We talked about why tell your fashion story, and you know where to pull from. And now we're gonna talk about establishing the relationships because I think we forget a lot about this in terms of very realistic things. The first two points I have on here are the customer is always right, and then the customer is not always right. And we have to figure out what that means in terms of how we interact with customers. And it doesn't mean we're going to be rude to our customer if we don't think they're right. But it's going to be about being honest and actually approaching it in a way that you're actually, again, with the story telling, sharing, that no, that's not the way I do it. That's not the way I would approach that problem. And that's okay. I think you need to give yourself permission to say, that sounds wonderful but that's not what we do here. And I think if you can anticipate some of those issues it's even a great thing to have suggestions that you can pass people onto because some...
of that Macy's, Gimbels, Miracle on 34th Street things, where you're willing to say I'm gonna send a customer over to someone else because then you're building great relationships in your industry too. But really, trying to think of when the customer is right, when you go, oh okay, that little aha moment, that you can take something in and when you can say no, we need to kinda give you a different direction or redirect what you're thinking about. 'Cause I think because of customer service culture we've all been oriented the customer's always right. The customer, you want them to be right most of the time, you want to make it an experience where it's seamless, and everything they want is taken care of. But the reality of life, or the resources you have or the skill level that you have, you have to be able to say when they're not. The next one is, what they don't know they needed. This is a great thing, a good example is Apple, like in terms of the products that are developed that we didn't know we needed, and now we can't live without. So in fashion that is a big, big deal because trends are always telling us that. You know they're saying, oh no this season everything you ever owned is out of style, so you're saying okay what is the it item that I have to have, the it bag, or the it shoes. So I think here you wanna ask yourself what can you offer along those lines? Is there a genre of costume that no one is making because maybe it's not as popular and it could be you introducing something because you have an interest that can take it in a great direction. It could be about that customer, like when you went shopping for bridesmaid's dresses, it could be a customer that's only exposed to a certain kind, a certain realm of bridesmaid's dresses. And yeah, they might scoff initially but if you can turn that experience into the why it's so amazing, if you can transform it because this is so special. And as a designer if you're creating that that's a very useful tool. So you gotta remember that, you gotta almost meet people where they are, and then either work with them there, or take them on a journey. So, it's all different strategies and you decide based on how you wanna work. You mentioned earlier about the local aspect of you being based here in Seattle. That's a big key because if you don't like to travel, let's say, I'm not saying you don't, but if you don't, that's a big deal, that's sort of saying at what level will I say yes to traveling? Where will that be comfortable, and that helps make a lot of decisions. Another thing we talked about is sort of anticipating problems, we talked about it in the construction aspect of it, figuring out, let's say ordering a little extra fabric in case something goes wrong. But there are a lot of other instances where you have to ask yourself what is the worst thing someone can say about what I do. Right, we covered that a little bit with the cosplay, but it could be about the quality of the work, it could be about the aesthetic, it's not their cup of tea. What is the absolute worst thing, and you need to be ready and anticipate that, and you not always are, sometimes you get kind of hit unexpectedly by something. But you want for the most part to anticipate what could people say? I know the rest of the industry, where do I stand? And this kind of speaks again to where you wanna be, and knowing where you wanna be at any given time. So that's spin doctor stuff, where you say how do I turn that negative into a positive? And then, getting down to really authentic relationships, like are there customers you already have that you feel a real connection with, and exploring why is that? You know, are we from the same place, are we the same age, do we have the same interest? I always use an example with a designer who travels a lot for finding fabrics around the world, and her blog has nothing to do with her fashion design but it's as part of her identity as a fashion designer where her blog is all about food because she travels all around the world, so wherever she has dinner or breakfast and she's found this new great thing, or she finds a recipe, it's just something, that's what she's sharing. So the bond there between her audience and her is beyond just the clothing, it's about the fact that they share more interests. Okay? So let's turn all these on you guys, since you guys weren't officially in the hot seat, let's call it the hot sofa. (laughing) I'm curious.
Can we first try again--
Oh yes please. Oh thank you, of course.
And have them introduce themselves again, and sort of state where you are.
I've gotten to know them.
I'm Kenzie, I do a lot of styling and recently have been getting more into doing street wear and daily clothes. But before that the first fashion designing experience I had was towards fine art, photo shoots, and just a little more out there things. Maybe that you wouldn't be walking down the street with. (laughing) Yeah, so I'm just trying to kind of like meld them together now.
So I'm Patty, and I have an established business doing bridal and formal wear, working specifically with brides of all ages and mothers of all ages.
And I'm really interested in recently, in the exposure I've had through classes, do things like zero waste fashion and repurposing fabric, so that's another thing I try to bring to this business but I'm finding it hard to sort of square the two up.
I would say especially because, I mean, just kind of refund that for a second, the whole idea of you working in this specialty, of special occasion wear, a lot of the times you don't associate that with zero waste or repurposing. So I think building a story that we've talked about in the earlier segment, about you know building that story, you really want to do that homework, I would almost do it separately, like really get yourself committed to what you feel about the whole repurposing or zero waste, and then talk about what the qualities and experiences are that you want to create with the special occasion wear, see where they meet, see where they contrast, and play those things up. Play up, you know it's almost anticipating that question of the negatives. Like, really, repurposed wedding dress? But you can talk about the investment of the memories of where that fabric came from, or the history of it was passed down, and all these different kinds of things. So just kind of extending that story telling, you wanna make sure and create that story. 'Cause that's a very cool story, and it's an unusual story, it's not a common thing, and that could be a great selling point. Alright, let's talk a little bit about, you have an established business Patty, so when has the customer been right in a way that surprised you? Like, you're going, oh okay, I'm going to shift my direction to serve that customer.
So the first thing that's very important is to listen, listen to them, and not just listen but repeat back to them what they say so you can clarify that you understand what they're saying. Because what they're saying may not be correct or accurate but they need to feel like they're being heard. Terribly important. And then if they're not right there's a way of sort of directing by showing them with visuals, well if you wear your hair down this is what you look like, if we pull it up, take a step back and look at yourself again. Sometimes I have them turn away from the mirror and then turn back again. And they see, all of a sudden they've grown four inches and lost 15 pounds, and what woman doesn't wanna do that? So they look at that and they may decide to wear their hair down even though with it up they create a different illusion, a different look. But at least that you've shown them that there is a different way to look. And a different way to look at themselves. So that's been one place where I've seen a lot of, just by sort of directing them, I put my hands on people a lot, I actually move people around physically, because they think that it's important that they, that you get a rapport going, and of course I wouldn't do that if somebody was going, say don't touch me. (laughing) But there's a way in which you can establish a kind of intimacy, because this is one on one a very intimate business.
And it's critical that that trust and intimacy start and then you continue it through the process.
I think, you're talking from a place of experience, and I think you're totally on the mark. One of the things you mentioned, at the very start of repeating back what they say. A lot of times if they're not necessarily creative in this way, you know, in this art form, articulating what they want is not always accurate. So I think the active repeating is not only reinforcing what they're saying, but it also gives you an opportunity to go, is that really what you meant? Do you maybe mean this? So giving them the vocabulary, giving them the visuals to maybe say, oh no, you're right, that's not what I meant. Because remember not everyone has your experience and your vocabulary to describe and articulate every little aspect of it. So you want to empower them with that, cause we can assume that, so very cool. And what about, with Kenzie, have you had any experiences with that? Where you were trying to work with someone. Actually let's talk about the flip side. When do you think you've had to kind of redirect someone?
I've had it, well this kind of goes in and out of both those questions. I think the most I've encountered it is definitely when making things for photography shoots. And I think it also comes full circle to me not being a photographer. And it's the same thing, like they don't know the fashion aspect, I don't know as much about the camera work, and all that. And sometimes things can get lost in translation on camera. Or what is more important to the photographer may be different from what's important to me as someone who's getting the garment shot. So, and I don't really know how to always determine who's right or wrong in those situations, 'cause I think sometimes there can be different goals that we're setting. But you know, if it is important to me a lot of times it's collaborations that I'm working on. So it's nice to get quality images back of the things that I've been making. And I think with some people more than others I've had to delicately steer them in the right direction. Like can we, you know, make sure that this is showing, the strong features of this, like the train or whatever that's going on on this gown.
And sometimes it can be a matter of not saying let's not do that, but let's do this too, and see which one we like better. And maybe for your purposes that's gonna go in your portfolio. And this version I'd like also, because I can use it for this. So I think knowing what the end purpose of it is, you know, whether it be the garment or a photo shoot, in saying if we're collaborating then let's kind of make sure we have options and alternatives. It speaks to also the whole collection theory we talked about earlier, in where we're making clothes and putting together these garments, you want to give people choices that are based on the same idea. So that V neckline in the front might not be everybody's cup of tea. But you can still work with that V neckline, but maybe in the back, or maybe as a cutout at the hem, so it's a slit and this triangle shape coming out of there. So you have your aesthetic going and you're getting what you want but then you're also giving people choices. And that goes for every aspect of it, not just the clothes themselves. Very good. The other two that we talked about, what they don't know they wanted, what they didn't know that they wanted, I think that is something that we all kind of would spend a whole lot of more time on. So I wanna encourage everyone to think about how they might innovate. What could be a part of your process that's new and fresh? And then the spin, the same thing, I think it takes a little time to be objective and almost anticipate criticism. And what might be things that you want to prepare for. But this last one I'm very curious because you've both worked with lots of different people. If you could think of one authentic relationship you have with a client, what do you think it's based on? Like if either of you can think of someone who you go, I have a real connection with them, they're a loyal customer, and I enjoy every time they come and say they need something, and why? Anybody?
I think this goes back and forth, whether you're working with a client or a photographer, or whatever. But I think definitely having some sort of personal relationship, not that that needs to be deep, or they're your best friend, but I think definitely it's always easier to work with people that you're really comfortable with and vice versa. You know, being on the customer end of buying a garment. It definitely makes a world of difference, and feeling that you can be openly honest. Like if you don't know what you want, or if you, maybe you're going towards one direction and then change your mind when you see it, and you're like, oh never mind. (laughing) I think it goes a long way in just being able to get something that works for everyone.
Yeah. So the one buzz word I heard in there was honesty, like that you can feel that freedom to be honest with your client. And what about you Pat? Anybody stick out that, that go, oh loved working with that person?
You know, I really, really enjoy my customers, my clients. They are people, you know if they come to me and come back to me I know that they trust me, and I feel privileged to be able to work with people around their very special occasion. And I wanna honor that privilege by doing the absolute best job I can for them. And I think they understand that, maybe it sounds a little cheesy, but really, they get that.
I think the thing, if I were to pull out the why, it almost seems like that sense of they're inviting you into their special day. So that's what connects you, that's where you feel like you're sharing a very special point in their lives. And like you said, you have the privilege of enhancing that through your work. I think that's hugely valuable. Because that's, like you said, a very intimate, very special experience. So, great.
The Boston Globe refers to Jay Calderin as a budding designer's best friend. He is the author of The Fashion Design Reference and Specification Book formerly Form, Fit, Fashion, which the LA Times called, a new fashion bible for designers, aspirers and the just plain curious, this tome contains all the secrets. It was followed by his second book, Fashion Design Essentials, and a collaboration on a third book entitled, Fashion Design, Referenced. The first two books have been translated into German and Chinese. He is also a contributor to Native Fashion Now, the book that accompanies the Peabody Essex Museum’s upcoming exhibit of the same name.