Taking a defining moment and turning it into long term success is not easy, and sometimes it takes a long time to do. I did just that and shared the story on the Right After Breakfast Podcast. Check it out Here!
Pop Up Shops are the best form of market research that there is. testing products is so important to develop the perfect items for your audience. testing sizing, price, colors, shapes and silhouettes before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a large production run. pop up shops can also teach you a lot about who your customer is. sometimes you may think it’s one type of person, but in expanding a product line, could find that your audience is a different type of person altogether.
when testing your product it is important to choose numerous locations to “pop up”, or if you are only able to choose one location, to stay there for a solid amount of time- 2 weeks or more - in order to be able to conduct a certain enough study. there are always going to be days that areslower than others, but testing your product for at least 2 weeks will allow you to leave out inconsistencies like weather, politics or events out of your control. Seasonally, you may need to switch up your designs to reflect the season that you are in. no matter how cute or well-fitting the design of yours is, if people are not in the mindset to be shopping for your product, they won’t purchase.
if you're having a hard time deciding on a certain color or color combinations of a product, pop up shops and weekend markets are a great way to see what will sell better. Sometimes the decisions come from your customers and not always from you, the designer.
i never intended on changing my business model to be that of an accessories designer but after months of selling clothing, accessories and lifestyle products, my accessories took off in a way i wasn’t intending. i offered clutches in many styles, colors and fabrics and decided on doing full production on the ones that sold best, dropping other styles, no matter how cute i thought they were.
pricing your products can be tricky. When starting out, pricing your work can feel like putting a number on your baby, but removing the emotional factor is key, and testing out that number is crucial. look at similar brands that are out there and to see what similar product lines are selling for and start out your pricing accordingly. ask friends what they would pay for an item like the one you are offering and see if you are in the right ball park. I always aim on the higher side of the price range and if things aren’t selling, you can bring the price down accordingly and see where your sweet spot falls.
when you have a short amount of time, and a small space to make an impression, it’s crucial to make yourself stand out. a great display is paramount to sales. Customers are buying into your brand when they are purchasing an item from your company. the same item can be sold by two different companies and feel completely different depending on how it’s sold to someone. make sure you make the exact impression that you want to make. colors, textures, decorations and displays can all make a mental impact on the shoppers that you see. from the way your business card looks down to the bag that you put your product in after your customer purchases makes a big difference in your shoppers brain and makes them want to make a repeat purchase at a later date!
if printmaking is part of your business plan, you might want to test a new print with your audience before spending a large amount of money on a big chunk of your collection. I've been playing with different tee shirt prints in my past few seasons, and one of my most recent tests turned out to be very profitable.
i started testing designs with a bunch of buttons/pins i made. i sent multiple designs to my buttonmaker and sold them individually. i got to really see what people responded to and which sold out first. my "makeup face" was hands down my best seller. girls loved the way the eyeliner and lipstick print looked like a really fun, cute face. (it was also my self portrait- haha!) I sold my pins for $3 or 3/$8 and they cost me $0.50 each to make.
I made myself a sparkly clutch with that same self portrait on it, and carried it around as my own personal, custom clutch. anyone who saw it in my pop up shop commented on it when they saw it against the already huge selection that i was already offering. i started making small quantities of that clutch style and it was always one of the first styles to sell out at my shop. these cost me about $5 to make and i sold them for $20 or 2/$35.
once i realized that people loved this design, i tried it out on a sweatshirt. i got my sweatshirts printed at Panther Printing Co. in NJ (they ship everywhere) and spent $20/piece doing a large run of sweatshirts. the sweatshirt started selling immediately and i sold out of my first run in a couple months. now, i am expanding the print into other designs in the future (baby onesies?! more sweatshirts?! tanks?!) the future is full of possibilities, but knowing that my pre-existing audience
tip: printmaking is priced by the number of colors you use, not how large the print is. you could have an itty bitty print with 10 colors and it will be much more expensive than a large print with 1 color. each color is printed onto the garment with a specific screen, and each screen is aligned with the others so that the print lines up. each screen costs money to set up, and therefore each color costs more money to print.
ps. i'm currently wearing this sweatshirt as i nervously type this in turbulence on an airplane. i get so many compliments on this wherever i go and hope this one small example gives you lots of great ideas!!
pricing can be tricky. in the beginning i was psyched that anyone would want to pay me for my creations. my most popular custom piece of my career was the piece i made the least amount of money on, it was also one of the first. now that i've been charging for my clothing for almost a decade, i feel like i've gotten to a point where i understand the market and the girls that i'm dressing.
a lot of people have no idea how to put a price tag on their art or their designs. its a super tricky thing to put a price on a thought you had that you turned into a reality.
how much did your materials cost you? how much did it actually cost YOU to make the dress? not the cost of your crying and your stress. the actual cost of materials, let's start there. don't forget things like thread, buttons, zippers, tags, etc. creating a product is pricy.
did you pay someone to make your garment? your pattern? how much did you pay them?
now before we clock in things like, time, overhead, markup, etc. lets think about your customer.
is this a custom piece or a part of your line? right there you know youre going to have a huge difference in price. if someone else can get the exact same piece from your line, you cannot charge as much as you can for a custom piece that nobody else in the world will have. you can triple that price to start and then factor in your time to either produce or manufacture that piece. knowing your costing formula is important to understanding your customers. grab your worksheet below so youll have an idea of where to start!
collaborations can be tricky. the relationship has to be right. if there is a potential company that you are trying to get in with, make sure that when they see you, they know that you are completely on their brand. wearing, being aware of, or promoting their already existing business is a great way to get on their radar. if you love a shoe company, make sure that if you don't already own their product, you exude the lifestyle that the particular brand promotes. do not jump the gun, so to speak, on potential partnerships. nothing should be forced on either end, and everything should feel 100% natural.
striking while the iron is hot is crucial, so if you are riding high on a wave of success, or a giant press hit, that is the perfect time to reach out. the build up should already be in place. don't blow it by reaching out too early, or when your brand is not as developed as it should be. you wouldn't want to work with a no-name newbie, would you? (sorry, truth). it will also be harder to reach out later because they may just look right over you having brushed by in the past. develop your own brand before you get anyone else from another company involved.
you need to be very confident and aware of your own brand before getting your branding and marketing confused and tangled up with another. a partnership is just like any other relationship. as any relationship guru says, you need to love yourself before you can love someone else. the same goes for business partnerships. (sorry that was the cheesiest thing ever...EVER)
here's a scenario: you get a phone call from a new client and they pitch this amazing photo or video shoot that they want you to style and it sounds AMAZING and SO up your alley and you want to work on it more than anything. all of the ideas are there, all of the people that you want to work with are there, everything is perfect, there's just one thing. they can't pay you.
now, should you be insulted, hang up the phone and say, "NO WAY, how rude" etc etc? maybe. but maybe the better thing to say would be. "oh, okay, i understand. let me think about it and get back to you."
now, think about it. are you a seasoned vet with a super crammed schedule full of shoots? okay. then maybe you turn this one down and give it to an assistant or intern that is working under you. they will appreciate the experience and you will look good to the producer.
are you trying to build your portfolio? are you new to the world of being on set and don't understand how to build your client list? are you trying to grow your connections to the styling world?
the first music video i ever worked on [see below] was for free. it co-starred ron jeremy (no, i was not working on a porn set) and it was for a new production company (Dreambear Productions). they assumed that because i had worked with so many musicians that i knew how to style a music video. now, making clothes for musicians and working on a music video is a completely different world. exiting my studio and walking on a set was a totally different experience. this music video in particular was a great project to work on. i did everything, even if i didn't know how to do it- hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, everything. the first rule of starting a new job is an obvious one- fake it 'til you make it. i brought my intern on and we just had a ball. i dug through my own closet, i asked my friends to borrow things from their closets, i really hustled, and in the end i was happy with the final result.
(looking back now, i would have done a million things differently, but that comes with the territory)
that production company went on to be a successful company that paid me to style tons of videos for years to come. they knew me, they trusted me, and because i was there for them in the beginning, they stuck with me and always gave my name out to other producer friends looking for stylists. getting in with a new company can be a great way to build your portfolio. the lead producer also went on to become one of my best friends.
a lot of designers will only lend their clothes to people that they trust and who have a large client list. i have learned the hard way that it is not always about the quantity of people that you lend your clothes to, but the quality.
always vet people before letting them wear and represent your brand in photos.
this goes the same for when you are trying to get people to lend you their clothes. it's hard to build your list of contacts when you have never worked in this particular industry before.
moral of the story: sometimes the job is worth taking if you are just starting out because i really truly believe that work brings more work. don't let the job cost you any money. make a list of costs that you know you cannot get back (ie: returning clothes). and always make sure that production feeds you. ;) even if its pizza, granola bars and coffee.
the biggest problem when learning how to properly design clothing, is learning how to make the garment properly FIT. if the fit of the garment is off, it won't matter how cute the garment is, or what kind of trims and fabric are used, the customer will not purchase it. Do you have a favorite pair of jeans? or a favorite dress that fits you SO perfectly? look at the measurement guides that your favorite brands should have listed on their company websites and see what their measurements are for your corresponding size.
take a look at your favorite design companies and see how they measure and guide the fit of their clothing and you might be able to have a better idea of how you'd like your designs to fit. for example, my designs focus a lot on the fit of a garment at the waist, so many things are tight fitting, or cropped at the waist and accentuate the hourglass silhouette of many of my customers.
this is not to say that i like to cut out a huge demographic by not offering clothing for every body type, but i realize who the majority of my customers are and know how they like their clothes to fit. there are many companies out there that cater to different niches and by knowing which companies cater to you, you will become a smarter, more informed shopper and have a better understanding of the market and industry that you are entering into.
when you print out my bonus measuring guide, fill in the spots on the form with the measurements that correspond with your favorite companies. compare them and see how they stack up. if they are all the same then maybe those are the measurements that you would like to design within, too.
inside the course, you will learn more about fit, cutters musts and tech packs and how to properly fill those out to ensure your clothing is made to your standards.
knowing your own measurements is so important in not only understanding your health but being able to see how your own designs fit a real person- you! when youre checking on production, or making a fit sample, you need to see how they actually feel before putting hundreds of pieces into production. if you don't have a measuring tape A. get one immediately, they're like, $1 but B. you can also use a string and measure the string against a ruler or yardstick. simple little hack- but, seriously, buy a measuring tape ;)
It's no secret that college, and design school specifically, is super expensive. i was paying a couple thousand dollars a credit for my classes in college. (I attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn). I am very glad that i went to school there and i do not regret it at all, but to be completely 100% honest, it only gave me the knowledge and technical skills to make the actual physical products that i would be selling but not the understanding of how i would sell those garments, and how others would purchase them. Not everybody wants to leave design school and work for a super large company where their job could easily get absorbed into somebody else's or where, after spending 4 years designing stuff that you absolutely loved, now you're designing the buttons that go on mens white dress shirts.
"...it only gave me the knowledge and technical skills to make the actual physical products that i would be selling but not the understanding of how i would sell those garments, and how others would purchase them."
Learning from somebody who attended and graduated from art school and is living the life that you someday want to live, is so important. real life experience is something that no school can teach you, its something that is so personal and real and having an inside scoop on how to save yourself/help yourself within a very intense industry is key to finding success. With my course, i am teaching you about every single very expensive mistake that i made while starting my business, and also teaching you how not to get screwed by other businesses/people (i did). I am also sharing with you real life experiences of how i did it ON MY OWN and WITHOUT AN INVESTOR. this is so important because so many times youre going to be told how you do something through hiring someone else. i did not hire other people to do my PR, or sell my clothes. I DID IT MYSELF. do your research, put in the work and you can do it too. i am proof.
who knows what the future will bring, if i will be creating courses about all of the things that I DID learn in the classroom, but for now i wanted to teach the things that i taught myself, because those are the things that i get asked about on a daily basis. Maybe people will be learning less in the classroom and more online in the future, and maybe even if online courses will someday replace college. Who knows. for now, i am happy to provide the information that i learned from doing it myself, and hopefully this will help you, too. enroll here.
In 2008 I was finishing up my Sophomore year at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. I was a very ambitious, happy, twenty year old student and was always going after things outside of the classroom. I was featured as a prom dress designer on TRL. America voted on the best prom dress and i lost pretty terribly. I was going home to Massachusetts for the summer to work (i wanted to stay so badly!) My friends were all staying in the city and were organizing a fashion show for the end of the summer. they would be organizing the venue and press and were very serious about it. the two of them were kind of a mess and when i would ask for updates, i wouldn’t get much. I was working about 80 hours a week between 3 jobs (Ice cream scooping, babysitting & substitute teaching). Whenever i was not working, i was creating this collection. I was exhausted.
I was putting everything into the fact that this fashion show at the end of the summer would do something for me. They were some of the cutest clothes i had ever made. I loved them. I organized a photoshoot that I was shooting with two of my friends. I packed up all of the clothes, shoes and jewelry, picked up 2 dozen balloons for props and was about to go to location when i got a phone call. My friends had dropped the ball and the fashion show in NYC was no longer happening. I was holding 2 dozen balloons in a grocery store parking lot in small town, Massachusetts. I was devastated. I drove to the photoshoot in my Grandma's car that i was borrowing and didn’t say anything to anyone about this. The shoot was amazing. The clothes looked perfect.
After the shoot I got back into my car and “I kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry came on the radio. I said out loud, “she is going to wear my clothes”. One week later she was.
oh, it would be so nice if when i started dressing katy perry i figured out how to capitalize on that 100% and start a business.
I had no intention of starting a business, i just knew it would be amazing to get these clothes on her.
On September 2, 2008 Katy Perry wrote this blog post about me. It changed my life. timing is everything and it happening then was amazing, but i was still in school and not able to fully dive into what i needed to in order to really, actually begin my business. I had to complete internships for other companies while i was working on VMA outfits, i was studying for a history test while girls in California would be emailing me for custom prom dresses. everything happened backwards.
In December of 2008 I went to a casting that was recommended to me from a professor. It was for a show on MTV. I was chosen to star in it and filmed a pilot, and for 1 week of my life, i was the creative director of Ecko Red (by Marc Ecko). The producers told me to drop out of school, that we would begin filming in March and then that would be it. I didn’t drop out of school and the show never got picked up. I had my first fashion show in the summer of 2009 at a club in the meatpacking district and was continuing to generate buzz but was also interning at betsey johnson to fulfill graduation requirements and had no money.
when i was in my senior year of college, i got an email from Betsey Johnson's PR Team. my internship had ended a couple months prior and apparently betsey wanted to have lunch with me to chat about some things. i went to lunch, just me and bets, to chat. she told me that i was exactly what her company was looking for, and that i would be brought on part time for my final semester and then brought on full time when i graduated. i was ecstatic. she told me she would call me in january to discuss the details. well, by the time march rolled around i still hadn't heard from them (after numerous follow ups). in april i applied for the job and 2 weeks later she gave the job to someone else. i was devastated. again. she was my hero.
when i graduated from Pratt Institute in Spring 2010 i did not know what i was going to do. i had a big big rent check to pay ($1400) and a boyfriend that wanted to come in from Connecticut to spend the summer with me. that sounded great, we had a long distance relationship for the past year and i would have loved to spend the summer running around NYC going to concerts. i didn’t want to think about work, i just graduated. this was a big mistake. i should have done more research and dove in head first.
i was applying to jobs but my resume made me look over qualified. nobody else was graduating from college at 22 years old, having had pieces on stage and in magazines all over the world.
i looked like an entrepreneur on paper but i didn’t know how to be one in real life.
i took an awful bakery job (this was my rock bottom) and worked for almost a year there making very, very little money and using up all of my savings every month to pay rent. looking back, i should never have taken that job. when i left that job i began babysitting for a family in Brooklyn. this was a better job than the bakery, and they understood my career and what my goals were for myself (i’m still very close with that family).
It wasn’t until late 2011/early 2012 that i started realizing that i had to start actually doing this or else nothing would ever change. i still made custom things here and there for people (like, 4 a year) and made “collections” that would sit on my rack because i didn’t know what happened after you took the pictures of the finished clothes. i broke up with my boyfriend, put out a collection of wild and wacky circle skirts and threw a giant launch party. this generated a lot of press but was done on a VERY small budget, so looking back at it, it was so terribly stressful on so many levels.
There was a lot of interest from television producers to get me my own television show. My best friend and I had been filming and working on a pilot with a manager (who turned out to just be an addict) and were making pitches to many production companies. We eventually got a development deal but the contract terms were so crazy that we wouldn’t sign. in 2013 i put out a collection of fun things for the home, because i thought- ‘these are things that are easy for me to produce and that play off of the crazy and cute clothes that i design’. the clothes that i had designed were not producible- they were super detailed and crazy but would have to be made one at a time and would cost SO much to produce that nobody would actually buy them.
i sold my pillows, coasters and napkins at markets, took on a couple of custom clients, and worked with a big business woman to help me work on my business plan. we worked remotely every single day of the summer in 2013 and at the end of the summer i would make a pitch to someone that would hopefully invest his resources in my company. i worked my butt off and emptied my savings account to hire her ($3500) and work on this. i believed in this. that summer felt like business school. i did not know anything about business plans and did not know how to make pitches or understand fully what i would need in order to get my life off of the ground. i made my pitch to a business owner who owned manufacturing and design companies. he loved me, it went great. we started planning for a mobile pop up shop, we planned for a Q4 collection launch. i designed and designed and kept presenting him with more info and research and designs. this went on for about a month, but he still hadn't invested or given me anything.
in October, while babysitting, i got a phone call from him that said he was not going to be investing and he didn’t know what he was going to do with me so he was out.
i cried. i drank a lot of wine. I ate a bunch of italian food. Then I drank a bunch of cocktails. then i puked up all of the italian food (cannoli included) that i had before that. I was so defeated. i knew bigger things were in store for me.
by the end of 2013 i was up and brainstorming and in January 2014 i sat in my desk, reading teen vogue, upset that my things weren’t in it. i needed to find a fun and quirky way to get my aesthetic out there in a way that was able to be manufactured, bought, and most importantly WORN.
then i got the idea that would change everything.
“everything needs to be reversible!” i texted my best friend, i google to see if anyone was already doing it, i drew. i got so excited. in February 2014 i shot my first retroversible collection (that i modeled). i emailed a store i really wanted to be in and they loved it, they wanted to throw me a big launch party and invite all of their friends. i wore the clothes into other stores and they wanted to buy them too. it was all happening. I had so many clothes to make. My mom drove up from Massachusetts to help me cut out as many outfits as we possibly could (like, a dozen skirts a day). it was crazy. I finished as many outfits as I could and threw a big party- 4.13.14- and people bought my clothes! I had my first window display! i drank a lot of champagne! I was receiving wholesale orders!
I started working with Megan Nicole, Youtube starlet, the day after my first retroversible collection launch. we were making dresses together by the day. 6 months later, still very busy with Megan, i was releasing my second retroversible collection. i traveled to Los Angeles to network and shoot that collection. Many more stores wanted to place orders.
i came to the realization that i could no longer sew my own clothes. but crap, the orders were already placed, how would i find a factory that would fit within my price and turnaround time?
well, i did. i asked around, i hunted around the garment district. i asked my connections. i found one that worked. i gave them my fabric, my samples and my patterns and they gave me back my first garments ever that i designed and did not sew. i almost cried. they were perfect. I learned a lot about working with new people, new stores, getting screwed by new stores, and learning how to draw up contracts so that i would not get screwed. There are some very dishonest people out there, but i believe in karma and thats what gets me through the day.
Now 3 seasons later, I am still in that apartment that i got in college, and i just put out my 5th retroversible collection, and i am designing and creating Megan Nicole’s second set of costumes for her second tour. I began working with Andra Day on projects for Live! With Kelly & Michael and Late Night with Stephen Colbert. This lead me to work on commissioned pieces for a huge goal of mine, the 2016 Grammys. Andra debuted to the world wearing a jumpsuit by me under a huge Marabou coat. Every time i sell an item to a customer, the magic is not lost on me. getting orders on my website, or in person, or selling to a store, is an incredible thing. it was not an overnight success and many days the amount of work i put into my career makes me wonder if what i’m doing is the right thing. Seeing the growth of the last 8 years is incredible and sitting down writing this is a huge reminder that YES, it is. It is all happening for me, i am living my dream. I did not want to graduate and work at a job for somebody else every single day. I wanted to build a company under my own name. I am doing that, and i am growing it every single day.
It is not easy, but if you work hard enough, and never ever give up on yourself, it will happen for you. you have nothing to lose. i know that sounds lame as hell, but you got this.
ps. Katy Perry still gives me free concert tickets, betsey johnson went bankrupt, closed her stores and lost on Dancing With The Stars. And my friends that screwed me over in 2008? one works in retail and last time i talked to the other one, she told me she was "between jobs." and we all know what that means.
pps. i could not have survived those 8 years without the people who have been part of my team since the beginning: mom, katrina, michaela, macy, ashley, donni & sarah to name a few. i don't know where i would be without you.
for years i would get emails asking me the same questions over and over again:
- how do you do what you do?
- how did you dress katy perry?
- how did you grow your business?
- How did you get that magazine/tv feature?
- you're so young, how did you figure it out?
i did not even know that E-Courses and online learning platforms were a thing. I reconnected with a friend of mine from back in Massachusetts and internet boss babe, Mariah Coz, and she opened my eyes to the possibility of me having my own online learning platform, a course thatteaches people how to do what i do. I learned all about how her business teaches thousands of students around the world how to do what she does and how profitable her life is. I have always been interested in teaching and inspiring students but never wanted to have to give up my business in order to do so. I saw so many professors of mine teach classes part time and have their own small business the other half of the time. I knew i never wanted a business like that.
I wanted a full time booming business, but still wanted to educate people at the same time. how would i manage all of that by myself?
enter: the internet. after mariah explained how her life worked and introduced me to a corner of the internet i never knew existed, i was hooked. i wanted in. i wanted to be a part of this world. I realized then that if i created my own online class once, it could sustain itself once and my students could learn from me on their schedule, whenever they wanted to. I never needed to answer all of those emails about how my life works again, the course would do that for me.
Mariah introduced me to her course, Launch Your Signature Course, which outlined EXACTLY what i needed to do in order to create a specialty course for my audience and off I went. I could not have done it without this course. It was a perfect step by step guide for me, a fashion designer, looking to make another income without starting an entirely new business.
Mariah & I jumped on Periscope recently and shared our insight into the course world and how I used LYSC to create my own course for my own niche. Enter your email below to watch the live stream.
When i think about the last 8 years of my life, from the moment that Katy Perry published the first blog that introduced the public to me, i think about how i now pick my orders up from my factory and drop orders off at stores and see people online wearing my clothes and how that feels like something that i thought would never happen 8 years ago. the 7 years in between was not easy, there was a lot to figure out in order to get one sewn design from each idea off of the rack on in my apartment, sized, produced, tagged and put on racks in stores.
The course that i have come up with, So You Wanna Be A Fashion Designer, answers all of the questions of the 6 years of my life where i was struggling to put together a business with products and customers. I said i was a business owner and felt like one when i was working with celebrities and magazines, but at the same time, i was working a lot of smaller jobs while trying to keep my dreams alive. It wasn't until i began putting money into my work and getting items produced that were able to actually sell that i started to feel like a real, proud, business owner. i was able to see my clothing in stores and have people try on multiple sizes and that was something to be proud of. i had people telling me that my business was inspiring and they wanted to know how i did it. i now have a place to refer them to, my course website, so that they are now able to learn just how i did it better than i could explain.
I have no desire to change the path of where i see my fashion design company going, but with this course, it allows me to have a multiple income stream that does not need to be maintained and thrives on its own. this does not require a huge overhead or physical products that need to be purchased and is a point of my business that can validate and open up many other aspects of my brand.
when you are an entrepreneur, you never seem to actually reach your goals. I mean that in the best possible way, we are over achievers of the highest level and any and everything that we want is never going to be good enough, even when its bigger and better than you thought it could be.
when i reached a huge goal of mine, having my clothes worn on stage at the Grammys, i remember people asking me "oh my gosh are you so excited? are you celebrating?" and while, yes, i was drinking champagne, i was already thinking about what needed to happen next in order to take full advantage of this huge moment while also setting forth new goals. This is the vicious cycle of the life we live. it is a mindset and a lifestyle full of thinking of the next thing and trying to capitalize on the moment that we are currently living in.
Making goals is essential to whatever you want to achieve in life. writing down your lists of long and short term goals, things you want to get done today and tomorrow and this week and this year and in this career.... it is all crucial to starting a business.
Press is great, and validating to your career, but it is not everything. having a great press hit makes a business a little more legitimate and exposes you to a lot more eyeballs, but press does not always translate into dollars. sometimes, but not always. I've had some press hits that have brought in more clients than i could have ever dreamed, and others that have translated to a couple of facebook likes and a few emails. you never know what anything is going to get you, but thats why goals are important. you have nothing to lose by going after these and who knows, the right goal might just change your entire business and life!
whenever i’m going anywhere, even somewhere fancy and I'm only packing a clutch, i keep business cards on me. phone, id, lipstick, credit card, keys, business cards. check check, check check check.
i get myself looking “on brand” and walk out the door. if anyone compliments your look or something that you are wearing, ask them about themselves and what they do and ask them for a card. asking them for a card means that you are interested in what they do (it’s also a great way to get a cute boy’s phone number without having to awkwardly ask for it). when they start to fish through their bag for their card, go for yours and make the exchange. it never has to be an awkward situation. play it cool, give them a brief elevator pitch about what you do:
when people ask me what i do i always respond with the same answer. i’m a fashion designer. i make super fun, flirty, retro, rock and roll pieces. i work with a lot of musicians, it’s fun. (they’ll usually interject and then you can let them know that “this is one of my skirts, see it’s reversible!” wham bam. being a walking advertisement for yourself is so important if your clothes are wearable in your day to day life. when i begin explaining my work to other people they understand because the aesthetic of my business is the same aesthetic in which i am dressed and put together. it is not essential that this is how you live your life, but being able to do that has absolutely proven key in my own self promotion. being able to casually make those pitches and start a conversation with anyone is key in life and an absolute necessity in owning your own business, even though Sofia Amoruso will tell you differently.
having a business card that leaves an impression, or leaving them with anything that leaves an impression is so important. people are handed things every single day, especially if they're at a party. the next day they'll open their wallet and a bunch of things will come falling out. you need yours to make an impression and remind them of you. be cute and clever and not too needy you got it.
the internet is an important key in business in 2016, but still just as important is face to face human interaction. it is a skill that is getting lost in the world that we live in, maybe i'm old fashioned, but being able to hold a conversation and enjoy a person's company is a great skill to have ;)
seeing my workplace as i lay in my bed is not always the ideal situation. seeing my bed from my workplace isn’t either. keeping your workplace separate definitely has its perks, but if working from home is what you're doing right now, sometimes you have to motivate yourself. I need to write notes. to do lists, notes, whiteboards, notebooks, anything that can surround me and let me know about all of my various projects. keeping them visible to you all day long is crucial. i need to remind myself of my tasks and almost overwhelm myself so that i am able to cross things out on my list and feel just as productive by the end of the day. write out tomorrow’s check list at the end of the work day so that you are able to sit down for the day with a fresh set of to-do’s. if you feel like you just aren’t enough, if being alone and not having someone watch you work is not enough motivation then i like to put on a podcast, webinar or other stimuli that features someone doing or speaking about doing the same things that i do. Small business owners that seem to be working harder than you are such an inspiration. Surrounding yourself with successful people that have a better business, better income or anything that you strive to have is motivation to work harder, to work an extra hour or click out of Facebook.
if you're a multi tasker, video or phone chats could be the way to go. it might seem like you have a coworker so you might work harder thinking someone is watching and looking to model their work ethic after yours. Do you have a friend that also works from home? get on video chat and let it play in the background so that you can both feel like you have a coworker or to share some silly thing you found on the internet with!
something i find that helps incredibly well is eating healthy during the day. if i have an unhealthy breakfast or lunch, it throws my whole day off. pay attention to how what you eat and drink makes you feel. its incredible what a difference that can make for your mood and therefore productivity.
if all else fails, pack up your laptop and go to the local coffeeshop, cause that’s what everyone else is doing. good luck!
i was featured on American Fashion Podcast recently speaking about the fashion industry and the path that i have taken in starting my career. its a very informative, fun, chat about the state of the industry in 2016. listen here!
I fell into my “side job” as stylist/costumer in a very natural way. I was working with many musicians and a friend of a friend was looking for someone to style a music video for her brand new production company. I was referred because my friend thought, styling and designing for a musician must be pretty similar, I’m sure Julie can do it. And though I never had before, I made it work. after I did that first video, I was cemented in that production company’s family and brought on board for every video they did afterwards. one of which featured a director that then hired me for 3 comedy central gigs.
Styling is a fun way to use clothing from many other brands and put your vision to work in a different way. In many instances, when appropriate, I will use my own designs in the project, but other times I’m happy to pull from all of the other designers that I admire. It's also a great way to be creative in a completely different way. i've worked on a post apocalyptic show three separate times, and though it was nothing to do with my day-to-day designs, it was a really fun way to work with fashion in a totally different way.
Styling has opened up my network in a huge way. Working with a team is a great way to get your name out there. Be nice and people will remember you for it (and hire you later!) work always brings more work, so if the day or hourly rate isn’t ideal, take it, because you would be surprised as to what job comes from it (I always am!).
i have also fallen into a business of private label work sort of on accident. i made some aprons for a Vogue magazine shoot and the woman in charge of that shoot sent my name over to Calvin Klein when they were looking for someone to make some aprons for a collaboration with Gwenyth Paltrow's company, Goop. you never ever know where your name is going to end up. the industry is so much smaller than you realize!
Style and aesthetic can go hand in hand but do not necessarily have to. Many designers’ personal style and design aesthetic have nothing to do with each other whereas others represent their customer to a t. I don’t think there is anything right or wrong with either, your design aesthetic is something that you will develop and change and understand more the longer you work, practice, play and draw. obviously, my aesthetic and style are very similar. i am a very representative face of my brand. some designers peek out at the end of their runway shows wearing head to toe black after showing a very colorful collection, whereas others cartwheel down the runway trailed by dozens of party dress clad girls holding balloons (hey, betsey). many designers are their ideal customers, whereas others design for the other gender. i love seeing the face behind a fashion brand. it always helps me understand the story that the designer is putting out there, even if they couldn't seemingly be more different.
A lot of people reach out to me when they are still in high school, asking me what they should do to prepare for design school and letting me know how badly they want to be a fashion designer someday.
I was that 16 year old girl that wanted to get out of her high school and move to the city and think about nothing but fashion design for the rest of my life.
while I was attending my very small, public high school with a one room art department and a home economics department that was only open because i basically wouldn't let it shut down (it ended as soon as i graduated) i had to look elsewhere for design education. I am from central massachusetts, outside of Worcester, MA. I looked through all of my options at anywhere that had anything to do with the arts. I started taking fashion design summer camp courses at the Worcester Art Museum. It's not a huge museum, but its resources were great. my teacher was amazing and i signed up for other classes with her during the school year. She knew that i wanted more from her and she gave me as many of her resources as she could. She was amazing. I looked into once a week classes at the Rhode Island School of Design during my junior year and on february vacation i took a week long intensive at Massachusetts College of Art (MASSart). I packed my schedule and got ready for apply for college.
Nights and weekends were spent with working on both my fine art portfolio as well as my fashion design portfolio. I didn't drink, i didn't really party, i just worked on getting into college, being better at design, and working on getting ahead at the life i wanted.
do i sound lame? i don't really care. i went after it then and it formed the type of workaholic i am now, and i am proud of that.
look wherever you can to take classes anywhere you can. surrounding yourself with people that are going after the same things as you is so important. i did it then and do it now.
and PS. my first friend at my first fashion design class was lady boss Mariah Coz. i was wearing a LAMB bag & shirt and she was wearing a No Doubt hoodie. It was fate.
while i was in design school i always thought that i would work for someone else before starting my own thing. the end goal was always to have my name on the inside label and have everyone on the red carpet saying that they were wearing Julie Mollo. I was interning for my favorite design company while I was in design school and I was promised a job at graduation by the designer herself. she revoked her promise and i had to hear that from her new HR girl after applying for the position months after I was told it was already mine. after that experience i realized that if a company like that, with people who knew me personally, could crush me like that, i did not want to work for them. or any other company.
i wanted to make my own.
Many of my friends that graduated from the fashion design program got design jobs for various dream companies within their niche and were completely miserable. many of my friends lost their passion and magic and left the fashion industry soon after starting in it. it was so sad to see, but the stories that i heard from them inspired me to work harder for myself. i was convinced that i could create a company full of bad ass chicks that wore sequins during the day and tulle tutus to concerts and just generally were full of ambition and buzz and sparkles and fun. i have always wanted to create a company full of people who loved coming in to work. I still have major goals in mind for the future and still want a big office full of girls who send emails all day in tutus but for now it is growing and on its way to becoming just that. i love the team that i have been putting together and can't wait to bring all of them on more permanently. i've been working with most of the same people for 6 years and love that i am able to do that.
stylist vs fashion designers
So, a lot of people think that because they like to get dressed in the morning and they like picking out outfits for their friends on a Friday night and they love to read Vogue so they want to be a fashion designer. Then there are the people that work out technical designs and dream up extraordinary things and make them on dress forms and want to sew them up and obsess over different seam and hem detailing. Those are two very very different types of people. but they often will work together and end up in the same industry. one is a designer and one is a stylist. stylists are very, very important to a designer, and without designers, stylist would have no job, so together they have a great relationship. there are different kinds of design and styling jobs. stylists put designers clothes on celebrities and in magazines and in the right people's hands.
some people like to use the words interchangeably, “my friend julie is a stylist” and then i have to say, “oh, actually I’m a designer” and they think, “same thing!” but it’s not. i’m not a stylist, i’ve been a stylist, i’ve styled shoots, i style my own look books, but i am not a stylist. stylists are like producers of looks. they use networks of many people to put together looks, call into designers and dream up a perfect piece or tell them what the client is going for. they choose 1000 pairs of shoes for every one look, they say how they want the hair, the jewels, the makeup and they put a team of options together for the client to put on. it’s a different world.
the designers are the ones making the actual clothes. thinking up a dream and drawing an outfit and tailoring it to fit the client perfectly. they have to think about the way that the fabric works with the design of the garment and how the fabric will work on the customer. they need to think about a lot of technical aspects within the actual garment.
some designers have an idea of how they want their garment styled but 10 different stylists are going to pair the same garment with 10 different things. sometimes trusting people with the look of your design is scary but the right stylist can change a designer's life.