Friday, November 04, 2011

Life of the Upcoming Designer, Ropena El-Hajj

The dream of becoming a designer is one that many fashionistas have. To pursue the dream, is something not too many follow through with. To be a designer you must keep in constant update with the trends, making sure your brand can not be undersold by another brand, keep your client base so you can keep your business running, and most important create unique and creative pieces that catch the eye of all the fashionistas willing to pay that extra dollar.

Thinking of the perfect up and coming designer in the city of New York, Ropena came to mind. Ropena, a mature businesswoman who is trying to establish herself in the fashion industry of New York, one that’s very tough to survive in however Ropena is managing. With her brand mainly carrying headpieces and jewelry she has established a brand that has yet to fail, and is becoming more and more popular with the New Yorkers, and now the Torontonians.

The name of the brand being, By Ropena, New York New York incorporates her name, and the city she has created the brand in. Making it completely original and unique.

The busy woman that Ropena is, she was able to stop off for a coffee while visiting Toronto and picking up some fabrics and I was able to get some interview questions from her. What first came to mind was; “What keeps you doing what you’re doing, even if you’re facing the financial difficulties that you are facing?” Ropena: I believe and I love what I do and I am also blessed to do what I am doing right now. Struggling is good it makes you a better person and it open your eyes to a lots of things in life. While being a designer, facing financial difficulties will be a must, as your building your brand basically from nothing you have to overcome all of this. The successful ones make it though, the unsuccessful don’t.

Ropena, why do you do what you do? My inspiration it comes from lots of things like watching old Hollywood glamorous movies from 1940 traveling to NY I love Europe music inspires me a lot. Do you feel that sometimes you can do better? Or that you have not done enough with your brand? Yes I feel like that every time I come up with new idea and new collection. No I don't think that I have done enough YET! because it’s never enough. Being in the fashion industry, do you feel that the competition is much larger than that of being in another industry? Yes, I feel that it is worse. You must ALWAYS be on top of your game, and if you miss one deadline, your line could be all ruined as the next brand may already have their line completed before yours. It’s all about time, creativity, and how you produce your merchandise. Do you see your brand going worldwide within the next ten years? OF COURSE, I want to see my brand in all the major fashion capitols, and I’m hoping it’s much sooner than ten years! What are your biggest goals for the brand? To take By Ropena into the next level by branching out to different cities as I mentioned earlier also shooting editorial with top models to add the extra highlight and also to working with famous and favorite photographer like Mario Testino. Is it hard making connections and meeting new people within the fashion industry? Yes of course it is difficult to speak and get in contact with the right people, but if you keep trying and they see you are trying to reach them, they sometimes come to find you! When maintaining costs and the amount of merchandise you can make and sell, do you see a balance? Or is it hard to balance the two while still trying to maintain your brand? It’s hard in the beginning while your maintaining your brand but at the same time you have to be the business side of your work by knowing your costs and your selling figures.

As the brand By Ropena continues to grow, I’m sure Ropena will expand her business and take it worldwide. With a personality, and character like Ropena she is for sure going to make it successful. She has already begun selling merchandise at famous department stores in New York such as Henri Bendels, Saks Fifth Avenue and Niemen Marcus. She is trying to get into The Room at The Bay, and her hopes for Holt Renfrew are coming closer than she thinks as she may be selling her merchandise for the spring/summer 2012 at Holt Renfrew Bloor Street Toronto.

Starting from nothing at such a mature age may have given her a time limit as many designers begin at such a young age, however Ropena has the knowledge of a mature businesswoman, which may have played a positive role on her brand. Ass the brand continues to grow, I proudly can say Ropena, owner and creative director of By Ropena, New York New York is not only a friend of mine, but like a second mother to me. I wish her all the best.

10 going on 20

“In fashion, one day you are in, and one day you are out,” said Heidi Klum. While she spoke in regards of fashion designers, this quote has never been more true, about models. So who’s “in” at the moment? Thylane Lena Rose Blondeau. The beautiful French model is blonde haired, blue eyed, pouty lipped, compared to a young Brigitte Bardot ...and also 10 years old.

Since her appearance in Vogue Paris, she’s been surrounded by controversy over images that critics are calling “over-sexualized” and “creepy”. Although Blondeau isn’t the only child in these photos, she is the main feature, photographed in true model form, donning heels, tight dresses and jewels, sprawled across tiger fur, applying lipstick, and gazing “seductively” at the camera.

At the tender age of 10, her Google search suggests she’s no newcomer to the industry. Pages of photos can be viewed, confirming her to be booking jobs left and right. In fact, most of the pictures are innocent and age appropriate, including her Vogue debut, as the cover girl of Vogue Enfants. Regardless, the editorial is enough to have many parent and women’s organizations up in arms. According to The Daily Caller, Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, suggests consequences for the girl’s parents, “This is clearly child exploitation and her parents should be legally charged.” However, the concern of Veronika Loubry, French entertainment reporter-turned-fashion-designer, and mother of the girl, laid elsewhere than the nature of the photos. In an interview with the Nouvel Observateur, Loubry noted, “I understand that these photos can be shocking. I was present during the shoot and I was shocked ...about the price of the necklace she is wearing! It costs three million Euros!” Certainly a father might be more protective of his young daughter being portrayed as eye candy, right? Wrong. Since the uproar, Blondeau’s father, former professional soccer player Patrick Blondeau, has rarely even been mentioned in connection to the story.

Since the defense of the images, Loubry has shut down her daughters official Facebook fan page stating, “Thylane doesn’t know about the buzz and I want to protect her from the deapest of my heart,,,she’s so young,,so we are going to close this accompte for a while.” But is the damage already done? Senior director of women’s programs at the American Psychological Association, Shari Miles-Cohen explained on “Good Morning America”, “We don’t want kids to grow up too fast. We want them to be able to develop physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially at appropriate rates for their age.” Clinical psychologist Dr. Emma Gray expressed similar thoughts to the Daily Mail, “If children are to develop into happy, grounded and psychologically balanced people, their childhood needs to be spent appropriately preparing for the demands of the adult world. Prematurely exposing a child to the adult world is dangerously preventing the completion of their development into a person who can survive in it.”

On the flip side, the fashion world breads on pushing boundaries and exposing current issues through an art form. Perhaps the intentions were not to glorify sexualizing a young girl, but to emphasize the way the fashion and modeling world glamourizes young girls on a daily basis, without anyone batting a lash. A successful working model will typically begin a career short of their sweet sixteen. Take 15 year old Daphne Groeneveld, who appeared in Louis Vuitton’s Fall 2011 ad campaign, now seasoned pro Brooke Shields, who debuted in Vogue at 14 or Milla Jovovich who was photographed for Revlon’s “Most Unforgettable Women in the World” at the age of 12. It’s not unusual for viewers to pass these young stars for much older, and upon realizing just how young they really are, the reaction is most often surprised and in awe, opposed to outraged and concerned. Yet, these are the same girls who Thylane is merely puberty away of being, minus the controversy. Luckily, amidst all the criticism, Thylane still has a strong online fan base, including blogs, Youtube videos and fan initiated Facebook groups. The general consensus is that Blondeau simply won the genetic lottery, so why not showcase that? Comments like “beautiful” and “impressive” fill the page of “Miss Thylane Blondeau” - a Facebook group with over 4,000 “likes”. One fan even made a point to express the support for her mother, saying “I think Thylane is a great model and her mom knows what is the best for her not the media.”

In an industry where success and value is based off of beauty, it’s a valid point to say that young models are in their prime. More and more we’re seeing girls, not even the age of consent, dominating the modeling scene. Fame aside, Elle Fanning and Hailee Steinfeld are your average middle schoolers. But a primp, prep and prime later, they’re the faces of Marc for Marc Jacobs, and Mui Mui. Doll up and pose a 10 year old similarly in mockery of the inappropriateness, and it’s child exploitation. Of course the images are unsettling, but what they represent, is of equal shock value.

Green...The New Black?

Taking a look into the
trend of ‘going green’

Eco-chic. Green fashionista. All-natural. Biodegradable. These have all become common terms and slang in today’s eco-conscious culture, what with the growing awareness –and, quite frankly, popularity- associated with ‘going green’ and saving the planet (which isn’t a bad thing!). So to all of you environmentally-conscious fashionistas and trend setters alike, I’ve got to ask…how green are you really?
Some people may respond with a passionate ‘very much so’, others might reply somewhere on the other end of the spectrum. So you don’t wash your jeans that often- conserving water, you may say- but do you know how that t-shirt of yours was made? Exactly.
It’s chic to be green, and don’t we all just want to fit in, but how do you really define the term?
Green. It can be described in many ways, and as many different things. To be ‘green’ is to be eco-chic, or rather to be environmentally-conscious, while maintaining style. Everybody has their own definition of it though, from living a completely eco-friendly life (also known as ‘being green’), to the colour some people turn while at sea, it can vary depending on who you are talking to.
According to a 2009 report by Ottawa-based TerraChoice,an environmental marketing firm, the average number of ‘green’ products on store shelves in Canada and the U.S. had almost tripled from 2006- 2008. That’s quite a short amount of time. This increase is most likely caused by society’s trend to be eco-friendly, and the increasing demand that consumers have for these types of products, which in turn would lead companies to produce more products with a ‘green’ label.
Our society today is so obsessed with trends and the latest ‘it’ style, and ‘going green’ is no exception. Although some people might be missing the bigger picture at hand, and are more interested in the idea of being eco-friendly or sporting environmentally-friendly fashions than they’re interested in the actual purpose of it all. We as a society have adapted to following trends like we follow the latest celebrity gossip; ‘being green’ may be just another way of conforming to the latest fad. And when you are more concerned with the latest trend- in this case being considered a ‘green’ member of society- it could take the focus away from the cause itself, and although you may think you’re doing your part in the green movement, if you take a step back you just might realize that you aren’t as environmentally-friendly as you thought you were.
Carrying reusable bags and bringing your own travel mug versus the plastic and paper versions respectively, is a good thing, yes. It might even get you a nod of approval from most who respect the conservation of resources. However, purchasing clothing and accessories that have been produced using harmful pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, were manufactured using excessive amounts of water and chemicals, and have been transported inefficiently may be counter-acting your efforts with that bag and cup of yours.
By purchasing products that were made in not so eco-friendly processes, such as in factories that irresponsibly dispose of their waste water, or have excessive amounts of waste materials left over, you’re almost supporting the anti-environment group. Being misinformed is just as harmful to the environment, as it can lead you to buy what is believed to be environmentally safe or produced sustainably, but which in fact may have no supporting evidence. Greenwash or greenwashing, known as ‘a superficial or insincere display of concern for the environment that is shown by an organization’, according to the Collins English Dictionary (2009), is something that you need to be aware of as a consumer. False eco-friendly claims or inaccurate environmentally-safe practices by companies are something you want to avoid.
To ensure you’re sporting responsible fashion, check your labels or do your homework on the company. If it has a BCI (Better Cotton Initiatives), FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council), or EcoLogo certification, you’re one step closer to becoming a ‘green’ shopper!
Following the craze of ‘going green’ doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your style or succumb to the hippie-esque methods of personal hygiene though. It used to be tough for consumers to find stylish, environmentally-conscious clothing and accessories at an affordable price. But don’t fret! This is no longer the case! Many of today’s retailers are making the decision to practice more sustainable processes of producing and supplying their products.
Take H&M for example. Their Conscious* line, featuring recycled polyester shirts and dresses, woven organic hemp and silk shoes, and organic cotton skirts are all as on trend as the next poly blend dress out there. American Apparel, another favourite of many, also carries a
sustainable line ‘Sustainable Edition’, which uses 100% organic cotton. And for those of you that really like to see results, check out Levi Strauss & Co.’s Water For those of you looking for a cosmetic fix, bath and beauty favourites Burt’s Bees and Lush are also committed to producing all-natural products that are produced in sustainable ways.
So, dear stylish one, are you as green as you thought? Have you checked your labels lately? Or are you just taking part of the ‘green’ trend because it’s simply that, another trend? Here today, gone tomorrow, respecting the environment and making responsible (and fashionable!) choices is something that we all need to be more aware of, before these valuable resources
are just that: gone tomorrow.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Developing a Fashionable Moon

An interview with young, Business Development Manager, Corey Niddam.

Corey Niddam, a 23-year old aspiring business developer, came to working in the family business of fast-fashion. Being cousins to the Mimran family, Corey shares his experience as a Production Manager for Alfred Sung International Sourcing and tells us a little bit about his new position as well as the competition that is dealt when up against other relatives

Oh, George: Describe your position.

CN: I work with a team of merchandisers. Currently working as the lead-on for Moon’s Men line at The Bay as well as working with moon ladies. My first season was last Holiday. It’s cool to see!

OG: What is a typical day like for you?

CN: I’ll usually start with development first, looking at fabric swatches approvals, any outstanding approvals, clearing out any outstanding things to do. We live and die by the ‘work in progress report’ which is basically an internal report that has a status of all of the things we need to keep track of in terms of development and production. So, that’s available on one paper that we need to update constantly. Then, we go into production. In terms of production, we need to make sure everything is on time. Ensuring our Q.C’s (quality control) are in the place they need to be and most importantly, to ensure we meet our ship dates and our obligations to our retailer which is, The Bay.

OG: What are some assets one must possess to be successful in this position?

CN: Good communicator, problem solver, quick on your feet. I can’t stress being a clear communicator enough. You need to know what you’re talking about and how to direct people to what they need. You need to be able to translate information, process it and, send it out but as clear and concise as possible. Being a big team player is huge. If you can think you can do it on your own, it is impossible. To have a good general background of the industry from your Fashion Management program will also definitely help you. If you’re passionate about it, it is the place to be.

OG: What are some of the advantages of working with a smaller company such as the Moon line?

CN: Having to work with a close group, you get feedback and a chance to make mistakes. They obviously oversea a mistake before it grows into a larger one but, I’d say having to work in the environment I’m currently in, I get to not only see everyone else's perspective but actually work in other areas as well. It’s valuable to be able to add versatility to your work ethics and that’s one part of the job that I love most.

OG: You grew up in a very entrepreneurial environment. Tell me a bit about it.

CN: I’m very fortunate to have a very entrepreneurial family. I love business. I took business courses and blended it with other courses, taking what I wanted and needed to know from University rather than focusing in on a specific. If I couldn’t find a job, I’d make my own job!

OG: Was it known from the get-go that you’d be a part of the family business?

CN: I had a choice as to what I wanted to do. This really interested me because moon the line was very young and it was a chance to be a part of something at the inception. I’m not going to say I’m a ‘fashionista’ by any point, but I do like the business in terms of the sourcing and working overseas and going to seeing factories. I’ve been around that for a long time. My family is all in international business, sourcing. My cousins started Joe Fresh and done Club Monaco so I’ve been around this for a very long time. If you were to ask me 5 years ago if this is what I thought I’d be doing--probably not. It’s been a very rewarding experience, I’m glad to play an instrumental part in putting someones’ vision of making something reality.

OG: What would you recommend one to do to better themself and eliminate competition?

CN: If you’re really serious, learn Mandarin. It is so important and respectful to be able to communicate with the people you are working with. Cultural literacy is very important for the business. They’ll respect you for formal things to do and not to do. I went with my dad across seas for the first time and got to learn. Don’t be afraid to do your own research and of course excel in school. Think outside the box, that’s what people need. We live in a very exciting world with many different outlets whether or not you can find a job, create your own job!

OG: Explain how team work is crucial in your business.

CN: Its multiple teams. Your team needs to be able to communicate with other teams. Communication is very important and just hard work. Especially now, there’s a ton of people who are willing to do what you want to do so when you are fighting for experience, you need to embrace as much as you can and show them that you are willing to do whatever it is that you can possibly do and you’ll get rewarded.

No one respects you if you go into work with a superego. My cousins are the designers and I am constantly having to prove everybody else wrong since I’ve been fortunate enough to have this opportunity but it has been a lot of hard work.

OG: What advice would you give someone that is interested in the fashion industry?

CN: Be persistent. A lot of people are going to tell you to help yourself or initially give you the helping hand you need but if you are a) patient and b) very persistent and show them that you are committed and if given an opportunity, don’t let it go to waste. Don’t be discouraged. You do a lot of hard work and it seems like it’s never ending which, in fact, it isn’t. Be determined and don’t hold back and be willing to work long hours and earn your strips because that’s the only way to be respected. A lot of people in the industry have been doing it for a long time and you need to be able to go above and beyond. Don’t expect people to be rubbing your back every two minutes--stick to your goals. If they see you’re willing to put in the effort, people will come help you. I’ve seen people be pre-Madonna like and they don’t make it.


Buying fake designer merchandise leads to enormous savings versus actually splurging on the real-deal. But are you actually paying the cost in the long run?

I’m sure we all ponder this question when either shopping for real or fake designer goods; if it was possible, should selling counterfeit merchandise be legal? It would help our taxes, everything would be documented, there would be legalized factories to undergo the production, and for those less fortunate, they could have the imaginary luxury of owning a “designer” item for less then half the cost. If that was the case, the government could have a strong grip on the knockoff production, making them tweak labels, structures and designs so there not entirely copying the original in the first place. For example the 20th century has been big on “fast fashion” a term used for any retail or production company who mimics the way a certain style is on designer runways, then sells it for less than half the price of the original in their stores. If fashion is all about copying one another and stemming from each others ideas, then why isn’t it legal to make knockoff products?

Designer brands are labeled on everything (literally, everything!). From purses, to sharpie markers to iPods - the temptation of wanting a designer product is etched in your mind; along with the question, is it real or fake? Buying knockoffs these days are so good, not even some of the pros can tell if it’s real or fake. With so many counterfeit products ranging from sneakers to iPods, it isn’t helping the actual designers coming up with their designs as well as our economy. Buying counterfeit merchandise is a bad idea in many ways. According to an article titled “Faking it - Counterfeit fashion” by Cynthia Nellis, it gives reasons as to why you should think twice about buying counterfeit merchandise, here are some examples:
The tax we pay each year? The people selling counterfeit merchandise not only get away with not having to pay taxes but also robbing our economy more than $1 billion dollars each year.
It is said that counterfeiting is linked with gangs and terrorists. Sometimes knockoff handbags will be lined with drugs that they can smuggle into countries and sell.
The knockoff products such as electronics or toys can be unsafe, using the cheapest way to produce the items can cause harm to anyone, falling apart easily and leaving little pieces around for small children to choke on them.
Counterfeit sunglasses shatter easily and may fail to provide UV protection against the sun like it says.
It is also said that selling knockoffs, especially handbags, increases the price of the actual designer handbag due to the company’s lost sales. Counterfeiting isn’t made with high quality goods as you may all know. Many people just want the designer look for less and will stop at nothing to get it.

Both the United States and Canada have created laws to minimize counterfeit selling and production. Under the Trade-marks Act and the Anti-Counterfeiting Consumer Protection Act of 1996 they included laws such as criminal infringement of copying a product, trafficking goods, services and labels, allowing law enforcement to take counterfeit products as well as shutting down where they make there goods, and many more. Depending on how real the knockoff looks to the designers product, a person can get charged with selling knockoffs of up to $1,000,000! (Now how many designer handbags would that get you?)
Although the idea of legalizing knockoffs has its benefits, the term to counterfeit means to illegally copy something. Knockoffs are illegal in the sense that they are trying to sell as the real product. There have been incidents where the people who produce counterfeit merchandise will buy a real designer bag, make a replica of it, and return the fake bag in for another one and the sales associates don’t even notice. So even if you are the type of person to buy real designer goods from the stores, make sure you really inspect the bag your buying, and that goes for every other product you want to purchase as well.

As read above, spotting fake products can be very difficult to tell the difference as to what’s real and what’s fake. Keep in mind when shopping for designer merchandise how to spot a fake by using a few of these clues:
Most importantly, note the price - is it increasingly lower than what other retailers sell there merchandise for? For example if its a Chanel handbag selling for $150 - it’s fake. Chanel purses usually retail anywhere from $700 and above.
Where are you buying it from? More than likely if its being sold in a back alley way or out of a trunk of a car, then ladies - its not real, sorry!
Point of origin tag. Noticing where its from is highly important. If it’s “Made in China” then it probably isn’t real.
With it being the 20th century and all, the internet is a huge part of retailing. If your one of those people who loves to shop online rather than waste your time at the mall carelessly walking around, keep in mind that counterfeiters do sell online as well. A few hints to look for when browsing online:
Notice the description they give. If they overkill on words such as “authentic” “genuine” and “real”, then the site you’re on is a fraud.
If you read into the description carefully the knockoffs sometimes will have “this design is inspired by..” showing that it is in fact a knockoff.
And of course as said above, note the price. Price is always important!
Overall if you want a real designer bag, and not a knockoff, your best bet is to go to the company’s store or department store that sells designer goods. If you’re the online shopper, most designers sell directly to the public on their own sites which would be the most surefire way to get the product your looking for. So ladies, let us try and minimize even more our want for designer knockoffs and try to save up for the real deal! It’ll help out our economy and environment by not having to throw away your knockoffs after two short years of usage, and also keep your fashionista status at a high with a real designer bag! (Ou la la!) Everyone will be envious, and that’s what a girl who’s fashion forward wants, right?