Monday, March 13, 2017

Feature Articles Spring 2017

Fast Fashion: The Bible for Basic B*****s by Oksana
“Fast Fashion” vs. “Slow Fashion” by Zianne
Toronto Art En Vogue by Audrey
East Meets West: An Interview with Eske Schiralli by John Obmerga

Backups (tied)
OFF Runway Gowns by Ariana Patang
Stylist Seeks the Supremely Talented by Brianna Hopton

  • “Fast Fashion” vs. “Slow Fashion”
  • OFF RUNWAY GOWNS
  • Dividing Canada’s Fashion Diversity
  • Growing Your Fashion Brand
  • Stylist Seeks the Supremely Talented
  • Fast Fashion: The Bible for Basic B*****s
  • How important is having a ‘Made in Canada” label...
  • Does ethical fashion have the potential to trump...
  • An interview with Alexia Panakos, creator of GHOST...
  • It's Bieber's World
  • Defining Canada
  • Toronto Art En Vogue
  • Art in Motion
  • Close to Home: Made In Canada
  • High Key She’s the Epitome of Canadian Celebrity Style

“Fast Fashion” vs. “Slow Fashion”

“Fast Fashion” vs. “Slow Fashion”
In a world of corporations who own mass chains of fast fashion brands, it’s easy to believe that fashion can never be tamed. Can we even imagine a world where Forever 21 didn’t have approximately 52 micro seasons per year? There’s an opposing variant, we can call it “slow fashion”, but could it ever be a viable movement? The fashion industry continues to grow day by day with new and already established brands constantly looking for new and innovative ways to grip the market. Here in Canada, we have many amazing start up brands from contemporary, sportswear, street wear, the forever-loved t-shirt brands and much more. When these brands evaluate where they would like to stand in the market, they must always take into consideration where they would be most successful; meaning making the decision of whether to go mass-production, low-end, moderate, bridge, or high end. The reality is that most of the competition is currently in the low-end and moderate clothing market. This is where most brands chose to be due to its stability and profitability. 
We can say that today’s young adults are more consumer conscious, but we must take into consideration that not everyone can afford to be ‘environmentally friendly while shopping, some people can only shop for deals and sales. Let’s put it this way, if the consumer is an individual who loves to keep on top of fashion trends but doesn’t necessarily have the money to continuously buy pieces from the latest designer collections, they would rely on fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M and Topshop, who continuously deliver trendy knock off items for their consumption. Aside from the trendy consumer, even consumers with a minimalist or basic style are now buying into the fast fashion world with companies like Uniqlo, which exploded into the market with their basic and cheap offers.
Does being a “slow-fashion” brand necessarily have to mean that you’d be behind on trends or have very little options to choose from? No, if we look at the term in another light, we would see that it comes with many beneficial things. If fashion were slower, we’d be more appreciative of our garments. It wouldn’t be so easy to throw things away; producing more textile waste. Yes, it may be more expensive but we would be buying less than we bought in the fast-fashion world. We would buy more of the things we need and less of that we want, because those things may be in one day, and out within less than a month. Although fast fashion is an obvious worldly problem, some do believe that we’ve been taken big leaps to better the industry, such as the use of natural dyes creation of new engineered dyes to replace chemical ones. None of this is really matters because the main issue is consumer over-consumption.
An interview was conducted with Canadian designer Ernest Adusei, founder of the start-up menswear-brand The New Black Apparel.
“Although it’s becoming more innovative and feels like it’s at a creative peak, I definitely believe that today’s fashion is innately un-green and not at all socially responsible.”
When asked what the meaning of sustainable fashion to him is, he stated “It’s the skill of producing quality items that are timeless. Because when an item is timeless, it will be used for a longer amount of time, which means—less environmental impact. Our preference here at The New Black is having an in-house production team, so that we can produce items to order. This ensures that we do not become fast fashion monsters”. We also asked; Does being a Canadian based brand make you feel the need to be more socially and environmentally responsible? Adusei says, “In a way, yes it does. Many start-up Canadian brands such as my own try to have their production and many other operations done in Canada. This way, they have some more control over how they can be as ecofriendly and socially responsible as possible. Also, our Canadian consumers appreciate it.”
The answer to the big question is, yes fashion is innately un-green. Fashion has been evolving over centuries, but in recent years, as these large fast fashion brands continue to pour out it has only been getting worse. As we already know, all of this fast fashion really takes a toll on the environment and more importantly, corporate social responsibility is barely being taken into consideration. Factory workers in third and second-world countries are still being paid in pennies and working in poor, and dangerous conditions. Toxic waste from chemical dyes are still being released into the waters and atmosphere, mounds of textile waste still grow as clothing over-production continues to take place. Not to mention, the textile industry is one of the top producers of waste in the world today, and as fashion gets faster, it gets worse.

Can young Canadians do something to stop this fashion catastrophe? Well yes, I believe it is possible; this is a viable movement, especially for Canadians who hold in high esteems the fact that we are known to be the peacekeepers of the world, the ones who ‘right their wrongs’. We can definitely “slow down” fashion. Firstly, Canadian grown brands that young Canadians look up to must take the first leap and change the way they operate. Brands such as Roots Canada, Canada Goose—they should make sure they are not over-producing and over-stocking their merchandise. This just send the message to consumers that it is okay to engage in these things. When larger and well-established brands begin to make changes, it is believed that the rest will follow, and fashion will move at a much slower and more comfortable rate, at last.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

OFF RUNWAY GOWNS

OFF RUNWAY GOWNS

Off-Runway Gowns is an E-bay store that re-sells luxury evening wear at bargain price for the customer that wants to dress up in Ellie Saab’s layers of chiffon topped with crystals or wants to strut in a sleek geometric Armani Prive silk dress - all at a bargained price.

Growing up, Zarify had always been fixated on how fashion could encapsulate a person's personality and identity. Most young girls adored dressing up but Farishta had a particular intrigue in the allure and wonder lust of the runways. They were captivating and enchanting, almost like a real life fairy-tale and it was when those models strolled in Dior, Valentino and Oscar De Le Renta her intrigue sparked. This love for high-fashion, had made being an expert in couture and fabrics a hobby for Farishta as she grew up to be a teacher in Milton, Ontario. Although initially her passion for avant-garde was merely a hobby, it did eventually turn into a full-time career.  

This began in 2012 when she was having difficulty finding a dress for her brother’s wedding. While in Italy, a home to Haute Couture, she purchased a John Galliano dress which was a few sizes too big for her and decided to sell it on Ebay. “When I was trying to sell the dress, I was getting crazy offers left and right and I thought wow, there are a lot of women, just like me, seeking couture evening wear without spending the cost of a car payment. And that’s when I realized there’s a niche market out there and a business opportunity calling my name.” And at last, Off-Runway Gowns was born.  

“I began purchasing dresses too big, too small, ruined from anywhere; consignment, retail, online and vintage etc. and I would spend hours fixing them to perfection, just like the runways.” These perfectly altered discounted gowns had become a huge hit on Ebay that she was even awarded Ebay Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014. “This award was such an honour. There are millions of people using this site and my small company that I work on in my parent's attic is being acknowledged in such a short amount of time. It gave my company more value, and obviously garnered plenty of attention.”

 Farishta’s speed to success was not built over night and it took lots of focus, dedication and effort. Not only in finding and fixing the right pieces but also marketing her company as a reliable luxury consignment shop. “When I first began, I thought great, some extra cash but soon I was making more doing what I love than my day time job.”  As Off-Runway gowns became her primary focus, it gained the attention of major publications such as ELLE magazine. “Wow, being featured in ELLE was amazing! I’ve always been an avid reader, so to see a full article in print about me was surreal!” Substantial success over a short period is what every entrepreneur dreams of but it is often a long and bumpy road, so we asked Farishta what she thought made her company stand out. “When I started this, I thought if I am really persistent and hardworking I may be able to turn this to a big business. It was tricky though, I thought this is going to be hard and there’s so many companies re-selling designer – how could I stand out? Then it clicked to me, customize your customer experience. I do this by offering to find dresses my customers want and fixing them to their exact measurements or even adding something to the dress that they feel like is missing.” Altering customer dresses to their desires has paid off for Farishta, as she is now the CEO of a fast-growing EBay business. We asked her to give some advice to those starting out a new business, “Stick to your gut. If you enjoy doing something, it will never feel like work. Remember even if you don’t get the results you want, it does not mean you should stop. It means you should work harder and seek improvement, eventually hard work really does pay off. Also, if you love something and you are good at it, you should pursue it because chances are you will not only be successful but extremely happy. Also, don’t look at money and how fast your company is growing. Focus on the details, and your customers, it’s the little things that matter, everything else will come on its own terms. Quality over quantity.” 

Farishta's persistence and motivation is proof you can be successful in your desirable pursuits. This is uplifting to young people in the fashion business, as we all know what a difficult industry it is to be successful in. It shows that if you can be yourself, do your own thing and still work with the likes of high designers and interesting publications.

Dividing Canada’s Fashion Diversity



            This July, Canada will be celebrating its 150th birthday. Canada is recognized as one the best places in the world to live and is home to over 35 million citizens and welcomes an average of 250,000 immigrants per year. One of Canada’s largest and popular cities, Toronto, has a population of 2.79 million, and according to Toronto’ Website, 54% of Toronto’s population is made up of immigrants, but is also home to 230 different nationalities, earning Toronto a crown of diversity. As Toronto is proclaimed to be one of the most multicultural cities in the world and ranked as the “safest large metropolitan area in North America” by Places Rated Almanac, Toronto can similarly be acknowledged for being a diverse fashion forward city. From Toronto Fashion Week, TTC advertisements and Torontonian activists, the Canadian fashion market is unique, inspiring, and looking forward.
            Less than a decade ago, Toronto’s fashion week had seen a shift in themes of diversity before its cancellation in 2016. Straying away from trends in Paris or Milan, Toronto Fashion Week exhibited multi-races and a variety of cultures portrayed on the runways to match the multicultural streets. A Jamaican-born Canadian model, Stacey McKenzie reached out to Global News in March 2012 to talk about model diversity and how it is growing. She states there was very little diversity amongst the models when she first began walking in the mid-1990’s, since then she has walked in Toronto Fashion Week multiple times and in multiple shows. She shares her experiences of attending her local fashion week; “Nowadays, everywhere you turn, there’s more than one black girl…there’s more than one Asian girl. I’m even seeing East Indian girls which is super cool because before, I would never see an East Indian girl on the runway.” She also expresses her gratitude for Toronto representing a “new norm” for models.   As Toronto Fashion Week appeared to be displaying an abundance of diversity, Robin Givhan of the Washington Post believes that New York Fashion Week has some catching up to do. On Thursday March 24th, she writes, “Each show should offer a unique representation of every conceivable consumer. To some degree, we are looking to see near mirror-images on the runway. But fashion has a responsibility to reflect the culture, not the individual.” She hopes to see a more welcoming American fashion industry, similar to Toronto’s displaying diversity and “embodying a cultural standard”.  Several media outlets state that Toronto Fashion Week’s cancellation was due to a lack of supporters but additional claims state slut shaming and rape allegations played a larger part. If or when Toronto’s Fashion Week is resurrected, we hope to see the diverse runways showcasing the local talent and models once again at David Pecaut Square tent.
            Although Toronto Fashion Week has disbanded, the Toronto fashion market is consistently booming and building a name for it through driven and activist citizens.  The body positive movement is growing and increasingly gaining attention. In May 2016, the Toronto Star interviewed local Karyn Johnson, a largely followed Instagrammer, plus size blogger and advocate of the body positivity movement.  The movement fires back at magazines and tabloids fat shamming women and promoting self-love. Johnson gained inspiration to join the movement after transforming her website, Killer Kurves, into an advice blog catering to plus-size women. The website and advice column blossomed and encouraged empowerment for women aged from 16 years old to middle aged women struggling with body image.  Another Torontonian that joined the movement is Jill Andrews, co-founder of the body confidence Canada Awards and has recently voiced her opinion to the Toronto Star about the most recent TTC ad campaign. The National Ballet teamed up with TTC to promote a new partnership – dubbed We Move You- shows ballerinas dancing and posing in front of subway stations and other TTC vehicles, has drawn criticism for the images immortalizing “unrealistic and highly regimented bodies as some sort of an ideal ‘beauty.” Andrews stated, “The body types of most ballet dancers do not adequately represent those of most Canadians and, I dare say, Most TTC users.” Overall, Andrews worries the images displayed on subway, busses and streetcars spreads the wrong message of what a healthy and confident body should look like.
            Besides social media moguls and activists, Canadian publications have represented their country proudly by participating in a diversity report.  The FashionSpot website recounted a diversity report on advertisement in Fall 2015 reporting that Elle Canada published a piece titled “Can Using Different Types of Models Benefit Brands?” by Ben Barry, who is CEO of the self titled modeling agency in Toronto as well as an assistant professor of equality, diversity and inclusion at Ryerson University, conducted studies on how multiple factors, such as size, race, and age of models impact a consumers decision to purchase an item in the category of fashion. His study displayed multicultural marketing had positive results on consumers if the brand showed commitment to diversity and the advertisement was stylized in the same attitude as it would have been if it featured a “young, size zero white model.” Barry’s study demonstrated two important messages; advertisements will continue to sell not matter the age, race or size of the model, and the Canadian consumer audience is much more open to diversity than most American publications.  
            In Toronto, diversity can found around every corner. On St. Clair West Avenue, local girl, Chealse Howell can found in her office at Haute Agency. Haute Agency is an elegant and high-class full service agency with a strong team of promoters, professions and an elite roster of fashion models and brand ambassadors, all catering to luxury events.  Chealse is not just a co-founder of the agency but has been modeling for multiple years, launched an acting career and was crowned Miss. Universe in 2015. Haute Agency’s roster is a mix of multicultural and racial male and females, dividing Haute from many other agencies that cast predominately white, size zero, blonde models. Chealse states that, “At Haute Agency we are know to be one of the most excepting and diverse agencies in Toronto, I think this is a huge attribute because this has opened many doors allowing us to cater to multiple industries including fashion, music, TV/film and promotions. We are also known for being a boutique agency that takes on a small amount of talent but ensure all of our talent are consistently auditioning and booking not just sitting on our roster.” With influences from Canadian icon, Coca Rocha, and believing Toronto is becoming more known for its fashion and retail scene, Chealse and her team display a great amount of diversity by providing new jobs and opportunities for men and women of multiple races and nationalities to become successful in the Toronto modeling and fashion world. 
            As Canada displays a profusion of diversity, many improvements are still under construction. The no-more Toronto Fashion Week has abolished  opportunities for models and Canadian designers to showcase their talented abilities and agencies to showcase their diverse models. Also, the lack of body positive advertisement in the local TTC is upsetting for a majority of passengers. Although circumstances could- and have - been worse, Toronto proudly welcomes various types of diversity amongst its fashion market and niche.  As one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, sums up our efforts and accomplishments best by stating “Compassion, acceptance, and trust; diversity and inclusion—these are the things that have made Canada strong and free. Not just in principle, but in practice. […] Let’s show the world the very best of what that means.” And as for Toronto, the city will continue to grow and look forward to express diversity.



Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Growing Your Fashion Brand: Social Media and In-Person Networking


Social media and in-person networking can be a powerful combination for building your brand if used correctly. Both social media and in person networking have benefits when generating an audience for your product. Major marketing companies and online magazines, such as Market Maven, have outlined that in person networking will always be the most important tactic to use while growing your brand. Although, with the amount of social media influencers in the fashion industry, brands have seen fast growth just by having the right person advertise their product.
Social media is one of the most influential outlets on millennial’s, if a social media influencer promotes a product; the product will gain more exposure than products advertised through television and online. The other benefit to social media is potentially reaching a larger market of people because platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are available to everyone across the world. Social media is the best tool to use to grow your customer base outside of your area. As well as allowing you to converse with your clientele to hear feedback on your product and make improvements.
I conducted an interview with former Toronto shoe designer Daniel Verhelst of Proverb Shoes, to get his opinion on developing and selling his shoe line in early 2000 when social media didn't have as much of influence. Daniel believed that in-person networking was the most influential for growing his brand, which included attending tradeshows and organizing meetings with vendors. Daniel also said that cold calling helped, but was difficult, as some retailers do not care to see your product. He also mentioned that if social media were as relevant as it is now, it would have helped him to generate more of a customer base and expand his target market.
Also, it is critical to recognize which platforms suit your brand image. According to the article The 4 Essentials to Your Brand on Social Media published by Entrepreneur.com, Instagram is a great outlet for creative companies and businesses who rely on images to sell their product such as, clothing designers and online stores. Facebook is also a great outlet as it is used by a variety of age groups from different countries. Pinterest is mainly used by females and can be perfect for selling jewelry and clothing to women of all ages. In addition to both of these platforms, smaller social media applications like Snapchat and Twitter can be utilized as well. One of the most crucial factors of the content you display on your social media sites is the creating advertisements and photos that you followers will want to share.   
In person networking has the ability to give potential clients in depth knowledge about your products, beyond the superficial attributes. When talking to potential customers in person, it allows them to understand what your company stands for and if your business aligns with their beliefs. These techniques can lead to long lasting business relationships because of the connection gained through in-person communication. Some people also perceive advertisements on social media as untrue because the person promoting the item was most likely paid to do so. This makes networking an even stronger approach because it is directly from the company. There is also more competition for brands on social media, and most platforms have become saturated with similar brands trying to rise to the top.
Social media seems to be the tool to use when trying to expand your clientele and in-person networking will solidify a relationship with a retailer and customer. Social media has also expanded the number of independent fashion designers and retailers because they can post photos of their merchandise on Instagram and the viewer can purchase directly from their site. Social media simplifies the process of buying goods, which in turn can generate more sales. Sales will also come from maintaining the relationships you build with other businesses because they are more likely to purchase from you again and recommend your company if they like your products. Some companies have thrived without the use of social media and others have gained their following from mainly posting on social media sites. There are many different ways to market your product, but by utilizing the capabilities in networking through social media and in person, you can grow your brand's audience and solidify your standing in the market.