Thoughts On How to Help The Vancouver Fashion Industry Grow!

Unknown Artist
It's been a long time since I wrote a piece from my heart for this column. Working on my first book and trying to keep up with event write-ups and student articles that I am sadly behind on seem to take precedence. BUT - as we head into a new fashion season the importance of this somehow brought it to the front of the line.

I literally dropped into the local fashion scene in July 2007 when I met with a local photographer/web developer who wanted to start an online fashion magazine. By August I had my first interviews and articles finished. By September I was attending my first show - the Vancouver Community College's Fiat Mode. This was followed by other fall shows including Vancouver Fashion Week, BC Fashion Week, Blanche Macdonald and The Art Institute of Vancouver. I had no idea or sense of how to handle the politics of being in the public eye and no one to guide me. I have always said exactly what was on my mind and it's taken me years to put a filter in place that works most of the time. There are still slip-ups.

Over the next six years I did it right many times and oh so very wrong just as often. Tears over unkind comments I heard through the grapevine or over my own public mistakes were shed in private. Never very confident, this was a difficult trial by fire that honed my view on the local industry and how I could best be of service. There were incredible people over the years who offered strong support and sometimes tough love when I needed a wake-up call. I have come to value being a part of this community in so many ways and hopefully can find a way to continue to support it locally, nationally and internationally. Here are my thoughts on how we can all be a part of helping it grow.

Let's not make it a competition. It's very easy when we're all sharing the same limited dollars and customers to lose sight of the fact we are in it together. It is particularly hard for me when I hear designers dissing each other. One concept I love is Ujamaa - my economic prosperity is tied to your economic prosperity.  I think it's a great model for us as an industry to follow. The goal in my mind is for everyone in the fashion community to educate customers that discount clothes come at a global cost. The value of locally designed clothes produced by workers paid decent wages has a far reaching effect. Instead of purchasing a stack of cheap items that will fall apart by the end of the season, the better choice is to put in a few key pieces every six months and take great care of them. A few years later you'll be looking at an incredible wardrobe that mix and matches and you will have supported individuals in our own community, raising their standard of living in a tough economy. (Note - I fully acknowledge everything in my closet is not locally made as my income is very limited, but each season I invest some money in local designers.)

Quite holding onto grudges. Everyone makes mistakes, yes EVERYONE! As my wonderful friend Zen Chaplain Patti DeSante once told me - it's the story that binds negative feelings to you.  Instead of holding onto these old stories and nurturing the negative feelings, get mad, sad or whatever you need to do to flush the emotion out of your system without holding onto the script. We can then offer unconditional support to those around us. When supported and loved, people are given the opportunity see how to do things differently in the future. Thank-you to all who have forgiven me for my mistakes.  I am working hard to make sure I do the same.

Cherish your comp ticket. Having run a couple launches, I finally get how hard all those comp tickets are to deal with.  Every event needs ticket sales and yet the huge number of media, VIP's and more wanting free access can limit the number of income producing seats available. I am ashamed to admit I have felt that sense of entitlement in the past. Fortunately I finally had a friend give me the good kick in the pants I deserved. No one really deserves a comp ticket unless they have something to offer in return and if these seats are limited, we as media can't be insulted if one isn't there for us. I have come to view it as a business contract - they offer me a free pass and in return I offer them: a pre-article or post event write-up, help with Social Media promotion, helping people make connections at the event, making sure first time guests are enjoying themselves or posting pics on Facebook/Twitter can all make a difference. While there I try to be an asset. I almost always come alone as well. Over time I have watched organizers struggle to deal with who goes in the those two front rows and decided what I could do the most to help is only take one seat.

Support the positives and let silence deal with the negatives. There is no more powerful tool in this day and age than silence. If you see something you like in our fashion community, support it by promoting it!  The more we support the many positives aspects around us, the more we will see them grow. When it comes to the negatives, remove your presence and your voice. Choose to not give it a platform. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen some truly wonderful things be overshadowed by a single negative that has taken wings. Negative thoughts and words are counter productive. There are times and places to address important issues - wrongs that cannot and should not be swept under the rug - but giving them centre stage at the expense of ignoring the positives all around us is a tragedy. Give the positives the power and let the negatives wither and become insignificant. If negatives need to be addressed, take them to a separate space where they can be dealt with on their own.

Bring a smile and a positive spirit.  Nothing brings an event down more than people avoiding each other or dissing another attendee from across the room. In public you can chose to put a smile on your face and treat everyone with good will. Not only is this helpful to the organizer, I have found that it has changed my life. It's just another way to let go of that negative back story. Have someone you are struggling with? Try getting in the head space that you're just meeting them for the first time. I have actually ended up with unexpected friends.

Put your money where your mouth is.  This is touchy as I know many people struggle financially. I think there is a way to support the local industry no matter what your personal financial situation. For those of us in PR and the Media my question is, "How can you expect others to spend their hard earned dollars locally unless we put some of our own money into the economy as well." Our society seems to have created a sense that people in the public eye are special somebodies to be honoured with free stuff. I have heard horror stories of media personalities who demanded not only free clothing, but to be paid to wear them, and of negative fall-out if not given. A gift of free clothing should be a privilege offered, not commanded. Time to let go of that sense of entitlement. I have chosen personally to accept very little comp over the years - although there have been a few carefully considered exceptions - and instead feel truly privileged to get a media discount. This allows me on my really limited budget to promote the industry by wearing local at the events.

I am so thankful to the Vancouver fashion community for allowing me to be a part and feel privileged when I can make a difference in any small way.