Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tissh: A Leap of Faith for Designer Gloria Lee

An up and coming Toronto fashion and jewelry designer wants to be part of a new generation of fashion; one that empowers.

As a young girl Gloria Lee could not stifle her love for fashion. She often doodled dresses, compulsively watched Fashion Television, and found herself mentally altering clothing she would see in stores to improve them to her own taste.

After high school Gloria put aside her creative interests and tried pursuing a life in traditional business. She majored in Actuarial Science at the University of Toronto and held corporate jobs for 5 years. In 2005, during her corporate days, Gloria was looking for a baby shower gift at Walmart. She instead found herself wandering into the craft section picking out beads and string to make jewelry for friends as a hobby. It seemed her creativity was again emerging. That year she founded Tissh Inc. The name is inspired by an internet handle she had in her teen years and is a play on the word fetish. She soon enrolled part-time at Coco Fashion Design Centre in Toronto, where she took pattern drafting and garment construction courses. In 2009, encouraged by her brother and business partner Joseph, Gloria took a leap of faith by quitting her corporate job to follow her passion designing women’s clothing and jewelry full-time.

Gloria has since found another equally rewarding passion; helping others. She wants women to feel empowered in her clothing and be more aware of themselves as powerful, confident beings. Gloria loves to combine design with “giving back” to society. At the end of each month a portion of Tissh sales is given to local charities. The designer is also participating in Super Saturday this July in The Hamptons, New York. It’s a charity sample sale started by designer Donna Karan with 100% of profits going to ovarian cancer research.

There appears to be a spiritual link to many of Gloria’s musings on her life and business. She continuously refers to maintaining a positive attitude, a higher being, and the law of attraction; all part of her spiritual journey she says. It’s a journey that Gloria intends to continue on as it has brought her to a place where she feels ready and excited to help others. She candidly offers advice to budding entrepreneurs; valuable tidbits like saving more money than you think you’ll ever need, never giving up, and reminding yourself to be happy. After all, Gloria says, “Life is about being happy, do what makes you happy and listen to your own voice inside.”

Gloria wants to make it clear that starting a business is not easy, especially as a fashion designer. She talks about the difficulties of wearing all the hats; as financier, merchandiser, designer and accountant. What makes her job challenging though, is exactly what makes it rewarding. She truly seizes opportunities to expand and always learns from mistakes.

At this point in her early thirties Gloria is grateful to make her fashion dream a reality as her business continues to grow. In early March 2011 Gloria was profiled on eTalk and Canada AM, both part of the CTV network. It was a segment that had ten of Canada’s top designers submit wedding dress sketches for Kate Middleton’s upcoming marriage to Prince William. Gloria was thrilled to have been part of an impressive group that included David Dixon and Lucian Matis.

When we spoke back in March, Gloria was busy putting the finishing touches on promotional material for her spring 2011 collection. New York City is her inspiration and each piece is named after a street in the Big Apple. Her two favourite pieces from the collection are the Hudson jacket; a three-quarter sleeve camel coloured swing cropped trench and the Lexington dress; a stretch silk halter dress with pockets and an exposed back.

Looking ahead to the future Gloria hopes to participate in the international Las Vegas trade show, Magic. She also plans to continue with social media endeavors. Her website, has links to her Twitter account and blog. Gloria appreciates the ability to connect with real people in real time. She enjoys the approachable relationship she has with customers and plans to stay grounded and accessible.

When asked if she has any closing remarks Gloria pauses and states, “I feel there is a movement, globally, I feel like people are becoming more awakened in their lives and I hope to be part of that.” She wants people to change their outlook on fashion from seeing it as something superficial to something empowering. Gloria wants women to feel strong and confident in her clothing, she wants them to soak in the good energy she hopes her clothes transfer. At the end of the day she wants to be proud of her work and knows she is fulfilling her life’s meaning by helping others. Even though her journey is just beginning, Gloria Lee can confidently say she is on the right path.

Tissh clothing is sold at Beyond 7, a boutique in Chelsea, NYC. Prices range from $400-$700. TisshXpress jewelry is sold at Dorly Design in Toronto. Prices range from $30-$300.

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