Category Archives: Fashion

Designer Resource: Portland Garment Factory

Looking to put your new line into production? “We got your back.” ‘We’ refers to Rosemary Robinson and Britt Howard of the Portland Garment Factory, a hip independent manufacturing house in Oregon.

Portland Garment FactoryAnd they really do have your back! After experiencing difficulties finding local resources for production work (most options are in New York, Los Angeles, or overseas) Howard was inspired to take matters into her own hands. PGF was born in 2008, and is now a favorite of local clients as well as designers from other big cities.  And for good reason, Portland Garment factory is definitely not a ‘factory’ in the typical sense.

The company offers the basics such as sales samples, size grading and of course production, but the range of services goes far beyond that. They offer a graphic design service for branding, identity creation, and copywriting.

If you need something that cannot be done at the factory, they can still hook you up. PGF has connections with a vast range of subcontractors, including sources for  screen-printing, embroidery, tags, dye houses, fulfillment warehouses, and even patent attorneys. The minimum is low, starting at 20 pieces per style, with the maximum capping at 5,000 pieces. This combined with top quality and complete service makes it ideal for designers just starting out!

While production work for designers is the main priority, the company at heart is a community of artists in their own right. For the three-year anniversary of PGF, they are currently in the process of launching their own line, a contemporary womenswear collection called Houseline. Traditional American style provides the inspiration for the line. The goal is to create classic pieces that stand the test of time in terms of durability as well as design. The collection recently debuted at the self-produced “House Show” on October 22nd.

For more information and ordering, visit check out their website

4 Great Tools for Growing Your Fashion Business

This past spring we told you about 6 Great Tools for Growing Your Fashion Business.  We recently added 4 more to this list of products and service you should check out as emerging as independent fashion brands.

4 More Great Tools for Growing Your Fashion Business…

and yes, they too offer discounts to StartUp FASHION Community members. Woot!

Mimoona: white label crowdsourcing technology that enables fashion brands and designers to predict the demand for their designs before production. It saves money associated with redundant production and allows brands to produce and sell more of their successful designs, obtain engaged customers, and leverage the power of the crowd to acquire more customers and brand awareness. (Offering 10% off monthly fees to StartUp FASHION Community members!)

Shopify: an ecommerce solution that helps emerging and independent fashion designers get off the ground and grow into successful companies.  The technology is straight forward and easy to use; making great technology accessible to businesses that previously wouldn’t be able to afford it! (Offering 10% off monthly fees to StartUp FASHION Community members!)

Fashion Brain Academy New Designer Program: a complete online training course that includes 6 Vital Steps to Launching a Fashion Business. You get all the information in the form of videos, audios (mp3 files), worksheets, downloads, cheat sheets, and spreadsheets. You get the links to all the training so you can watch, listen, and work on the material as often as you like – whenever it suits your schedule. You also get the written transcripts of all the video and audio training. (Offering 15% off to StartUp FASHION Community members!)

LupRocks: is the definitive product placement sourcebook for film and television – where exclusive relationships between the coolest brands and designers and Hollywood’s hottest productions are born. LupRocks is the place for product placement. Get your products in front of the decision makers from today’s most popular TV shows and movies. (Offering $100 off to StartUp FASHION Community members!)

To take advantage of the great discounts offered on these products, check them out in the Community.

Find Out How To Have a Website That Will Make Customers Actually Buy

As a fashion business owner, there are very few things as important to your marketing and sales arsenal as an aesthetically beautiful and well made website.

There are a lot of important components to a well made website:

  • a great design with a clean layout that really lets your work pop
  • top notch photography that shows of off your work in its best possible light
  • an experience that pulls your potential customers from exploring your homepage to clicking that “add to shopping bag” button on your product page
  • a fully functioning and easy-to-use shopping cart system so you can rack in those sales without a hiccup

That a lot to make sure of. As if you don’t already have plenty to do to get your business on a path to growth. I’m a big believer in delegating and not taking your time away from what you love (and are good at!) to spend on aspects of the business that don’t come as naturally to you.

Sadie

Sadie is a company that creates eCommerce and product photography for emerging designers like yourself, at a fee that 10 times cheaper than what you’re used to seeing. They provide custom web design, build, professional product photography and retouching into one sweet package.

Sadie paves the way for emerging designers to launch online confidently and successfully.

They combine professional product photography with the eCommerce website to create a simple and affordable done-for-you solution, letting you focus on what you do best.

Check out our interview with the Genevieve Morganstern, co-founder of Sadie…

Sadie product Photography

What are some of the biggest marketing or branding mistakes you see brands make when they’re starting out?

The biggest marketing mistake that brands make is not investing in the things that really matter. Early on their brand, and how they are portraying themselves to the world is crucial.

Many designers will get someone to build their website and shoot their photography for free, or just “throw something up that’ll work for now” and end up with something that does more harm than good. You can always tweak and make changes as you go, but you can’t change a first impression.

When it comes to building a website, what are some things that emerging brands must consider before clicking that “make live” button?

There are a couple things, the main one is a lot of designers come in with great ideas for their website, but they forget that the number one thing their site needs to do is get people to shop and click buy!

We also see a lot of people trying to piecemeal things together, their images don’t portray their products well, they are using a website platform that’s not really designed for eCommerce, and then adding in a random cart and payment processor, and overall it equates to a bad experience and more hassle to deal with.

Finally, we see a lot of people biting off more than they can chew, sometimes people are using technology that is way too much, and they have to spend a lot of time and money working with website developers just to do simple tasks on their site. Websites really aren’t that hard, unless you make it hard!

What kind of photography should a new designer absolutely invest in prior to launching either their brand or a new collection? Can you tell us why?

Get good quality professional product photography, hands down this is the best investment a new designer on a budget can make because product photography is selling photography!

Great product photography alone can go a long way. The same images can be used over and over for line sheets, catalogs, and ads. You can use them on 3rd party sites like Amazon, Svpply, Etsy, Pinterest and Polyvore, and give them to bloggers and journalists, other re-sellers and showrooms.

What’s one single piece of advice you can offer to our community of emerging designers?

Focus on the things that really matter, and an incremental investment of time and money to do it right the first time will pay back exponentially. You’ll never regret the corners that you didn’t cut.

For more great advice and tips on websites and photography for your fashion brand, check out this webinar we did with the founders of Sadie.

With a team of industry veterans who’s experience has been working for brands like Chanel, Nike, The North Face, Tiffany, Lancome, and Oscar de la Renta, the folks at Sadie know their stuff.
Any Questions, Inquiries, Jokes, or General Shenanigans you may have can be directed to: founders@mysadie.co  

Though Sadie commissioned us to share this cool new resource with you, we never agree to write about anything we don’t think is really awesome. Promise.

3 Most Important Business Skills an Emerging Designer Needs to Have

When it comes to creating a business, no one can do it alone. And when it comes to running a fashion business, that statement could not possibly be any more true.

The business of fashion is no different than any other type of business. You need to understand the ins and outs of the industry; how to speak the language, what questions to ask (and what questions not to ask!), how to tame your expectations, and how to know when you’re being taken advantage of. Guidance and industry education is an absolute must.

That’s why I’m always excited to meet other people who are working to help emerging designers get their footing and grow a business that will be sustainable and successful. Last year, I connected with Jane Hamill, the founder of Fashion Brain Academy, and quickly realized that she is one of those people.

Before long she was contributing incredibly helpful articles to StartUp FASHION and continuing to impress me with her genuine desire to help designers avoid the mistakes that she had learned the hard way.

Check out my interview with Jane to read more of the great advice she is constantly offering up.

fashion brain academy

Tell us a bit about Fashion Brain Academy and why you started it.

When I started my women’s clothing line years ago, it was overwhelming, exciting, and terrifying all at the same time. There was just so much I DIDN’T KNOW! I had to learn from trial and error and I made so many mistakes. It was very frustrating in the beginning. There just wasn’t a lot of solid information out there about how to run a fashion business and make a living. Luckily, my business thrived and I had a wholesale and retail business for over 14 years.

After I sold my businesses, I finally had time to return some of those emails from new designers asking for help. That was the beginning of Fashion Brain Academy. Just mentoring a few designers to help them understand the exact steps involved in creating a successful business. Balancing your creative mind with business can be pretty tricky.

What I do with FBA is offer online training and courses for designers on the business side of things – mostly startup planning, marketing, and selling your line. My mission is to show designers how to make a living off of their creativity.

In your opinion, what are the three most important business skills a designer needs to learn early on?

Ahhhh, that’s a great question.

  • First, it’s all about the customer. Ideally, each designer goes out there and finds what’s missing in the market and then creates it. It’s a lot easier that way than designing a product you think is great, looking for an audience to buy it, hoping they like it and can spend money on it.
  • Second, you need a plan. A simple plan is OK. I’m not a big fan of formal business plans – unless you need it for funding. But I’m a HUGE fan of a One Page Planner for your business. It’s important to drill down on the basics. Who’s going to buy my product? Why will someone give me money? How will they find me? What’s my real niche? How much money will I need and when?
  • And third, you need to be able to sell. A lot of designers are so product-focused in the beginning and forget you need an audience to buy. I’m not joking about this. I meet way too many designers who have a nice product and very low sales. And it’s because they spend all their time perfecting the product and zero energy getting it in front of the right people. It’s not expensive or difficult to market your product to the right people, but it does take time and energy.

Having worked with so many emerging designers, what are 1 or 2 major mistakes you see them make? Any tips on how to avoid that?

I think one of the biggest mistakes designers make is being too afraid to fail.

Sometimes we get so caught up worrying about what might go wrong, or if I’m doing it right, or telling ourselves we’re not ready yet for the next step. This fear can keep us completely stuck. Let me tell you, action trumps everything. The designer that says, “What the heck, I’ll just do it and do it today – even if it’s wrong” is the one that succeeds.  Of course, this works a lot better when you’re not just winging it and you work from your plan.

What can we expect from Fashion Brain Academy in the coming months?

I’m really focusing on 2 areas for designers in the next 6 months:

  1. The pre-launch phase. Based on feedback, I realize that I haven’t been covering this as well as I could. I am launching a new “Pre-launch Package” in April that will be a combo of online trainings and private coaching. It’s designed to help with things like, “do I have a business in me?” “How do I know if my idea can work?” “How do I pick the right niche?” The whole point is to decide if a business idea is viable and could be profitable
  2. The startup phase. I’m expanding my best-selling online course, the New Designer Program. I’ll be updating the modules as needed and adding more info about online selling and trunk shows. I also want to add a comprehensive training about startup costs that includes real-life designer case studies and examples.

I’d also like to create a course for marketing your business BEFORE your product is even ready but that will have to wait for a bit!

If a designer wants to work with you, what do they need to have in place? And what’s the best way to get in touch?

My online courses (one for startups and one for selling to boutiques) have rolling admission, and are available immediately  They can be done at your own pace and you can learn from home.

I also work with private clients but can only take 3 clients at any given time. All the details can be found atwww.fashionbrainacademy.com and you can email my team at brain@fashionbrainacademy.com or call 773.551.2111.

 

Image via Alba Soler Photography

4 Top Tips for Producing Your Fashion Collection Abroad

As I continue to navigate the sphere of starting and running a fashion company, the one place that seems to trip up people faster than anything else is production. Tying up costs in inventory, producing too much or too little, manufacturing lead times doubling and tripling. Sound familiar?

In a bid to avoid the myriad of mistakes that can often break start ups – I ventured out to China and Hong Kong recently on a ‘pre-production’ mission to learn the ropes. Here are the top tips I came away with.

Preparation Will Improve Your Negotiation Power

At the risk of sounding cynical, factories will exploit your lack of knowledge. Before you visit do your homework. If you can talk intelligently about the process of production, bring samples along of what you want and ask the right questions you are much less likely to (pardon my French) get screwed.

There are many people that have made mistakes and successfully navigated the process so talk to them first.

Balance the Price and Minimum Order Quantity Equation

The Minimum Order Quantity is that magic number of units that factories will tell you to you have to produce to begin to work with them. Most factories will not produce samples without an MOQ commitment or will do at a huge cost.

Depending on your product category these MOQ’s will run into the thousands. But don’t be fooled by the low price high MOQ equation. You will end up paying the price through storage and other costs associated with holding inventory. Don’t rule out the higher prices but lower MOQ options, especially if this is your first collection.

Do the Exchange Rate Check

This is a subtle but important point. When you are spending in the thousands, exchange rates make a difference. Ask for the local price and make sure you are paying a fair exchange rate when converting to US dollars.

You also need to be prepared to protect yourself against fluctuating rates on re-orders so make sure you ask these questions upfront and where possible make it explicit in the contract.

Be Aware of Where Your Start Up is in the Priority Order

Unfortunately as a start up and especially if its your first fashion collection, you will be low on the priority list until you can prove that you will be doing large volumes of business with the factory. What this translates to in practice is that when the factory goes through its seasonal busy periods (especially if they have several larger clients) your production will be de-prioritized and you may well experience longer lead times. You need to discuss these scenarios openly and make sure you have a single point of contact you can liaise with to keep things moving.

Of course there are so many more tips and lessons to learn and knowledge you will gain the more factories you meet. Finding a good sourcing agent or at least talking to one can be a huge strategy for minimizing risk in the beginning.

The ideal scenario is to have the customer order in hand before you produce. Where that isn’t possible, have a really solid sales and marketing strategy in place before any production  – including how you would sell any overstock.  It is far more fun to have a customer waiting list than a huge stock list!

Fashion Archives: A Look at the History of Synthetic Fiber

Ever since humanity figured out how to make clothing, we have been working with fibers. From cotton to silk, we learned how to work with various fibers conveniently provided by Mother Earth. Until, that is, we discovered how to make our own!

“Fibers,” the raw material from which yarn and cloth are made, are categorized by where they came from. For example, fibers such as cotton, and linen are plant-based fibers- they grew from the ground. Wool comes from sheep, and silk from silkworms, and so they are described as animal-based fibers. However, fabrics such as rayon and polyester are referred to as synthetics. This is because we are able to synthesize these fibers to create them ourselves from scratch.

Synthetic fibers have has a surprisingly lengthy and involved history– the first attempts at such a material goes as far back as the early 1800’s, the original goal being to devise ways to mimic natural fibers, and streamline the process of textile production. Silk, for example was such a precious and labor-intensive commodity; could there be an easier and cheaper way to achieve the hand and luxury of this prized fabric?

The first successful patent for “artificial silk” was granted to a Swiss-born chemist named Audemars. To create this new fiber, he dissolved the soft, fibrous inner bark cut from a mulberry tree. By chemically modifying this bark, Audemars was able to create a cellulose solution. He formed threads in a primitive manner- dipping needles into his solution and drawing them out.

Chemist and inventor Sir Joseph Swan was another early pioneer in man-made fiber. His method also involved modifying the fiber found in tree bark, and is one of the earliest examples of modern day rayon. Rather than use Audemar’s way of “spinning” yarn, Swan modeled his production method on the silkworm’s. By forcing the liquid through fine holes, he was able to create thread filaments. Swan saw potential in his discovery, and set out to contribute his ideas to the textile industry by unveiling his fabrics at the International Inventions Exhibition in London.

These initial ideas would continue to be expanded upon. In 1894, French engineer Hilaire de Chardonnet enacted the first commercial-scale production of artificial silk. He built the first commercial rayon plant in Bensacon, France. The country was experiencing a severe silk shortage at the time, due to the destruction of French silkworms, and bringing a synthetic product to the market provided a much-needed solution. Chardonnet also discovered nitrocellulose, the main ingredient in his product. However, while it was a huge sensation at the Paris Exhibition, this proved to be a less-than ideal silk substitute, as the material was extremely flammable. It was eventually replaced by more stable alternatives.

By 1894, Charles Frederick Cross’ research and developments lead to the discovery of what is known today as viscose. This particular material was named for the viscous solution of xanthate. By 1924, the first commercial viscose rayon resin had been developed, the first commercial liquid used in the production of rayon and cellophane. Rayon production soon began to grow to meet the increasing demand, as fabric manufacturers were able to buy this alternative fiber for half the price of silk.

1931 brought the advent of nylon, which was ceremoniously dubbed the “miracle fiber.” Wallace Carothers, an American chemist at Dupont, researched “giant” molecules known as polymers, focusing his work on the creation of a fiber. The resulting material was a success, and nylon’s invention was a turning point for synthetics. All previous fibers had a natural base (rayon is derived from wood pulp), however, nylon was entirely synthesized from petrochemicals. It was used in everything from sewing thread to stockings. During World War II, nylon was the center of a bit of scandal when its production resources were deemed only to be used for military purposes. Nylon tights that previously went for $1.25 a pair were now being sold on the black market for $10. Movie stars and pin-up girls such as Betty Grable would auction off nylon hosiery for up to $40,000 a pair to raise money for the war effort.

By the 1950’s research into other synthesized fibers was underway. Dupont added the wool-like acrylic (a plastic-based fiber) to its line of fabrics. At the same time, polyester, a fiber that has been a part of Carothers’ earlier research, was also gaining momentum. It caught the interest of the Calico Printer’s Association in Great Britain, and was further developed there by J.T. Dickinson and J.R. Whinfield. A successful material was produced by “condensation polymerization of ethylene glycol with terepthalic acid” (essentially, it’s plastic.)

Synthetics were wildly popular in the 1960’s and 70’s, decades in which polyester was notoriously ubiquitous in fashion. Usage as well as production soared, and improvements were made, most notably for safety standards. Flammability has always been something to account for when it comes to synthetic fabrics, and in the 70’s a Federal mandate for flammability standards was enacted.

Today, synthetic fabric is used in every area of the fashion industry. It is particularly ideal for swim and sportswear, as it is easier to wash, quick drying, stain resistant, and anti-microbial.

Fashion Archives: A Look Back at the Mini Skirt

After this insanely long, dreary East Coast winter, things are finally taking a turn for the better! The temperature is rising, which means it’s time to start busting out the spring and summer wardrobe. Already the street-stylers of NYC are clad in a favorite warm-weather piece: the mini-skirt.

As some of you may know, the mini-skirt is so much more than a piece of fabric that covers part of your thighs. It is the garment that defined an entire decade of fashion and is closely linked with feminism and empowerment.

So how did this simple cut with such a complex history come to be?

While the mini-skirt is associated with the 1960’s, its story begins long before then- a few thousand years before, in fact. Archaeologists have found evidence of the existence of mini-skirts as far back as 5400-4700 BC. European figurines dating back to that time period were discovered dressed in early versions of the garment that were eerily similar to the design we know today. They even had them in ancient Egypt; fresco paintings depict female acrobats of the time wearing them.

Now let’s jump ahead a few thousand years. In order to understand the relevance of the modern mini-skirt, we need to know the circumstances that preceded it.

Europe and the U.S were rife with sexist ideologies in the 1800’s- women were thought to be weak and vulnerable, making politics, business, and physical activity out of the question. These beliefs were reflected in the fashions of the time, which included tights corsets, and long, restrictive skirts.

By the 1920’s, women’s fashions had loosened up, quite literally. Shift dresses in the “flapper” style became highly popular, and hemlines rose to just below the knee. Performer Josephine Baker caused a sensation with her costumes, which typically featured scandalously short skirts. In the 1950’s, skirts were full and had not yet risen above the knee, but shorter styles continued to feature in costumes, particularly in science fiction films of that time.

The 1960’s are when the miniskirt truly began to take off. Prior to this decade, young people were expected to dress in the same style as their parents. Sears catalogues would even feature mother and daughter models in identical dresses. However, the 60’s brought significant political and social change, and fashions changed to reflect this new era.

This younger generation was highly self-aware and rebellious. They no longer felt the need to conform to certain rules and manners, including the rules of dress. This new found attitude demanded a look to match; one that embodied a carefree, youthful spirit- and the mini skirt was the perfect candidate.

The person universally credited as the inventor of the mini-skirt we know today is British designer Mary Quant.

Quant had opened a Boutique called Bazaar, which was a popular hangout for mods and rockers. Though she lacked formal design training, she found herself with her finger on the pulse of a street style revolution, and began to make and sell clothes that reflected the attitudes and desires of her customers rather than the Parisian runways. In 1965, she hacked the hemlines of her skirts to several inches above the knee, and christened the style after her favorite car, the Mini. The aesthetic of Quant’s mini-skirt carried many of the ideas young women of the time sought to embody: youth, energy, originality, and rebelliousness.

Another designer, Andre Courreges, has also claimed credit for pioneering the mini-skirt. He began shortening his hemlines in the early 1960’s, and crafted futuristic, minimalist styles. In comparison to Quant, Courreges’ designs were imbued with a greater degree of sophistication, making them more palatable to the world of French haute couture. When asked who was the true inventor of the unique silhouette, Quant dismissively remarked, “It wasn’t me or Courreges who invented the mini-skirt anyway- it was the girls in the street who did it.”

While the mini was wildly popular with the younger generation, not everyone shared such enthusiasm. The Netherlands banned the skirt for a time, and many women had to protest in support of their beloved clothing. Designer Christian Dior, whose full-skirted “New Look,” was the exact opposite, expressed disdain for the style. Even Coco Chanel declared the garment “just awful,” even going as far to say that she had never met a man who liked women wearing them. As fashion progressed into the 1970’s, maxi styles began to come into favor, and the mini lost the momentum it once had.

The mini skirt has become a wardrobe staple in more recent times, albeit it doesn’t carry the same powerful connotations it had against the backdrop of the 60’s. It began making a comeback in the 80’s. Anna Wintour made the matching jacket and mini skirt one of her signature looks, and “rah-rah” skirts inspired by cheerleading uniforms became popular. Karl Lagerfeld, in a move that might have Coco turning in her grave, declared Chanel’s dismissal of the mini skirt the biggest mistake she ever made. He proceeded to make short skirts an integral part of the Chanel suit.

The 90’s and 2000’s saw a significant resurgence of the mini. It was incorporated everywhere from the red carpet to work wear. Today, the mini is seen no longer as the scandalous symbol of rebellion it once was. Society and social norms have evolved to catch up with the ideas the garment embodied, and it is now viewed as a basic wardrobe staple of the modern woman.

Fashion Archives: A Look at the History of Silk

When we think of silk, we think glamour and opulence. No other fabric can quite compare with its beauty, which is why it is used so often for formal gowns and other luxury garments. But silk was around long before flowing bias-cut dresses graced celebrities on the red carpet. In fact, while it is still considered an upscale fabric, silk used to be much more of a rarity than it is today.

Nowadays, silk clothing is available off the rack. But long ago, the fabric was considered to be so precious that it was reserved only for a select few, and it’s production was shrouded in mystery.

As a natural fiber, technically silk has existed for as long as its source has. However, humanity was clever enough to figure out how to harness this resource into a raw material sometime within the last five to ten thousand years.

Silk production originated in ancient China, but it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when. Recognizing the immense value of silk fabric, it became the nation’s most well guarded secret.

While the fabric itself was frequently exported to other countries, no one outside of China knew how it was made. And for good reason- the penalty for revealing the process was execution. Silk was in high demand by the royalty and nobility of foreign nations who were willing to pay high prices for the fabric. Even within China, peasants were forbidden to wear silk up until the Qing Dynasty.

Many rumors and stories were made up to throw off Westerners looking to discover the secret of silk. For example, Pliny claimed in his Natural history of 70 B.C. that “Silk was obtained by removing the down from the leaves with the help of water.” It is for this reason that its origins are so hazy; the records of silk’s early history are half fact, half legend.

A more apt tale that depicts the discovery of silk involves Chinese Empress Si Ling Chi, taking place around 2696 B.C. While taking her tea in the garden, a silkworm cocoon fell into her cup. As she peered into the hot water, she noticed that the cocoon had begun to unravel and the thread was very strong and soft. While the accuracy of this story is dubious, it offers insight into the basic first steps of silk production.

The silkworm is allowed to spin a cocoon, and once finished, the completed cocoon is steamed to kill the moth. The cocoon is then rinsed in hot water to loosen the fibers, which are plied together to create silk thread. Finally, the thread is woven into fabric.

Silk was heavily integrated into ancient Chinese culture. There were many rules surrounding it; for example, it was customary for the emperor to wear a robe of white silk when out, while his principal wife and his heir to the throne were both outfitted in yellow silk.

In addition to clothing, the fabric had other uses. During a time where the barter system was still heavily relied on, silk was used as a currency in both foreign and domestic trade. Government officials were known to receive their salaries in the form of silk bolts, and farmers could pay taxes with the fabric.

The secrecy surrounding silk fell apart around 200 B.C. when a wave of Chinese immigration to Korea brought silk production to the country. The fabric continued to travel, and reached India just after A.D. 300.

Silk production was brought further west in 550 A.D., when two monks from the Byzantine Empire smuggled silkworm eggs out of China. Byzantium began a successful silk market in the Middle East. By the 6th century Iran had a thriving silk weaving industry. Silk production finally reached Europe in the 13thcentury, and luxury goods made from lavish Eastern silks were already hugely popular. Italy brought in two thousand professional silk weavers from Constantinople, and created a booming silk industry. At this point, silk fabric had become a much more global commodity.

With silk production accessible to the world, the fabric became integrated in the fashions of nearly every culture. Various countries have had silk industries grow and decline as centuries passed. In much more recent years (namely, the last twenty), China has once again become the world’s top producer of silk, although the industry looks nothing like what it used to in ancient times.

Modern technology has changed the way silk is made and marketed. Synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester have been developed to replace silk for certain uses, allowing it to be reserved for items at a higher price point. However, mechanized production is now, of course, standard in the textile industry, meaning most silk is not nearly as valuable today as it was in ancient China. Even so, silk continues to have an un-shakeable reputation for being the ultimate in beauty and luxury.

Six Things to Consider Before Pursuing a Degree in Fashion

Just a few things to keep in mind before packing your sketchbooks!

Even though the Benjamin’s could be lining your pockets one day, let’s remember that this day is way, way off and there is a lot of planning to do before you skip off to fashion school. Shiny magazine spreads, astronomical price tags and high-profile movies like The Devil Wears Prada all suggest a world of endless glamour without hinting at the real work completed before the red carpet is unrolled. Of course most professions require diligence and effort, but the fast-paced world of fashion is an entirely different kind of beast that most can’t dream of taming. Before you’re blinded by the bright lights of the runway, take a few minutes to consider the following.

1. Personality

Here is the part where you take a deep breath, step back and evaluate yourself and your willingness to crawl to the top of the totem pole, because that’s what it’s going to take. The world of fashion is reserved for only the most dedicated and creative visionaries on the planet, leaving no room at the top for the mediocre. It’s important to be able to grab the bull by the horns and take initiative because nothing in this line of work will be handed to you, making the fruit of your labors so much sweeter in the end. Keep in mind that graduates rarely start designing immediately after school, so it’s also important to ensure you can handle a career with countless highs and lows. While it’s important to have strong organizational and communication skills, a dash of insomnia never hurts.

There’s no better time than the present to ask yourself these crucial questions:

  • Have I been dreaming of a life in fashion for as long as I can remember?
  • Am I willing to go the extra mile, or five, to get what I want?
  • Am I willing to give up sleep and a large chunk of my social life?
  • Now most importantly, am I willing to do everything it takes to make my dream a reality?

2. Passion

Moment of truth: is your sewing machine collecting dust in the bottom of your closet or does it occupy the prime reality that is your kitchen table? It’s impossible to stress enough that you must eat, breath, live and dream fashion. If your charcoals and sketchbooks are in hiding, then I would suggest enjoying the fashions of the nearest Betseyville boutique instead of aspiring to be her next intern.

3. Talent

In the words of Edna Woolman Chase, “Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.” Remember in fifth grade when everyone at baseball tryouts miraculously made the team? Unfortunately, this industry is quite the opposite and without a bit of natural ability you won’t be taking home a trophy. Raw talent is seen as a jewel that designers can mold and shape to fit their own brand, but it’s not something that can necessarily be taught. Of course, through schooling and practice skills can be sharpened, but if they don’t come somewhat naturally, you’re probably better off in another field.

4. The School’s Reputation

It can be harder to be taken seriously without a degree from a well-known school so it’s important to weigh the options carefully. Take Parsons, The New School for Design for example. They are considered the top ranking fashion school in the United States and third in the world. College is the first opportunity most designers have to start making their mark on the industry and it’s important to attend a school with the power to back you and your dreams.

Do your research before applying and ask yourself some basic questions about the institution.

  • How well-known and respected is the school?
  • Who are the alumni?
  • What opportunities will you have to travel to fashion hotspots or intern with top designers?
  • How padded will your portfolio be when you graduate?
  • Do you know anyone who has went to this school and what are their thoughts?
  • Is your school of choice accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design?

Remember, these are only a handful of the important questions you should be asking yourself. Start writing questions when they cross your mind so you can research the answers later. After all, getting a glimpse into your future as a fashion student and researching your top choices can be a lot of fun.

5. Finances

When Coco Chanel said “The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive,” she might as well have been talking about Fashion institutions. They aren’t located on every bustling block and the best of the best come with hefty price tags. Keep in mind that community colleges and career schools are usually less expensive, but they won’t offer you the resume boost of a high profile college like Parsons, The New School for Design When budgeting your future school, ensure that you add in tuition, books, room and board, material fees and even the less obvious, like food (even the dollar menu gets expensive after a while). While this may seem overwhelming at first, remember that countless scholarships, grants and loans are waiting for a great student like yourself to take advantage of.

6. The Backup Plan

As disheartening as it may be to recognize failure as an option, it’s important to at least acknowledge the “what if’s” in life. For example, what if a year into your education you decide that a fashion degree isn’t for you? Will you choose to utilize your new skills to teach an art class? Make it a hobby and sell your designs on Etsy? Do some caricatures at the local park for crumpled dollar bills? Whatever your backup plan, ensure that it’s a solid and obtainable goal. Rejection is hard, but it will hit a lot harder if you’re left in the rain with nothing but your sketchbooks due to a lack of planning.

Congratulations, it looks like you’ve made it through the entire list and are now one small step closer to the fashion school of your choice. Take another deep breath and go chase your dreams.

Just remember, only the sharks survive in the fashion fish tank.

FASHION & MOTHERHOOD: BLOG ABOUT IT

A stay-at-home mom knows she’s more than her suds-soaked hands cleaning baby food, plastic plates and her pockets full of toy trinkets. She may be surrounded by a disarray of colored blocks and scattered books and continually listening to “Little Einsteins” or “Thomas the Train.” The non-working mom may encounter the unavoidable, proverbial identity crisis.

While zoning out in a conversation about breast feeding with other moms, do you ask yourself, “Have my passions and dreams gotten lost into the abyss of my past life?” Standing in front of the mirror, do you think, “Fashion and style once filled me with exuberance, and now I just try to wear clothes from the clean pile.” According to sites that offer an online art degree, using visual-development principles and color to portray feeling and mood effectively is learned, but can be expressed through a blog. Starting a fashion blog the perfect expressive outlet for escaping your role as a mother.

Envision It

Reclaim your inner fashionista and a sense of independence and purpose by blogging. A blog is an accessible platform for expression — from sharing stories about motherhood and fashion inspirations to posting cute outfits and hot trends. A blog about fashion from the perspective of a full-time mom will be your digital space where you can be creative, feel purposeful and connect with others who share your passions and insights. Conceptualizing outfits of the day and posting daily blog posts will become accomplishments — a hobby that separates your life of changing diapers and attending play dates from who you are as an individual.

Tap into your personal style, look at your wardrobe and observe fashions that attract your eye to create an identity and blogging brand. Use other fashion blogs as inspiration and guidance, but find your own distinct voice and style. GoodLifeForLess.blogspot.com features simple and fun clothes that can “improve your self-esteem and your life experience.” For Jill, blogger of GoodLifeForLess says she simply refuses to “feel frumpy.” Blogger of CanIWearThatToPlaygroup.com shares her whimsical fashions that are also realistic and comfortable for the active mom. What inspires you?

Design, Grow & Promote It

Bring your fashion blog to fruition by selecting a domain name; test to see if the domain name you want to use is taken through services like GoDaddy.com. Once you’ve determined a catchy domain that represents your personality, choose a design template that aesthetically reflects your style. Customize your Blogger or WordPress blog so you can have a one-of-a-kind design and an easy-to-navigate layout that meets your preferences. You can easily download and install pre-designed blog templates and waste no time writing, posing and posting!

After you’ve established the design of your blog, you’ll want to follow these steps:

  • Find a superior, reliable hosting service such as RFE Hosting, a service that can also manage Blogger to WordPress transfers
  • Use a self-timer feature on a timer camera to take original photos of your outfits, accessories and even hair styles
  • Download apps for creating outfit-inspiration graphics such as the mobile app Picstitch and the website Polyvore
  • Include proper search engine optimization (SEO) and metadata, including meta-titles, meta-descriptions and relevant keywords
  • Share posts actively on social networking sites and use hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to increase your online presence, promote your content and build relationships with other bloggers who also write about fashion and motherhood. The Budget Fashionista recommends networking with the fashion blogging community at conferences, such as by Lucky Magazine’s Fashion and Beauty Blog Conference (FABB) and Independent Fashion Blogger’s FIB conference.
  • Offer free giveaways and sweepstakes to engage fans and drive traffic

Most importantly, go shopping, get creative and have fun!