Monday, March 04, 2013

Independent Designers In A Mainstream World

Creating a clothing line is challenging in itself, but creating a line in a society that covets ‘Name Brand’ designers is a whole other undertaking. However, that being said, it is not impossible and Carissa McCaig has proven that all one needs is a little bit of imagination, especially in a Chanel fed world. Copious Couture is her baby and this is where she brings her couture to life.
It is massive competition dealing with the likes of Galiano, Versace and yes, even Victoria Beckham and for which many happily deposit thousands of dollars to wear the name. However, competing with these great fashion houses, not for dollars, but for an opportunity to be able to work along side them in the fashion shows and market, more than offset the stress and heart-stopping dollar signs.
 Designers of our generation are now looking toward building a line that can compete with mainstream designers on a new level. They are focusing more on long lasting pieces that offer a unique value. McCaig enjoys creating classic pieces that have not been knocked off and thrown into a fast fashion boutique. She is more interested in what the client will take home: a garment that was made with all the intentions of its wearer.
Enter a new age of fashion designers, who are no longer looking for that sexy name brand appeal, but rather innocence, the same innocence that a child has in the early years of their lives. Fashion is something that has an unexpected presence in life, forever changing and never the same.
 McCaig propels designs off an inspiration that is naïve in its formation and innocent in its execution. She has absorbed fashion design into her being and expresses that the culture of fashion is based on the knowledge and love a designer puts into his or her product.
In this interview, McCaig discusses how she first started in the fashion business, the difficulties she has encountered in trying to compete with the name brands, as well as her advice for others striving for a career in the apparel design industry.

OG: What does fashion mean to you?
CM: Fashion means comfort and comfort means different things to different people. Some are comfortable in heels, some in runners, some in skirts and some in pants. As long as you are comfortable you will be confident and ultimately fashion is to help put your confident self forward!
OG: When did you realize that you wanted to become a fashion designer?
CM: Actually it was my mom who pushed me to consider this as a career. I was all set to go to university especially because the plan had always been to go to university on a soccer scholarship. She knew deep down that I would ultimately end up going into another field after university, so she made an appointment at the Academy of Design and I fell in love!
OG: What first inspired you to design?
CM: In general life has always inspired me, it's not always as literal as a specific designer or era, a woman on the street can inspire me, or a song. Currently I am working on spring 14' and my inspiration is trying to recapture that moment as a child when you read your favourite book for the first time or see your favourite movie, you don't know what is going to happen but that is the best part, there is an innocence to all that, that you will never be able to get back, so it's very precious. 
OG: How would you define the style your line exemplifies?
CM: The biggest thing I always try to maintain, no matter what my inspiration, is these pieces need to stand the test of time and fashion! I want these pieces to have classic elements so that a woman will constantly go back to these pieces and say yes I always look good in that piece.
OG: What do you like about designing clothes?
CM: Everything, I mean there will always be times when I don't want to grade that skirt pattern because it's 5 feet long and awkward to do, but there is nothing like having an idea, making it a sketch, then taking that sketch into literal form! I think that is the greatest satisfaction, looking at my board at the end of the collection and seeing all those sketches literally jump off the pages and onto my Judy!
OG: What do you dislike about designing clothes?
CM: Nothing really.  I love designing clothes, it's all the other stuff like Facebook posts and blog post and twitter posts and updating the website! It's a lot of work and takes a lot time away from the designing.
OG: Do you feel that independent designers are getting the same opportunities as mainstream labels?
CM: No not at all, I love the people that support me I have a great following of girls who come back to me every season to buy from my collection because the pieces are unique and you won't see 100 girls wearing it ‘cause you didn't buy it at H&M. The biggest thing people need to understand is yes independent designers cost a little bit more, but you are paying to have a unique piece that will last a lot longer then something you bought from H&M or Forever21.
OG: Do you find it difficult to compete with these labels?
CM: Sometimes, but I constantly remind myself that I love what I put out there and my company has grown a following and a group of stores that purchases from me, so it will keep growing and people will start to see the benefits of buying and supporting local designers!
OG: Have you had the opportunity to compete with mainstream designers in local and national fashion shows?
CM: Yes. I have participated at Ottawa and Montreal Fashion Week and each time I have learned so much! 
OG: Was it difficult to get your designs into these shows?
CM: No, my biggest thing is quality! I produce a small line 20-25 pieces but I take care in making sure each piece is finished nicely and people see that!
OG: How did you go about promoting your line in order to get accepted into the fashion shows?
CM: A website, Facebook page, twitter and a blog and great photos! I have a lovely photographer who works great with me and always gets my vision across! Biggest thing is drop them a line, if you never put yourself out there then you will never know!
OG: How did you find a market for your line?
CM: Woman always want beautiful dresses, there will always be date nights, weddings, big events that we have to attend and as long as that is the case women will buy dresses to wear! I choose great fabrics and have well-constructed garments, woman can see that
OG: Do you feel it is harder for an independent designer to find a niche market in today’s society?
CM: Yes the market is very saturated, lots of people think it's easy to be a designer, so the stores are constantly being approached by people asking them to carry their lines. The biggest thing I have seen that works is meeting the shop owners. I am good friends with the ladies that carry my pieces because they are artisans or designers themselves so they know how hard it is that I am doing and can see the effort I am putting in, and again they see my craftsmanship, so once they see the pieces they know ladies will spend the money ‘cause you can see how well made and unique they are. 
OG: What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to start a career in fashion design?
CM: If you aren't working three jobs to make a go at it, or putting your blood, sweat and tears into it, it won't work. This isn't an easy industry to be in, whether it is design, marketing, styling, organizing fashion shows - any of it is time consuming and you have to love what you are doing! ‘Cause after the 20 hour day if you don't love your job it will feel like work! 

Through perseverance and a commitment to uniqueness and quality, Carissa McCaig has begun to shape her own path through our fashion culture and in doing so, inspires young independent designers to take a stand against the mainstream wall that threatens to stop them.  I have worked with Carissa in the past, as a model, and have seen first-hand how hard she fights to stand alongside the Givenchy’s, Versace’s and Beckham’s.
There are a lot of sweat and tears that go into creating and designing a label and McCaig has had to tough it out many times.  She even mentioned in her interview “If you aren't working three jobs to make a go at it, or putting your blood, sweat and tears into it, it won't work.”  Copious Couture has created a buzz and a name for itself through hard work and passion and in a society that is dominated by brand labels, there now is a chance for ‘unknown’ names to rise up and grab those fashion bulls by the balls. 

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