How Three GBC Divaz Made Their Dreams a Reality
For many students, post-secondary education is a way of determining what career path to follow, but for Camille Evans, attending George Brown College was just one step on the way to pursuing her dream. A 2008 graduate of the Fashion Management Program, Camille, along with her business partners and fellow graduates Natalie and Thuha, took the knowledge and experience attained at GBC and applied it to their lifelong dream of starting their own fashion business. With business discussions underway since their meeting in the program, the three young entrepreneurs were able to put their plans into action upon graduation, and in April 2008, Dazlin Divaz was born. After much back and forth emailing, the girls were finally able to fit me in to their incredibly busy schedule, and I sat down with Camille and Natalie to learn more about the company and their journey into the Toronto Fashion Industry.
For Camille, who always wanted to be involved in Fashion, attending George Brown was a way to learn about the business and make the transition from her job in finance to the fashion industry. Luckily, it was also where she was able to meet like-minded friends, including former computer student Natalie and aspiring designer Thuha. Once the girls became friends, they also began to realize that they had a lot of the same goals and could work well together. The idea of Dazlin Divaz was developed throughout their semesters at GBC, where Camille says that ‘The Store’ class was a big help and learning how to deal with people was beneficial. Natalie gained a lot through her internship as assistant and product developer to local designer Debbie Sutton. At GBS the students were able to build their skills and create the basis for the company. Originally there were four girls involved in the planning, however, as graduation approached and the possibility of their dream becoming reality loomed, the extraordinary commitment necessary whittled the group down to three. Camille, Natalie, and Thuha were unswerving though; Dazlin Divaz became their focus.
With different skills and strengths to offer, the ladies complement each other well. Dazlin Divaz is a convergence of creative design and love of art with intelligence and business talent. This enables them to not only design their own clothing, but also organize their own imports and sale to retailers. Thuha concentrates on the design aspect, sketching the t-shirts, casual wear, cocktail dresses, and accessories that make up the Dazlin Divaz line. Camille and Natalie offer creative input, but Thuha conducts the technical design tasks. With her roots in Vietnam, Thuha is also able to facilitate imports by using her contacts overseas. Camille and Natalie work on the finance, marketing, and networking in Toronto necessary to getting their business off the ground. This includes researching boutiques that sell Canadian designers, for example The Fashion District at 555 Queen St.W. where they currently sell the line, and participating in events such as the Toronto Alternative Arts and Fashion Week. Their main goal right now is to get their name out as much as possible.
When they talk about Dazlin Divaz, I can tell that Camille and Natalie are passionate about their business and excited about their future. The line, which includes accessories starting at about $30 and clothing starting at about $50, has t-shirts made from 100% Organic Cotton and fun accessories like feather and beaded clips for your hair. The girls like the idea of sustainable and recyclable fashion, and try to incorporate these beliefs into their clothes as much as possible. However, it is when I ask about the image and inspiration behind the clothes that I see the real sparks. As Thuha comes from Vietnam and Camille and Natalie hail from Jamaica, the idea of different cultures interests them. They do a great deal of research on different cultures, art, artefacts and symbols that represent meaning and apply this to their clothes with the desire to “turn art into design.” The current line is largely inspired by different Asian cultures, but they are open to everything. They search for significance in the art that connotes positivity and spirituality so that the clothing can inspire and empower the wearer. This is image they aspire to create, an empowered woman who feels special and sees reason behind the clothes.
For Camille, the image of an empowered woman is the whole motivation behind the business. Once Dazlin Divaz becomes more established, the goal is to expand internationally through the extension into their own retail store and a web based store. But there is also the hope to give back and continue to empower others. Camille believes that, “eventually, the main part of this business should not be the profit, but the ability to take care of other people.” This means, for example, that a fashion show is not just showcasing the clothes, but also giving back to the community. The girls would love to be able to host a fundraising fashion show for some of the charities they support, such as Covenant House, “because even though those kids might not be able to go to school right now, they are our future nonetheless.”
With the future of the Toronto Fashion Industry in the hands of Camille and her peers, the ladies from Dazlin Divaz have some advice for current GBC Fashion Management students. To start, it’s a great idea to keep in touch with your teachers. The Dazlin Divaz are currently in touch with three of their former teachers for planning and networking help. “They’re a great support, they don’t just say goodbye when you graduate, they want to see you continue on.” Other pieces of advice include communication, never take ‘no’ for an answer, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and “learn to decipher what advice to take, because at the end of the day, it’s YOUR business.” But the most important piece of advice they can offer future fashion entrepreneurs? “Commitment. It’s the number one thing.” Looks like the Dazlin Divaz are here to stay.