Interview with the founder of Anya Collections

I love connecting with up-and-coming fashion designers, hearing about how they got started.  So I was glad to hear from Rajni who is the founder of Anya Collections, a clothing line with pretty details and fabric.  Here’s a little about Rajni and her clothing line:

It’s interesting that you started working in engineering and then became interested in fashion, graduating from FIT.  What was it that pushed you to leave your previous career for fashion?

I have always been interested in art, design and fashion from my childhood days. My dad is an engineer and had his own transformer manufacturing business. So I was hooked on early into engineering and worked with my dad. After coming to NY, I worked as an electrical engineer in the city for a few years. While at it, I took a few classes on silk painting in my free time and loved it. I was looking to do a bit more creative work. NYC, being the capital of fashion in the US was a great place to explore and learn. I built up my portfolio, quit my engineering job, and applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NY. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with an AAS degree.

What was your inspiration for the fall collection?

I was inspired by the vibrant colors and rich culture of Southern India. I combine rich colors in gold brocades, beads and embroidery and use them on neutral fabrics- black, navy, and whites. The collection brings out a contrast in colors yet stylish.

What advice do you have for working women who want to look stylish at the office?

Combine tailored and feminine pieces with pencil skirts or pants along with a bold accessory.

Interview with founder of ethical fashion company Proxy Apparel

Proxy Apparel is an ethical fashion company started in Boston that focuses on empowering and employing women through sweatshop-free workplaces.  Find out more through about this great company in my interview with Proxy Apparel founder HeatherJean:

What was the moment when it clicked for you that you would start a fashion brand to help women and the rural communities you were doing work in?

My light bulb moment happened when I was on a ride through the mountains of Peru. I witnessed women engaging in all aspects of the apparel supply chain – some were knitting, weaving, spinning wool, dying fabric – it was that moment that I realized there were a multitude of opportunities for job creation for women throughout the apparel supply chain.

Which countries do you source materials, apparel and talent from?

Currently we work with a worker-owned cooperative in North Carolina, and network of fair trade cooperatives in Guatemala. We also have partners in NIcaragua, Peru, and Argentina.

How did you start those relationships and how are they maintained, specifically with designers you work with from other countries?

I served in the Peace Corps in Honduras for a few years and had the opportunity to travel extensively within Latin America. During this time I met several artisan groups, many of which Proxy supports today. The cooperatives are well networked and connected to each other, so it was helpful in getting to know other groups as well. I also spoke with people that work for organizations that support economic development in these regions and made connections that way.

What is the most rewarding part about running Proxy Apparel?

The most rewarding aspect of Proxy is its social impact. I am so inspired by our cooperative partners, and proud to work with them to create and market Proxy goods. We’re supporting jobs! I also love the creative aspects of running Proxy – we have some great people on our team.

What is the most challenging part about running Proxy Apparel?

There is never enough time in the day to get everything done.  We’re really working to spread the word about our brand as well – it’s challenging to make noise for our online marketplace.  So please tweet, post and talk us up!

 

Interview with fashion designer for Birds from North America

Hayley is the designer and owner of Canadian clothing brand, Birds of North America.   She designs a lot of really cute dresses!  Check out the online shop and my interview with Hayley:

What was the final motivation that got you to start Birds of North America?

I had really come to the end of the line with career options that interested me!  I had originally worked in costume and realized it was not quite the dream job that I had anticipated.  After that I worked as an assistant to a woman who did high end custom-made clothing for about a year after which time I started my own business doing custom-made.  I operated that business for about two years and there was a lot I enjoyed about the work, but I found it to be more service oriented than clothing/design oriented.  Strangely, a friend of mine wanted to start a line of clothing around that time and asked me if I wanted to be involved.  I had never thought I would want to start a line of clothing, having always been more costume and vintage oriented than fashion oriented, but it seemed like a strange and wonderful adventure!  After a few months my friend sort of bailed on the project but by that time I had realized that this new kind of work fit what I was looking for perfectly, and the rest is history!  Even now, after five years, and even though it can be incredibly challenging and stressful, I still feel like this is my dream job.

It’s great that all of your clothing is produced in manufactured in Montreal.  Producing/manufacturing local isn’t always easy for a new brand.  Are you happy with this decision?  What recommendations do you have for other new brands who want to stay local?

In my case, I didn’t go into this field with the intention of producing/manufacturing local.  It has really been a function of finances and a practical long term plan that has kept Birds of North America manufactured and produced in Montreal.   Having said that, I am very happy with the direction the line has gone and I wholeheartedly embrace the “made in Canada” aspect of the line!  I am very fortunate to live in a city like Montreal that has such a rich, deep pool of skilled garment industry workers.  My advice to new brands who want to stay local is to be sure to make people aware that the brand is produced locally and make sure you are charging enough!  I really don’t believe there is a quick solution to succeeding with a new locally-produced brand.  You just have to stick it out for the first few years while people figure out that your brand is worth the additional expense that producing/buying locally requires.  I think people are slowly becoming more aware of the unacceptable conditions that many (if not most) garment workers endure in other countries and are starting to understand that a well cut, ethically made dress costs more than $50!

What should we expect in the spring 2012 collection?   What were your inspirations for it?

The Spring 2012 collection is titled “Corpus Meum.”  I often work with more intangible themes for the collections and try to capture a feeling rather than explicit inspirations in the designs.  For spring this season I have tried to capture the tenderness of the human spirit that lies under our skin and under our clothes.  The collection includes several beautiful cotton prints like classic stripes and small floral and graphic motifs.  Vintage red sets off a palette of sun-faded blues, grays and neutrals.  Classic Birds details like smart bows and contrast piping are mixed up with bone colored buttons and nautical details.  Small, thoughtful details make the styles sweet but don’t mask their purity.
I find that writing out my feelings for the new collections helps me to sort them out.  This text was the genesis of the collection for me:
My body, my body.  My fragile body.  Sometimes I worry that it’s dying.   What can I do to protect you?
Some days I feel like my entire being is an open sore – like I have no skin.  What a comfort to be swaddled in bandages.
All the things we do to try to hide our injuries.  We are the walking wounded.

Interview with Chicago fashion designer Anna Hovet

I came across Anna Hovet Designs a few years ago and am glad to see that her collections keep getting better!  Anna’s clothes are stylish, locally made and are made of comfortable fabrics – what can be better?  I was fortunate enough to speak with Anna to learn more about the Chicago fashion world, which is where Anna is based, and a bit of the behind-the-scenes of her clothing line.

What is the Chicago fashion community like?

It’s very small.  Most designers know each other.  We use a lot of the same resources.  It’s friendly and collaborative – with graphic designers, models, photographers, and we share press forces.  It’s a very giving community, but it’s hard to get national press outside of Chicago.

 

 

Had you been thinking about starting a clothing line before you got laid off?  What do you think would have happened if you still worked there – would you have started your own line by now?
I always thought about starting my own line. I thought I’d work corporate and learn in my 20s and then start my own line in my 30s.  I got laid off when I was 23.  My option was to move to New York and find a corporate  job. There were no corporate jobs in Chicago except the one I was just at.  I had no business experience,but thought I’d give it a try and give it my all.  Why not put everything I had in it?

 

 

How was the process for finding local manufacturs?
I order fabric from NY, LA, Canada and Chicago.  I went through 5 screen printers before finding one.  It’s all trial and error.

 

 

What was the inspiration for your spring 2012 collection?
The female comic book characters from the 50s and 60s.  The dots in the collection represents the dots from comics.

 

 

Interview with The Style Bakery fashion blogger

I came across Jess’ blog, The Style Bakery, last year and have loved seeing her outfits.  What’s cool for us Americans is that Jess is a stylish blogger from Germany so it’s fun seeing the different brands she wears that we don’t have in the U.S.  Now that I think of it, I need to plan a trip abroad to see these styles for myself!

Here’s some Q&A with Jess:

Why did you start The Style Bakery?

I used to spend a lot of time on lookbook.nu and once recognized I didn’t get the feedback I wished, I decided to create a space of my own.

Who takes your pictures?

Most of the time it’s me, but I also take every chance to convince my boyfriend and family. It gets more and more easy with every invitation and collaboration because they see how worthy some pictures may be.

What are your favorite fashion brands to wear?

I adore ZARA and the whole Inditex Group (Bershka, Stradivarius, Massimo Dutti…) for fashionable items. I love Furla, especially the Candy Bag. And I of course like high fashion designer’s pieces, like my Hermes Kelly watch. I think they are good investments :-)

What city do you live in?  How would you define the style there?  

I’m from Hamburg, Germany. The style in my hometown  is very casual, classy, and traditional. One can easily find out trends (e.g. the Hamburg Winter uniform: Woolrich Parka, UGG Boots, Louis Vuitton Speedy).

I personally like the style of Hamburg, it’s kind of luxurious- although we don’t show much individuality in that way. Trends come up very fast and it seems like people are copying styles even faster.

That’s also one of the reasons why I concentrate on what I see in fashion magazines or blogs from all over the world. There are so many interesting and inspiring people out there thanks to the internet! :-)

 

Interview with Amateur Couture blogger

Check out the blog Amateur Couture.  Each post is a combination of art and fashion that complement each other.  I have been a follower of the blog for a couple years and am always so amazed and impressed by how M. Fay, the blogger, comes up with all these pairings.  Well I was lucky enough to find out how in this interview with her:

1) Why did you start the blog?

I started Amateur Couture one evening on a whim. My intention was to create a journal of sorts…a place where I could keep my favorite things. Basically, I would post inspiring finds and share them with my friends and family. I never planned for it to grow into anything else, but organically it evolved into a blog celebrating fashion and art and how they relate to each other (often in the most literal of ways). Yep, it’s a simple as that!

2) What is your background?  Is it related to art and/or fashion? 

I have always been a lover of fashion and art, but my background is actually in dance. I studied ballet in college and found myself/lost myself in a sea of all things art. I’ve been “swimming” ever since.

3) What is your process for finding the art/fashion pairings?

The process is something like a memory game. I save images that I like and eventually they’ll match up in my mind. I love when that happens!

4) Who is your favorite artist right now?

My favorite artist is Irana Douer.  Her work shakes me and sings to me.  It’s magic.

5) Who is your favorite fashion designer right now?

My favorite fashion designer….can I have more than one? HA! You would find my closet filled with Alice + Olivia, but I dream of wearing Sonia Rykiel (remember those pom pom head pieces from the Fall 2010 collection? I’m still obsessed). I’m always inspired by Valentino and Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, but the artist in me loves Mary Katrantzou. I could go on and on and on……

Interview with fashion stylist Sarah McManus

Ever wonder what it’s like to be  a fashion stylist?  Here’s the inside scoop, thanks to Boston fashion stylist, Sarah McManus:

Why did you want to become a fashion stylist?

I wanted to become a fashion stylist because I have always been intrigued by clothes, especially the way everyone wears them in their own way. I wanted to help those who didn’t have their own sense of style and wanted to find it. It’s so rewarding in the end. I love fashion and beauty. I’m kind of a product junkie and have a lot to offer in that sense. A lot of my clients just need help rediscovering themselves and their style. That’s where I come in.

How did you get your first client?

I got my first client when I put my website up. She was great. We really worked together in finding the right look for her and what was going to be functional as well.

What is your favorite part of styling?

My favorite part of styling is meeting different types of people and stepping inside their world for a bit. My clients range from doctors to business types to artists. It’s so fun being able to put together so many different looks.

What is the worst part of styling?

There really is no downside to my job. I love every aspect.

How accurate is the Rachel Zoe Project for what a non-celebrity stylist would do?

The Rachel Zoe Project is very accurate except she is working with major celebrities. She does everything a normal stylist does and even teaches me a few things here and there. She is someone I truly admire. Her work ethic is amazing.

Interview with the founder of Urban Caviar

I have no doubt that the 500 or so employees at my company would all agree that Robinson has amazing style.  He is a man who not only understands, but has mastered layering, accessorizing and trying new things while always looking professional.  And for anyone who likes Robinson’s style as much as I do, we have his parents to thank.  His dad is a pastor who Robinson remembers always wore a 3 piece suit to church every Sunday and his mom always wore a nice dress and hat.  Robinson also recently learned that his dad designed and sewed women’s underwear when he was living in Haiti in the 60′s.  Luckily his parent’s style sense influenced Robinson because he has big plans that expand beyond dressing well each day.

Robinson launched Urban Caviar in 2007 with plans to build it into a high-end personal lifestyle brand.  As a busy father of 4 with a full-time job, Robinson is building the brand out strategically. A couple months ago, Robinson started styling, helping men make sure what they buy fits correctly and he brings them to designers to help his clients buy what looks good on them.  From talking with him about his vision for Urban Caviar, I know this is only the beginning for this very talented guy!  Keep in touch with him on his blog, Facebook page and Twitter.

Leaving a 9-5 job to pursue a dream job in fashion

(photo credit: Ted Ancher)

That’s what Vienne, founder of luxury hosiery brand VienneMilano, did.  She had been in the corporate world for 5+ years, mostly working on launching new software products. Last winter, she was talking with someone (who is now her business partner) about her desire to start a business on her own someday and how hard it was to find hosiery in the U.S. that she learned to like after traveling in Europe and experiencing thigh-high hosiery.  After that talk, Vienne realized her idea of starting her own luxury hosiery fashion brand could be something.  When thinking about acting on it, she said to herself, “Why not?”  She’s not married, no kids, no major responsiblities; she had nothing to lose.

And that began a very busy year!  Since last winter, Vienne came up with the brand and positioning for VienneMilano, visited Italy twice to find a factory and then check on her products, built a website, found a fullfillment warehouse, photographed and styled her products, managed casting sessions, and launched her brand at a runway show on 11/11/11 that she produced!

It’s only been a few months, but VienneMilano has been successfully bringing the luxury hosiery that is popular in European fashion to women in the United States.  Think thigh-high hosiery is just for Halloween costumes and sexy Valentine’s Day gifts?  You’re not alone.  But after talking with Vienne, she opened by mind to think beyond those perceptions.  Yes, the hosiery can be sexy, but it can also be elegant and professional enough for the office.  It’s more hygenic than pantyhose or tights and VienneMilano’s are top quality.

Try them out for yourself!  Check out the VienneMilano website where you can find hosiery by the occassion that’s right for you – work, play, party, or love. Vienne is even nice enough to offer the clothing menu readers a 20% discount off her products (enter the following code at checkout: clothingmenu)! I’ll be buying a pair to tell you what I think of them – buy a pair too and let me know what you think!

PS – if you do buy, sizes are based on height.  If you are under 5’4″, buy a small.  If you are over 5’4″, buy a large.

Recommendations for aspiring fashion designers

Kristina is a talented fashion designer with a passion for what she does.  She works full-time as a designer for a well-known brand and runs a women and menswear line, Fischer Clothing, that she started on her own a few years ago.  She sewed up her first collection in about 2 weeks, put together a photoshoot, and went from there!  Here’s a little bit from Kristina about her line and her recommendations for aspiring fashion designers:

What was the final motivation that got you to start the line?

It really started as a personal project. I wanted to put together a collection to add to my portfolio of my “ideal clothing line.” Kind of an authentic Americana look with vintage influence and modern fabrics. I was really happy with the outcome and decided to put a lookbook together and send it out to a few stores. The response was positive and I just let it evolve over the past few years.

What keeps you inspired as you work on new collections?

I’m pretty much just obsessed with clothing. I never stop finding inspiration in music, art, design, nature, travel, etc…. I just collect bits of fabric, trims, images, etc. and when the time comes to put a season together I let all my findings tell their story. Working makes me happy, so it’s easy to get completely immersed in it.

Do you still have your full-time job?  Would you ever consider leaving that to work on Fischer full-time?  What would get you to do that?

I do. And of course, I would love to work on Fischer full time, but it’s just not there yet, and I would hate to put that much pressure on it at this point. I’m still building the brand and the line in so many ways and everything that the line makes goes right back into the company.

Any recommendations for someone else thinking of starting a line?

Take your time, keep your expectations realistic and your mind open. You need to be as flexible as a cat with a core of steel to manage all the curveballs that come from production, stores, etc.  And I can’t really stress enough the fact that it’s not really glamorous at all, or at least 99% of it isn’t. It’s really more work and expense than you could ever possibly imagine. Really.