is there is no plan.
My entire career has been a result of planning. Methodical, like a template chess game shown online to teach new gamers. Sure, I could blame things partly on the economy, but mostly, I blame my erroneous planning. Not that planning is bad, but now is a good time to shake things up some.
I got laid off from my day job. I worked in an unessentials field, money dried up, our projects dried up, so now the two owners are on their own, trying to ride out the recession. There were some tears involved–I really like them.
So I, for the first time in a long long time, have only 1 job. Sorta. If being a 1 man show could be considered 1 job. And I’m really happy. Grateful. I don’t have any debt and I don’t have kids to feed. I’m looking for work–the one I want the most is a technical illustration teaching job. *crosses fingers* I’m socializing. I’m relaxing.
Best of all, I’m making stuff. I’m drawing stuff and I’m liking the stuff I’m drawing. I went to a clothing exchange last month I’m doing little sewing experiments while I fix things. I’m slowly making things for a collection to show in the nearish future. My no-plan plan does not mean I’m shuttering my business, just approaching it differently. Now is the only time I can indulge in so much freedom, when I have no employees.
Blogging may or may not resume. Like I said, there is no plan. Just trying to go day by day making as many cool things as possible.
How are you?
You know what I say to anyone who asks me about my blog? Every single one of these conversations I insert, “I have the best readers. No trolls, only great people who support me, cheer me on when I’m down, ask intelligent, interesting questions, and know how to be respectful when disagreeing with me or another reader.”
It’s all true and I have never found it more true than the last few days. The wonderful comments and emails I have received from you readers have helped my mental and emotional well-being tremendously and I can’t thank you enough.
Long story short, I gave 2 week notice on Wednesday, and later that day I was told that my “resignation is accepted, effective immediately”. What’s done is done, but I sure wish I had those 2 weeks to prep my team for my departure. I told my assistant to buzz me if there was something she really needed from me. That’s the best I could do, under the circumstances. I think my team was more shocked about it all than I was.
I won’t lie; this sucks. I was editing my resume today, and just reading through my job history, it suddenly dawned on me why I got hit so hard. I’ve never really quit a job before (things just ended for different reasons) and I’ve never left a job under negative circumstances before. Disclaimer: I’m not saying I’m perfect. My last boss called me 2 years ago because she started a new company and wanted me on board. (Unfortunately, the position would have had me in China for large chunks out of the year and that didn’t appeal to me.) I was the head tutor for the Liberal Arts Dept. for almost the entire 4 years I was at school and left only because I was graduating school and seeking an industry gig. Internships and freelance contracts were extended. I’ve enjoyed good working relationships with lots of people and it frustrated me so much that I couldn’t get this situation resolved.
Honestly, I am pretty okay. My life otherwise is very good. I have wonderful relationships with the boy, amazing friends, and my family. My health is good. I have a very nice roof over my head and I have savings. And I have you guys! I had a good/bad? conversation with a friend today. His father is gravely ill and his new beau has an ulcer. Puts things in perspective, you know?
So I am taking Friday and the weekend to relax and I start hitting the pavement Monday. I’ll keep y’all posted!
Dear readers, yes, I am looking for a new job. Any help you can offer is much appreciated. I’m still working where I am, but I am planning my exit, the sooner the better. Irreconcilable differences. Let’s just leave it at that. And no, I’m not going to reveal who I worked for and start talking smack once I leave. Not my style.
I started putting out my feelers on Thursday. One fish may have bitten, but I’ll know more next week. We shall see. Everything is up in the air. It’s 11pm, Sunday night here in SF, and the rain is falling gently on the roof. Maybe that means I’ll get my fresh start soon. *crosses fingers*
Um, yeah, I guess the title is self explanatory. I’m one year old today.
On a more serious note, I’d like to thank all you readers for your support and attention. I’ve also noticed the number of hits I’ve been getting has doubled in the past month (who are you people? speak up!) and I’ve been getting more compliments on my portfolio pages of late (aw, shucks, thanks, guys!).
I would have posted this earlier today but I had a 7 HOUR merchandising and sales meeting with my team and a couple of my sales reps, STANDING UP IN HEELS ON CONCRETE, so when I got home, my brain was fried and my feet screaming at me to sit or lay down. Of course I promptly passed out when I got home and woke up only a couple of hours ago. (No, I didn’t know it was going to last 7 hours, nor did I know I’d be standing the entire time. I didn’t even know for sure my attendance would be necessary for the entire meeting.) I bring this up because today I reread my very first post, and had a “where did the time go?” moment. It seems so long ago that I so wanted this very position and now I’m here. Yes, work is hard and I have my moments where I stand in an empty bathroom stall and claw at my own hair, but I’m here and so thankful.
*note* The WordPress clock is funky. It’s still Nov. 3rd, which is my real blog birthday, but the post publish date is Nov. 4th. Hrm.
Anyone who’s worked in the industry in the States for at least a year knows how Vegas can be in late August. It’s that wonderful time of year when Project, Magic, the Exclusive, the Accessories Show, Pool, and ASAP all collide. It’s like turning the hose onto an anthill–thousands of fashionistas and wannabes scurrying this way and that, knocked about by an inescapable, mysterious force, silently screaming “save me! save me! please! oh for the love of McQueen, save me!”
Or that could just be me.
Make no mistake–I am about the most unfashionable designer ever. If I’m clean, professionally attired and armed with symmetrical eyebrows, I’m done. Being swallowed up and elbowed by wave after wave of pretty young things dressed to the hilt, armed with The It Accessories (multiple show badges and free Project bags) is not my idea of a good time.
That said, I had a great time in Vegas this time around. I wasn’t required to work the booth, so that in and of itself was fabulous. I got a great room. Some of my closest L.A. girlfriends were also there so we got to walk the shows together, in between unhurried meals and lots of laughing. Talking shop with two of my most amazing colleagues and fellow Otis veterans really got my juices going.* Nothing else gives me quite the same zing.
So my mission was to walk Project, Magic, and the Exclusive, to see where we need to be next season, because it’s about time we moved. I took a lot of mental notes, had a chance to sit down with my VP and mull over some things. We walked the shows separately, but ended up having similar ideas on how to proceed. My sales guys are going to have a collective heart attack, because as a rule, they hate change. Whatever, boys! It’s not up to you! If you lazy asses did your jobs, we wouldn’t have to force such drastic measures on you! (Um, I don’t particularly love our sales guys.)
But enough about work. I don’t like to delve into too much work details.
Project was fascinating. Super busy. The foot traffic just absolute madness. The utter atrocities that sell just shocks me. I’m telling you, ugly crap sells. It’s all about marketing and who you know and it makes me sick to my stomach. (It also makes me kinda hopeful that even my crap may sell.) It appeared to me that Project is for not-quite-established companies. It’s pretty inexpensive. (I think about $4500 compared to Magic’s $20,000 for the same amount of space.) You don’t need to decorate your booth with much. Just a couple of mannequins and racks of clothes. There were obviously a lot of more established labels there too, and they lined the “red carpet” with their big jazzed up booths. The outer edges were very quiet. My opinion is that it’s a good show for people who rely mainly on random foot traffic for sales, as opposed to appointments like the bigger dogs.
Magic was also fascinating, but in different ways. If you ever questioned how big and at the same time how small this industry is, just walk around Magic. Something weird happened to me at Magic. I became uncontrollabe cattiness personified, constantly whispering snide commentary to my friends. I felt like a sarcastic jerk robot in some nightmarish real-life version of the worst episode of MST3K ever, in which case, I guess K does stand for Karl. It was not pretty.
All the booths at Magic are decorated. Perry Ellis had its newest comic book style ad campaign blown up to 20′ tall. Levi’s had a staircase going up to a second floor. Others had fake plants and faker leather couches. They built small worlds in their booths, some bigger than the zoloft.** Magic is more organized in terms of grouping markets (designer mens, juniors, eveningwear, etc.), but it’s still very easy to get lost. At one point, I said, “Man, everyone is just doing the same thing! Wait, I’ve been here already. No, really, I think everyone is just doing the same thing. Ah! I can’t tell anymore!”
The West Coast Exclusive, compared to the other two, was like stepping into a mausoleum. Quiet. I’d write “zen” if it wasn’t for the unsavory aroma of desperation and day-old hot dogs in the air. Definitely a place people mostly went to if they were pointedly seeking out a particular label. More appointment based than the other two. Older crowd, mostly. Lots of shoes and ties, for some reason. Heavy on the menswear, save a row of contemporary womenswear, whose fresh colors and young, bored salesgirls looked completely out of place. Oh, and a booth for borderline fetish leather, which within the context of show, almost made me laugh out loud. My sales guys consider it the place for the “right kind of appointments”.
Anyway, those are just some notes on the shows from an exhibitor’s point of view. I’m sure others see it very differently than I do, especially the buyers. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.
*I’m not sure if it’s just Otis or all other schools, but if you made it out of there alive and functioning in the industry, there’s this bond, even if you weren’t that close at school. So many go into the fashion department at Otis and never graduate, that if you made it all the way through, there’s some serious mutual respect going on, obviously some more than others. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. And yes, I ran into a lot of Otis kids in Vegas, of different classes, including a bunch I used to tutor, and it was definitely an acid trip down memory lane.
**The zoloft is the name of my apartment, because my name is Zoë and it’s a loft and people consider coming over to be a great antidepressant. Heehee.
The fact that I even feel this strongly compelled to write a post on the importance of follow-up makes me irritable. Once upon a time, I thought follow-up was a given; I’m no longer so naïve.
Excuse me if this starts to sound like a rant, but I find it so absurd that this key component is so lacking in people’s professional standards of behavior I almost hit the roof Friday.
These notes are compiled from my experiences in both the design and production sides:
1. When going through the hiring process a few weeks ago, I automatically rejected anyone I interviewed who didn’t send me a follow-up email or phone call in 24 hours. I was astonished at the follow-up/not ratio, despite their enthusiasm for the position during the interview. (San Francisco must have more great actors than I thought.) People put themselves first. If they’re not going to find their own employment not worth a follow-up email, I don’t trust them to do anything else, quite frankly.
2. Always attach a “please confirm” note on your emails and make sure you get a confirmation. Half a dozen very important orders will be shipped late because the factories are saying they never got an email about such and such. Send emails with a “read receipt” if you have to. I’m sure my customer service person did not enjoy spending an hour getting extensions, and I’m also sure she is chewing out our overseas production manager as we speak to anyone who’ll listen. I’m also sure that the customers’ trust in us has gone down a notch. I say “a notch” in this case because these are customers who’ve bought from us for YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS. You will probably not be so lucky.
3. UPS and FEDEX are not fool-proof. They have tracking numbers for a reason. If something is important enough for priority overnight shipping, make sure they got it the next morning. Track that thing down! Email the recipient with the tracking number, request that they contact you upon receipt of package. That way, if they don’t get it, 1. they can’t blame you and 2. problems are easier to solve from the beginning, not after they’ve snowballed into something much more complicated. (Speaking of snowballing, that brings me to “small problems”. Do not gloss them over. NIP IT IN THE BUD, RIGHT THEN AND THERE. Tell your supervisor if necessary, or a colleague that can help you. I can guarantee you that any backlash will be less severe at this point.)
4. If you tell someone that you will find out the answer to their question by the end of the day and the day has passed and still no luck, call them back and let them know you’re still researching and you will get back to them in 24 hours. Let them know that you haven’t forgotten about them. It takes approximately one minute out of your day, including dialing.
5. I had this vendor rep who would only contact me after I had sent them about 3 emails and 2 voicemails, on average, in the beginning. It steadily got worse. I let it go for a while, thinking everyone has their busy season. After about six months, and two almost-crises later, I realized that my headache was not going to go away, so I spoke to their boss. Now I deal with the company owner directly, that person no longer works there, all of my P.O.s are being delivered on time, and consequently I send more and more work to them whenever I can. And honestly, because the company owner and I have built up a good relationship, I call him less, because I know he will contact me when I ask him to (noted on a P.O., via email, etc.). It was the previous lack of response that had me anxiously calling all the time. This is the industry. If you can’t deal with this scenario, you don’t belong here.
6. It all boils down to excellent customer service. It doesn’t matter what you do, what industry you’re in, how high up the ladder you’re at. You should be treating all professional relationships as if you’re customer service. “CUSTOMERS” ARE NOT PEOPLE WHO BUY THINGS FROM YOU; THEY ARE ANYONE WHO DOES BUSINESS WITH YOU, PERIOD.
I don’t care if you have to turn your computer monitor into a surrealist daisy with post-it reminders stuck all along the edges, make sure you remember to follow-up. Writing in all caps irritates me, but the fact that I find them necessary right now irritates me more. Simple and consistent follow-up emails and phone calls are the easiest way to build up your professional reputation.
Reader Simon left this comment in response to my final dress photos:
“…You did a great job on this project. I simply cannot believe you design the “other” stuff during the day and are not driven nuts with all that creativity within. Like a fine chef working at Chili’s.”
I’d like to respond to this, and not to ridicule Simon in any way, but mainly to clarify a few things about myself.
I don’t consider the work I do at my day job creatively stifling, or beneath my abilities, or any of that jazz. I think of it as a different design problem that requires a different solution. My day job requires that my designs be simple, clean, wearable, versatile, and expensive-looking; my jackets must take the utmost advantage of the medium (mainly leather). We have a particular customer profile we target. We have particular pricepoints to consider. We have a certain reputation to maintain because the company’s been in business for so long. It’s not easy. If it was easy, the previous designer’s collections would have sold.
Every project that I do on my own, I challenge myself with a different set of design issues, hoping to find the best solution. Can I create a collection of sleek, urban work-friendly clothes for the young professional at a contemporary pricepoint? Can I design a group of knock-their-socks-off evening gowns based on the design direction given? Can I put together ensembles for the tweens back-to-school market that all girls will covet?
I don’t think creativity is about creating the most spectacular thing ever. I think it’s more important to be able to find the best possible solution to a problem. In fashion, that means considering more than just the look of the dress.
P.S. Simon, thanks for reading, for the lovely compliments, and for giving me a topic to chew on.
-When my tech gave her two-week notice, I thought that meant she was leaving in two weeks, not that she was gonna start being a *^&#!@^(*$! for the next two weeks.
-The dress portion is complete, but blank. Now, I have to embellish it and put together the underskirt. The rest of this week will be filled with mindless beading, not to be confused with mindless beating, which is what I’d really like to do to the dress. I’ll post a bunch of photos this weekend.
-I’m super excited about this weekend because a friend is taking me to get a free facial. Most people with combination skin have a T-zone, I have an O-zone, meaning I break out around my hairline and chin. And my hair is not even that greasy. Ick.
-Tradeshow prep is driving everyone in the office absolutely bonkers. EVERYONE. No one is exempt, not customer service, accounting, the receptionist, NO ONE. Everything is shipping out on Monday and my linesheet still needs prices. Today my boss decided to do two more samples of existing styles in a new leather. My factory foreman looked like he was going kill me. I probably shouldn’t have told him while he was holding his x-acto blade. The server was doing the funky chicken today so our IT guy kept popping into my office since I have the fastest computer. I was ready to strangle him. While I serenely said, “Oh, it’s okay. Do what you need to do,” inside I was screaming “Get the frick out of my office! I have swatchcards to format and sketches to scale and covers to design! GET OUT!!!”
-I got this freak jacket today. Well, the jacket is lovely (I really need to stop shopping my own collection), but the skin is a weird hybrid of 2 different leather swatches I was looking at, one I love and one that reminds me of burnt cheese pizza.
-I was so frazzled today I actually bought a little bag of Cheetos at lunch. I’m not some super healthy eater (not by a longshot), but I eat Cheetos like twice a year. They’re “nervous food” for me. Uh oh.
God, I love my job. And I really mean it.
What a day. It whizzed by as I half-heartedly attempted to pry the idiot grin off my face.
I don’t like complaining incessantly and thus creating a blog full of negativity. Nonetheless, I’d be lying to you if I said all was smooth sailing at work. The last six months have been insane, the last two revving up to fever pitch. I’ve been driving myself crazy with the workload, the attitude problems, my lackluster tech, the stress of my first collection, alladatandthensome. Poor sleep snuck into my schedule and my body got slammed hard this past weekend with the worst bout of stomach flu I’ve ever experienced. (And trust me, usually, my stomach is like a steel tank.) Ah, this industry. Gotta love it.
And then today. Because apparently, I must have done something right in a past life or something, I got a pat on the back.
1. I got a raise.
2. My lackluster tech gave her two week notice.
3. I’m getting an assistant instead of a new tech. Yes, as they said before, they can’t afford to hire someone else, but now there’s a slot available, they’re pretty much going to allow me to restructure that role and the new person will answer to me. So I’ll have more time to focus on design, merchandising, and product development, and leave behind my production duties, as well as some stuff I don’t love doing like measuring stuff. So while my workload will be similar to what I have going on now, my brain will not be split in so many ways, and a lot of paperwork will be shifted off my plate, and I am so freaking grateful for that.
I’m grateful for the production experience, and the knowledge that I’ve culled will definitely help me to be better at design and business. Learning and really grasping different aspects of the business gives you such an advantage, I can’t even begin to explain. One of my goals regarding my day job have always been to move forward into a position where my opinions on design and business will be heard and my experience in production has really given me an extra edge in my conversations with my boss and the new VP.
And, in combination of my Perrier check and my new raise, I am projecting to be done paying off my student loans by the end of this year! No more debt! Woohoo!
or “Retailers Don’t Know the Hell Sometimes We Go Through To Complete An Order And They Better Appreciate It”. Read below to see why I have not been posting much this week. Just entirely too frazzled.
Let me preface by saying that looking for a replacement for my production position has been benched until sales go up some. Once again, personally dismayed while understanding the business logic. Bleh. So, I’m still in charge of domestic production, while wrapping up Spring 07, gearing up for tradeshow season (late July through August), starting research for Fall 07, and working on special development projects for two of our Most Important Private Label Clients. Did I mention I love being busy at work? Okay, maybe not *this* busy. Oy.
I’m getting sidetracked. The point of this post is that there are just some orders that are a nightmare to fill.
When your #1 buyer politely asks you they want a few dozen jackets, they’re not asking. You do it. When they say they’d like it in 3 weeks in time for a special event, they need it in 3 weeks, no extensions. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love this company. We have several different buyers in different departments with this company and they’re all great. They’re professional, they’re polite, nice, and continue to buy all year round. What’s not to love?
But this order. Sigh. It should have been smooth sailing. Order fabric that was already in stock in L.A. (2 days wait, max). Order zippers (supposedly 1 week wait, perfect, since in that time, we wait for fabric, cut and embroider). All other materials we already have in our in-house inventory. Cut it up, embroider it, sew it up, send it out. Right?
Well, three botched fabric shipments, one major delay in zippers, and one boss pacing the hallways muttering “This order is jinxed! Jinxed!” over and over again later I want to hide in my office under my desk and electrocute myself with all my computer wires. My factory foreman demands X amount of days for sewing and I don’t blame him. I want to drive to L.A. to slap some brain power into those fabric people. I’m tempted to hunt down the UPS nut who lost shipment #3 so I can club him senseless with a bundle of mildewed leather.
To further complicate things, I’d like to address holiday weekends. It’s Independance Day this upcoming Tuesday here in the states which means a lot of the industry is shut down for a 4-day weekend, including yours truly. Some even took Friday off, some are even shutting down for the whole week next week (thus the zipper delay). Holiday weekends are mixed blessings. On the one hand, it’s days off and who doesn’t love a nice long weekend? On the other, you’re thinking you could really use those extra two days since you had to swallow a week’s delay for the fabric. For a 3-week timeline, it’s murder. I’ve had to touch base with my embroiderer (who’s an absolute gem, thank goodness) to reschedule 4 different times.
I talk to the woman in charge of customer service here (she’s also great) and she makes a call to the buyer, to just “verify ship date and address” and sometimes God smiles on you. The buyer tells us that the event was postponed and we can have an extra 3 days if we want it. Do you hear the chorus of angels? Do you see the sky opening up to stream a light of hope onto your disgruntled and manic VC?
This industry, I tell ya. Sigh. Now I can enjoy the weekend.