Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Where Beauty Shines

A local spot for amazing unknown brands that will make a difference in your life!

Blossom Lounge is the name of this cute and quirky boutique located in the distillery district. Shauna Podruzny is a familiar name in the industry and the owner of this boutique. The doors first opened in 2004 inside the path at Bay and King, only to carry bath and body products. But not your typical bath and body lines. Definitely nothing you would find at a Shoppers. The difference is the quality of these products and the wonders they can do for your skin. Let’s not forget the beautiful packaging that catches your eyes for some of these brands like Lollia, Lovefresh, One Love Organics and Farmhouse Fresh. A lot of the brands carried in this boutique are unknown to most people and now since natural skin care lines are becoming a niche, the lines have become quite popular and people tend to come to Blossom Lounge just to pick up certain lines.
Then in year 2008, Shauna made the launch from just bath and body to carrying fashion apparel in store and expanding. According to my interview I had with Shauna, “the transition for bath and body was quite smooth, I had lots of support from my brother and his wife who made it a lot easier for me”. The Distillery is the only free standing location at the moment, along with the online shop. It has nothing to do with not being able to hold a store, but it has to do with Shauna finding the perfect location! The distillery location is quite unique with old pieces of wood from the 1800s, being used in store for drawers and shelves, which gives an old feel to the store.” The distillery is one the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Toronto and with all the history it makes it the perfect location for a store. My son also was super excited about the distillery, so I thought why not go for it. And now we’ve been open for 2 lovely years”, as told by Shauna when I interviewed her. And with exceptional customer service, this boutique has a great reputation of being one of the best in the city with one of the nicest owners in the industry!
The fashion apparel lines that are in store are brands from all over the world. That includes USA, The U.K. Australia and Canada just to name a few. Each line has a unique story and a history to it which makes each line in store so special! The ones that stand out the most are Soia & Kyo, Mackage and Wooden Ships. Soia & Kyo and Mackage are Canadian sister brands. The quality is up there with the finest sourcing of leather for Mackage and the finest sources of other materials for Soia &Kyo. There is nothing better than an independent boutique carrying Canadian lines. In the words of the owner, “the jackets from Mackage are to die for and my personal favourite at the moment”. Wooden Ships is a brand that is based out of New York City. It is a knitwear brand that does the most that it can to reduce its carbon footprint. Each item is dyed with eco-friendly dyes and made by hand. In the factories the company works towards a zero waste policy to get rid of all unnecessary waste! The brand strives to be a paperless office, so they ship everything by sea! It is important for Shauna to carry brands like this that are different and the customer is now actively searching for this stuff all the time!
Let’s not forget that this if a lifestyle boutique and the store carries accessories including jewelry, bags and other home products like notebooks, home diff-users, water bottles and candles. The jewelry line that stands out the most is called Jenny Bird. Jenny Bird is a local Toronto designer that is known for costume jewelry with a nice twist. The brand has expanded to be including all over the world and the brand has huge philanthropic partners like the Canadian Red Cross and the World Wildlife Foundation. Shauna chose her lines and brands carefully, each and every one of them are very special and most have great philanthropic partners. “As vapid as the industry can be, it is important for me to have brands in my store that are not only great for your skin and the environment, but care about the world as well”, in the words of Shauna Podruzny, the owner of Blossom Lounge.

Blossom Lounge goes out of its way to be a unique boutique with different lines that cater to all, men and women included! Shauna is not just known for being an amazing boutique owner, but she has done a lot of charitable donations for organizations in and out of Toronto! Shauna has helped many independent Canadian designers do pop up shops in store. “I was a young entrepreneur once so I try to help people out the most I can and give someone a chance that I truly believe in the product they are selling and if it will make a difference I have no problem lending a hand”. She also cares deeply about eco-friendly products and eco-friendly lines so much! “It is important that my customers know the options out there that are better for you in the long run and all these products are tested and used by my Blossom Lounge Ladies. I take pride in all my products that are sold in the store and online. And I can say by using eco-friendly products, it has changed my life for the better”, in the words of Shauna. So what better yet to pop into Blossom Lounge the next time you are in the distillery. Now that you know the owner is one of a kind, I am sure you will find a product that is suited just for you!
Designer Zoran Dobric
Is 3D print and Laser-cutting techniques popular among designers in Canada?
            Fashion can be defined as an individualistic creative expression that is incorporated in one’s wardrobe. One of the most innovative and artistic designers known to North America is Zoran Dobric. Dobric uses techniques such as embroidery, shibori pleating, laser cut, block and screen-printing and has been a predominant element in his process.  His pieces were mentioned as “Innovative, yet wearable pieces of art” (WMCFW designer profile) and I have to say I agree. His techniques for creating these pieces of art are unique and fashion forward. Zoran has had his designs published in many fashion magazines as well as articles about his work and was awarded with the London based Shaftsbury award for emerging artists. Most recently he was mentioned on a well-known fashion writer’s blog and was rated #2 as her top 10 Canadian designers shown at this years World Master Card Fashion Week Spring/Summer 16. “With a focus on laser cuts and metallic, Zoran Dobric incorporated two of my favourite elements into his SS16 collection.  For the laser cuts, the designer paired with local digital fabrication expert, Fare Made to create his unique cut-out pieces and floppy headgear,” said Meaghan Elizabeth.
             Laser-cut seems to be a hot trend on the runway and on the red carpet for Spring/Summer 16. This year’s MET Gala theme was announced recently; “Manus X Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”, and is mentioned by the writer of GQ Magazine Megan Gustasha to “surely result in a host of laser-cut and 3D-printed ensembles on the red carpet”.Description: Macintosh HD:Users:rebeccawengle:Desktop:493637882.jpg

            I had a chance to sit with the magnificent Zoran and discuss his creative brilliance and views on his innovative signature style and his opinion on the hot trend of laser-cutting garments.

Q: How did you come to think to use laser cut fabrics for your designs?
A: Last season I experimented with laser cut wood accessories; so I wanted to research further to see what else I could do with laser cutting.  This season I experimented with laser cutting neoprene and metallic heat transfer mirror foils.

Q: is laser cutting expensive in Canada?
A: Depending on the size of artwork it's reasonably affordable.

Q: do you get your fabrics laser cut in Canada or overseas?
A: In Canada, I used several great laser-cutting contractors in Toronto.

Q: do you think the techniques used to create your fabrics are techniques popular among designers in western society (Canada)?
A: I think recently laser cutting is getting much more used now with designers such as Sid Neigum and others, but I haven't seen anyone use laser cut metallic foils in the designer collections.  I like discovering new methods and materials and applying them in a new way.

Q: Your designs seem to have an elegant cohesion with your digital prints, is there a mathematical formula you encompass to fulfill your vision?
A: Yes, they were carefully planned out in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, making sure that laser cut metallic details line up precisely with the sublimation printed backgrounds.

Q: As a creationist what is the most difficult task in the process of your designs?
 A: I think it's editing.  Sometimes it's hard to critically look at your ideas and edit them down to a more cohesive grouping.

Q: In your opinion what are the elements for a successful design?
 A: Creativity and innovation balanced with marketability/commercial appeal of the design.  It's a really hard balance to achieve.

 Q: As an advocate of individualism, what does your artwork attempt to say to the world?
 A:  Hopefully my artwork speaks about the wearer's passion for colour, texture, and art.  It communicates the wearer's artistic tastes and personality.

Q: Who are a few inspirational artists/ designers that have shaped your views towards a new-age fashion revolution?
 A: I really admire Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe and Issey Miyake.  Their work is always so inspirational and avant garde.

            The results of such laser cutting have beautifully come together, however his garments do not look like an inexpensive technique but rather a work of wearable art. Symmetry and asymmetry are underlying focal points in Zoran’s prints; gothic architectural essences seem to also reveal itself. The intricate manipulation of Zoran’s work is very striking and is definitely an up-coming trend among Canadian designers alike. Most designers have many obstacles to overcome in their fashion journey, be it production, marketing, even creativity. Successful designers have not only earned the reputation for being artists and icons but also convey a distinctive message to the public.

Kanye West and Sully-Wong: Changing the Urban Fashion Industry

The urban fashion industry has been incredibly successful in penetrating outside of its market in recent years (especially in Toronto). With the increase in quality of design, and a major push by celebrities and artists showcasing smaller labels we have adapted to our icons on our own streets, but has the line been blurred between what’s defined as “urban dress” and what’s just trending because of these factors? Have we come to a point where High Fashion and Urban street style have finally come hand in hand. Things are changing in the industry and lets find out why!

It's unarguable that the influence of style from the Hip-Hop community is big, and has been since the early 80’s. When Run DMC was rocking Adidas tracksuits and thick gold chains, to Salt-N-Peppa rocking bright colours and skinny jeans. The community was able to stand out with its music and mostly its style. Given the opportunity to talk with Canadian designer George Sullivan of Sully-Wong, respectably one of Canada’s leading urban designers working in with shoes and accessories, he has come a long way and has had his eye on this industry for many years. So one could say the least, he is an expert in this field. He, and his partner Henry Wong (hence, Sully-Wong) have managed to take the typical urban sneaker and turn it into something that even a “suit” could wear…. To work!  
(Karim Rashid for Sully-Wong)

           This dynamic duo is a powerhouse of innovation and marketing. They have done collaborations with Karim Rashid, who's prints essentially put the brand on the map and blew them up in Japan where they do a tremendous amount of business, Vitaly, and Amanda Lew-Kee. One of the more exciting collaborations was the recent one for TIFF in which Ciroc (which is owned by Sean “P-Diddy” Combs) had Sully-Wong create a shoe for the launch of the vodka in Canada. This is a big win for the team, to have one of the urban wear Guru’s collaborate with them for one of his brands. The Sean John empire is one to be reckoned with. Although, when I asked George if he felt like the urban Guru’s like FUBU, Phat Farm and Sean Jean still have a major impact on the current designers that are designing for the urban market his response was,                 
Sully-Wong for Ciroc
 “Not sure if they impact the industry from a day to day trend perspective as much as they have set the course for all wannabe successful brands to follow, and that says it all, in respects to their relevancy and accomplishments. They created a master template to follow, making it easier to navigate an ever shifting industry.“

And a path they made is one that has been followed but there has been a major shift in style. It seems as though there is a more smooth transition between what’s on the runway at Fashion Week and what’s in the closets of some of Toronto’s street kids. Now is this smooth transition something that’s so sought out? George seems to think so. With the influence of Kanye West, as George said,

“Love him or hate him, Kanye West has single handedly flipped the fashion world on its head.”

Kanye is a perfect example of how urban style has transitioned its way in to a harmonious love with High Fashion. Not only have we watched the evolution of Kanye West style change from what would be called “gangster” to “urban chic” it has been an amazing transition which is also why his own line Yeezy which has been a major hit where this sort of Urban bum wearing $600 duck boots looks dope. [1] Kanye has continued to defend his controversial sportswear collection. Why? (Kanye says) Because “sweatshirts are f**king important.”

            Even prior to Kanye starting the line he has his foot way in the door, and not just because he was privileged with the means to do so, but because he was eager to learn the ins and the outs. Which is part of why his music career was such a huge success. [2] Kanye spent ample time researching and learning from the best of the best in the Fashion business. He Moved for Rome to intern for Fendi for four months and also claims he snuck in to Giuseppe Zanotti’s factory and learned to make shoes. The craftiness was necessary not because of how successful he was, but partially because of his contract with Louis Vuitton. Kanye dropped a capsule collection of sneakers in 2009. The all-red "Louis Vuitton Don" sneaker became a cultivated classic, and immediately linked the bold color way with Kanye West. Five years ago the amount of rap fans buying Givenchy or Alexander Wang was slim to none. [3]“Now, gothic-inspired graphics and minimal, dark hoodies run rampant on Instagram and Tumblr—often alongside rap lyrics. West’s penchant for luxury brand and avant-garde designers paved the way for guys like A$AP Rocky”

            Now for our fellow Canadian George, he has his finger on the pulse. More collaborations are to come in the future for the Sully-Wong brand and the urban style scene is only getting more and more popular by the day, especially in Toronto. With stores like Untitled & Co, Get Fresh and Community 54 showcasing the best of the best, the urban closet will never be dull. One word of advice from George to those trying to step into the market,

“New brands often make the mistake of promoting something they don’t have much of, Plan ahead make sure you can deliver!”

[1] http://hollywoodlife.com/2015/09/24/kanye-west-defends-clothing-line-yeezy-2-fashion-sweatshirts/
[2] http://www.gq.com/story/5-reasons-the-fashion-industry-should-take-kanye-west-seriously
[3] http://www.gq.com/story/5-reasons-the-fashion-industry-should-take-kanye-west-seriously

Monday, November 02, 2015

Discussing Trends with Farah Liz Pallaro



Based on more than 15 years working in the fashion industry as a trend forecaster, Farah Liz Pallaro gives us the lowdown on how trends come to exist in the world of fashion and how to identify them like a pro.

     Let’s talk about trends: we are constantly surrounded by them... and whether we choose to acknowledge them or not, we are bound to encounter them in fashion magazines, on the internet, or anywhere on the streets of Toronto. I had always been fascinated by the nature of fashion trends; I always thought that if everyone has their own style and way of expressing themselves fashionably, why do people fall into the latest fads that make them no different than everyone else?  What is the best way to identify and predict trends in the world of fashion? And what is it about certain designers and fashionistas that make them trendsetters?

     These questions have always stuck with me, but I was never quite able to determine the answer all by myself. So, I did my research and found the perfect expert to ask about my trend-identity crisis: Farah Liz Pallaro - as someone who has worked in the industry for over 15 years, she’s had the chance to see trends come and go and deeply analyze these patterns over the past decade and a half.

     Farah started her professional trend research in 2010 as a trend research consultant for WGSN, one of the biggest and most successful trend analysis resources on the internet. She covered a variety of resources such as trade shows, fashion shows and retail, and helped them to determine what would become popular and what they should focus on. However, WGSN began to expand by covering more content eventually became a style site as well as a trend forecasting site. Many people who worked there did not agree with this. So, Farah, along with several other co-workers, moved to Fashion Scoop - a trend forecasting site that is smaller but more focused on analyzing trends. “WGSN was becoming too big - it changed a lot,” she said, “I prefer Fashion Scoop, where I can focus more on researching trends in visual merchandising and help clients who need this information.”
     I asked about the most effective way to identify trends, and she said that she prefers to travel to stores and speak directly with the people who work for these brands. According to Farah, the best research is primary research - it is always better to get your own perspective on the information you seek because the result is a more thorough and accurate understanding. You could never compare the accuracy of your own research to any other form of secondary research, “and besides,” said Farah, “I don’t cope with the internet! I graduated in 2001, and we had to learn how to do our research directly.” She makes a good point: our latest generation is known for being lazy because we rely on the internet to find absolutely everything we want to know; but we forget that the best way to learn is by experiencing and learning by ourselves.

     I asked Farah what exactly she looks for when she visits stores to analyze trends. She said that she pays attention to how brands communicate products to customers: “Lately, high-end designers have gone for a very minimal store layout in order to draw more attention to the product,” which makes sense to me because it is better to focus more creativity on the product rather than the layout of where it is sold. This saves so much money for designers and brands because they do not need to spend a great deal of time and money on interior design anymore. 

     “You also don’t need to go full-out in window displays anymore! You can tag customers through e-commerce and social media pages instead.” - which brings us back to one of the biggest trends of our generation: the internet. Most of us are either lazy or simply do not have the time to travel from store to store, and as a result we would rather shop online. So designers and brands should save their time and money to enhance their identity and shopping online, where they have a better chance of gaining customers and admirers.

     I finally had to ask my final and burning question: why do certain designers and fashionistas become trendsetters, what makes their designs and styles so special that everyone wants to follow them? “They focus on macro trends”, said Farah, “they know what’s going on in the world, and they express these situational influences through fashion.” 

     She gives the example of when Balmain relaunched their brand fifteen years ago: they came out with an army-inspired line, which was right around the time that the U.S. army fought with Afghanistan after the 9/11 incident. The designers pulled real-life inspiration from the war between the U.S. and Afghanistan, making the line more relatable to customers, and ultimately more desirable. The army style trend became a huge hit in the world of fashion.

     Therefore, in order to truly be a successful creator and trendsetter, people need to know what’s going on in the world - whether it’s politics or sociological concepts - and apply it into fashion. A trend only becomes a big hit once people are ready to accept it, and the more relatable the trend is, the more likely people are to welcome it with open arms.

Attention Aspiring Entrepreneurs: Niches on Promo!

Want to start a business but don’t know where to begin? Get a niche!

Fresh, Victoria’s Secret, Harry Rose; all these heavy hitters share one thing, yet they’re so uniquely different from each other. They all focus on a specific sector in their market -- vegan, lingerie, the shopping experience.

These guys are doing pretty well as big players in their market. But I want to dust off the powdered sugar and pick off the cherry by going a little local with an interview I did with an arts-and-crafts hobbyist.

Hi My Name Is…
Samantha Carmona. She gave it to me raw; the birth of her company Orn8 Bits, beginning with just her and her boyfriend, who eventually had to recruit friends and family to meet the rising demand of her products. She operates an online shop, at SamFamProductions.Storenvy.com, but most of her sales are generated at conventions and events that would last as short as a day up to a week or two.

I will be using Sam’s tale as an example of the “How-To” guide I will be referring to from www.Lomali.com.

Connecting Passion to Audience

Sam, who studied graphic design, always had a knack for creating things. However, for the very same reason you’re reading this, didn’t know where or how to begin making money off of what she loved doing. Her interests and hobbies includes anime, games, movies, comics and the like. When her cousin brought her to a convention for the first time, this was the moment she discovered her niche market.

Finding your niche is all about narrowing down and focusing on a specialized service or product. You identify the need or want, match the product to the right people by marketing (letting people know you exist), and pricing your product realistically.

You may have a passion, but finding the people who are willing to pay for your product or service is key. If a tree passionately sells a product in a forest, but nobody is around to buy it, does it make a profit? No.

Sam’s target market are 18-30 year olds who has an interest in games, movies, and television shows. Her ideal customer would be a working male who indulges in these hobbies, and have emotional, nostalgic feelings linked to the retro products she sells. Her Harry Potter scarves have been selling out for a strong five and a half years. Her online presence also helps her keep customers updated with the products she has and where she is located at conventions and events.

Gone Niche-ing

Figure out what you’re good at and the skills you have, find your passion, research your market and determine if it’s profitable. I know, it’s easier said than done, but try writing down your ideas that are meant for your eyes only, then edit it after for feasibility.

Wait, Why Am I Doing This Again?

For an in depth explanation, Smriti Chand has an article on the advantages and disadvantages at www.YourArticleLibrary.com. But to summarize, serving a small market means the competition, investment and risk is low. This could give you the chance to price your items higher if you are the only one in the game. You also get to know your customer really well, which can help you identify their needs and cater to them specifically. This shapes your brand and loyalty from customers. Product quality goes up and so does service.

Samantha has very loyal customers who refuse to buy from other vendors. She‘s had competitors directly copy her products, but she also has customers who search for her booth specifically at conventions. She receives custom requests by email, in which she goes out of her way to meet. She’s been in the customer service industry for years, working as a waitress, bartender, barista, and manager in the past. Her experience in dealing with customers, and dedication to meeting their needs has helped define her brand.

Niche markets can die out especially if the niche is the main seller. Niche markets can also be taken over by the big guys which can be hard to compete with.

These are challenges Samantha face today, with 95% of her sales coming from the niche, and the growing 5% of plain products without motifs that are specifically requested by customers. She does hope that she doesn’t have to heavily depend on the niche market because she has hit a plateau in sales. She recently began to import products from Japan to boost her sales, and predicts could be a full-time job in the next five years. She gets ahead of the game by travelling to Japan to bring back trends and inspiration.

Survival of the Fittest
The niche market can be easy to enter to make a quick dollar, but can also deplete as fast as it comes. Growing your company is up to you, to find that special service or product that differentiates you in the  market, even between the copycats. Matching a need to your product is the equation to profitable results. Brand a product or service that makes people believe in your product and want to give you their money. Now fly away for you are ready. Only after you’ve researched the heck out of your market first though.

The Ewanika Woman

Fashion Is Always Evolving

            Everyone has his or her own definition of “fashion”. When the word “fashion” pops up, some will automatically think of Vogue magazine or maybe a certain fashion designer. “Fashion is the way one expresses them self to the world visually.  It doesn't necessarily mean on-trend, but it does imply an intentional assertion of a personal aesthetic,” says Kahlon. Regardless, when the word “fashion” is used, the word has multiple meanings to it.

In Toronto, many people like to minimalize the colours of what they wear. “My personal style is a mix of feminine and edgy aesthetics and is always evolving. I gravitate towards interesting silhouettes, simple detailing and dark colours. I also love a one-of-a-kind print,” says Kahlon. She loves one-of-a-kind print. Because of what’s on-trend now, the fashion is very minimalistic and bland colours are used in peoples’ outfits. Kahlon continues to keep her personal style unique yet simple at the same time.

            “My fashion inspiration comes from a mix of people I see on the street and my personal fashion icons of the past,” says Kahlon. “I'm constantly inspired by the stylish women I see around Toronto, whose style looks effortless yet on-trend. Toronto girls never look like they're trying too hard, but still have a distinct look.  In terms of fashion icons from the past, I will always love Denise Huxtable's style from The Cosby Show. She rocked a plethora of short hair styles and ultra-cool oversized outfits.”

Not only does Kahlon’s personal style inspires me, but she also runs her own boutique in the heart of downtown Toronto. “I love fashion retail because it combines analytical and creative work, both of which I really enjoy.  I am foremost a business woman, but being able to work in the business side of fashion is really fun. Fashion is always changing, so I never get bored,” says Kahlon.

I was curious on what made her pursue a career in fashion. “I always knew that I wanted to work in fashion.  I grew up watching Fashion Television and shopping in the US to find the type of clothes I couldn't find here,” she says.

            Experiences in the fashion industry is crucial when running a business. Kahlon says “I worked in buying and store operations for over 10 years before opening my own shop. I've been a store manager, buyer, and operations coordinator in retail companies both large and small.  I've worked for brick-and-mortar retailers as well as e-commerce businesses.” With this much experience working in the fashion industry, she decided to open up her own store.

Kahlon has been running her own boutique for three years along Queen Street West. The store was first opened up as Sauvage. Then renamed the store to   Smoke+Ash not too long ago during March, 2015. The name the store has somewhat changed in terms of new brands coming into the store; lifestyle products are now carried in the store, and the aesthetic is very simple, unique and always evolving. Smoke+Ash only carries women’s clothing, shoes and accessories. Also, lifestyle products; such as, candles, soaps, and more. The brands are unique and up to date. A few of the brands are local; some brands are from Australia, and LA. I find that Smoke+Ash is the shop for every woman in Toronto and everywhere else who like to keep it simple and one-of-a kind.