The Bargain Queen’s post on sample sales prompted me to write a post of my own on the subject, from a designer’s point of view. In fact, Her Royal Majesty emailed me and Kathleen, asking if her post had any glaring errors. I didn’t find any, but was in general amused by how shoppers view sample sales.
I am a veteran of the battlefield otherwise known as the sample sale and I have to say, in short, they suck. For us working the sales, anyway. I’ve never shopped one as I try to avoid them at all costs.
The main reason I despise sample sales is how we choose what to sell. Every approach has its pros and cons, and they’re discussed more exhaustively than you can imagine. Either that or I’ve worked for incredibly indecisive people.
1. You have your photoshoot samples, the tiny samples from last season that you no longer need. Or do you? Should you have an ongoing archive of your collections? What if we want to repeat some of these styles/silhouettes/etc next season because it was so wildly popular?
2. You have not perfect samples. Do you really want to sell these imperfect goods so people see the crap armhole and think that’s indicative of our tailoring? The too-loose elastic? The embroidery with the wrong colors? But what else do we do with it? Throw it away so it can sit in a landfill for a million years because of our market strategy?
3. You have excess inventory from last season that didn’t sell, not even on sale. Ouch. That just hurts. You can only chant “learn and move on, learn and move on” so many times before you start feeling sick to your stomach.
4. Some celebrity borrowed something and it was returned in less than perfect condition. (I’m sorry–I guess the last part of that sentence was rather redundant.) Who really wants something with Flavor-of-the-Week’s pit stains? (Ugh, don’t answer that.)
The point is, inventory is money and if it’s just sitting on a rack in storage, that’s money you put in a sock under your bed. It gains no interest, the value depreciates over time, and is of no use to you.
Okay, so we’ve spent the entirely-too-many-hours picking what goes on sale. Next you pick the date. Definitely not during blow-out sale season in the stores–too much competition. And not after a major holiday like, for example, the entire month of January when everyone’s wallets are recovering. Of course, not during tradeshow season–we’re too busy. Not that date–half the girls working the sale observe the Jewish holidays, not that date–billion dollar bobbleheads are having their sale, not that date–I want the sale money to file for this quarter.
Now the major details have been sorted, on to picking a venue, deciding whether you’ll go solo or invite other companies (the smaller you are, the wiser the latter choice is), setting the hours, finalizing who’s working the sale, putting together a lovely poster and mailing everybody in time (not too soon, lest they forget, and not too late, lest they already have plans).
Man, I’m exhausted just typing all this stuff out.
Alright, now we’re at the day of the sale. So much fun I can’t even tell ya. Let’s just go over some things that have run through my head during these sales, as outwardly I smile and nod:
“Please stop tugging on my shirt to get my attention…no, seriously, stop pulling on my clothes…gaahhh!!!! STOP TUGGING AT MY CLOTHES!”
“The size 0 is too big for you? I’m sorry–I just don’t have much sympathy for you. Please take your loud nasal whine elsewhere, thanks.”
“Why exactly did we put all the effort in putting up “CASH ONLY” signs everywhere if apparently no one in this room knows how to read except me?”
“This blouse is $45 to make, and by selling it for $50, we’re making a grand $5 off of it, and you know this thing sells for $200+ retail and now you’re asking for a discount because it doesn’t have the cute extra button in a plastic baggie on a hangtag? I will find you that cute extra button and shove it down your throat, you (*^&%*!%&#*(%(@!”
And then the sale is over. Sometimes you blow out everything and there’s enough cash for you to go to New York for a much needed sourcing trip. Sometimes you don’t make much money at all.
Honestly, the only version of complaining I like to do is when I can express aloud what I don’t like. Once I’ve figured out what it is that’s bugging me, I can try to fix it. But this whole sample sale monster is just something I don’t know how to sort through and tame. If there’s any way to make better, faster choices for the sample selection would probably make it all go a whole lot faster and smoother.
This is probably one of the most depressing articles I’ve read in a long time. It depresses me more because some I actually respect wrote it, as opposed to some random writer I’ve never heard of before.
I've been emailing all the local model agencies for comp cards of male models and I have yet to find one that I like. There's one guy we used last year who was really good so we're using him again. The other guy from last year was stiff as a board, so I still need one more guy. In my meeting with the photographer, he expressly asked us to not use him again. He told me that the only good shot he got out of him was when he asked the model to pretend to stare into the female model's head.
I was out shopping for shoes in Union Square today and I must have seen at least two dozen guys I'd have liked to use for the catalog, and three guys I was really tempted to approach. And I wasn't even looking specifically! (Too busy trying to focus on shoes.) Alas, I didn't have my business cards on me (darnitdarnitdarnit!!!) so I felt unprofessional approaching them. They probably would have thought I was trying to pick them up.
Sure, this is not exactly a model's paradise, but even looking at big time magazines, I don't see a lot of male models I like. They're either uglyfemme (I can do the occasional prettyfemme, but not uglyfemme.) or they're trying too hard or they're just ick.
Seriously. What is going on here?
What happened to guys like Mark Vanderloo? (oh, yum.)
P.S. The good news for today is that I found a decent pair of gold shoes to go with my kimono and a cute pair of wedgie Aerosoles for hoofin' it around New York during the day. Did I mention that Danielle (click on the link to check out her new blog!) will be there in New York as well? The party's on Thursday so email me if you want the deets!
You know how your teachers used to say there's no such thing as a stupid question? Well, they lied. For me, the dumbest question you can ask me if "where do you get your inspiration from?". Dood. Do you realize how broad and meaningless that question is? A lot of designers will start making a list of all sorts of things. "Oh, lots of things, the sky, starving children in Africa, sari colors, Chinese embroidery, palm trees, sand dollars, Christy Turlington…" and then they start sounding stupid and aimless because the question was stupid and aimless. Now, if you ask me "what was the inspiration for this particular collection", then I will answer excitedly.
Over 2 weeks after I send in a PO, I get an email from my vendor, saying I didn’t order up to minimum. I email her. Four hours of no response later, I call her. Leave her a voicemail saying she needed to call me back or reconsider my use for her. I don’t fuck around. This gap in communication is unacceptable to me. If I didn’t order the minimum or if there are sampling surcharges, you need to call me right away so we can clear it up. If you’re going to be late on delivery, you need to call me so I know.
So she calls me back, SCREAMING AT ME that she’s been sick and she just got back to work three days ago and still catching up.
me: I’m sorry you were sick, truly. But are you telling me there was NO ONE in the office to pop me an email requesting clarification on my P.O.?
her: No. Yes. No one took over my workload.
me: And you’re telling me NO ONE in the office bothered to let me know you were out of commission for the past two weeks?
her: Uh, apparently not.
me: So you’ve been back at work for three days and you’re just now calling me? And I fired off an email to you right after you emailed me and you’re saying you never got it?
me thinking: We give you a lot of business. You need to reconsider your tone. Now.
her: I haven’t checked my email today.
me: At all?
her: Look, the minimum is X yards per colorway, take it or leave it. I already told [my boss] that before.
me thinking: Look, if you want to sit around and use personal problems as an excuse for your poor business performance and lack of temper control, I’ll do you one better. About 3 hours after you spoke with her, her sister passed away and telling me that the minimum for this is X yards wasn’t really top priority, you twit.
me out loud: When we spoke on the phone before, you told me something else entirely. Besides, I am the contact person for this P.O., as I’ve always been the contact person for you at this company. I don’t understand why you were talking to her to begin with. I’ll email you my response in a few minutes so we have written confirmation.
So, you’re checking out the shows on the web, you click on a designer’s name, you watch the slideshow, and at the end of it, all you can think is, “I’d kill to have the last 5 minutes of my life back.”
This post is for those who think fashion is glamorous. This post is for those who are thinking they may want to pursue fashion as a career choice. If you know any of the either category, please forward this to them.
Basically, I work as part of both the design and production teams for a small/medium sized apparel manufacturer based in San Francisco. We do leather, suede, wool, cashmere jackets and coats for men and women. We sell to Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks, and the sort. We’re expensive. We’re classy and classic. We are yummy buttery leathers with understated detailing.
We’re also understaffed.
I have never worked for a company that wasn’t understaffed. Word of advice: get used to it.
I am not a big believer in the words “this is not my job”. If you like saying that, go look elsewhere for work. Like at a dull soul-sucking corporation that employs you to do one thing and one thing only, day in and day out. If that’s you, more power to you. If you say “that’s not my job” in circumstances that have nothing to do with picking up your boss’s dry cleaning, you’re out. I think I hear Heidi Klum whispering “auf weidershen” somewhere in your general vicinity. But, there are times where I just want to shout it from the rooftops.
When my coworker is sitting at her desk balancing her checkbook, and I’m asked to do something that is her realm of duties, that’s when I want to say it. If my coworker is hustling to get her shit done and needs a favor, I have no problem with that.
When every other sentence out of my coworker’s mouth is “I didn’t know” or “this is before my time” or “That’s not my fault”, I want to backhand her. Basically, you have 2 choices. You either let the mistake happen and screw up the order, or you cover her ass, get the order done and let me tell you, both are rather thankless jobs. The latter being the obvious choice, you gotta find another way to get your coworker fired. You think I’m being bitchy and horrible for trying to get someone fired? I wouldn’t have to resort to it if she carried her load.
Our head designer quit in late November and ever since my coworker and I were the ones left to pick up the slack, along with our creative director. Since I have my eyes on the head designer position, I don’t mind doing double duty her job and mine. But fuck you if you think I’m gonna do my coworker’s job on top of it all while she’s making arrangements with her mother’s caterer on her cell phone.
Enough about her, let’s get back to what my job entails. You think designing is easy and fun? Honey, designing is only 1/10 of a designer’s job, if you’re lucky. Ordering samples, picking swatches, making samples, overseeing fittings, schmoozing over the phone, meeting with vendors, research research research, trying to get everything to cost out to your pricepoint, edit edit edit, hyperventilate, hyperventilate, hyperventilate, lather rinse repeat but make it snappy–I want it all done yesterday.
Don’t get me wrong–I love all that stuff. And I love love love my job. There’s nothing else that I want to do. When I see the end result of my work, I’m so proud and happy.
My point is that’s HARD WORK. If you’re lazy, don’t get into fashion. If you imagine yourself with your sketch pad all day, get over yourself and find yourself a sugar daddy. If you’re stupid, you will get screwed over many many times, by your vendors, by your contractors, by your very own employees, employers and coworkers.
But that’s enough for today. Thanks for reading all that.
Ever since you’ve dubbed me on your blog as “witty SF designer” my reserves of witticisms has dried up faster than day old ham. Bleh.
The title is a bit tongue in cheek, of course, but I want to address something that’s been on my mind for a while. Almost Girl wrote a post defending her reasons for going into the fashion industry, questioning mainly the self-indulgence factor in our line of work. She wrote that fashion has major societal impact and importance. While I agree with many of the points she addressed, I had to stop and pull away from the discussion with a mild distaste in my mouth.
Why defend yourself at all? Why do people in the fashion industry have to constantly explain to others that they’re not shallow divas who fell into this because they lacked the brainpower to tackle more academic pursuits, or too self-centered to offer something more noble to the world?
There are only two reasons why anybody holds a job: they need/want the money, or they enjoy what they do. Even the cancer research scientists do what they do because of one of those reasons. It’s for the greater good of mankind? I don’t think so. If they weren’t getting paid or enjoyed what they were doing, they wouldn’t do it. There is no selflessness in enjoying what you’re doing. An example of true selflessness would be the doctor who performs pro bono surgeries to ailing orphans while hating every minute of it.
It’s interesting to me why everyone in the fashion industry has this distinct reputation of being self-indulgent. Even people in other design disciplines don’t have the necessity to prove their worth to society like those in the fashion industry.
That said, just enjoy what you do. Bottom line, there is no point in giving excuses, intelligent and valid as they may be, because your friends will love you regardless and your enemies won’t believe you either way. People who put judgments on you based solely on your line of work are not worth knowing anyway.
I was having a conversation with a friend this morning and while I was rambling incoherently about my past jobs, I realized something rather depressing.
1. When I was a senior in high school, I worked as an intern for the costume department in the city operahouse. The head costume designer saw a lot of potential in me as a costume designer, loved the way I was able to reveal aspects of a character’s personality in the costume.
2. During college, I interned at a contemporary level clothing company. One day, we were shorthanded in the factory and they asked me to create a marker for some tops. Apparently I impressed them with my ability to save them more fabric than they originally planned for and I ended up spending quite some time making more markers for them.
3. At my first gig out of college, my boss thought I was some computer marvel, because I could operate Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. At that time, I didn’t think I was that amazing, just better than her.
4. At my next job, the very first project was to develop a rather complicated print for the new spring collection. My boss was blown away; the print has been knocked off by other companies several times since then. I designed a lot of silhouettes as well, but that damn print is what they still talk about.
5. Now, my current boss thinks I’m a graphic designer. The first project I did for her was to revamp their logo to design our booth the upcoming New York tradeshow, and ever since then, she’s relied on me for a lot of graphic work.