A good receptionist knows her true power…

The receptionist is the most powerful woman in business...

The receptionist is the most powerful woman in business…

When I started at Richard Robinson, the first thing that I did was befriend the receptionist. She is the keeper of all fashion information while styled to absolute perfection. She is truly more powerful than one could ever imagine.

I decided to use my charm to tell her what my plans were and that I had no idea of where to start. “Gosh, it’s so hard!” I lamented while she nodded. I knew that I needed to get some contacts in the industry, but needed that first introduction from a reputable source. It happened over a coffee before class the next day, after chatting furiously with our hands over styling ideas, she pulled out the old-school rolodex and handed me a card.

My charm always works on men but who knew it would work on women too!

Before I even entered the class I had formulated my email. I am still perplexed how anything was done efficiently before Smartphones. A quick proof-read for professionalism and I hit send. Then I waited. And mildly stalked my in-box on an hourly basis.

And I got the response today! It took everything in my power not to jump through my phone to hug this woman.
“I would be happy to work with you in development of your line. I happen to specialize in pattern-making for odd sizes…” I do not take offence in that statement BTW…

Putting my professional hat back on, I’ve insisted that I meet her at her offices so that I can observe her work environment and discuss matters further. While I am thrilled to get the response, I don’t want just anybody working on this project – this is my baby – and she will still have to earn the job.

My first meeting in Montreal is scheduled! I have no idea what I am getting myself into! But I love a good road trip!

More Saturday reading recommendations

Technical but still interesting concepts

Technical but still interesting concepts

I have fallen into a really nice routine with working during the week and reading on the weekends. Here is what I am reading or reviewing for this weekend. It is critical for me to prove my friend wrong!

Missed a post or just starting to read now? Go back to the beginning at Day 1 to see what brought me here in the first place!

Have I really been this sheltered?

Another hidden jem

Another hidden jem-I’m not kidding

Another successful meeting in a place that I would never walk into had I not known where I was going.

Once I passed the grate-like door, I entered the large open space – again, filthy windows with scraps of fabric tacked to the wall to create a makeshift curtain to shield eyes from the gorgeous sun. My first impression is that why can’t they make proper curtains? But that is the strong need for aesthetics in me talking. Clearly, the creation of a lovely and beautiful workspace is not the priority here. To each their own.

Walking carefully past the massive, industrial iron presses and steamers, I begin to see the actual workspace. Dozens of mostly women – although I’m surprised to see a couple of men – hovering over sewing machines, working quietly, quickly and efficiently on the projects at hand. Scraps of fabric and thread lay strewn on the floor as if it had not been swept in months. A problem suddenly occurs at one of the sewing machines and everyone stops to gather around that station, inspecting the potential error to ensure that it is avoided in the future. As I am watching this scene unfold around me, I would be lying if I didn’t feel a little uncomfortable over the conditions.

And then it hits me – if I feel this way here in Canada with all the employment standards and workers rights that exist – I don’t even want to imagine the conditions in countries such as China or Bangladesh.

Obviously factory/manufacturing type work is not my cup of tea to begin with so naturally I would see it as being unpleasant regardless. And don’t get me wrong – the staff appeared happy – no chains to their workstations and there is a makeshift lunch room in the corner; so clearly, there are scheduled breaks. But, watching the production occur and understanding the business pressures to have projects completed faster and cheaper than ever before, one could easily take advantage of these individuals should laws not exists for their benefit.

I left this particular meeting feeling a little low and discouraged at the industry that I am about to enter into. It left me pondering the selfishness of the consumer and their expectation to pay the absolute minimum on a pair of candy-coloured skinny jeans produced in the far east off the backs of countless individuals – and – in that very same breath, expect that those who produced said garment would be well-paid for their maximum 40 hour work week schedule with mandatory vacation pay and EI benefits. A blatant contradiction in expectations and, let’s face it, reality.

My business is not big enough for factories in the far east to even entertain my inquiries so there is no point in even trying. But even when that time comes, I’m not certain that my conscience could ever really handle it anyways.

Made in Canada it is.

Would you walk into a place like this?

I had to climb a rusted ladder in heels...

I had to climb a rusted ladder in heels…

At first glance, I never imagined that a legitimate business would ever exist within these walls. I checked my addresses three times to make sure that I was in the right place and not being lured to my death. “Meet so-and-so by the freight elevators at this abandoned building…”

FYI – I’ve watched all the cheesy horror movies so I know that the pretty girl who wanders into the abandoned building/house/forest alone always dies. I happen to be missing the platinum blond hair and massive breasts yet things seemed eerily similar. Even so, ignoring all obvious warning bells, I still wandered in.

And what I found was astounding. A thriving industry of fabric suppliers teeming with life! Rooms packed to the ceiling with bolts of fabric in every colour and style imaginable. All surrounded by thick concrete, under a haze of light that filtered through the mismatched archaic windows (which may or may not have ever been cleaned). Fans were blowing a breeze in all directions. Sturdy yet ancient machinery was turning steadily, measuring massive amounts of fabric, working exactly as it should – no “modern” innovation required. Tables were overflowing with samples. And customers were leaving with dozens of bolts piled precariously on dollies down big freight elevators.

And also a little overwhelming.

I think he noticed the mild panic in my eyes and introduced himself. I immediately felt a sense of relief. I proceeded to spend the next three hours touring the spaces, digging through piles and getting excited at all the possibilities that were presented in front of me. I did enter into this scenario with a plan – to create leggings that make me excited to walk down the street. And with all the fabric choices in front of me, I am certain to find what I am looking for.

Leather and studs anyone?

My new work environment

And I could not be more thrilled. I finally feel like I am doing what I am truly meant to do. A weight has been lifted.
Not too much time to write today but I wanted to share my new surroundings 🙂 Thanks JJ

More meetings

More meetings

My new friend is actually looking for something - can you see him?!

My new friend is actually looking for something – can you see him?!

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My new second home

My new second home

Shhh…

shhh...

shhh…

I’m in Montreal for the next two days for meetings and introductions to referral-only suppliers.

Thank god I have been spending all this time reading textbooks on the weekend. The terminology of grading, cutting, recovery and the myriad of types of chiffon that exist will come in handy as I pretend to be a legitimate new designer and not a policy analyst…

A balancing act

Stunning - but a nightmare to care for...

Stunning – but a nightmare to care for…

What exactly am I trying to create during this development process?

And once I have figured out what I am trying to create, how the hell am I supposed to communicate this to a relative stranger (in another city no less) who will hopefully understand what it is I am trying to say through nothing more than enthusiasm and hand gestures; but then take this data to replicate and create a product that is, in reality, exists only in my head….

Sigh. This is not going to be easy.

At a basic level – what drives me nuts about all my current leggings?

1. They are too short. Annoying for many obvious tall reasons (cold ankles etc.) but also because I am forced to shave a third of my leg when I would rather not at all.

2. The thin, elastic band always sits in that really bad place on my hip where, no matter how skinny my day is going, it has this urge to cut me in such a way that everything starts to hang over the edges when I sit and I end up feeling like a blimp when clearly I am not.

3. They stretch out and sag in the bum or crotch after wearing them for 5 minutes. I leave the house feeling amazing and I want to come home and change by lunch.

4. They inspire zero reaction from strangers. They are simply just that – a pair of leggings.

Adding to all the potential difficulties of communicating my vision clearly, I also have to strike that design balance between something that is stunning, interesting and unique with the mundane business practicalities of price, care and wearability for those who would be willing to purchase my final product.

A very fine line to walk indeed. I clearly need more data. And I really hope she can read minds.

Saturday reading

Seems so simple...

Seems so simple…

I realize that it is not as easy as opening a book and voila! successful business! But, it is a great reference point for terminology, concepts and resources in the fashion industry.

All homework for the future. I’m devouring every bit of it.

And yes, I spend my weekends reading now.