On November 9, 2011, Merin Guthrie and Emma Fischer of Birds of a Pleather brought together 9 panelists who are catalysts for a bigger and better DC fashion community (read more about The Future of DC Fashion panel). I was lucky enough to be chosen as a panelist. Here are my post-panel thoughts on where the industry is going and what we can do to help grow it.
Let me start by saying how excited I was to participate! I love what Washington DC has to offer, we house so much local talent and wealthiest counties in the nation. So why aren’t we a fashion capitol? I didn’t know exactly what to expect from the other panelists, but knew I wanted make the voice of local designers heard as best I could.
My perspective: I love the glamour of fashion. The shows, photo shoots and press coverage are all so much fun and fulfilling. It is a completely image driven (and somewhat vain) industry in which aesthetics are most important. So, I understandably put great effort into building an image for my brand. But ultimately there will be no brand if there’s not enough sales to fund it.
A panelist mentioned that designers tend to get stuck in a creative bubble and lose site of business. I agree, however, that bubble is necessary, we have to be inspired and focused in order to create. So how do I find balance?
Reality check, head out of the clouds, bubble burst, etc…
I wear many hats, as do all entrepreneurs, and it can be hard to accept that some things slip between the cracks. It took a certain amount of humility to publicly air my weaknesses, but I decided to “get real” and take advantage of the resources present. So on behalf of local designers, I shared some of my frustrations, like manufacturing and sales support.
Briefly I became discouraged at the reminder of just how hard this business is (sigh). But was uplifted by Christine Brooks-Cropper’s (of the GWFCC) recognition that what we need most is the infrastructure to support an industry and great programs like the Fashion Incubator is making that happen. (Yay!)
It was nice to put faces to familiar names, I learned so much from each of the panelists. There was a genuine sense of camaraderie, we all had suggestions on how to keep our network connected. I left feeling motivated, but keeping in mind that in order to continue our forward motion we must stay connected and in the collaborative spirit.
-Aidah Fontenot, Designer
Aidah Fontenot – Designer, Aidah Collection
Pranav Vora – CEO, Hugh & Crye
Jackie Flanagan – Owner, Nana
Christine Brooks – Cropper – President, Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce
Jordan Culberson – Editor in Chief, ReadySetDC
Marquis Perkins – Director of Communications, DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities
Elizabeth Fassbender – Owner/Editor, So Much To Smile About & Co-founder, CapFABB