Saturday, March 12, 2016

Digital Revolution: Fashion & Technology

It’s no surprise that our generation is heavily influenced by technology; from MacBooks to smart TVs, we are constantly surrounded by, and live in a world driven digitally. The fashion industry has seen tremendous leaps of innovation, from 3D printing; wearable technology, and virtual reality, fashion has become a common denominator amongst these innovations.  Business practices, consumer behaviour, and innovations have all been impacted by the developing relationship between fashion and technology. The landscape is constantly changing, and the traditional relationship between brands and consumers has evolved to take part in this game changing digital revolution.

Down to Business
There’s not denying that technology and the Internet has changed the fashion landscape. The rise of e-commerce and the need for digital and social media marketing speaks volumes already. The focus on digital is related to the changes in buying behaviour we see. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, a global consulting firm that predicts that in the next ten years, the share of luxury sales online will triple. Going digital is an adaptive mechanism for as consumers enjoy shopping in the comforts of their own home
Increased number of touch points between brands and consumers means brands have more opportunities to generate sales via these interactions. The media landscape consists of a variety of platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, e-commerce sites, and much more. Brands are utilizing these platforms to cultivate their brand personality and to develop a reciprocal relationship with customers to increase engagement levels, ultimately to generate sales in the long run.  This new digital marketing model changes how brands communicate with their customers, forcing them to embrace this unpredictable playing field. The digital influence has opened many doors of opportunity to brands but at the same time, it’s given them more work and has placed them in an arena of intense competition. With consumer tastes continuously changing, how long is this game of catch up going to take?

Revolutionizing the Shopping Experience
Technology is making headlines in changing the overall shopping experience, and we’re not just talking about online shopping here. In addition to the virtual reality developments, companies are looking into a virtual change room experience.
Toshiba for one, has developed a ‘digital changing booth’ that allows customers to virtually try on clothes. This is done through a 3D scanner and camera that analyzes the customer’s body and then clothes are then sized to fit the customer. Additional apps can also be used in conjunction to allow customers to mix and match outfits and to place an order. It’s amazing to see how far technology has come to deliver such experiences that not only change consumer behaviour and way of shopping, but also positively affects sales for a company.
Another venture into digital changing rooms involves interactive mirrors. Rebecca Minkoff and eBay teamed up by opening a store in New York that merges online and physical shopping. The mirrors in the change rooms show videos, inspirational content, and allows for interaction with sales associates. Customers are provided with a touch screen that allows them to access a catalog and select which items they want in their dressing room.  The customer then provides their cell phone number and they receive a text when their fitting room is ready. The mirror in the dressing room recognizes the items in the dressing room and it displays the different clothing on the screen. Technology is used to help customers have a more engaging shopping experience, utilizing all aspects of a brand in the space of a changing room.
Overall, these technological enhancements are definitely changing consumer behaviour by merging online and physical shopping. In-store experience can be transformed digitally to offer consumers a well-rounded experience. The growth of technology is altering the taste and expectations of consumers. To please an average consumer is going to take more work and research these days.

Fashion Technology
Fashion and technology are progressively colliding and this includes the merchandise brands are developing. The infamous Apple watch is a great example of fusing fashion and technology. It’s essentially a fashion statement, made up of luxury materials and the latest technology. People wear technologically enhanced devices to look good and to portray an image of who they are. One step up from that is the pairing of Apple and Hermes for the Apple watch. One may think it’s an odd pairing – heritage and tradition mixed with innovative technology, but this marriage works and has helped set an example of a luxury brand’s role with modern technology.
Apple and Hermes are not the only two players in this game.  Many brands such as Rebecca Minkoff, Tory Burch, and Kate Spade have also taken a seat at this table and have dealt their cards right. There are many brands that have delved into the wearable technology market by offering either fashionable add ons to popular gadgets or by developing products that function to work with the existing gadgets in ones daily life. Technology can be integrated into our lives in products that don’t’ resemble gadgets at all. From having a charging station inside a purse, to a bracelet to has dual function as a charger, it’s evident that technology has invaded the fashion space to deliver products that are fashionable yet functional.  

It’s clear that fashion and technology are on a path of evolution together. Both players have impacted each other in ways that have revolutionized the way businesses operate, the way consumers shop, and the innovation of products. The digital revolution has only begun and there is so much more potential for both parties. It’s an exciting time to witness how the relationship between fashion and technology is changing and influencing one another and as consumers, we have the opportunity to take a seat in the front row and enjoy the ride.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Blue Jays : A real nice feather in Toronto’s cap

With the baseball season in full swing. The level of excitement is going to increase with every passing day all the more because of their amazing performance last year. Well we all remember the post season!! With Jays entering the post season after 22 long years everyone from fans to the players were going crazy with happiness. They for sure were the game changers last season and let’s hope they continue to do so this time as well. This is 40th season which makes it all the more special.
Winning and losing are a part and parcel of the game but the performance pressure is a thing of concern so the blue jays have a extraordinary team of players who make all round effort to give a phenomenal performance each time with David Price and Tulowitzki joining jays towards very end last season made a significant contribution, it is sad we don’t get to see Price this season. Efforts on part of team and the management are very essential. Looking at a micro level, Mandeep Brar an employee of Toronto Blue Jays says “ I have to stay in my office until the game finishes” , on talking to employees at their store I felt the last season was full of surprises where at one point there were hardly any people in store and then suddenly the store was catering to hundreds of enthusiastic fans everyday which according to Mandeep who happens to work very closely merchandise department said that “ 3000 to 4000 jerseys were being manufactured each week as the customer request for jerseys was surging” .
Blue jays have a huge fan following in Toronto and a traditional blue jays hat is a must have piece and as said by an enthusiastic fan “every single person in Toronto deserves a Blue Jays hat “ , which surprisingly is true as you get too see them everywhere be it subway, movie hall or shopping malls as everyone loves jays hat, which inspires them to make new collection each season for instance the famous pitcher Marcus Stroman created his own line of hats which turned out be very popular.
Blue jays is proud owner of two official team stores and they are very centrally located with one being inside the Rogers center and the other one in the heart of TO Downtown, Eaton Center. Both the store had a very busy season last year and their sales exceeded way beyond their annual target. Popular brands like Pandora, roots, Columbia are proud manufacturers of Jays merchandise, with roots being in the top league as their limited edition Jays Leather Jacket sold like hot cakes this winter. Pandora continues to make the super famous wooden, dangling and the baseball charm with the signature jays bird, they are trendy and expensive at the same time. Alex woo also makes pendants for Jays. On visiting the Jays shop located at Level one of Eaton Center I was taken by surprise as they carry a wide range of product from womenswear to pet gear. Don’t be surprised if I tell you they carry a very brief collection of swimwear, well a Jays bikini this summer is great idea for all you beach lovers. If this season you want to flaunt super cool jersey with your own name, check out the super cool customization option provided at the Jays shop where they heat seal the name and number on you jersey  for $60 in their store .
Moreover all the jays fan be ready to shell more money this season as the prices of tickets have increased substantially and “there is dynamic pricing system this season” says Mandeep. So be ready to spend those extra dollar for tickets.
Jays are the only Canada based baseball team in the American League which makes them all the more popular here. “We are expecting a huge gathering this time “says Mandeep Brar an employee of Toronto Blue Jays. He believes it is going to get crazy from the beginning this season, “our stores were crazy busy last season especially when jays made it to post season “he says. “ jerseys have always been the most sought after merchandise every season “ Mandeep adds. They have different types of jerseys authentic and replica priced at $230 and $130 respectively. Moreover they introduced new types of jersey with the  40th season badge on sleeve this season. So don’t forget to check their latest collection.
Blue Jays heart throb and MVP (Most Valued Player) Josh Donaldson continues to inspire the youth to try different hair styles be it the Dutch braid , fish tail , cornrow or  the classic French braid so does Jose Bautista who again inspires the youth to a large extent. So let you hair stylist know well in advance, they are back in action!!

In the end all I want to say we all want them to clinch the world series title and yes Welcome to the 40th season TO Blue Jays. 



G. Bruce Boyer, renowned menswear expert and author of the classic menswear manual, True Style, is famous for saying that a great suit releases ‘unfulfilled potential’ in a man. He credits the 30s as being an “epoch of unparalleled elegance in menswear”. The reason, he insists is a simple one – at the time, “the level of sophistication for the average man matched that of the rich”. This simple observation stimulates so many assumptions, however, it is easy to understand why the 30s holds such prestige in menswear history – the decade brought about iconic firsts such as the creation of the classic double-breasted suit.
Men’s suits are typically distinguished based on their production process. The main categories are ready-to-wear, made-to-measure and bespoke. Ready-to-wear allows customers to buy a finished suit in-store. Made-to-measure offers customers finished suits which can be fitted to the individual’s size. While this option offers more control in terms of fitting, it does not compare to bespoke, which provides the ultimate form of customization and gives the customer complete control over the design process. The main difference between the two is perfectly captured in Master Tailor, Toby Luper’s famous quote, “It’s like comparing a Jaguar with a Bentley – both are amazing quality cars, but one is primarily made by machine and the other by hand.
Bespoke is the menswear equivalent of haute couture and literally translates into made-to-order clothing. Although its origins trace far back into history, it's back on the radar for the same old reason, a good suit lasts a lifetime. When asked why he prefers bespoke suits, Lim Chae Yeong, a local menswear enthusiast and Buyer at John Medley, says “the right suit will truly convey the individual, and highlight his best features”. He adds that while some men may look better in suits, most look best in well-made suits. In a 2015 interview with CNBC, Marshall Cohen, the Chief Industry Analyst at NDP Group refers to bespoke tailoring as “an underground market that is now at the street level”. According to him, “nobody knew about bespoke before unless you were wealthy, (and) now the common man is wearing them”.  
Considering bespoke? The benefits are plenty and obvious. Bespoke offers customers the ultimate in fit while providing a strong sense of individuality that is achieved through the process of customizing a suit that meets their every specification and desire. The process of hand-making suits is sustainable and offers value for the customer and tailor, in return. While these benefits are reason enough to go bespoke, the hefty price tag associated with custom-made discourages most people.
In Lim’s own words a suit tells the story of a man’s pride – conveying just what he wants the world to see, whether it be power, professionalism, or sophistication. While most menswear experts have a strong preference for custom-made suits, Lim advises men looking to try bespoke to opt for a few functional pieces first –better yet, he insists on starting with custom-made shirts to get a great sense of the difference between a ready to wear and a bespoke garment.   
Bespoke provides a tailored fit to customers that extends beyond individual sizing to include a compatibility with the individual’s lifestyle. The result of working closely with a tailor to develop an individual pattern based solely on the customer’s sizing, is a garment that offers a one-of-a-kind fit that is specific to the wearer. Most custom suits are created with the idea of timelessness in mind, for example, tailors would often attach excess fabric to the lining of suits for future adjustments that may be required due to changes in the wearer’s body.  In his book, True Style, Boyer emphasizes the need for an experienced tailor’s keen eye when finding the perfect fit. By paying close attention to an individual’s stance, build, and posture a good tailor can create a fit that is not solely reliant on the measuring tape but also accounts for the little nuances that are unique in nature and typical in every body type.  
The fitting process is the most important element of getting a suit custom made. After the initial fitting, tailors meet with clients for several more fittings over the course of constructing the suit. The construction process can take up to 55 hours if the suit is completely hand-made. With each fitting building on the last, the result is always a perfect fit.  
Upon initial consultation, Boyer says that professional tailors will often ask clients specific questions such as what they typically carry around in their pockets in order to create a functional ease for accommodation or how they intend to live in their custom suit. This type of information assist tailors in creating a suit that truly takes the individual's lifestyle needs into consideration. When asked how he initially picks out a tailor, Lim emphasizes the need for a compatibility in personal style. He also adds that the average age of clientele plays an important role when deciding on a tailor. In his opinion, a tailor with a younger clientele may be better off creating trendy styles that appeal to a younger demographic while one with a more mature clientele would likely create garments that attract individuals with a more traditional aesthetic.
In the words of Colin Firth in his role as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service, “A suit is a modern man’s armor”, and while the film showcases spies meticulously disguised in dapper-style menswear, the message is clear, the right armor conceals that which the knight requires hidden and projects the illusion of power and grace.

The Secret between the railway tracks: An evening with Mr. Fong

Davenport, the neighborhood northwest of downtown Toronto, is located north of the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks and Dupont Avenue and south of Davenport road. Located just outside of the Yorkville hub lays WorkingTitle. At just 25 years old Michael Fong co-owns and manages one of the most unique multi-faceted spaces in Toronto. From clothing, to books, and even art space, WorkingTitle blends all of these interests into one space and is quickly gaining exposure and establishing themselves as one of the most unique shops in Toronto. “I had a lot of ideas of what I thought I could do better or even do differently, so of course, naturally it had crossed my mind that I might open up my own shop”. Explains Mr. Fong after talking about his fair share in the retail industry. After graduating from U of T on a scholarship and working for many different retailers such as: Club Monaco, Foot Locker and American Apparel, he began to think of different ideas regarding opening up a store. “At the end of the day, it was all about having the right circumstances. I had friends of mine that I could work with approach me with a project that I was interested in. And it was great timing as well, given that I was about to graduate from U of T and just starting to try and figure out where to go from there” he says.

He then explains the strategy behind his shop being distant from the busy shopping areas in the city.
“There was a lot that went into the final decision of being on Davenport. First and foremost, we quickly recognized that what we wanted to do was definitely more niche. So, we thought it would be beneficial for us to be more of a destination shop. We liked the idea of there being an intent in coming into the shop. Not necessarily the intent of making a purchase, but more so the intent of experiencing the space whether it be the clothing, the bookshop or whatever exhibition may be going on. But of course, we didn't want to be too far out of the way. Davenport seemed like a natural choice given that it's just outside of Yorkville and fairly accessible. As well, the area does show promise for future development. It sits in the middle of some of the more affluent neighborhoods in the city. There's one luxury condo development that finished down the road and there's another one going up across the street. And of course the space sealed the deal for us. We've got great big windows that let in a lot of light. The layout was odd but it definitely challenged us in terms of finding the best way to use the space”.

WorkingTitle has been featured in many different magazines and website blogs including:, Toronto Star, Monocle, Porter Magazine, Highsnobiety, Toronto Life, and Style Democracy. They have quickly gained global exposure and increased their clientele. Don’t expect your favorite WT merchandise to sit on the racks for very long. When asked about how he felt about being featured in these major platforms, Mr. Fong simply stated “Some of it was cool, some of it was done badly. Any exposure is good”.

One major part of the shop that puts WT on the map is their carefully curated selection of menswear clothing brands that they bring into the store. “When determining what brands we want to bring, we look at a number of things. Of course, the basis of everything is the clothes. Does the design fit our tastes and our aesthetic? How is the quality and fabrication? Do we like how pieces from this brand fit? Looking at pricing, how's the value? At the end of the day, we are not going to carry clothes from brands that we don't like and that we wouldn't wear ourselves. That's the biggest and most important thing for us to look at. Next, it's the brand. Is there a strong, clear and consistent brand identity? Is it popular right now? Does it get a lot of press or exposure?  What other shops carry the brand? What kind of message is the store sending by carrying this brand? And finally, there's the business aspect. Is the brand easy to work with? What are the minimums? You never get everything on that list. But you need the clothing, the branding and the business aspects to come together. All in all, we're here to sell clothes. So we ask those questions to see if a brand is viable and whether we can sell their pieces”.
I then explain to him how myself and everyone else definitely appreciates the passion and dedication they devote into their store and hope for nothing but the best in the future. He then chuckles and shakes my hand, “Thanks a lot. There aren’t many stores nowadays that carry what they like. A lot of it is what’s trending, what sells best and you can clearly see that in their space. It’s like going through a Tumblr feed and slapping that into a small space for everyone else to see”.

When asked about the future of WT, and what it holds for them, he explains “We’re always looking for new things to do. With the new website, we definitely want to get into more original content. We just finished shooting one video and we're currently planning another one as well as a photo editorial. As for exhibitions, we want to expand our network of artists to collaborate with and also expand the media we work with. In the New Year, we'll be working with an industrial designer on an exhibition for Design Week. If it goes well, hopefully we'll be able to get into offering small goods at the shop. As for clothing, we'll be adding Stone Island and Proper Gang to our brand roster for SS16. 

The way WorkingTitle approaches every task is a true testament that shows how much passion, dedication and time they put into their store. They buy what they like and don’t think twice. They aren’t worried about competition because they are confident that their clientele will be receptive to the products that they have to offer. 

From Globalization to Localization

Working two retail jobs I am regularly folding or hanging up clothes thrown in a pile or on the floor. Looking at these large pile of clothes I cannot help but think about the people who made them and how they would feel with the way their hard work is treated. Instead of being admired and respected, each piece is no more than a mess filling the store. People are continuously buying cheap clothes that in the end are meant to fall apart, just to be trendy. Are companies selling to customers supporting those developing countries making the clothes by providing jobs, but at what price, is it hurting more than helping? What will we be taking away from our job force by offering production, making, selling, and buying jobs to other countries?

People in today’s society are constantly trying to keep up with trends while staying under budget, which means cheap, low-cost apparel. Companies are happy to use developing countries such as Bangladesh or Cambodia because they can make large volume goods at a low cost to fill the needs of their customers. 
Livia Firth ‘The True Cost’ Exec. Producer and UN Leader of change talks about her trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh, she says “we visited the factory in Dhaka, it was a game changer we were absolutely shocked because there was only one entrance to the factory. There was an armed guard to check workers on the way in and out. Inside there were three floors crowded with women and all windows had bars first thing you notice is that 'it's so hot', if anything happened like a fire there is no fire escape they cannot get out the windows can’t open. 
The women had to produce 100 pieces per hour they had only two toilet breaks a day if they called in sick they would not be coming back to work the next day they were fired. This is my first time being exposed to this harsh reality of how the clothes were being made miles away from my home. Once you experience that you go home you can’t close an eye and say ‘ill go buy this anyway’”.
I am surprised to see that factory conditions in developing countries such as Dhaka have not changed much, considering the collapse of Rana Plaza that killed 1,127 workers and left another 2000 injured. If companies are going to continue to outsource they need to make sure that people are given proper human right and better working conditions. A lot of the people working in those factories are happy they can have a job and make money, but they should be able to do that without the fear of being injured or dying. They should be allowed sick days, frequent breaks and lower quotas of quantities. Factories should be properly constructed with extra fire exits and be allowed to have windows open.


`                Is fast fashion hurting our Canadian job force by outsourcing to keep up with consumer demands? Sandro Contenta writes in The Star about one Canadian manufacturing company that had to shut down their shirt making business “At precisely that moment, in this very same factory, the owners of John Forsyth Shirt Co. told 110 employees that a century of shirt-making would end. The company, established in 1903, was closing its factory — the latest victim of a Canadian-made garment industry decimated by globalization and, in Forsyth’s case, government decisions.”

                  Forsyth’s is just one example of Canadians losing jobs to globalization, businesses keep sending their clothing production outside Canada. What about the Canadians that are looking for work and the people who want to start their own business, for people looking for production factories that would like to design locally?   Wazana owner of Second Denim Co. “credits business success to being flexible in production according to fast changing trends, keeps his company domestic for ethical reasons after witnessing how poorly people were treated working in china’s factories. In Wazana’s decision to keep manufacturing locally in Quebec, it’s not about money to him it is about supporting the local job force.” If more companies were to produce and fully function in Canada, owners would know what the working condition are and be able to supply jobs to people in our country. There are a few manufacturing companies in Canada such as C&O Apparel and Toronto-based WS&CO. The government needs to start thinking about supporting our own economy, which means having the programs to train people for production jobs to allow the possibility for more Canadian bread companies to succeed.

Having clothes made in developing countries are boosting their economy while the job force in Canada continues to suffer.  Apparel companies continue to mass produce need to be the first to start working ethically if outsourcing or start sourcing locally to support our own economies. Ethically if the companies continue to mass produce people will continue to buy. The government should create a lower limit on how much production is done overseas to equal out opportunities.

Creative burnout and its diminishing effects on the creative process

Designing a line for a season tasks designers with the daunting exercise of creating a ludicrous amount of clothing to show on the runway with a fair portion of the line never making it into production. The arbitrary cycle of creation and destruction regarding both clothing samples as well as designs for garments has largely been accepted as the norm for many well established fashion houses. These designs, created for the sole purpose of being sent down the runway, are then archived into the label’s history and are likely never used again. It’s easy to surmise that designers would feel a healthy amount of creative burnout after experiencing this exhausting cycle season after season.

This issue is further compounded due to a commercial shift from bi-annual collections to a multitude of seasons in a year. I recently had a lengthy discussion with Paul Shkordoff, co-owner and co-buyer of Working Title, about his thoughts on this issue.

“We’ve moved away from just simply two seasons [fall/winter and spring/summer] to add pre-spring, resort, spring, summer, pre-fall, fall, winter, holiday – something like that. It’s not just the number of pieces per season, it’s the number of pieces per season multiplied by the number of seasons in a year. This is what a lot of designers are talking about when they burnout.”

One would imagine that as a designer or even as a design team, it would be extremely difficult to keep up with the creative demand expected by company shareholders or the industry norms. Looking at Comme des Garçon’s showings for Fall/Winter 2016, the audience is treated with over 70 looks split between the Homme Plus and Shirt sub-lines. Robert Geller showed over 30 looks and relative newcomer John Elliot showed 36 looks. Breaking it down further, each look is separated into upwards of five to six individual garments with little crossover between styles.
"It’s not just the number of pieces per season, it’s the number of pieces per season multiplied by the number of seasons in a year. This is what a lot of designers are talking about when they burnout."
A recent example of the effects of creative burnout culminated in world-renowned fashion designer, Raf Simons, parting ways with Dior after three and a half years of collaboration. Simons worked with Dior while so working his personal label. In his 2015 Business of Fashion interview surrounding his exit, the Belgian designer revealed that he only had one design team while working on six collections a year. “There is no more thinking time,” Simons complains. “And I don’t want to do collections where I’m not thinking.”

The industry culture surrounding fashion shows in general must be analyzed as well, with a number of brands or designers regarding the fashion show with as much importance as the pieces in the collection itself. The spectacle and showmanship these shows provide to the media and public alike further solidifies the brand’s image. It is essentially the most expensive promotion expense incurred and it happens twice a year. “Having to juggle that [fashion shows] on top of making samples and making sure production is okay – it’s another big issue. In terms of adding that on top of getting pieces ready for the show; the whole endeavor is tiring and stressful,” Paul muses. 

At this point in our conversation, I was beginning to think of the effects of creative burnout from a consumer perspective. The definition of consumer in this scenario not necessarily meaning the end user, but as a consumer at some point along the fashion supply chain. I asked Paul if as a buyer, he was able to tell if a brand he was working with was experiencing the effects of creative burnout.

“A lot of times it shows in the quality of the pieces, where a lot of designs aren’t well thought out and pieces don’t end up as they should be. The easiest way to tell is if you see pieces that lack inspiration or lack the inspiration that they usually have. Often a designer will just recycle pieces because they’ve got nothing left, these are common ones.”

Paul’s answer implicates the creative burnout is experienced by others along the supply chain as well; it isn’t exciting to enter a showroom and see iterations of the same collection every season. Just like as an end-consumer, it isn’t exciting to buy the same iterations of the same collection every season. It almost feels like the industry has buried itself in a hole, especially in regards to how the current logistical process of luxury fashion works. The generally accepted notion is that labels have six months in advance to create and show an entire collection before working on the next. Retailers then place orders six months in advance in showrooms where samples are placed physically and within the next season the merchandise will arrive.

The industry has confined itself to work within such a rigid schedule that changing it at its core is an endeavor that’s frightening to tackle. To uproot the commercial foundation that the fashion industry has built itself on could spell disaster not only for the fashion houses but for retail stores as well. “Part of the reason there is that [six month] calendar,” Paul tells me,  “is so stores can plan their buy and budget it and put things together, but so that brands also have enough lead time to make all the product.”

I inquired about further difficulties stores may face if brands did away with the schedule altogether. “For a store,” he continues, “it makes it very difficult because we aren’t working on that [untraditional] calendar so we can’t budget any money for a brand that is sort of in between buying calendars.”

All this isn’t to say that a shift in the core schedule wouldn’t work. After all, a good way to keep customers buying product year-round is to continually get new product in. Paul reiterates my point, saying “one of the goals of retail is to have product coming year round, as opposed to it being stagnant – ideally you want a steady flow of product, that’s how you keep customers coming back.”
He continues, outlining the ideal situation that could be the result of this shift. “Given that situation, there’s a way to work around it. It will require a lot of work and planning – if all these different brands want to work on different calendars and somehow it ends up being so that you have product year-round – it’ll be a large shift in how things work but I don’t think it’s impossible.”

This begs the question; whose responsibility is it to pave the way for this change in industry culture? To shift away from the rigidity and outright excess that causes creative burnout? Surely it would fall in the hands of younger and newer labels to break this mold. An already established fashion house would never dream of altering the formulaic systems that have proven to be commercially successful, albeit creatively volatile.

"If all these different brands want to work on different calendars and somehow it ends up being so that you have product year-round – it’ll be a large shift in how things work but I don’t think it’s impossible."

Surprisingly enough, Burberry spearheaded such a shift in traditional industry standards by announcing a change in their business model wherein they will show both menswear and womenswear collections twice a year, but without the six month incubatory period normally associated with shows. This means that the shown collection will immediately be available to purchase online and in Burberry stores, appealing to a more consumer centric culture. The implications of Burberry’s change in their business model is immense; one of the oldest and most recognized fashion houses in the world is open to experiment with the formula.

It is this openness to experimentation that I believe will lead to an overhaul of the industry standards. While creative burnout is impossible to fully eliminate, its effects on designers, consumers, and everyone in between can be diminished if such rigid structures weren’t in play.

‘Cause I Got A Blank Page Baby

FASHION magazine’s Associate Designer, Nicole Schaeffer, on her cool career, the digital fashion industry, and the ultimate intimidator.

No one handwrites anymore. Long gone are the days of penmanship and the swift looping together of letters with the stroke of a feather—ahem—okay, pen. In the January 2016 issue of Canadian Business magazine, handwriting expert Carole Tovels explains, “by using the computer constantly you’re not using your handwriting skills anymore…you’re losing your flexibility and legibility, and your ease of writing”. Screens, keyboards, and touchpads now dominate and their functions are integral to the lives of billions of people around the globe to communicate and carry out day-to-day activities. We are waking up with our smartphones, tablets, and laptops, going to sleep with them, taking them into the shower with us, and panicking at the nightmarish thought of going a day without them.
Navigating the first stages of a career can be just as frightening as separation from the devices that have virtually become an extension of the human body. In our fast-paced, hyper-connected world, we feel lost without the instant gratification of obscenely fast information at our fingertips, and the outcome of the future is no exception. For young people entering the workforce there is no guarantee of what tomorrow will bring, and neither Siri nor Cortana can provide any certainty.
Thankfully we are not alone. And sometimes, we are in the exceptional company of those who inspire us to make our own impact on the industry we are tiptoeing or blazing into. This issue, we caught up with Nicole Schaeffer, a cool-as-they-come Torontonian and FASHION magazine’s Associate Designer. A resume lit up by a Bachelor of Design from Ryerson University, internships at FLARE magazine, The Society, and Narrative PR, the latter two of which she also worked at, on top of her current design role at Canada’s number one fashion and beauty magazine, tells us that she not only makes paper look good, but looks really good on paper. With her equal love of both writing and designing, we’re willing to bet she has pretty fancy handwriting too.
Lucky for us, we’ve exchanged notes of our own kind with Schaeffer, and been given a sneak peak into the behind-the-scenes of her highly coveted position. A typical day starts with a digital team meeting where current news and fresh ideas for web posts are shared. “If we are in production for the magazine (2.5 weeks a month) my focus is on designing pages; taking editors copy and laying it out on the page, along with selecting art that will make it the most compelling. When we’re not in production, we’re shooting products that will be featured in the next issue with our in-house photographer, as well as banking images and GIFs for Instagram,” she says.
In line with the most striking of handwritten words, she calls the career path that led her to where she is “anything but linear”. The now savvy FASHION magazine associate describes learning how the magazine was put together in the first few weeks on the job as “foreign territory”, due to a lack of professional design experience. Though she shares that with a poised optimism, a belief in seizing opportunities, and a proven initiative to seek out new ones, all of her positions have landed her in her current job with a well-rounded skill set.
Schaeffer’s experience represents the reality of entering the Canadian job market in which, “Employers do not expect students and new grads to have a lot of work experience”, though they are, “drawn to applicants who have some real-world experience”, as reported by Virginia Galt in The Globe and Mail (November 27, 2015).  Galt highlights the importance of leveraging all part-time work, summer jobs, volunteer work, and personal connections for those making the transition from colleges and universities into the competitive workforce. As well, The Globe writers Don Drummond, Ross Finnie, and Harvey Weingarten report individuals joining the workforce now “will likely have many jobs and several careers before they retire,” raising the importance of general competencies that “provide the fundamental and foundational skills that are transferable across jobs” (October 20, 2015).
Diversification of your skills is especially critical for graduating students as industries evolve to meet the needs of consumers. In the fashion industry, there’s been a significant shift in power in recent years, largely attributed to the rise of celebrity culture, fashion bloggers, fast-fashion retailers, and smartphones, as examined by Karen Von Hahn in “R.I.P. Tide”, in the March 2016 issue of FASHION magazine.
Our it-girl comments, “Everyone is desperately trying to determine which way the tide is going to go. If trends are dead, and fashion weeks are dead, then is the consumer, and not content, king? I don’t think anyone knows right now, but it is my belief that there will always be a place for a long-lead, thoroughly researched articles and beautifully laid-out pages. We live in such a digital age, the premium placed on something tangible like print has made it rarer than ever—that has to count for something, doesn’t it?” In adaptation to the rapidly changing activities of the industry and consumer engagement with print and digital media, Schaeffer describes that she and her team are looking to provide content for whoever their readers are, be that in print, online, or on social.

For young aspiring fashion students, the FASHION magazine designer advises, “The road is long, and not as glamorous as it seems. Salaries are not lucrative. You will have multiple internships. You will need to take criticism and work independently without direction. Your successes will not always be acknowledged. Everyone in this industry is not here for the accolades, but because they love it—they eat, breathe, and sleep fashion.”
Searching for a job and stepping out from the comforts of classrooms into the “real world”, no matter the industry, can feel intimidating, but we all start somewhere. Schaeffer’s ultimate intimidator? A blank page. “Where to start? Nothing makes me procrastinate more than a blank page,” she says. “However, if you can force yourself to put something on the page, regardless of whether it works or not, you at least have a foothold you can build on.” You cannot forecast, control, or Google the future, and you’ll never know if you never try, so put your pen to paper and, “Just keep going and revise later. Revising is always easier than building”.