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Creating is exciting, mastering is satisfying.

70x76I love and need to do something creative with my hands, whether playing the piano, sewing, cooking, gardening, sketching or doodling. Using my hands and engaging my mind are perfect partners for what I do in couture sewing and bespoke tailoring. I’m never satisfied with good enough, I strive for perfection every time. And, learning continues long after you master the fundamental skills and techniques. Couture and tailoring as a career has never become dry and continues to evolve.

In fashion making, including alterations, businesses surveyed (2012) – 56% required expert hand sewing skills, 33% custom pattern making skills, 89% custom fitting skills, 56% customer service skills, 33% required design and styling skills, and only 22% need machinist skills. Clearly, machinist skills at the bottom of the list.

Wow, a whopping 89% could really use expertise in custom fitting skills!

It doesn’t help, I think,  that many young people are misinformed about the business of professional couture sewing. As a result are reluctant to get into a field of fashion design that they think is just monotonous and slavishly laborious such as seen in those factories exposed recently in overseas countries.  In fact, couture sewing and tailoring is really very creative and fulfilling. True, the hours are sometimes long, but each piece that you work on is different from the last, unlike production work.

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Glamour and sex appeal is continually portrayed in fashion media and gives a false impression of the reality of working in fashion. Fashion is exciting, but true career satisfaction from comes from within and from the recognition of a job well done, along with the financial rewards. And while haute couture appears quite sensational on the surface, it is just like any business that requires education, experience, dedication and investment to be successful. Did I forget to say, you need ‘Passion’.

If you are anything like me, you get excited about creating things yourself, find peace and tranquillity in stillness and quiet concentration, thrive on a balance of keeping your own company and sharing quality time with other creative people and have an eye for detail and beauty. Often I become inspired and find myself lost in imagination. You see a need and know deep down that you can succeed at something that you really love doing.

One of the most rewarding times is when you reach the stage in your career, when you no longer question your abilities or skills. When you know that even when you haven’t done something before, you can figure it out! Excitement builds within me with every new project, especially the challenging ones, and then to see the joy your clients express when they get what they dream about.

...working on a wedding gown early in my career...

…working on a wedding gown early in my career…

To see other people awaken to their passion, is always a thrill as an educator. Doing what I do is the cake, doing what I love doing is the icing on the cake. Sharing what I’ve learned is the eating of the cake. – J.

Pattern cutter, maker, engineer

 

Artist-hand-mind-maker

kelsey

Creative expression your living heritage

 

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Artist: Hand-Mind-Heart Maker

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.

He who works with his hands and his head, is a craftsman.

He who works with his hands and his head and his heart, is an ARTIST”.

– St. Francis of Assisi  ***

As an Artisan, your personal philosophy and way of making a living, and everything you do makes you and how you do it totally unique.

Professional high or ‘haute’ couture and bespoke tailoring are careers more akin to siblings than to cousins, both are born from the same roots, require years of training and experience, are extremely creative, hand-mind skills based, and are clientele specific, but neither profession is given much attention within the fashion industry, or the crafts or arts disciplines, which makes it extremely difficult to find statistics on, or to find applicable practical business marketing plans for and both are very difficult to find training facilities or mentors for.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada lists these collective industry skills separately under several reference NOC headings: Couturier, Fashion designer 5243,  Tailor, Dressmaker, Furrier, Milliner 6342, Artisan and Craftsperson 5244, and Patternmakers textiles, leather and fur 5245, Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers 5243, Inspectors and graders, textile, fabric, fur and leather products manufacturing 9447 (listed under ‘fitters’). Each of these descriptions combined covers much of what couturiers and tailors do as self-employed and small business owners, but they also actively manage their independent business. HRSD says the National Occupation Classification should be updated next by 2016.

Couturiers and Tailors serve a ‘niche market’, a focused, targetable portion of a market addressing a need for a product or service that is not being addressed by mainstream providers. Marketing activity is perhaps more important for niche market businesses than for any other kind, because the niche market business is by definition, unknown and succeeds or fails on making the connection with exactly the right kind of customer/client, and today couturiers and tailors need to devote time to marketing as well as their craft.

They are of the few highly skilled disciplines in the fashion garment industry which still is and always will be a ‘time consuming creative mind-hand making process’or what the industry generally terms ‘labour intensive’. Let’s be clear about when technology becomes involved, it is for the specific purpose of speeding up very mundane repetitive tasks that does not detract from the final outcome (consider an electrical steam iron or sewing machine as technology versus tools of the trade being primarily your hands, and scissors, needles etc.). Extremely useful technology tools useful for today are the computer, the internet and social media.

However, humans will never be separated from and always will do the more interesting tasks in any discipline or industry, no matter how much mechanisation and technology has replaced mundane labour to speed up processes – they will never replace the work only humans can and love to do. This includes making contacts and the very special aspect of personal service.

Couture and bespoke tailoring entail the continuous assessment of the best approach and technique to use to attain the creative vision of the maker using a great variety of fabrics, colours, textures, layering of materials, draping effects, pleating, easing, structuring, detailing, to make a perfectly fitting unique and lasting garment, and every piece is different.

Decisions are not each dictated by miniscule savings on the unit cost of materials, quickest methods, or worse yet – shortcuts, as they are in manufacturing where profit margins only become lucrative in the thousands of units sold.  In couture and tailoring the fabrics and the methods, must each serve and protect the design, the client, and ultimately the environment (natural and economical).

Personal inventiveness and creative exploration are often the most distinguishing features of successful crafts practitioners. Career craftspeople constantly “play” with ideas, materials or processes, forms, images, functions, even markets, and indulge in a path of life-long learning.

How you think about your world, your philosophy, your way of being and living is expressed in how you do your work, and in everything you do – which makes what you do totally unique – and there is nothing ambiguous or vague about the garments couturiers and tailors create.

Some craftspeople talk about the meditative or entrancing aspect of their work and how important that is to them. Most importantly, they love being part of a world that explores the meaning and values of society. Creativity, originality and distinctiveness are probably the most important long term factors in developing a successful couture and tailoring career. This concept of individuality is the root of both personal satisfaction and market recognition — whatever and wherever those might be.

***Quote share thanks to Sunil Joshi

Ecole Holt Couture Fashion Event Fundraiser- "ONE"

Ecole Holt Couture Fashion Event Fundraiser- “ONE”

 

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