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Tips about Contracts and your [successful] Couture Business

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As a business operator, and yes this includes artists, dressmakers, couturiers and tailors, we all use contracts, everyone should be aware of and know what a legally binding contract is.

Very few creative types like to talk about them, and like even less to think about them until something goes wrong. The purpose of designing your own contract for your business is not only to secure work and lay out the terms of getting paid, but also planning what would happen if [or when] something doesn’t go to plan.

So, exactly what is a contract? More specifically what are the elements of a legally binding contract. We kind of make and fulfill contracts everyday without realizing it, like agreeing to meet up with friends for lunch and you promise to pay for desserts ‘if’ you all go the restaurant of your choice this time. This is a contract if your friends mutually agree to it – by phone, email or text message. What?!

If one of your friends couldn’t make it to lunch, not really a problem for you, but likely hugely disappointing if no one turned up but you. But what if everyone turned up but you? I’m guessing hard feelings would be one major downside, but you also did break an agreement or rather you breached a contract. Your friends could take you to task over it (in court), especially if they could prove your offer, that you broke your promise and they were put out of pocket as a result! Say what?!

In all seriousness though, that probably wouldn’t happen, but it could be enforceable in a court of Law. [Very briefly, Contract law covers contracts, etc. as differentiated from Criminal Law: conduct perceived as threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people.  But a breach of contract could certainly overlap with breaking a criminal law]. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t have all the details, but I do know this from my college business law class.

A legally binding contract has 3 crucial elements (plus 2 provisions).

  1. An offer. You offer your couture service or offer your creation for sale [see point 5] personally, online, by email, however you put it out there.
  2. Acceptance. Someone accepts your offer [see point 4], personally, online, by email, however they let you know.
  3. Consideration. There is an exchange of something of value: cash, services, goods or specifically to withhold an exchange of cash, service, or goods.

Provisions:

  1. You must be of legal age of consent, and/or of sound mind and body or fully competent to participate.
  2. And the object must be legal. If what you are selling or buying is illegal, then the contract is not valid or void. The object is not misrepresented.

Both written and verbal agreements are legal. Verbal agreements are legal contracts even though they were not memorialized in a writing. Assuming the contract is valid, the verbal agreement between two parties is binding although it is very hard to prove if it were in dispute. Beware, even emails and text messaging can constitute a legally binding agreement!

The body of a contract also should include essentials like date(s), the names of the signatories, the details, and the ‘what ifs?’ What if something were to go sideways, or someone didn’t fulfill their end of the agreement, such as non-performance or interference with the other party’s performance. This then would become a ‘breach of contract’ or a broken contract.

It’s prudent to identify what happens if your client doesn’t turn up for an appointed fitting, or doesn’t have the money to pay you on time. Or what if your client is unhappy with your work during the process, how can you prevent that from becoming an unsolvable problem. If everyone knows in advance, what the possible problems and consequences are, commonly known to happen from time to time, then all parties do much better in preventing them from arising in the first place.

Informing all parties involved about what is expected of them and what they can expect from you prevents heartache and hardship. Try to avoid being overly wordy, but be clear. No one wants or expects things to go wrong doing business, but it occasionally happens. No one wants a surprise ending, everyone wants what they expected.

Every transaction can be a learning experience. You’ll soon figure out what works best for you, and especially what doesn’t. The path to success really does look like this:

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Ecole Holt Couture ‘Dress Code’ fashion event

 

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Couture | Fashion & Philanthropy

It’s important to give back to the community and Ecole Holt Couture is fortunate to do this while sharing the art of couture and the work of our students in support of InspireProjectYYC.

This is the first year the event will benefit new-kid-on-the-block INSPIRE Project YYC. Started in 2012, by a group of Calgarian creatives, passionate about social justice, the Project funds organizations seeking to affect change in difficult areas. Their first recipient? Dare to Care, whose mission is to address the pervasive and crippling issue of bullying.

Step by Step  will focus on explaining what couture really is, how it is achieved, and why it matters and more importantly how it can change your outlook towards your fashion style!

Join us on November 13th, 2016 at Festival Hall in Calgary’s Inglewood community, hub of live music venues and is known as the one-stop shop for art fans, culture buffs, foodies, fashionistas, scrappy hippies, and hipsters.

 

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What it takes at Ecole Holt Couture School of Couture Sewing and Design

As the committee is now starting to review applications for 2015, it may be helpful to know what is expected of students at Ecole Holt Couture School of Couture Sewing and Design.

One of the first questions that instructors of fashion programs in high school put to us in regard to recommending various fashion schools to their own students is what grade standing is expected of an EHC student. It comes as a bit of a surprise to most that EHC expects at least an 80% (B-) level of success which is assessed every three months for every student attending the program to continue. And not only is the skills mastery assessed, but also students’ level of professionalism and responsibility, as each one is extremely important in the business of couture and tailoring.

So that each student receives the best training possible, they must successfully achieve every step (or learning module) along the way, before being allowed to continue along with their class mates. It may sound overwhelming, and it certainly challenges every new student during the first few months. History has shown that only about 50% of students find their pace and rhythm to continue in the program after the initial 10 to 15 weeks of the program.

Ecole Holt Couture is continually reviewing what filters need to be in place for selecting suitable applicants for its programs, so that the success rate for enrolled students is nearer 100%. EHC is as much interested in matching skills, dedication and passion levels most suitable for its programs, as each potential student wishes to choose a program best suited for their own needs and goals. For this reason, the application process has become much more in depth since the opening of the school in 2007.

Here is a summary of assessments:
1. Mastery of skills
a. Demonstrating good comprehension given a set of objectives
b. Showing a high degree of skill and competence
c. Achieving the desired level of competence through preparation and through training
2. Professionalism:
a. Skill and competence outcome expected of a highly trained professional
b. Pursues adequate research, and demonstrates creativity
c. Conforms to high degree of work ethic
d. Consistently achieves and produces the highest standards
3. Responsibility:
a. Able to be counted upon qualities of conscientiousness and trustworthiness
b. Accountable for actions and successful completion of duties
c. Mental and emotional characteristics associated with a well-rounded mature person
d. Shows qualities gained by development and experience
e. Courteous and sensitive to client needs

Also, some things that EHC has found to be common to those creative individuals that have successfully completed the programs, although not absolute, lists very good indicators.

1. Ability to spend long hours in solitude in full enjoyment rather than regret
2. Possessing high level of focused concentration, not easily distracted
3. Able to dedicate 40 plus hours a week for classes and homework
4. Rarely, if ever absent from classes (100% attendance expected)
5. Few commitments outside of school for the duration of the program
6. Able to work with self-imposed standards and time frames, highly self-disciplined
7. Emotionally resilient, open to constructive criticism
8. Take the long view to creating a fulfilling career
9. Interested in a self-designed lifestyle rather than ‘running with the pack’
10. Highly competitive with self, more so than with others
11. Has access to financial resources and an emotional support system
12. Ability to tolerate uncertainty and willingness to accept help that is offered

What is your score on the above? A high score doesn’t automatically assure you have what it takes, nor does a low score necessarily mean failure, but it does help to know what you are best suited for in terms of learning and expected outcomes.

 

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