Why Tell Your Fashion Story?
This part of the class is one of my favorites because it's very personal. These are the kind of, the kind of questions we'll be exploring are very personal, they're very specific to your process and what you want to get out of your work as a fashion designer. So to give you an idea of what we're gonna be covering, we're gonna focus on crafting authentic stories. We're gonna tell engaging stories, because they may be really authentic, but they also have to have that little hook and actually be interesting and memorable. We wanna cultivate a dialogue between you and your customer, so that you're getting feedback about what kind of stories you should tell and how you should tell them. And then, also, you wanna prepare for detours on the path that you're on. 'Cause a lot of times we get stuck in this is who I am, this is what I'm doing, and that's great because you wanna have conviction, but you also wanna think ahead and think, okay, what if, like what could I do to address detours, to ad...
dress things that kinda derail that vision that you had from the very beginning. Because often, people think of it as a hugely negative thing, and sometimes it can be a great resource in itself, for exploring something new. So we're gonna be covering in our first conversation, we're gonna be covering, why tell your fashion story. So the visual and the verbal content. We're gonna explore what kinds of things we can put into an idea. The copyrights and copy culture is more about where you stand in the realm of storytelling. So is it about you following those trends and reproducing what might meet a model out there or thinking about keeping what you do very specific to you, something that you're inventing? Changing the channel. Just changing the conversation and the messaging and the storytelling. Like figuring out, maybe, what are some of the other stories you can tell? The delivery portals. Thinking about where you're sharing these stories and what tools you're using to share these stories. And then these last two are about thinking. They're about thinking about how to share and how to sell. The first step when you're trying to sell should be to try to share. That sort of intent behind that process of you want them to have this garment, because you're just gonna enjoy it so much, it's gonna improve your life. It's just like what are all those things you wanna share? Because if that's honest and intentional, then the selling part is almost automatic. And you do wanna concentrate on the selling part as well, but, in terms of making that sale, we were talking about valuing your work, and what that means and how to value your work. So all that is key, but if you're not enthusiastically engaged in sharing, then it's a hard sell, which is often, people often find it very easy to push back or ignore our hard sells. So we wanna realize that we wanna share first. So I'm gonna invite Emily to come up and sit with me up here. Oo, there we go. So welcome again.
If we could just have Emily and everybody else just sort of introduce yourself again, and talk a little bit about where you are within this world of fashion design.
My name is Emily Zunser, I've obviously been talking a lot about costuming. That's definitely the realm I'm trying to get into. I'm currently a student at New York Fashion Academy, here in Ballard. And I've been making costumes for myself and friends for a couple years now. And that's where I'm at.
Great, all right. So when it comes to visual and verbal content. Like if you're telling a story, if you had to pick three words to describe what you do. I mean, not just what you do, but the feeling behind what you do, something about your process or the end result or the feeling you're gonna have wearing it. What might be three words that you can think of, when it comes to costume design?
I think the first would probably be accuracy, that's something I really like to focus on. Like I mentioned earlier, getting as many reference photos as you can.
So of the genre, the inspiration for the costume.
Yeah, because I figure I probably will be marketing to people who do have a specific look in mind, of they want it to look exactly like this. So being ready to focus on that.
It's gonna be a high level of detail. I definitely wanna set myself apart from just being able to walk into a party store and grab something out of a plastic bag. I want it to be as realistic as possible. And maybe that's my third one, is making it look like, translating this two-dimensional drawing or illustration and turning that into something that could really exist in the real world.
So the first part is, I mean to me, kind of about the integrity of keeping true to the source material. Because we're talking about costumes, but the costumes in your field, in cosplay, are really an extension of a wardrobe, just within a different setting. You know, sort of. It's not a theatrical performance, it's an extension of the art. So I think the integrity behind it could be a component. Oh, and keep in mind too, I do this all the time with kind of riffing off of what people say, in terms to kind of help guide. But never take, like what I would say, as the be all, end all. Like, these are my interpretations, but the whole point of it is to encourage you to approach it that way and start to tease it apart. Because we're comfortable and used to our thoughts, so we need sometimes to just kind of have a sounding board. So that's kind of what we're focusing on here. So the second one, when you mentioned detail, this is really about the craftsmanship, the precision. I think that really is a valuable thing to the consumer, so that could be a great part of your story. And then the last part. Oh, of course it went right out of my head. The last part?
That's okay, I guess it's the interpretation of this fictional, two-dimensional thing.
2D to 3D, yes. Yeah, and I think there it's, I think one of the things that I see that may not be visible to the consumer, but that you're taking for granted, just because you're doing it, is the functionality. Because you're taking this two-dimensional idea and then you're putting it together, but you have to figure out how it actually works. Because if you didn't work with the original costume for, I mean you know, for creating it, you may not know how are they gonna move. I've been to some of the conventions, and you see a cyborg and it's like, and you're thinking, how are they moving around with all that tech added onto them? And even the materials you choose. There are not actually gonna be big metal hunks on them, so they might be plastic to look like metal. So I think the functionality is important. So stressing in your story that you really believe in not sort of fudging on the story, being really, having integrity about the story. Your attention to detail, you're not gonna gloss over things there. And then also, that this is gonna be an experience for that person, where they can actually enjoy what they're wearing. Because if you're wearing a costume, if you've ever worn a costume that was uncomfortable, the first thing you wanna do is get out of it. But this should be something where you can feel like, no, this is empowering me, this is armor. Whether it's actually armor or a big, fuzzy suit, it doesn't matter. It's this sort of, this feel that's empowering you. All right, so let's think about... In the bonus materials, we have an article, well two articles, one is copyrights and one is copy culture, and I think a lot of people in fashion get very protective about their work. And you can't copyright fashion or trademark it, I mean you can do your brand, but you can't copyright fashion. And you can do textiles though. So, but the question is how free do you feel, I mean how comfortable do you feel going one way or the other? Being very sort of secret, like you know, the secret ingredients kind of thing. Or is it something that's shareable? And like what do you think is the strong suit there for you?
Well I mentioned early that there's such a strong sense of community within this culture, where a lot of the information is freely shared and I think that I would like to be somewhat a part of that. You don't wanna just give things away. But like I was saying, with selling patterns and just making it available to people and then it's their choice whether they wanna buy it or not. But certainly, just being fairly open and transparent.
I mean I think that's happening in a lot of industries and you wanna ask yourself, even in teaching, when we do a flipped classroom and all, basically all the content is online. So you could technically never have to talk to the teacher. But the whole idea behind it is that when you come into the classroom, you've done your research, you've done your homework. Which almost anyone can do. You know, like you said, your customers can do that for themselves, but then when they come in, you're figuring out, okay well that's the baseline that everybody has, how am I making it unique? What's that special secret ingredient that I'm bringing to the table of why you would want to buy that product or use that service? So for changing the channel, I think, I know that with conventions, there are a lot of different ones. And some of them focus on special things. So how would you maybe take on the challenge of exploring delivering content, so to speak, or product to those different audiences? Or do you find yourself just focusing on one?
I could see myself doing multiple kinds. I mean, there's especially a lot of crossover these days. You know, people will make like original illustrations of like this is half Doctor Who, half Harry Potter. And you know, making a completely new thing from that. So I think there's a lot of freedom in that. And you could just do something that has no relation whatsoever. Like I've seen anime costumers at Renaissance fairs. And it's just a pretty nice community, where they're just kind of like, yep you're doing your own thing, great.
So I think a way to look at this, in terms of storytelling, is offering a menu. Like basically thinking, again, not that we can't do a lot of different things, or be challenged by a new thing, but saying, focusing on maybe three, five, however many you wanna take on, areas where you have made costumes like this or garments like this and you also have given it a lot of time and thought and you're doing something special in that area. And I think being able to narrow that down, I think, gives you also, it empowers you with a certain comfort level. Where you go, this is what I focus on, not that I'm not available for other things, but this is the menu. I always think of it like a computer dropdown menu. We know what we're doing, but then what's the breakdown, the sub-headings that help you go, no, no, that would fall into this category. And then I put that hat on. So and even though it might be all the same costume design, thinking of what the needs are of a Renaissance fair versus Star Trek. Those are kind of the things you wanna think about. Delivery portals. I'm curious, especially with your field, what do you think are the best places to deliver your content? Whether it be your story or your product. Like are you thinking it's social media, is it magazine articles, is it television, is it online video? What do you think is something that your audience would respond to in your storytelling?
It'll probably be, a majority would be like an online presence. There's a lot of people who are following established costumers online through Tumblr or Facebook or their own personal website. So probably something along those lines.
That brings me to something we glossed over in the beginning because we focused on the verbal, the words for the content. So I'm assuming, I mean in fashion in general, but I think specifically with this, especially when you talk about Tumblr, that imagery is very important.
So how would you attack the challenge of delivering content through visuals. Like what kind of stories do you think you could tell with visuals?
Well I think what you were saying earlier with taking progress shots and just holding yourself very accountable to being consistent with that, 'cause it's so easy to just be in the zone and realize, I haven't taken a photo in six hours, it looks completely different. And I think a lot of people are interested in that process, even if they don't ever plan on wearing something of mine, they could at least see this as, this is a lot of work that's gone into this, this is the exact process that they undertook. Maybe there's someone else I know who would be interested in this and then share it. Even if they're just casually interested.
Yeah, I think that's very true and when you talk about that person, the observer, we can't discredit the observer who's never going to buy our pieces, because often, I'm a good example, I will go to fashion shows where it's women's wear, right, and even though I'm in the industry, I'm not buying the women's wear, but you become an evangelist for that designer. You become that person who's going to promote it and go, this is really cool. And also I think the cross-industry aspect of it is very important because there might be somebody working in actual fashion, the fashion design side of it, where they're making more conservative clothing, but they can take a lot of inspiration from exploring your field, you know, your particular niche in fashion design.
The other cool thing, I think, may not actually be seen as a positive, but, there's definitely a lot of criticism of this lifestyle and this community, and I feel like even when someone goes online and is like, oh, look at this stupid thing that people do, that actually ends up working against them and just exposing that hobby, that culture, to a whole group of people who would never have seen it otherwise. And then that other person might think, oh, this is actually really cool.
Well I think that kind of brings us back to appreciation. I mean, I think if we are educating our viewership, especially if you know there's an element in your audience that's the naysayer, the person who's gonna be the critic, you want to anticipate that when you're writing your stories. You wanna have the answer written into your messaging. You wanna ask yourself, like acknowledge the fact that some people think we're crazy or they can't understand why we wanna put on a costume. But you want to figure out like what the message is that says, and that's okay, because it's so much fun that we don't mind that. That kind of thing. And it's true for every aspect of fashion, because even with something that we, in the industry, we hold in high regard, Haute Couture right, the ultimate, there are people who go, I don't get it. It's like, it's ridiculously expensive and where would you wear that to? And we know that's not the point, that's not the point of it. But there are naysayers. So what do you say? Haute Couture is very similar to what we're talking about with costume, where it's showing them the value of it. Like look at what goes into this. And even if you have no interest in it, you have to agree that that's valuable. Right? So you're empowering people when sharing your stories. Very cool. And then how, when it comes to the whole sharing process, what do you wanna share? Like what are you really, not just the clothes or the cool designs, 'cause that's kind of a given nowadays, we're gonna make a good garment, it's gonna be a relevant garment, all those kinds of things, but what are you really saying, I really want you to have this blank?
I think a lot of it is the process of construction and especially with costuming, since this is a garment that probably could never exist as a real thing, is that puzzle aspect of how do I get from point a to point b? And kind of exploring that process and sharing that, saying this exists with no darts or any types of gathers, but obviously there's a ton of fabric that has to go somewhere. And kind of, I guess, exploring that area of how you're developing into this real thing.
And I think that says something really, really important, that you are looking to share that experience with them. You want them to be able to go through it with you, should they want to. In terms of they'll wanna see those steps, they'll wanna be in on the decision-making. 'Cause some people just wanna go to the rack. I mean, when we're shopping, there's certain things that I don't... Like there's certain stores you walk into and you don't want any salesperson to bother you, you know what you're doing, I'm scanning, the hunting and gathering. And then there are places where you go and you kind of go, okay, I wanna be taken care of, help me through this. So it's the same thing with this. So here, I think, that's a really valuable part of your story, where you're saying, I want your input, I want you to share through this, I want you to understand what I'm doing to make your dream come true. So I think that whole sharing element is really important. Now we talked a lot about valuing our work earlier, so when it comes to the sell, how confident and comfortable would you say you feel, in terms of where you are right now? I know you're a student and sort of starting out, but even in theory, how comfortable do you think you'd feel, in terms of pricing? Like do you think you have a good idea of what you might charge for something?
It's definitely not something I feel confident about right now, but I think I'm taking steps towards getting there. Like even just making things for myself, I'm trying to, I have like a master spreadsheet of like what I'm spending money on, where. If I mess something up here, where did I have to spend more money to fix it? And then just trying to take notes of, I absolutely hate this fabric, I never wanna work with it again, this is a really good alternative. So I'm trying to create that initial budget and see maybe where I spent too much money here and where I overestimated how much fabric I would need here, and just trying to get a realistic estimate of what I'm spending money on.
Right, I mean even sometimes anticipating mistakes and having to budget in extra fabric for corrections. I have to say, that's impressive. (laughs) I don't know very many designers who, on their own, have come up with an accounting system for their process, which is really, really valuable.
It's a lot of hunting through receipts with different colored pens. Like this was for this project, this was for this one. But like with Margo's question earlier, I don't really, I haven't figured out how to price my own work yet. I'm just trying to focus on the stuff that, I guess, I have a little more control over.
Yeah, I think when it comes to valuing your work, I know we run into this with, once a student graduates from fashion school, they've spent, probably, a whole semester on a garment. Like where they've spent so much time and money and they're thinking also, well I did the patterns and I did the research. So they, at first, go, okay, I don't see why not, I wouldn't charge what Armani charges for a dress. Because that's about how much time and money I spent on it. But the truth of the matter is that you have to kind of figure out, that was a learning curve, right, so you're learning from your sort of system where you need to cut back. How can I do this more efficiently, if I need it to be less expensive? Those are kind of clues that'll help you manage how you price things. I think the other aspect of that that's really key, when it comes to pricing, is the research you do outside in the market. And then also really compare your product to another product, because not all costumes are created equal, I would assume, right? So you may have two hero costumes and one of the definitely stands apart. And you have to almost weed out the customer who's just looking for a bargain. Because, I think, if you're doing custom work, you wanna say to yourself, no, I want the customer who is willing to pay that price, because they already value it, they already understand. Whereas the other is maybe, if you're not concerned, like if you were thinking less costume design and more costume shop. So it's just about the numbers. And again, either is valid, but you wanna ask yourself what side of that spectrum am I, sort of, standing on?
Maybe like one little addendum.
Oh please, yes.
Just real quick. I know one thing that we've gone over in class is, and especially I think it ties in with what we were saying how, Patty, you were saying customers don't understand that sewing is a really important part of it and we've discussed pricing yourself differently per hour, like on what skill you're using. Like prioritizing, like hey, I did eight hours of pattern work for this, not everyone can do that. Whereas the customer might agree and know that, yes, I could never do that, whereas I could've done the sewing on my own. And maybe explain that's where some of this value is coming from.
Exactly. And also the level of skill. Because it's like we said about the painting, like no your kindergarten kid can't do this. A lot of people feel that they've got a certain skill and they're starting out and you might be a step beyond that. So you're saying no, no, I just wanna show you we're doing these special seams, they'll be stronger, they'll have this and that. So you wanna be able to help them understand, again, why it's a little bit more. Excellent. Very cool. So do you feel like you have the beginnings of your story? Like if you're starting to write about, not necessarily your bio, because we talked about that a little earlier, but like talking about what you do and what's important to you, and also how it all matters to the client? What do you feel about that?
Yeah, I definitely feel like being on the spot and like having to answer these questions honestly and kind of putting yourself out there and really thinking about what's important to you, I think I already feel, just this sitting down has been helpful.
Yeah and I feel like it's really cool to answer these and really be accountable for what you're putting out there.
And I think that's a, thank you, that's a great compliment and great point. And I think that speaks to a lot of people will want to gloss over all this and just come up with the first thing that comes into your mind, and it's like that's good enough. But I think when we do this process, when we give ourselves that luxury of saying that we want to give it the time and the thought it deserves, then we really come up with valuable things. I mean I haven't met you before this class and all of a sudden, I'm invested in your career. Like I feel like, oh I wanna know, I wanna keep knowing what she's doing. Because you've told me stories through the answers you've given, that make me feel like, oh, she is gonna be doing stuff, she's already doing it and she's a student, so I have to follow this. And that's what you wanna get out of people, whether they're a customer or just an interested observer, you want those stories to resonate with them. So great, thank you.
Thank you so much.
Come back and sit down. Just maybe for a couple minutes if any of you have thoughts around, I mean Emily just had an amazing transformational, eye-opening experience right here in this 10 minutes of conversation. Which is exactly what this is all about, is asking yourself those right questions and to explore what it is that you're storytelling and what you're doing. Did you find anything within that conversation, even though you're doing something completely different, that was relatable for yourself and eye-opening?
Yeah, I was kind of laughing over here, just because (laughs) not at you guys, just because I just had this conversation about the maybe other people not quite understanding your field or what it is you're doing. I just had this the other day and it was as we were walking through, bridesmaid shopping walking through Nordstrom, we passed through the designer section and some people in the party might have giggled a little bit and scoffed at some prices. And I can see how it's not everyone's taste or whether it's just something you're not in, like costumes. But anyway, finding the value in it. And that's why I keep going back to like the videos that you're saying and thinking about one of the other people that I follow pretty religiously on social media is Christian Dior, who always posts detail videos of like making a mini-scale dress and like going through the process of what it takes to make one little flower that has thousands on this one dress. And it does kinda put things into perspective, whether you're not the person that's buying the costumes or the super-expensive couture dress, like, why it is what it is. And I think that's probably a good thing to base like your value off of too.
Definitely and I love, I mean this speaks to what we mentioned earlier in terms of educating your consumer. And I like that you said that specifically about the flower, because the single flower and the dress has hundreds of them, sometimes it doesn't have to be this video to show you the whole process, it can be a teaser. You can treat it like, this is a really cool part of how this works, the mechanics of a costume or the beading on a garment. Like it might be a small section and you show the process and then you see the impact of like, wow, that took that long, and imagine how long it took to bead that dress. All those kinds of things, again, the level, the scale, can be on your terms of what you wanna share, what you think is valuable, and it's all part of your storytelling.