My Disastrous First Visit to the Garment Factories & How 200 Shawls Saved My Life
After graduating with a Bachelors Degree in Fashion Design, as well as earning a certificate In Fashion Marketing I set out overseas- to explore the garment factories. I contacted a dozen or so apparel factories in India via internet, made appointments and booked a flight. Never having been abroad before; I was excited to say the least.
The day I arrived India all my cash stolen. I must have checked my purse a thousand times. Everything was in my purse except for all the missing cash I had saved up for the trip. The thrill of the trip quickly turned to fear. I was fresh out of school and pretty much broke. Regardless of what happened, I was here and needed to find a way to push forward. I was on survival mode. I had to find a way to make up for the stolen cash and repay a friend. I had two things going for me:
1. I was in the lucrative fashion industry
2. I was in a country with an endless supply of factories that make products distributed all over the world.
I met with over a dozen garment manufacturers and learned what each had to offer. Every factory was unique and I could clearly see what specialized products they could skill fully manufacture. What was missing in our stores back home? And how should I sell it?
At that time shawls were hard to find back home. So I decided to place my first order. I got back early spring; perfect timing before wedding season hit. I had close to 200 “Pashmina” shawls made, which were sold for 8 times the cost because I knew I had a niche. My sister sent out an email blast to over 1000 people in the large company she worked for. In less than three days I was able to make back the money I lost and then some.
A little creativity, research, and a plan to market- is a formula for success. A simple recipe I’ve used in my career and it works.
The experience all though scary, gave me an amazing experience and an opportunity to learn and grow.
You Lose some, You win some.
Pre 9/11, New York City, interning in fashion was exciting. Post 9/11 the internship was over. If you`ve seen the move Devil Wears Prada, you can get an idea of what my boss was like. We were told to show up to work the following day- The city was deserted. A terribly eerie experience to hear the streets of NYC pin drop silence.
I decided to move back home to Canada and start a fashion line of my own. Through my experience working in the childrenswear industry; I discovered a gap in the market. The need for trendy semi formal boyswear. The clothing label-Shortstak Boyswear was born and was featured in magazines and Nominated by Earnshaws Magazine for most innovative new company. The collection consisted of 20 co-ordinates made of fleece, jersey, corduroy, denim, jersey and twill. With the help of four sales reps I was in close to 60 stores in my first season. Great right? Wrong.
I bit off more than I could chew. I could not keep up with the fast pace of fashion. The stress caught up with me and soon affected my health. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I had no choice but to put myself first and cease operations.
I learned three valuable lessons:
1) Delegate! Delegate! Delegate! Know what your good at. Focus on that and get others to do the rest. Build your network. Trust the universe.
2) K.I.S.S. Theory (keep it simple stupid) Own this theory. Less is more. Take the time to launch fewer products, master those products and build the momentum to slowly release more. Slow and steady wins the race.
3) Balance is Key. Separate yourself from your business. Take care of yourself because if you don’t you won’t be able to get thru the storms to be able to see the magnificent sun.
Green is the New Black
Something was calling me back to New York. Now in remission with ulcerative colitis, I was ready to focus on my passion. I hopped on a plane and landed myself a product development position and moved up to a manager. I had the opportunity to work with a larger corporation with sales of over 17 million. I managed teams to ensure products were done to specification, deadlines and budgets. I had the opportunity to learn and work with the best teams, in manufacturing, graphics, design, marketing and sales. I had the opportunity to assist companies such as Walmart, Kohls, Aeropostal and JC penny with product development and manufacturing.
It was here that I realized how the apparel industry plays a huge role on the impact it has on the environment and people. The fact is there will be nothing left for the generations to come if we are not sustainable in how we manufacture apparel. The apparel industry plays a huge role in damaging the environment. It’s hard to convince people how much of an impact the fashion industry has on the environment since it is “out of sight out of mind”. It’s easy to turn your head the other way when we have a beautiful piece of clothing.
A simple rule in sustainability is to give back to nature what you take from it in the same form. I truly believe when you consider sustainability, fair-trade and corporate social responsibility in the production of your products, you are ultimately reaping what you sow. You are adding positive energy to the product which in turn is great Karma.
The eco-friendly business is still relatively new and since 2006, I have strived to research and educate myself on how I can provide sustainable choices for businesses.
What I have learned during these years about sustainability and being eco-conscious are values that I have carried forward in both my personal and professional life.
My Eco-Friendly Line
Pure Blankz Organic Fashion
In 2007 I launched Pure Blankz Organic Fashion. My mission was to provide an eco-friendly an option to consumers that was both sustainable and ethical but also at a fair price. The line consisted of fashion blanks for both baby and adult. Not only was the fabric certified organic cotton, but the dyes were equally important and certified eco-friendly. I visited the factories on a yearly basis and also ensured everything was ethically made.
Store across Canada and the US carried the line. It was also sold to designers who wanted to print on them as the back neck labels ripped out so they can place their own label. I did interviews on CTS TV, radio as well as was nominated as a Top 40 Innovator by Apparel Magazine.
Over the years that I have worked, I felt something missing. The company had sales of over $200,000 and I knew it was time to revaluate. As expected, I wanted to take the company to the second so I reworked the business plan. After completing the business plan I was set to take the next step, but something held me back.
Finding My Purpose
My passion was in design but there was something missing. I took a step back and really reflected on who I was as a person. I took the time to speak to clients, friends, coworkers and did several personal development tests. I learnt my passion was not only in product development. I came to the realization that helping others was a driving force in my life.
Over the years I met so many designers who needed my help. I know from experience start ups cannot afford a product develop manager. The larger successful corporations all can afford to employ one. Employing a full time product manager free’s up your time to work on sales and marketing; which in turn brings in capital. You can have a brilliant product but without marketing the wheel does not turn.
I’ve been running businesses as a solo entrepreneur. I had spent most of my time on what I did best-product development and manufacturing. But focusing on this is what had always held me back from achieving optimal sales.
Nothing would make me happier than to be able to assist businesses that are not ready to hire a full-time product development manager. Doing so will allow me to focus on what I love and know best; while my clients can focus on running the business.
You no longer need to feel alone.
A happy ending and a start to a new beginning.