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String Theory | Not just a FABLE

I know I’ve posted this before, but with a few edits since the last time, it may be fun to read it again. To all my dressmaker, couturier, and tailoring friends out there, enjoy!

Once upon a time there was a very rich man and his wife spending some quality time together on their private south pacific island. Even with its remoteness it had every modern convenience. Solar collection panels for electricity, fresh running water, and even the most reliable Internet service. Everything you could possibly need was on the island. Beautiful gardens and house, dock, yacht, boat house, air landing strip, and several guest cottages dotted along its beach.

He arrived there following several extensive business trips, with his wife who had at the same time indulged in luxury retail therapy during their stops in Paris, Milan, London, and Tokyo. There was nothing that the couple could not buy. His wife had just procured several lengths of the most elaborately hand-embroidered French silk, the most luxurious Italian silk velvet, the finest English worsted wool, and the softest Kashmir wool. The very best that could be made, very expensive and each piece quite unique.

Because this man was also a very generous man, he regularly invited friends and relatives to his island, and he also invited complete strangers from time to time to share in his good fortune. This time he was interested in and invited three young, and very promising, fashion designers to the island as a reward for their contribution to one of the many charities he supported.

Each of the three individuals viewed this opportunity differently. One was very ambitious and viewed each day as potential for new business and so brought along his iPhone, laptop, latest look-book, and a few new design ideas to present, just in case. The other saw this as a good time to get on with a project or two without distractions, and so managed to pack a traveling sewing machine, sewing kit (thread, pins and scissors), some new patterns, but decided to try experimenting with locally made materials that may be available on the island. The third accepted this opportunity, as a time to retreat and to not worry about the future, only to fully absorb, and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

While visiting on this south pacific island, which was very tiny indeed as it turned out, it also became apparent to the guests just how remote it was from civilization. The owners of the island were kind and very hospitable and made the time to visit with their guests, making sure that each one was settled and quite comfortable.

On the first night they invited their three young guests to dinner at the big house. Nothing but the finest was offered; fish caught earlier that day, organically gown vegetables from the gardens, the most exotic fruit flown in from the nearest islands, and the finest wine available from around the globe chosen from their impressive collection in the wine cellar.

The conversation that evening moved spiritedly from each guest in turn to the next, revealing what each of their hopes and aspirations were for the future. The first was confident that they would become world famous, and that one day everyone would want to own one of their designs. Having good connections, hiring the most talented people, using the newest technology from around the world, and with the best marketing strategies, this would certainly be possible and highly profitable.

The second was hopeful, that with more experience and attracting venture capital (said with a wink directed toward the hosts) they would be able to manufacture their seasonal collections that would become highly popular and sell around the world. Many people will be employed in the process, solid supply chains will need to be set up, they’d make sure that only ethical methods were being supported at every stage, and if profit margins are substantial, it would be a successful career and quite satisfactory.

The third agreed that those goals are valid, but confessed to wanting to have the freedom to express their creativity every day, to being secure and content, and to make other people happy by offering something they really wanted and needed, would be very fulfilling. Supporting suppliers, artisans and specialized craftspeople does sustain jobs locally, as well as globally, by keeping these special skills alive and well. To feel that what they are doing is a positive step in the right direction, trying to be responsible in protecting our earth and its limited resources, appreciating and treating people with dignity by paying them a living wage, that is what I want and am working toward.

The others quietly sniggered at this revelation, and privately thought, “admirable, but how narrow, utterly impractical and unrealistic those goals are”. Curiously, the rich man’s wife became intrigued and asked more questions about how this path could be a viable career choice. After all, doesn’t one need rather high monetary returns to be able to live well and be happy? “For instance, we have everything one could possibly want or need. A very good income, good health, access to the best of everything, we can buy anything we desire. All this doesn’t come without a lot of hard work, money and sacrifice of course”. No could disagree on these points, and all continued to enjoy a pleasant evening of good food and wine, with lively conversation and exchange of ideas.

Later when asked by the three guests, the rich man’s wife was delighted to show them her exquisite fabric finds, knowing they would share in her excitement. As expected, all three were indeed thrilled. Also, as an almost automatic reaction, they offered to design for her something very special using these fabrics. “Oh, but, I wouldn’t just let anyone touch these precious fabrics, I could only trust someone with considerable knowledge and experience”. They asked whom she knew, that had such knowledge and experience. “Well regrettably, I don’t really know anyone to fit the description and I’m a quite hesitant about asking my friends for a referral – they do like to keep things like that a secret!”

The first young designer took that as a perfect opportunity to present her one of the most fashion-forward designs to date, and would start on it straight away. The second, began to research the latest trends and present the best for her choosing. Meanwhile, the third asked her questions about what she dreamed for herself, what her social obligations and requirements were for the coming year, and what type of things she loved to wear that made her feel happy. “Thank you for your offers, and it is all wonderful” she said, “but it still leaves the dilemma of who is capable to ‘make’ these amazing pieces for me without wasting or ruining the fabric?”

Not to worry, the first designer said, “I have some good people behind me who will quickly get it done right”. The second designer remarked, “I could do it myself, it won’t take long. I can usually run things up in a few hours, a couple of days at most!” The third’s reply was “I would love to make it for you, but it will take some time. I want to make sure everything fits you just right, and makes you look outstanding. Your fabrics will deserve the utmost care and attention, for the most part they will be hand-sewn”. The rich man’s wife considered all three offers.

Unfortunately, during their stay on the island, the sky became dark for three days and then a huge tropical storm followed causing much damage in its path. It knocked out the Internet service, the dock was smashed apart, and the air landing strip was littered with debris from broken tree branches. The generators and batteries were reserved for the barest of essentials such as pumping fresh water from their tanks, and supplying the kitchen with electricity. All lives were safe and secure, no one was harmed. Repairs on the island started immediately but would take some time.

The first designer conceded, “Well that pretty much finishes my plans, without the internet I can’t communicate with my team, my laptop battery is low and in need of recharging, and without the internet…”. The second designer lamented that without power the sewing machine was useless, and it was impossible without the right patterns. The third said, “No problem. Let’s get started”.

In wonderment, the rich man’s wife asked how this is possible without any equipment! “I have my hands, I never travel without my emergency sewing kit, and if you have a ball of string somewhere, that’s all I need.” And so, proceeded to take her measurements with the ball of string, sketched some ideas on paper for her approval, and drafted the patterns using old bed sheets that were soon headed for recycling. After assembling the mock-up designs, they were fitted exactly to her figure. Then used as the pattern to cut her prized fabrics.

During the days following, the rich man’s wife witnessed how the garments were being created piece by piece, all with the greatest care and attention to detail. Every pattern piece was skillfully cut, matched and hand sewn. The garments were fitted upon the rich man’s wife several times making sure they were comfortable and flattering to her figure. Then – one day the clothes were complete! “Oh my, I have never in my life seen so much care taken, such skilled craftsmanship, such beauty, but mostly I have not felt so incredibly comfortable in my clothes”, and she added, “and I feel so good about the way they make me look!” She noted, “I could see your joy as you worked, and now I understand why you love creating such wonderful things! How can I thank you enough for what you have done for me?”

The young couturier replied, “I must thank you, the opportunity you have given me has been priceless! If you are satisfied with the results, may I present you a detailed invoice of what you have received in exchange for my work.” The rich man’s wife read over the invoice very closely, while the couturier sat quietly trying to interpret her varying facial gestures.

Thinking that there may be objections to field, the couturier added that what she is paying for were the years of training and experience that were required to reach this level of expertise, the number of hours spent in carefully handling her fabric – that had also been hand crafted by others, and to put a fine point on it, she was the only person in the world who owned these pieces designed just for her.

“Goodness”, she said, “I’ve just come to realize what a treasure you are, and I certainly have no objection to the price!” She happily compensated the young couturier, and never again did she want what everyone else could buy! Would you?

Not the End -Just the Beginning

– by Jutta Holtkamp

 

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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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