've been overwhelmed by all the great indie designers I've met lately. That's one of the many great things about fashionCEO. I meet some really cool, creative people. Not all the talent is sitting on the shelves of Nordstroms, that is for sure. There are so many talented designers out there creating bags, jewelry and clothing and operate as a small business. Its a little like finding a diamond in the rough (or is it ruff)? I know its easy to go into Target or Macys and pick up a cute handbag, I've done it myself, but I've decided that I'd rather spend my money on the incredibly stylish indie products that are out there. Here are a few examples:


This cute duffel bag by Eleni Bags is just $68.00


The "Isn't She Lovely" Eleni Evening bag retails for $52.00. What a deal! More money in the bag for the cosmo!



This Custom Name Bracelet by Little Gems is a stylish steal at $38.25.



I love this dress by reddoll. I loved it even more after I saw the price. $45.00! Available at Smashing Darling. This is a steal!

I could go on (and will in future posts) about all the incredible talent out there in the indie fashion world. Next time you are looking for a deal, before running off to Target, find a great indie designer and help support her business! (and don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Target fan, but mostly for DVD's, picture frames, etc).

Have a favorite indie designer? Let me know about them!

Have a fashionable day!

S

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Have a Vision for your Brand

When I started down my handbag development journey, I often struggled with the direction I wanted to go. That comes from a lack of focus. I struggle with focus. I tend to get alot of ideas going and then I get overwhelmed. I think the main reason my line has not gone to market is because of just that...focus for my line. What do I want, a luxury brand or middle of the road brand? Do I want to appeal to the massess or to the people who can afford a $500 leather bag (which isn't luxury by the way). Do I want to sell my line direct to the public, strictly through wholesale or both? Do I want to have my bags made in the U.S. or overseas? I often wobbled around these questions, never really defining my brand. Obviously how you define your brand on day 1, isn't necessarily what it ends up being once you officially launch. You have to adapt and change based on costs, feedback, etc. But its good to have a vision for your line when you start down the development path.

I struggled alot with my brand. I started out wanting a line that was affordable and appealing to women between LA and NYC. I wanted a broader range of women to be my target market, not just big city women with money. But as I started buying leather and finding sewing contractors (in the U.S.), I realized I needed to charge alot more for my designs. My line "drifted" towards being a more expensive product and appealing to a different set of women. I have often been drawn to the fancy bags in the stores in New York. I think subconciously that is what I wanted my brand to be, but on the surface I wanted to be different and have a great product for women my age who could afford my price range (closer to the $100 mark - not the $500 mark). Somehow I lost my vision and got confused as to what I wanted. It really shouldn't be this difficult, but because I didn't have a clear focus, my goals became clear as mud. I went forward with samples that were made at a New Jersey factory, but they were too expensive for the crowd I wanted to market them to. So now what?

Define your brand and work from there. My suggestion is to not buy fabric and get samples made and then determine your pricing and target market after the fact. If you have at least an idea of what you want your retail price to be, you can work backwards. You want a bag that retails for $150.00. Okay, then you know you need to buy fabric at a certain price and have cost of production meet a certain price so that you can comfortably wholesale and retail your product and still make money. Who is your target market? Can they afford or will they pay for your $150 bag? Where do you plan to sell your line? On your website or through boutiques? If you are selling wholesale, you need to make sure your costs are low enough for you to do that while still maintaining a reasonable retail price AND making a profit. Its alot to think about, but its just simple math. Do alot of research for materials that meet your cost requirements. If your bags are low priced, then you may have to look to an overseas factory or a small local factory. If you go overseas, can you meet their minimums (visit IBC if you are exploring this route - they help with overseas minumums). If you go with a smaller factory, can they meet YOUR quality and potential minumum requirements. Lots to think about!

Avoid some costly mistakes by creating a vision for your brand. Define your target market. Its okay to stray from this, but stay in control of it. Don't let it control you!

BTW, I think I'm going to scrap my leather line and start fresh with my original vision. I recently came to this conclusion. I still want to do what I wanted to do from the very beginning, but somehow I lost my way. Ugh! I've spent so much getting this far, but its not what I want, so back to the drawing board! Don't tell my husband!!! Learn from my mistake ;).

S

Monday, August 13, 2007

Calling all Independent Fashion Designers!

Today I'm going to do a little PR for the fashionCEO Showcase Center. The Showcase Center was created to help emerging designers get their feet wet in the wholesale world without spending thousands of dollars on booth and travel fees. It will work much like an online boutique, except fashionCEO isn't selling your goods or taking a percentage of your sales. Instead designers pay a flat monthly fee to have their own page, or "booth", in the Showcase Center. The fee ($85/month) is a tiny fraction of what you'd pay for a 3-day tradeshow booth! fashionCEO will market the Showcase and the designer to boutique buyers across the country. Buyers can view designer's lines, line sheets, press kits, bios and more on fashionCEO. They can even write orders and submit it directly to the designer through the website.

The developers are currently getting the Showcase Center ready, so we are now taking applications for space. Visit the Showcase Center for the designer application! If you're interested, just print out the application and send it in with a few samples from your line for jury review.

Below is the official press release for the Showcase Center. Please email me if you have any questions!

Have a fashionable day!

S
**************************
CALL FOR INDEPENDENT FASHION DESIGNERS LOOKING TO LAUNCH OR EXPAND WHOLESALE BUSINESS

DENVER, CO: fashionCEO is now accepting applications for space in the
upcoming Showcase Center launching October 1, 2007. The Showcase Center is
an online platform for independent fashion designers to show their product
lines, line sheets and press kits to boutique and store buyers across the
world.

“The goal of the Showcase Center is provide a way for emerging and
established independent fashion designers to get their designs in front of
wholesale buyers without having to invest thousands of dollars in travel
costs and booth fees.” Says fashionCEO President and founder, Susan
Osborne. Osborne says the Showcase Center is not meant to replace the
traditional tradeshow, but rather to help independent designers establish
wholesale exposure without putting all their financial eggs in one basket.
“It’s difficult and risky for most emerging designers to invest
$5,000-$10,000 in a 3-day show that may, or may not, be successful. The
Showcase Center will give them a low-risk way to get that initial exposure
without the heavy investment.” The cost of a page in the Showcase Center
is $85 per month. Discounts are given when multiple months are purchased
up front.

fashionCEO’s Showcase Center allows designers to create their own page, or
“booth” by uploading logos, product photos, line sheets, press kits and
other content. fashionCEO will market the designers and the Showcase
Center as a whole to boutique and store buyers through tailored email
campaigns. Buyers will have a place to go 24/7, anytime of the year, to
find new products for their store.

All designer lines must be approved before acceptance into the Showcase
Center. Designers are required to submit samples with their application.
Samples are critiqued for quality craftsmanship and design integrity.

Please visit www.fashionCEO.com/designershowcase.html to download
application and submit samples.

About fashionCEO: fashionCEO is an online community and resource center
for independent fashion designers. Susan Osborne, an independent handbag
designer, launched fashionCEO in May 2007 after struggling to find
mentors and business information in the often guarded fashion business.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Good tips on Pricing, Marketing & Wholesale from Elsew

I came across a site called Elsewares the other day. Their blog caught my attention. They had a post on the topic of pricing, marketing and getting wholesale accounts (directed at independent fashion designers). I don't normally like to just copy and paste other bloggers content, but I thought this was worth mentioning to you fashionCEO readers. I've copied their post below. Visit Elsewares to read more about them.

from Elsewares:

1) Pricing
The principle rule of pricing is that everybody needs to make money - and that includes you. So know your margins, and be sure to base them on wholesale prices.
A mistake designers often make is setting their prices so low (e.g. on their own web site) that they can’t afford to halve them for stores. And nothing is as good for your business as having a long list of happy and active wholesale customers.
Beyond that, anything goes. Pricing is a black art. People love affordable products. But some expensive things sell well because they cost a lot. (To wit: my weird desire to get one of these.) And theoretically, the same product can be sold at different prices to different people.
The key is to make sure it’s your product’s innovation or sheer awesomeness that customers fall for, not the price. If you’re goods really stop people in their tracks, the price should make them feel like they have discriminating taste.

2) Marketing and 3) Landing wholesale accounts
I’ve lumped these together because they’re really two sides of the same coin.
Your chances of interesting a buyer decrease every time you call or email them directly and increase every time they hear someone say your name or see you in print or on the blogs. Go out and make stores come to you. Get exposure, get press, be a known entity. Don’t walk into stores with your products under your arm.
In general, trade shows are a bad place to start. They can be more valuable as your business matures, but not all trade shows are worth the bus fare. Most store buyers don’t take chances on newfangled things - they want you to show them something that’s already hot but that their customers just don’t know about yet. Choose carefully, and invest in a booth when you have a healthy wholesale business you want to augment with new accounts, not when you’re trying to get a foothold in the industry.
Fairs & markets, on the other hand, are usually fun & inexpensive and put you in face-to-face contact with the real people who buy your stuff. And when they have laser-like focus on a particular niche (Renagade Craft Fair. Brooklyn Designs, etc.) they create buzz and get people talking and that can lead to all kinds of good things. If the perfect fair or market doesn’t exists for your niche, you can always start it yourself.

Lastly, remember that context is important. Be wary of putting your products into any milieu that doesn’t set the bar as high you would. Customers, buyers, and journalists will all make judgments about your brand based on the company it keeps. If you’re an indie fashion designer, does appearing on the same web page (or store shelf) as homemade fudge send the right message about your products, your business, or your brand?


I really agree with the last paragraph. Many people told me "you should sell your bags at the craft show at the senior center." My bags are $450 leather satchels. I don't think an arts and crafts fair is going to be the right place to sell them, or to build my brand.

When you are starting out, its tempting to want to sell to any store that will take on your line. But make sure its the right fit your brand. Does the store represent your product properly? What kind of clientele does the store have? I think its important to shop in the store and see what their customer service is like. You should be selective about the stores that carry your line. That's hard in the beginning, but important as you create the "story" around your brand.

Good luck!

S

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Top 10 things to waste your money on when starting an indie fashion business

I was going through some old receipts the other day and it reminded me of all the money I spent on unnecessary things when I was starting my handbag business. I immediately broke out in a sweat. I know you have to make mistakes when starting a business, but when its your hard-earned money that has gone down the drain, its sometimes hard to swallow. I'm not sure why hindsight is 20/20, but boy, it really is. Looking back, I think about what poor decisions I made. But at the time, they seemed like necessary actions to launch my handbag business into the stratosphere.

I decided it might be therapeutic to make a list of the top 10 things to waste your money on when starting an indie fashion business. Perhaps it will save you a few bucks if you are just starting out. If you don't care about money, or have it coming out of your ears, then by all means, starting warming up that checkbook on the following items.

TOP 10 THINGS TO WASTE YOUR MONEY ON WHEN STARTING AN INDIE FASHION BUSINESS

10. A dedicated phone and fax line in your house for your business a good long year before you officially launch it. $55 month x 12 months = A big waste of money for a phone/fax that never rang (use email and your cell phone until you need the real thing).

9. Expensive leather/fabric to use as your "scrap" material while you practice sewing, especially if you can't sew and hate it to begin with. Leather at $12/sq ft x alot of feet = really dumb

8. A trademark for your surname (in my case, Denney). Not necessary, don't do it. If you have made up a name for your line that isn't your surname, you might look into getting a trademark, but test the waters first. Make sure you are going to use the name you want to protect before calling the attorney. In my case...$1100 x 1 trademark = a trademark for "Denney Bags". Yea.

7. A web designer that isn't reliable. I ended up doing a website for myself which I liked better. Not everyone wants to spend time doing their own website, and that's probably good. Just make sure you hire someone you trust and who will do a good job for you. $2500 for one web designer who couldn't spell and took a month to fix a typo = one unhappy Susan.

6. A logo you'll never use. And be leary of friends you don't know too well. A "friend" offered to make a logo for me in exchange for a bag for his mom. He then sent me a bill for $400. I gave him $200. $200 for a logo I didn't want = sucker.

5. Press kit before you are ready. I hired a PR company to make a press kit and distribute it for me. I thought having a real PR firm was going to take my business up a notch. I wasn't even ready for any real press because I didn't have my manufacturing in place. $2600 x press kit that my 14 year old niece could have done better = more interest on my credit card.

4. Industrial sewing machine. I will say I got a good deal on it by buying a refurbished one, but I don't like to sew and I'm not very good at it anyway. If you don't plan to sew your designs, don't invest in machinery. $800.00 = my mom suggesting I start making my own curtains. Need I say more?

3. A large quantity of anything before you finalize your logo. I bought 1000 "Denney" labels to sew on my bags. A couple months later I changed my logo. Now I like to see if the labels will stick to my dogs. I think I still have 980 of them. $300 x 1000 labels with an old logo = well, a bunch of labels with my old logo.

2. A merchant account before you need it. I spent $40 a month for about 18 months so I could except credit cards. I never used it because I wasn't selling my bags yet. But I wanted to be "prepared". Use Paypal if you sell through your website! Or at the very least, wait until you are ready to sell before getting a merchant account. $40/month x 18 months = a richer merchant account company thanks to me.

1. A whole lot of supplies you'll never use. I bought a truck full of sewing supplies from a woman who used to work at Samsonite. She was cleaning out her basement and selling it all for one price. I thought because it was sewing supplies, such as rolls of plastic zippers, vinyl and other miscellaneous stuff, I'd be able to use it somehow. Now instead of it taking up room in her basement, its taking up room in mine. $400 x tons of supplies I'll never use = tons of supplies I'll never use.

In all honesty, I got excited at the idea of being a fashion designer, and I thought somehow these things would make it more real. If you need these things to help you feel like a real designer, then stop what you are doing, put the checkbook down and get a reality check. Save yourself alot of money by being patient and focusing on the core things you need to be successful. Don't mistake this to mean you can skimp on quality by using cheap stuff. Definitely not!! Quality is key. If you are going to invest in anything, invest in the quality of your product. The rest will fall into place.

Have a fashionable day!

S

Thursday, August 2, 2007

What a great time to be an indie fashion designer

It's never been a better time to be an independent fashion designer. I feel like every time I surf the internet I find another online store dedicated to selling "indie" designer goods. Its so great to see so many places for designers to get their products out in front of consumers. And there are a number of different ways to sell your goods through these sites. Some are straight up retailers like le-fashionista.com, Circle Circle Dot Dot , and Unsung Designers.

Some sites don't call themselves a "retailer", but more of a "platform". The platform site does not necessary handle the transaction of the sale, but they do provide a way for you to list your products on their site, and then they market the site to consumers. An example of this format is a site I recently came across called Smashing Darling . Smashing Darling does not charge for you to list your products, but there is an 18% consignment fee.

Another interesting looking site gearing up to launch is What Designers. I can't tell if its going to be an online retailer or more of a "platform" type deal, but its worth checking out.

Then of course you have all the wonderful fashion blogs out there that talk about indie designer goods. I could list a ton of those (and probably should, but not sure I have the energy tonight). Google fashion blogs and you'll see what I mean.

But what about the independent designer that wants to sell wholesale to boutiques and stores? Well, the choices have been 1) pound the payment or 2)tradeshows or 3)sales reps. Choice 1 is very time consuming, choice 2 is very expensive (although necessary depending on your business model), and choice 3 can be tough if you don't know where to find a sales rep. That is where fashionCEO is planning to help. We are in development mode on an online store (excuse me, its probably more of a "platform") for all you indie designers wanting to jump into or broaden your wholesale business. fashionCEO is going to make wholesale selling more accessible to those of us who can't afford to spend $10,000 a year on tradeshows! I'll keep you posted on the blog (sorry, bad pun). :)

With all the opportunities out there, you have no excuse. If you haven't already, start showing the world your fabulous work!

Have a fashionable Friday!

S

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Are you an organized fashion designer?

I don't know about you, but I have a really hard time keeping my work space neat and organized. I feel more creative when I have an uncluttered work area, but I rarely have one. When I do clean it, its right back to a mess within a week. Its weird how a disorganized or messy space can create "clutter" in your creativity.

My friend Amie is a feng shui guru. She is the Executive Director of Abundant Space, a feng shui and organizing service. Last summer she helped me organize my office and gave me some great tips for a creative studio. I asked if she would be a "guest blogger" today to share some organizing tips to help "creative types" work to their full potential.

Guest Writer: Amie Crouch, Abundant Space

If you are the creative type (which I m sure most of you are) getting organized is probably about as fun as getting a root canal. Try to change your perception of getting organized! Getting organized can be fun! Think of it as a creative outlet for self expression, instead of a task that has been hanging over your head for months. Also, it does make a difference. If I had a dollar for every time one of my clients has said “So that is where that is” I would be very rich. People spend a year of their lives looking for misplaced items!! Use your energy to create and design not to locate things you have misplaced.

Organizing can be a way to bring color, art and creative design into your office environment. Because you are designers you will have to think design when organizing. Remember the key is to get systems that work for you in place so you never return to an uncluttered state again. However, you want to keep visual stimulus to a minimum. This is what I call minimizing movie floor syndrome. If you go to see a movie, look at the floor and notice how carnival like it is and how it is hard to look at and keep your concentration. So, when you are organizing your like items together, select containers covered in neutrals. It will allow you to create without wasting energy looking at the contents of your storage bins. Martha Stewart claims she has to work in a completely neutral and white environment and gradually brings color in as she comes up with material for her show. That makes sense.

If you follow the Formula for Success below gaining and maintaining control of your space will be an easy task. So roll up your sleeves and move forward with enthusiasm. Keep a positive attitude, knowing you can accomplish this step by step. Empower yourself!
Formula for Success

S Space purpose

U Un-clutter all of the items that do not belong
C Clear out the items that do not belong
C Create systems using containers
E Each container is labeled
S Send unwanted items away: relocate, recycle, donate or toss
S Systems evaluation every quarter

Here is how to execute each step:

Space Purpose
Decide the purpose of your space. Most of the time this is obvious, but you will be surprised how many offices have become catch-all’s or multi-purpose spaces. If you have your studio or office in your home, do not to let other items clutter your creative energy. I remember consulting with one of my clients who was a financial advisor. She wanted to become a creative memories consultant. I looked at her space and 95% of it was financial materials and in a dark corner was a DUSTY stack of material for Creative Memories still in boxes. I asked her what % of business in the next year she wanted to be scrap booking and she said at least 80%. Her environment told another story! Be sure the message you are sending to the universe matches your intentions. (That is my feng shui certification coming through)

Un-clutter all of the items that do not belong
Start removing anything that does not belong in the designated room you are working on. Do this step quickly without thinking about where the items are going to be relocated. Do not get caught up in sentiment at this point~ just clear out what does not belong.

Clear out the items that do not belong
Start sorting like items together in another location. By sorting all of the like items together it will let you know what kind of organizational solutions you are going to need based on size. Find out what needs a home. For example, markers, stickers and scissors can all be placed in a large jar, small box or flat clear bin marked “Art Supplies”

Create systems using containers
A common mistake you can make is to purchase bins before you know what you are going to need. If possible wait until you get to this step before you buy anything. This step is critical because you want to evaluate what type of containers, pouches, crates, etc. you need to create usable solutions. Also, when you are deciding what you need think of growth. Pick solutions that will work for you at the stage you want to be! Organize for the future as if you are already there. For example, a client of mine I was working with showed me her client file. I could not have fit my pinkie in between any file it was so packed. The message she is sending to the universe is that she does not need any new opportunities or clients because she is already full. Plan for where you are going.

Each container is labeled
It is very important to label your containers and areas. Even if it is obvious at first what is supposed to be stored there, let the label clearly communicate your intent. Using a label maker especially for files really looks sharp and creates uniformity. The investment is small and the result is spectacular.

Send unwanted items on their way: relocate, recycle, donate or toss
One of the key components of the success model is to actually bring whatever items you are relocating, recycling or donating to the final destination. Having bags sitting in a pile in the corner or lined up in the garage is self-defeating and will create more stress. When you start each room have a plan that day to go to the recycling area or to the donation center. After you have completed a room-reward yourself! Self gratitude is extremely important because it will give you a sense of accomplishment! Live light!

Systems evaluation every quarter
Re-evaluating your systems you are currently using is really important. You want to find out what is working and what is not working. You might just need to tweak a storage solution or add another few files to your system but make sure you evaluate your progress. The best way to do this is to access the state of your office and find out what has fallen through the cracks. What can be better? What piles are starting to form again?

Here are a couple of Feng Shui Tips to use once you are organized:

1. In the SE corner of your desk (if possible) place a healthy, rounded leaf plant to symbolize prosperity and success.

2. On a red piece of construction paper create a prosperity board with images of what you want to attract for the year. You could have a picture of a fashion show or a great designers website.

3. The center of your desk should always remain clear so you can invite new opportunities in.

4. Add a water feature in your North corner of your office to represent career success!

Good luck and remember:

“Luck is the residue of design” Branch Rickley

Take care, Amie

*****************************************************************

Thank you Amie! BTW, she does online consulting if you are needing a little help getting yourself organized!

Have a fashionable day!

S



Monday, July 30, 2007

Research before jumping into a tradeshow!

A few years ago I wasted money on a tradeshow that I had no business exhibiting in. It was at the Women's Apparel and Accessories market at the Denver Merchandise Mart. Now, the DMM is not a bad place to sell goods, but the show was not right for what I was trying to accomplish...another example of my lack of research getting the best of me (and my wallet!). This was way back when I was still making the Denney bags myself out of fabric.

The show cost me $2400.00. I should have walked it beforehand or asked more questions before signing up. It was completely dead almost the whole three days. The only buyers that came in had appointments already set up with the few sales reps that were exhibiting. There were maybe 10-15 booths. I really just sat there for 3 days and tried not to be embarrased. There was a guy in the booth right across from me selling a women's line of clothing. He had several appointments during the three days, but they were clearly with buyers he had already been working with. Most of the time we just sat and stared at each other. I'm sure he was thinking "who is this girl, why is she here...obviously she's new at this".

I was pretty proud of my booth though. I bought a couple coat racks to hang my handbags. And then I bought a couple yards of purple fabric, putting shoe boxes underneath it on the table so I could create different levels for the bags to sit on. I also made little homemade "lookbooks". I made a TON of them. They were small, but I made each one by hand. Not sure what I was thinking there. I still have a HUGE box of them! But they were very cute. I used some textured paper that I bought at Hobby Lobby and then poked holes in all the pages and tied them together with a piece of raffeta. I was in tears trying to get them done the night before the show. Not sure I would use that type of marketing material at a New York show, but hey, I was still learning. The show wasn't a complete loss. I did get one sale. Only one sale. But it was a sale, right?

If you are thinking of doing a local show (especially if you're located outside of NY, LA, Atlanta, Dallas or Florida), try and walk it before signing up. Make sure there will be traffic, not just any traffic, but the right kind of traffic. If you do sign up, its nice if you can get a list of attendees ahead of time so you can send invitations and set appointments with buyers before the show. I don't think all shows provide that, but the some do. I did get a list of attendees for the Denver show ahead of time and it was useful. If nothing else, I had a list of buyers with their store name and address. If you're going to invest a good chunk of money in a show, I would suggest looking into the bigger shows in Atlanta, NY, LA or Dallas. Buyers usually flock to these cities to find lines to place in their store. Of course, then you add travel to your costs.

To do a New York City show, you're looking at $5000 at a minimum. That doesn't include travel costs. That is for 3 days. Three days to make an impression with your line. Personally, I spent several thousand dollars to get all my professional samples made. Once I had them, I could not afford to do a tradeshow without going into debt even further. That stopped me in my tracks. But you can't really stop there. If you want to sell wholesale, you have to get in front of the buyers and do shows. But who has this kind of money?

fashionCEO is setting out to solve this problem for emerging designers. Stay tuned to hear more about this later in the week (how is that for a teaser)!!

Have a fashionable day!

S

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Taking your creative thinking outside the box

I love it when I see designs that surprise me. Its just so cool. I recently checked out the website of a fashionCEO member named Martha. She has a line of handbags called Unico. But these aren't just any bags. Each bag is an interesting combination of recyclable materials. I still can't figure out how she makes them, but I sure am impressed. Check them out...








Potato chip bags, candy wrappers, you name it and Martha has probably used it in one of her fabulous creations.

It just goes to show that its important to think outside the box and try different things. Who says a bag has to be made of pebbled leather or a necklace has to be made of your standard jewel. Let your mind go wild! Be creative. I think all of us designers are creative, but we often feel like we have to go with the standard, because that's what the industry expects of us. Raise the bar and push the envelope. I think anytime you do something a little different and unexpected...that's when people really take notice.

Make people take notice of YOUR work!

S

(photos by Unico)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Does location really matter in fashion?

Last May I walked the Designers and Agents show in NYC. I just wanted to see the space, how the booths were set up and the price points of the exhibitors. I picked up the little booklet that listed all the exhibitors and their contact information. I was surprised (well sort of) to see that about 95% of the exhibitors had either LA or NYC addresses. I started to wonder if it looked "better" to buyers if you had a California or New York address. Does the address matter? I live in Denver, part of the "flyover zone". Most famous designers probably only know Denver because they have to fly through DIA to get to Aspen.

I know alot of the exhibitors are showrooms or reps, so that would make sense that they would be on the coasts, but even the designers that were being represented were based in California or New York. Was that going to make a difference when I wanted a Bergdorf Goodman or Bendel's buyer to notice my line? At the time, I really thought yes. I even contemplated getting a PO Box in LA just so I could have the address on my marketing material. I wanted to fit in with the rest of the cool kids.

Since then I've met some really great designers (especially since launching fashionCEO) that live in the flyovers and I've changed my opinion. With the power of the internet and the increase in online stores out there, I don't really think it matters. The internet has opened so many doors to those of us not living in a fashion hub. Look at the beauty of Etsy and Stylebakery or Buss Buss. You can live anywhere and be successful with your line. Here in Denver we have some incredible designers such as Sara Gabriel, Alisa Benay, Ollie Sang, JP Lizzy and Laura Bella . In fact, that is one of the main reasons I launched fashionCEO. I wanted to bring inside fashion information to those designers not living near the fashion meccas. Talent exists in every state and every city, big or small.

While being successful outside a fashion hub is certainly possible, it will require more traveling to get to the tradeshows, suppliers, or industry events. But that can be part of the fun too. I always need an excuse to go to NYC. But I always love coming home to Colorado (I love my Broncos).

By the way, I applied to be an exhibitor at D&A twice and didn't get in either time. I had coffee with Lauren Chlebowski of Ollie Sang and she told me how hard it is to get into D&A, and not to give up.

Carve your own path and blaze your own trail!

S

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Finding mistakes with your handbag designs ahead of time

They say hindsight is 20/20. For me, hindsight cost about $5K. But hey, learning can be expensive.

I've used two different sewing factories to make my handbag samples in the last year. One in LA and one in NYC. As I've mentioned before, it will save you alot of time and money if you fix any design errors in the sketching process, before having your pattern and sample made. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out, but in the excitement of launching your own line, you can get carried away and move too fast. I'm not a patient person, which is my biggest weakness. I moved too fast.

First things first, before you hire a factory, make sure their quality is top notch. Don't subtle because they are cheaper or more conveniently located. Quality is the most important (well, and good labor practices). Below is a picture of one of my "Mini-Denney's"...really cute (if I say so myself) handbags I designed. I'll get to the design errors in a minute. First, look at the corner of this bag.



See how the corner is kind of bunched up? It's not smooth. Now look at the corner of one of my other bags made at a different factory.



This is a perfect corner. See the difference in the quality? Here's another picture below of the bad corner bag. It's probably hard to see in the picture, but the corners are not square. The right corner is slightly higher than the left because that horizontal seam isn't perfectly straight.



Inspect your samples carefully, whether its clothing or bags or whatever. Make sure it lives up to your expectations. You should have perfection.

If you sew bags or clothing yourself, then I assume you know how to sew and you don't need me (someone who sucks at sewing) to tell you how to do it. Just make sure its perfect or find someone who can do it perfectly for you.

Dale Lindholm with Pure Accessories showroom in NYC spoke with fashionCEO last month. He deals with buyers everyday from Henri Bendels, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, and so on. He said that buyers look at EVERY little detail of a handbag, especially if its a new line. According to Dale, store buyers will inspect the seams, hardware, how the zippers move, everything. So don't skimp on quality if you want people to take your line seriously.

Now let's look at my design mistakes (do we have to?). I'm swallowing my pride here! The picture below is a bird's eye view into a leather briefcase bag I designed. It's a larger bag designed to hold folders, laptop, pens, etc. It has a center divider and lots of interior pockets. Not a cheap design. Problem is I have a snap as the closure. The snap is attached to each side of the bag. That would normally be okay, but once you throw in a laptop, tons of folder, daytimer, etc, the bag doesn't close. If you have to slide that baby under an airplane seat (which I've done), your stuff could slide out with it. I spent about $750 for the pattern and sample for this bag. Then I went and had 15 made (couple grand)! All before realizing this little flaw.



Certainly this can be fairly easily fixed, but I should have fixed it a little earlier in the process. (I still love the bag and use it anyway). I had that same issue on another design. I took it to the factory and they fixed it by adding a flap with a snap.



Its still a tote, but now even if this bag is full, one end of the snap will reach the other.

And lastly, and this one hurt, because I really love this bag. I had a bunch of these made (oops) before realizing my design mistake here. This bag would be perfect (I've had tons of compliments on it), but can you guess what's wrong with it?






The zipper doesn't come down far enough on the sides...and since the top is shorter than the bottom, it makes it hard to get your hand in the bag. And the zipper I ordered (yes I'm guilty of this) was metal and cheap so it scratches your hand when you go to grab something in the bag! (don't get me started on zippers...you know how I now feel about cheap zippers). BTW, I have about 200 of those zippers. Would you like some? I'll give ya some. Don't buy cheap zippers.

Well, I hope this was helpful. It's always a learning process, so you can't beat yourself up with mistakes. I did it many times, but I had to stop. You learn and keep moving forward.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fashionpreneurs Willing to Share Startup Stories

Over the weekend I transcribed an interview we did with Wendy Barry, founder of JP Lizzy for fashionCEO. It was really refreshing to hear her story. In case you're not familiar with JP Lizzy, its a really cute line of fashionable baby bags. Wendy started the line when her twins were just months old. Can you imagine? She obviously has some serious time management skills. But she did it and the line has become a huge success. What I love about Wendy is her overall attitude about the business. She says she is mainly a stay-at-home mom. She doesn't live and breathe her business, yet it has been thriving since she launched the line over 5 years ago. She worked hard for it, don't get me wrong, but she worked at her own pace, developed business relationships and before long sales reps were seeking her out. Check out the rest of Wendy's interview on the main fashionCEO site.

Okay, one more tidbit from Wendy's interview and then you must go to the main site to read the rest! Working on Denney Bags, I often wanted to find unique fabric prints for my line that no one else had. I've always wondered how designers create their own fabrics. Well, Wendy shed a little light on that. She went to the Printsource show in NYC to find designs for her fabrics. Printsource is a tradeshow where textile designers exhibit their styles. You flip through their fabric designs and pick the ones you want. You pay for each design (I have no idea the price) and then its yours exclusively. The trick is then to find a manufacturer who can actually print the design on the fabric. She uses a factory in China that can make her fabric and her bags. That's one way to make sure no one else has the same fabric as you!

Here are a couple JP Lizzy baby bags...cute huh?






Its really nice to see successful designers share their startup stories with emerging designers. We've interviewed Rebecca Minkoff, Liz Lange and Wendy Barry now and every one of them have been incredibly open and honest about how they got started. Some people are so guarded, but I've been fortunate to find really great designers willing to share and help others. My goal is to continue that trend. I've got a few good ones coming up...so stay tuned!Is there a designer you'd like to read about? Let us know who it is and we'll track them down!

Have a fashionable day!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Nolcha Fashion Week Opportunity

If you are trying to get some exposure for your line to a good crowd of people, I suggest looking into this opportunity from Nolcha. Like fashionCEO, Nolcha caters to the needs of independent fashion designers. They are having their own NYC fashion week in September. This is a great event and I would encourage any designer looking to go big, to check it out. Here's the blurp on this particular opportunity:

"Have your company branding exposed to the movers and shakers of the fashion and media industry.

Opportunity to have logo placement on large screen (8ft x 6ft) strategically placed at the exclusive launch event of Metier Magazine hosted during Nolcha Fashion Week: NYC.

The Event: On September 8th 2007, 7pm, entertainment elite, chic fashionista’s and fashion insiders will gather together to celebrate the launch of Nolcha Métier Magazine at the prime Times Square location – Top of the Times rooftop and terrace. (43rd & 8th Ave) Through the course of a shopping boutique, fashion photography exhibit by Lynn Furge and cocktail party, guests will come together to shop, network and celebrate the launch of the fashion industry business publication. The 16 hottest emerging designers that won the StyleBakery.com ‘On the Rise’ Competition will exhibit their collections exclusively for attendee’s.

The Magazine: With an international business scope and informative demeanor, Nolcha Métier is the way forward for fashion industry insiders wishing to reach and inspire their consciousness and brand goals. Nolcha Métier writes for those fashion individuals who have the strength, drive and determination ‘To Be’ business savvy, financially secure and accomplished. The online publication supplies marketing, pr, trends, financial, legal and career articles catering to the professional needs of the fashion industry, specifically designers.

The Guests: There are two primary group demographics:

Group 1

o Chic cutting edge individuals of the fashion and media world
o The industry trendsetting population and sophisticated professionals who possess a substantial amount of spending power and influence
o A highly sought after audience of 21– 35 year olds, primarily single, living in cosmopolitan cities, educated, interested in the trendiest and hippest that fashion, entertainment, beauty and lifestyle brands have to offer, with disposable income and frequent travel
o Adding eclectic flavor to this audience is our loyal enthusiasts of emerging designers and talent within the industry; the young, edgy graduate with imaginative flow looking to share their creativity

Group 2

o Active online consumers: 70% shop online at least once a month, 93% shop online several times per year
o Fashionable women “in the know” as well as those seeking style guidance from head to toe
o Everyone from students and working women to stay-at-home moms; chic Fashionista’s to the fashion-challenged
o Tweens to retirees, with 85% between the ages of 21 and 49
o Strong domestic audience (83.7%), as well as a growing international following
o All income levels seeking affordable to mid-priced clothing, accessories, beauty items and gift ideas with frequent bargains and discounts included


You receive:
·Company Logo placement showcasing for 4 hours on screen dedicated to brand exposure

·One time email blast with logo placement to Nolcha Fashion Week: NYC and partners subscription newsletter; 230,000 circulation

Contact info@nolchafashionweek.com for cost
Deadline: Monday 23rd July 2007
There is limited availability in order to offer exclusivity to brands."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Hollywood or Bust?

When you are developing your own fashion line with little money or help, there are so many things to think about. Some days my head would spin thinking about all the things I needed to focus on. I often would get so overwhelmed it stopped me in my tracks. I'm still learning to make lists and prioritize. Something I'm not great at. Looking back at the last few years, I've realized there were so many things I could have done to help promote my Denney handbag line, but at the time, couldn't see the forest for the trees.

My dad has been a director on the show "The Young & the Restless" for over 20 years. I know many people on the show from my years of visiting dad in the summer (my parents divorced when I was very young). I also spent a year in Los Angeles working at CBS with dad. I did body makeup on a couple soap operas and nighttime specials (that experience is worthy a long post of its own). With this type of connection, wouldn't you think I could get some great "in's" in Hollywood for my bag line? I would say YES! Did I leverage my connections to create some valuable celebrity buzz for my bags. NO! Learn from this. I had connections at my fingertips, but never used them. I tried a few things...like meeting with the wardrobe person on Y&R (I've known her since I was a kid). I took her a Denney bag to feature on the show. She indicated they could use it at a pool party scene. I was pretty excited about that...but I never found out if they actually did use it. My dad retired in April of this year and moved back to our home state of Oklahoma. I am now kicking myself for not taking full advantage of what I had available to me. Even one of the actresses, Patti Weaver, who plays Gina (she is awesome by the way) , told me to bring in bags because the actresses on the show hang out in the makeup room and have money to buy! Did I ever do it? No! I didn't quite have the confidence in the product yet. Again, that confidence is key. You need to believe in your product. If I had that confidence then, I would have been able to shoot for the starts (literally!).

Another opportunity that I did take advantage of was participating in the Catwalk for Cancer fashion show in Denver last year. If you have the opportunity to show your line in a local fashion show (especially one for charity), its a great learning experience. I showed Denney Bags with about 4 other designers. Lourdes Rios organized the event. I felt like quite the designer, especially since my most treasured girlfriends came to support and cheer me on! It was kind of humorous because at the end of my show, I walked out on the runway and a little boy gave me a bouquet of flowers. All the models who modeled my bags lined the catwalk while I walked down and accepted my flowers. I felt so special! I look at pictures and kind of chuckle though. Here's a picture of my girlie friends after the show and one of me with all the bags before the show.





Here is a picture of my logo up on the big screen. I have to say, that gave me goosebumps to see my logo up there in front of everyone. It was so cool!



Here's one of the models carrying a Denney Bag down the runway.



The turnout wasn't as great as the organizers were hoping for (as you can see by the empty chairs in the audience), but it was still a great thing to do for a good cause. I think it cost me $200 to participate. Not bad, especially for a charity cause. I did sell a bag to one of the models too!



Get involved and look for opportunities everywhere you can. Obviously I didn't take full advantage of my opportunities, but then maybe I wasn't ready? If you are ready, go for it!! They say lucky people are just people who are prepared when the opportunity comes along.

Have a fashionable day!

S

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Are you passionate for your designs?

I recently returned from vacation in Tulsa, so I apologize for the lack of activity! But I'm back, refreshed and ready to roll!

When I look back at my journey to start a handbag line, I often question my motivation for doing it. I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. ALWAYS. It's not money that motivates me, although yes, that is a big part of it. I think I can make more working for myself than for someone else. But my main motivator is freedom. I hate being depressed on Sunday because I have to go back to work the next day. I hate that 50 hours of my time each week is dictated by this job that I don't feel passionate about. I've always been blessed with incredible bosses. But I could have the best boss & job in the world, making alot of money, and yet I don't think I would be truly happy inside. I just want to own my day. I want to wake up and be excited that I am in control of my schedule.

I started working on a handbag business because I love handbags and because I wanted my own business. I love merchandising. I love walking through a department store and looking at all the different brands. I love the idea of branding a product. I find it fascinating that some brands don't necessarily have the most stylish products, but the brand recognition and reputation it has established still can sell the product. I want to build a brand. That's why I decided that the challenge of creating a handbag line would be fun and exciting. And it has been...although I have not yet established my Denney brand...it's still in the works. But the journey is fun. I just wish I had made some smarter decisions in the beginning. Decisions such as spending way too much money(debt money) on things I didn't need. Industrial sewing machine, expensive leather not cost-effective for a handbag business, PR services that I wasn't ready for and samples before my sketches were good enough are just a few examples. One thing I wish I had had early on was a mentor. Someone who had been there and could help me strategize and avoid dumb mistakes. Mistakes are going to happen. That's how you grow and learn. But my mistakes cost me alot of money. Precisely why I founded fashionCEO. I like to think of it as a mentor for independent designers.

Last year, while I was having my official leather bag samples made, I started to wonder if I really liked designing handbags. Deep down I felt a bit like an imposter. Like I didn't really know what I was doing, but I was just forging ahead trying to make something of it because I had already invested so much time and money. I had to really sit down and take a real look at what I was doing and why I was doing it. I've been disappointed with a couple of my designs. I had to be honest with myself. Do I like designing bags? Do I want to travel around the country and sell bags at tradeshows? Do I want to hit the pavement and sell my bags to boutiques myself. Can I do that? Can I afford to do this? The answer to some of these questions was no. Did I like the fashion business and handbags...definitely yes! But was I willing to do what it takes to get it off the ground? I wasn't sure. I was starting to feel a little burnout and I hadn't even gotten started yet! So I set the bags aside, just for the time being, to start fashionCEO. I've sinced realized that I'm not a designer imposter. I design cute bags! And I will sell them eventually. But I needed to take an honest look at myself and find out what motivates me. As soon as I started fashionCEO I could feel my energy boost. I can work 12-15 hours a day on it and still not want to put my computer down. I'm doing something that fits my personality. It feels right. I'm helping others do something they feel passionate about, and that makes me feel good. And I'm interacting with designers who are accomplishing things that I haven't yet, so I'm learning how to be a better designer in the process. It's very cool.

If you have a nagging feeling in the back of your mind, don't ignore it. Sit down and take an honest look at yourself. Don't force something on yourself if its not feeling right. Maybe you've always wanted to design a baby bag, but you've invested too much in evening bag designs, or maybe you've been dreaming of making wedding dresses, but thought handbags would be easier. Whatever it is, its never too late to change direction. Listen to your inner voice. Mine gets ignored sometimes, but I find when I listen to it, I'm much happier and when I'm happier, I'm much more creative. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What's Up With MySpace?

Have any of you had luck marketing your line on MySpace? I can not figure that site out for the life of me. Is it because I'm over 30? Being that its all the rage, I broke down and created a page for fashionCEO, thinking that perhaps that would plunge me into the cool world. I can now say at parties "hey, check out my MySpace page". I don't think I'm welcome in the cool world. I'm like the kid in the corner at the high school dance that no one notices. The first week that I had my MySpace page I would log in everyday to see the hundreds of friend requests that would be awaiting me. I can hear crickets chirping on my page. I can't figure out how to network and make friends on there. And the few people who have asked me to be their friend are really scary looking people that I'm guessing are recruiting people to come drink Kool-Aid with them.

I've had MUCH better luck with Facebook. I like Facebook. It's easy to navigate, there are some great fashion groups that are easy to find and I like the interface better. It's much cleaner. I get alot of links from Facebook because I've joined some fashion groups and posted messages in them. If you are have a line that you are marketing to the public, I highly suggest using Facebook if you aren't already. Its free...what do you have to lose? I even had another designer email and ask me to be in his fashion group. Aha! I am cool in Facebook! I think I'm sticking with it.

If you have any suggestions or tips on how to use MySpace, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What Makes a Designer A Designer?

I'm pretty irritated over some opinions I've read lately and I just have to air my thoughts on it. I read an article recently by a fashion industry "expert" that seems to feel its not worth her time to help emerging designers because in her opinion they probably aren't prepared and its not worth her reputation to refer them to suppliers. Who is truly prepared when they are first starting out? And how do you learn this crazy business when everyone is so guarded?

It steams me to no end that people in the "industry" stick their nose up at independent designers who are trying to make a go of a dream. Going to a fancy design school gives you a certain type of training, agreed. But it does not give you talent. If you design & produce a quality product that people buy, then honey, you are a designer. I don't care what your training is. I don't care that you never worked for Donna Karan or Vera Wang (who, by the way, never had a lick of formal design training). I don't care if you can't sew or sketch. There are MANY successful designers out there that can't do either. If you design a handbag or a dress or a belt or jewelry that you put in the marketplace and consumers purchase...you are a designer. When I buy a piece of clothing or a handbag, I don't care what kind of training the designer had, or whether they can sew. They clearly produced a product I'm willing to spend my hard earned dollars on.

I founded fashionCEO because I saw a lack of information out there for independent designers trying to find resources to build their brand. My goal with this company is to bring information & inspiration together in one convenient place for designers to help nurture their business. I'm not here to poo poo your idea or products. The marketplace will determine whether you are good or not. And you know what, if you're not good at designing, you won't be in business for long. That's not for me to determine. I'm not worried about my reputation (what reputation? Lets be real.) when I put together a list of suppliers for my designer members. If I'm worried about anything, its the quality of the supplier that I'm referring to fashionCEO members, not the other way around. The supplier is going to make money. You are spending your precious dollars. But to say that you are not talented or worthy enough because you are just starting out...uh huh...ain't happening. You go for it and you do it better than you ever thought you could. If someone isn't willing to help you find what you need...then you know what, screw them. You don't need them. Folks, this is fashion, it ain't brain surgery. We're not saving lives here. I will stick my neck out for someone trying to get going. Plenty of people have done it for me.

I agree you have to be willing to work VERY, VERY hard to make it happen. You have to invest time, money, pride, blood, sweat and tears...but if you work at it, then you have a chance at being successful. Its brutal...I'm not saying its a walk in the park. You have to do your homework. But to say I wouldn't help someone just because I'm not going to somehow benefit from it, I just can't feel good about that. But that's just me. Maybe I'm too soft...but I'm okay with that.

I believe that there is a certain attitude out in the fashion world that any Jane Doe thinks they can design a handbag and call themselve a designer. But who is a true designer? Is it someone who went to Parsons and has formal training? Is it someone who lives in New York and is well connected? Is it a celebrity who has someone design for them, but they can slap their name on the label and make millions? Are you less of a designer if you live in Kansas? Developing your own line with no formal training and selling it through your website? Again, the consumers will determine whether you are talented enough to be a designer. I look at most of the runway shows and I think "who would wear this crap?". Seriously, who would? Most of it is hideous and is ridiculously expensive. Most of these people are respected designers with formal training in schools, big design houses, yet they can't relate to what the majority of America wants. There is a huge intimidation factor. Don't let it stop you. Look at designers like Mary Norton of Moo Roo bags, or Liz Lange or Sara Blakely of Spanx or Jennifer Velarde of 1154 Lill. Chances are they weren't fully prepared when they first approached a contractor to make their product. I'm sure glad someone had faith in them.

Thank goodness for the independent designer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Being Open to Unexpected Opportunites

Before I took on the leather bag dream, I was sewing fabric bags. I had read on another handbag designer's website that she was being featured in an article that was being written in the Denver Post about local handbag designers. I of course, promptly emailed the reporter (the handbag designer mentioned her name on her site)...and asked if I could be included in the article. She called me! Yea! More free press. The article ran and it featured about 15 handbag designers from the Denver area. I was the last one mentioned (I was on the back page of the business section). I got 200 hits on my website that day (that was alot for me)! It was great. I even got a couple orders from it. Read everything you can...and be ready to take action. You never know where you are going to find that gold nugget of information.

I have discovered that you never know where you might find a valuable piece of information. It might be on a competitor's website or a networking event. Either way, be open to new information in places you least expect. I worked at a local television station, 9News, last year (yes, I've always maintained a "day job" to support my bag business). All the employees were invited to go to a presentation in the station given by a bunch of marketing people hired to do research on what viewers wanted. Most people might think its a waste of time if they didn't care too much about their job (which I didn't), but I've learned over the years that you can find inspiration in the strangest places. I went to the presentation and it was fascinating. They talked about what people responded to on the station's website. They even had research information on the what viewers liked and disliked about the layout of the homepage (whether it was cluttered, what information they wanted to see first, etc)! I'm thinking the station paid some high dollar for that kind of research. I got the information for free which would later come in handy for my own internet business!

Another example of this happened to me the other day. I had a telemarketer call my cell phone. Not knowing who it was, I answered it. Turns out the guy works for Hacker Safe...a company that I guess guards against hackers on your e-commerce site. I don't know...I was half listening to him. But I was very polite because he was nice. I explained to him that I didn't need the service and that I had started a new internet venture for independent fashion designers. He started talking about his wife who owns 3 lingerie boutiques in Las Vegas! She could be a potential retail buyer member for fashionCEO's Showcase Center! So we chatted for a bit and then he sent me an email with his contact info. I now have a contact for a lingerie store which I need for the Showcase Center! If I had been rude, hung up on him, or been closed off to the idea of making a contact, then that probably would not have happened.

Don't burn bridges....don't turn your back on someone you meet at a networking event just because they don't appear to be in the same line of work or of value to you on the surface. That person's sister just might be an accessories buyer at Bergdorf Goodman! You NEVER know. Keep your eyes open,and always embrace a potential, unexpected opportunity. I don't believe in pure luck, I think people who are lucky go looking for, or are open to, new opportunities.

I'll dig up that article in the Denver Post and show it to you in the next couple days. In the meantime, keep your eyes open and watch for that unexpected contact or opportunity!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Keep Your Eye on the Goal

I don't know about you all, but whenever I tell someone that I design handbags, I can see their face light up. People think its cool when you are doing something creative and different. Even my guy friends always ask me how my handbags are doing. I usually smile and say its coming along...which is true. Yes, after 6 years, I'm still in research and development mode, but hey, that's okay. They still want to hear about it. I don't think the majority of the people out there have an entrepreneurial drive. I think when someone does, people are interested in hearing about it.

One thing that I find amusing is that people love to give you ideas. I can't tell you how many people have said to me, "hey, you should make doggie bags", or "you should really be making baby bags". I love it when my Mom says "honey, you should make you some curtains with that sewing machine." Um, no. When I first started my handbag business, I jumped on those ideas (except the curtains). I would add them to my list of to-do's. But then I would get overwhelmed just thinking about all the things I should be designing. It took me awhile to figure this out, but its better to stay focused on your passion, whether its bags or belts or jewelry or whatever. Do what you do best and get it out there...then later on you can branch out. People mean well, but you have to try and filter out all the voices saying "you should be doing this...".

I even sat down and made a baby bag (yes, I made it myself, I know I was supposed to be done with the sewing, but old habits die hard). Really...it is handy to have a sewing machine and some skill at it because when you do want to experiment with a new idea, you can sit down and play around with it. It's way too expensive to have a contractor "play around" with new ideas. Here's my Denney baby bag:


I know, hard to believe I made it since I don't like to sew and can't follow a pattern to save my life. I'm 90% hard work, 10% talent. I still carry this bag everyday. I don't have a baby, but I carry it because I love the outside pockets. The side pockets are great for water bottles. The front pocket is perfect, easy access for my cell phone and keys.

So back to what I was saying. People love to throw out ideas when they know you design handbags and/or clothing. I've had people ask me to sew covers for their camera equipment. I guess when you say you design handbags, that means you can sew anything and everything under the sun. if they only knew! If you have any stories of people suggesting ideas to you, I'd love to hear them!

Stay focused, learn to say no, and stay true to your vision!

Breaking the Blog Rules

If you are into self-development, I think you'd enjoy a site I stumbled upon the other night. The author of the site is Steve Pavlina. I had never heard of him before, but apparently he has one of the most popular self-development sites on the web. Where have I been? Read his blog if you get chance. His posts are REALLY long, but I like that.If I like what I'm reading, I want to keep reading. I hope you guys don't mind longer posts. When I was reading up on how to write a good blog, I found many sites that said "Write short & frequent posts". When I'm writing a post, I break out in a sweat about half way through because I feel like its getting too long, so I quickly end the "conversation" and get out. But I've decided I don't like that. I don't abruptly end conversations with people in person (well, depends on who I'm talking to), so I'm not going to do it here. I'm not talking to a computer, I'm talking to you. I'm not ready to run yet. I kind of like you.

Okay, this one is short and sweet. I feel the beads of sweat building...Baby steps.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Investors - To Use or Not To Use

I went to a fabulous talk the other night at the University of Colorado campus. The session was put on by TechStars, an organization in Boulder that helps startups. Its made of up a bunch of successful entrepreneurs who are now Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors. The topic of the session was "How to Finance Your Startup". There were about 150 people or so there. I was one of maybe 15 females in the audience. I felt pretty proud that I was there.

The panel was made up of 6 investors. Very smart, very successful people. Here are some of the key things I took away from it:

1.First of all, they advise against taking on investors for as long as you can. The more money you take, the more equity you give up in your company. Make sure you are ready to do that. Bootstrap, self-finance, use credits cards, work a day job, whatever...but run as long as you can before borrowing from VC's or Angels.

2.If you are starting a business because you want to work for yourself, the minute you take money from an investor, you are not working for yourself anymore. Really take a look at why you want to start a business.

3.Don't take little bits of money at a time from investors. You give up approx 30%-50% of equity in your company every time you borrow. It sounds like its better to wait as long as possible and then do one big round of funding from an investor.

4. Don't ask yourself "How can I borrow money". Ask yourself "How can I not borrow money".

5. When approaching investors, engage them so they want to spend time with you.

6. Be able to describe what your company does in 10 minutes.

7. Entrepreneurs feel like they have to know everything about their company and how its going to work from the get go. You do not have to have all the answers in that investor meeting. They know that your business plan is going to change and look very different in 6 months.

8. There's no such thing as a bad meeting. Even if you sucked in it and they hate you, you learned something that will better you the next time.

One of the panelist, Greg Held with CTEK, had a great saying. It goes something like this..."if I had bacon, I could make bacon & eggs, if I just had eggs". In other words, you have nothing, but you can envision everything. I hope I didn't botch that up. Gary said it so beautifully.

The Fashionpreneur tries new things

Once I had my professional samples in hand, I had to come to the hard realization that maybe I should have thought through the functionality of my designs before rushing them off to the patternmaker. The leather I used was really nice quality, but it didn't have any texture to it. Alot of the leather bags out on the market at the time (which was just last summer) had texture to them. Now, I'm not staying you should always follow what everyone else in the market is doing, but I'm not sure that choosing a perfectly smooth leather was the right choice for my designs. I think I was really on target with the hardware. I used either brass or nickle (DON'T cheap out on hardware) rings and rivets. I used alot of hardware in my designs. And like I mentioned before, I used good quality zippers. VERY important!

Another thing I think could've have helped me is to study other bags out there. I did go to Nordstroms one day and spent an hour really studying the construction of Kate Spade and Brighton bags. AGAIN, I was stuck on this theory that I needed to worry about how to make the bags. WRONG. I had someone to do that now...I should have been looking at the overall design, functionality, what I liked, what I didn't like. But no...I was trying to figure out how they sewed the zipper in. I really needed to get out of that head space. But I couldn't seem to.

Several years ago, before I got into handbags, I designed a new product that held nail polish bottles and nail files in a nice vinyl case. I called it "The Paint Shop". My boyfriend at the time thought it was a good idea (anyone who knows me tolerates all my crazy ideas). I kept talking to him about how I should sew it...that I needed to buy a sewing machine etc. I even went out and bought a $300 sewing machine from Sears! He kept saying to me, "why are you worrying about how to make it. You'll have someone else do that. Just focus on design and marketing." Boy, he was right, but at the time I just couldn't get that concept into my head. Now it seems so obvious. I'm an idea person, not a seamstress. It's great if you can do both, more power to you. I admire people who are crafty and can sew and follow patterns. I can sew a handbag together, but I cannot follow a pattern.

After calling about 5 or 6 sewing contractors, I finally found a place in Kansas that would make a prototype of "The Paint Shop" for me. I was so excited. I think it took them a couple weeks to make it. It cost me $75 for one prototype (after being in the handbag world, $75 seems cheap!). When I received it in the mail I was SO excited (again, thought this little package was going to make me rich). It was actually really well made. Unfortunately the cost to produce them was going to be $15 each. That means I would have to sell it for way more than I thought anyone would pay for it. Its definitely the type of thing you would have to have made in China. So that fizzled...but ya know, that's okay. You try things. Some work, some don't. That's part of the fun of being a Fashionpreneur (at least in hindsight its fun - at the time its just plain frustrating). Here are some pics of "The Paint Shop". I tried to wipe all the dust off before taking the picture, but clearly, its too thick to tackle in one try. I still think "The Paint Shop" is a fun idea.