Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Projecting the Professional Image You Want

So I recently stumbled on Daria Boxer's blog, Fashionably Bitten.  She's a fellow student at FIT, is writing a lot of great stuff and seems pretty talented.  

Check out her post on "How to score a fashion internship."  Great stuff!  We were talking earlier and I think this is relevant to anyone in ANY industry that takes what they do seriously, but especially in one as image conscious as fashion: 

-------- Original Message -------- 
Subject: Re: Hey! 
From: Daria Boxer 
Date: Wed, December 30, 2009 8:51 am 


I was also thinking about creating my own website and was wondering if it's worth it? How did you do it? I dont know a lot about making a website from scratch. Like where did you buy your domain from? Who can I get to design my website? Do these things cost a lot? Sorry about all the questions haha. 



My Response:

As in creating a website, there's no reason to pay much for someone to design it.  Maybe if you're an accounting major with the creativity of a cardboard box (no offense to accountants; can you imagine the disarray the world would be in with ONLY artists and designers?), but there are a lot of tools for you to design a website exactly how you want it without knowing HTML code of Flash programming.  For HTML stuff, I've found the best program is Apple's iWeb.  

If you want to have a Flash website, allows you to make a website that is super glitzy and polished and yet very intuitive and simple for you to design.  Here's the one I'm almost finished with: (coming soon)

It's not done (and the video at the front is Michael Bastian's show, not mine) but I'll be excited to publish it soon.  Actually, I learned about the importance of video on a website from a seminar I attended when I worked as a freight broker at TQL last year from Jeffery Gitomer, who is a master at closing deals and projecting a unique but professional image.  Wix doesn't host emails so I would recommend buying the domain name you want through  The basic account is like $50/yr or something to host it with them.  You can buy the domain name for cheap, but, to make it live, you have to host it.  They give great support when you need it too.  

The most valuable thing about this though is you get an email with your domain attachment.  What email you use can work AGAINST you, FOR you, or do NOTHING for you.  Three emails I have are, and  I strongly prefer to give someone my as my means of contact.  

Also, you might consider some sort of card or something to hand to someone.  As you said in your post, networking is extremely important.  Anyone that aspires to develop solid contacts should try to do all they can to not lose the perspective that it is a mutually beneficial relationship, not one-sided.  

For example, if you meet Alexander McQueen in the airport on your way home from FIT for winter break next year, instead of thinking "Oh man, I'd be lucky and happy to be the assistant-of-tying-his-left-shoe," think "We can help each other out.  I could benefit hugely from this relationship as could he.  He has the opportunity to spot, develop and mentor a young and talented designer.  Any designer would be happy to be known as the guy or girl that discovered me."  

A basic way to have it be a more equal exchange is when you ask them for their info, you have something to exchange with them as well.  For 500 business cards, expect to spend at least $50.  Or if you want to try chocolate business cards, that's gonna cost more, but you'll be remembered more :)

These little things help you stand out in ANY industry, but in such an image conscious industry as fashion, they are even more relevant.  Now, of course, if you leave this amazing first impression, please be able to follow it up with amazing talent, attitude and work ethic.  Letting people down after they get excited about you is just as bad as not getting noticed and, in some ways, worse.  But at the same time, if you make a great first impression, people will tend to see everything you do through that lens.  

A non-professional example would be if you meet two guys in a bar.  They're both wearing a plain t-shirt, blue jeans and have a plain hairstyle.  You talk to guy #1 and find out he's a stock broker on Wall Street, loves to play with his dog and makes you laugh.  Then you talk to guy #2 that looks almost identical but find out he just got fired from his job for coming in late too much, hates children and leans in at a 45 degree angle when we talks to you.  A lot of people are going to attribute guy #1 is styled the way he is because:
  • He's a minimalist
  • He has more important things to think about
  • He's not vain
  • He reminds them of Marlon Brando

Guy #2, styled the same way, may get tagged as:
  • Lazy
  • Not in touch with fashion
  • Cheap
  • Evokes images of Homer Simpson

In a nutshell, people interpret your future actions based on how they categorize you when they first meet you.  A good web image is becoming more and more important as the business world becomes more virtual.

Josh Stevens 
FIT Menswear Club - President 
P: 513-265-1521

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What I've been up to...

So since coming back from Thanksgiving break, it’s been quite the whirlwind.  The thing that dominated the most amount of my time was the jeans I made.  Based on my own measurements and specifications, I started from scratch on paper to finished garment in under three weeks.  My how much I’ve learned!

The only think I want to highlight is that the pockets are lined with, or more accurately, ARE lambskin. The rest of the pant should speak for itself.

I have a picture of them on me on two other people's camera's so the images are out there and I'll post them when I get them so you can see the fit.  These are kind of crumby:

Also, in my Construction class, we finished our dress pants and shirts.  Here's mine with my teacher Benedito Alabrandi.  He's very grandfatherly (he's 75), has been sewing since age 11, kind of reminds me of Clint Eastwood and has the raspiest, thickest Italian accent I've ever heard.  And he always smells like cinnamon raisin bagels.

He uses these HUGE tailor's scissors which are about the size of my forearm which is even funnier considering how small he is.  He told us how once a guy came in with a gun to rob his tailor shop and said "gimme the money" and Alabrandi pulled the scissors he was carrying around behind his back and put them in the guy's face and said "I'll give you the money!" and the guy ran out.  Badass.

He and the chair of our program, Professor Blackman, asked everyone to step out for five minutes while they graded and evaluated our pants and shirts.  I saw Professor Blackman stop at mine look it up and down, flip up the collar and shake his head "yes" and move on :)

Finally, we presented our final shirts we did before Thanksgiving to all of our classmates this morning.  My presentation was short, clear and went great.

Professor Blackman even gave everyone a cupcake after they spoke and were evaluated.  In some ways, it was a mood lightener because after you wee finished, he would critique how well you spoke and presented YOURSELF.  So to some people, he would tell them all these things they did wrong and then finish with, "OK, have a cupcake."

But after it was all said and done, I got chosen to be featured among five others in the Menswear display case in the hallway out of the 40 or so people in the program!  I was pretty happy that more people will get to see it and it'll be up for the next year.  A photographer took our pictures but here's one that a friend took of me before I attached the cuffs:

Finally, here is my Illustration final drawing.  I like it and I've realized I really like a lot of black and grey with flashes of color.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Need to Read

Last night, slightly drunk and in the 32nd floor of the Hilton past midnight, I had a sort of epiphany about books and how beautiful of a thing they are as I was gazing upon the New York skyline.  I hope this post doesn’t sound too weird or out there, but then again, I AM very weird in a lot of ways so, to certain people, it probably will.

I started talking about a practice that Buddhist monks do where they make a beautiful piece of art using colored sand as the medium.  Of course, this is a very ephemeral way to make art, and that is the point.  After it is completed, they mess it up and mix it away like an Etch-A-Sketch.  It is to remind themselves of the importance of being able to appreciate beauty in the moment and to train themselves not to get attached to a beautiful thing, as all beauty, from their perspective, fades and is impermanent.

Whether you agree with this or not is unimportant.  I freaked myself out a bit as I was looking at all the buildings and thinking that each and every one of the buildings was done by people, but specifically many persons.  What I mean is to stress that the term “people” are made up of individuals.  A better example might be to think of a company.  While some think of companies as non-human entities, a company is made up of people running and directing it. 

Anyway, each of these people had spent years and decades of their lives amassing knowledge about architecture and construction.  When they died, their brain and all this knowledge was rubbed away just like the sand art.  Dissolved forever. 

I think the most beautiful thing in the world is the mind of someone about to die.  The only way that any knowledge can be preserved is if they’ve chosen to write about their perspectives and insights.  Also, today, people can leave behind things like video and audio.  The works they leave behind here on Earth, be it movies they’ve made, buildings they’ve help erect, books or poems they’ve written, technology they’ve helped pioneer or ideas they’ve contributed, are all that is left. 

It’s also important that this be done first hand.  If the insights someone has had are merely handed down verbally to another person, the OTHER person will ultimately present it through the lens he or she sees the world, and not how the ORIGINAL contributor of ideas did.  Honestly, I think it is a real tragedy that someone like Jesus never wrote any of the books of the Bible himself, especially considering there is so much bickering over what HIS perspective on many issues was.

As a society, the only reason humanity has progressed beyond a hunter-gather society is because we are able to absorb and apply the ideas and technology of those before us.  If not, every generation would be starting from scratch and getting, for all intents and purposes, nowhere. 

I don’t like telling people how to lead their lives because they are their own lives to lead and discover who they want to be.  But if someone is not reading or considering other people’s ideas regularly, he’s short changing himself enormously and volunteering himself to figure the world out from scratch.  In my mind, it’s comparable to living your life without electricity and trying to discover it on your own.  Most any problem, issue or confusion a person has has been written about somewhere.  It’s pretty silly not to utilize it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

NYC Movember Gala Parté

“You can have a mustache and you can ROCK a mustache.  Tonight is dedicated to all the men ROCKING ‘staches.”

I went out for the first time since school started last night and had a TON of fun at the Movember Party!  The Arbitrage team invited our Menswear Club to help run their booth, which consisted of enticing people to play “Pin the Mo on the Bro” (Pin the Tail on the Donkey for big people), taking pictures, collecting email addresses and business cards and TRYING to sell merchandise. 

We had a pretty good turn out with six people from our club and a friend of mine, Kayleigh, who, by amazing timing, was visiting this weekend with her papa.  We got to the venue at 9:30 pm and it was in the heart of Chinatown, aka the fishiest place in NYC. 

Capitale used to be an old bank and it looked stunning inside.  There was a little misunderstanding about the NOT-so-open bar (i.e. $14 Long Island Iced Tea), but besides that, it was all good. 

Our crew dressed up as Lumberjacks, complete in plaid, jeans and beanies.  Oh, and of course, mustaches.  In a nutshell, Movember is a worldwide event to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues like cancer and depression.  Dudes grow mustaches for November and rock them at the party.  Plus, also all your friends and family ask why on Earth you’re growing a mustache, and you can explain.

There was a lot of fun stuff going on.  Canadian Club whiskey (slogan - “Damn right your dad drank it.” Haha love it),, Wahl clippers and the Playboy bunnies, who were pretty down to Earth girls to chat with, were also in the house.     

People were having a great time there.  My favorite thing about it was that guys were dancing with each other, just being ridiculous, kicking soccer balls around and having bangin’ time.  Unlike a lot of parties, FUN was the focus, not girls. 

I think my favorite group costume was the NASCAR crew.  My… God.  Their intro on stage was hellacious.  I wish SOOO bad I would have been expecting it and got a better picture because they had each other on their shoulders screaming and sprayed seltzer water EVERYWHERE.

Arbitrage held our own though and made a scene with our lumberjack antics.

It was a pretty successful night, and I had a good time telling people about some of the Arbitrage shirts and showing how the one I was wearing was reversible.  It’s done in a super clever way with a strip of detachable buttons for the front placket for when you want to change sides.  It was my first Arbitrage shirt, as well as the Christian and Brennan’s, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about them.  Well-constructed, great fit, cool colors and smart design.  Meets my standards to end up in the wardrobe rotation! 

I’m glad I brought a Clif Bar to snack on around midnight too because with the lack of ANY kind of beverage (Coke probably would have been $4), NO food (man, how great of an idea would it have been for us to walk around with mini-White Castle style burgers on hors d'œuvre trays... next year) and standing ALL night (Rory and I finally found chairs at like 1:30 am), I was beat.  So much fun though and really grateful we were invited to come out!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weekly "Shopping" Trip

Today was Get-Your-Head-Out-Of-The Clouds Day for my weekly retail field trip.  I wanted to go to a different setting than the 5th Ave, $700 pair of jeans crap and check out some mass-market stuff.  I went up to the 9-story Macy’s and the smell of cheap, grilled meat from the street vendors and sweet, European cologne from the fragrance department swirled through the air outside.  When I first went in, BAM, red.  Red, all over.  The walls, the displays, the things hanging from the ceiling.  Red.  RED = BUY… and they weren’t messing around. 

One thing I noticed is the lower the price point of a garment, the less quality and functionality was important and more weight was placed on first-glance appearance.  This almost doesn’t seem worth mentioning as, by default, I expected it.  Here’s an example of very similar coats with the same detail:

I have a bone to pick with clothing with details that masquerades as something it’s not (fake leather details and blazer button holes that don’t open, for example).

Earlier in the week, I got a chance to go to Fishman & Tobin.  They manufacture 90% of children’s clothing in the world.  Never heard of them you say?  Good, that’s the point.

Companies like Calvin Klein, Wal-Mart and Sean Jean enter into a licensing agreement with them for them to make and design their clothes and Fishman & Tobin reaps the value of an established brand name.  Of course, they also pay the licenser a fee.  A lot of clothes are made in this way.  Many times, the same factory will be making jeans for a company like Ralph Lauren and Kirkland’s (Costco’s jean).  The same fabric is used and the same people are making the jean.  The only difference is the fit and finish.

I also made it over to Gap, Billabong, Banana Republic and Zara.  At Gap, they sold selvage-edge jeans.

On a roll of fabric, it is bound by a selvedge edge which helps prevent fraying and is also where the weft yarn turns around to be woven in the other direction.  It leaves a finished edge that doesn’t require the edge to be surged.

American denim mills used these machines until around the 1950’s when there became a surge in denim demand and these old, rickety machines were bought up by a ton of Japanese companies.  The denim that it makes is very heavy and durable.  In fact, I have on a pair right now by Kunna.  So technically, Japanese denim is really just old American-style denim.  Gap was selling theirs for $88.  This isn’t necessarily a crazy good deal considering the fabric cost. A pair of their other jeans cost $55 and jeans need two yards of fabric…  think about it.  However, with people used to paying hundreds for Japanese denim (selvedge-edge does not mean Japanese denim, as ALL woven fabrics have a selvedge edge), they can easily command and get nearly double the money.

What I learned today is that mass-market brands are just as innovative as high fashion labels.  Where a 5th Ave. company may innovate with creativity and styling, mass market uses creativity as well in keeping costs down and working within strict controls to create something that is still extremely appealing.  There wasn’t as much I reacted strongly towards today as a large majority of it is simply diluted, fashion from two seasons ago.  I still had a good time and got a lot out of the day!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Black Friday / Cyber Monday

So Black Friday and Cyber Monday are past…  How’d retailers fare?  I was reading WWD today and they painted the picture of a positive weekend.  Of course they do have a vested interest of seeing things through rose-colored glasses, but I think a lot of it is unbiased and true.  Pete Nordstrom, president of Merchandising for Nordstrom said, “There is more traffic in stores.  People are more upbeat and we are getting back to the normal rhythm of business.”  Micheal Celestino, executive VP of store operations at Barney’s commented that he was “encouraged by traffic in stores over the weekend.”  Henri Barguirdijian (quite an intimidating last name, isn’t it), President and CEO of Graff, summarized it probably most appropriately by explaining, “A year ago, we were right in the middle of a tornado.  This year we feel so much more upbeat.”

Consumers still are heavily gravitating toward retailers who offered sales (duh) but also people tended to focus on doorbuster specials.  You know, the Wal-Mart business model: advertise a flatscreen TV for something like $15.34 to the point that Wal-Mart actually loses money when people buy it but the traffic that item generates more than makes up for the loss on that one item when people buy other things while there at normal profit margins.

Liz Gillespie commented that “fifty-four percent of Old Navy’s sales (on Friday) were featured items in their sales flyer.”  While I appreciate optimism as much as the next person, I think that consumers are just more disciplined with their money.  There was “little impulse buying” and it was “a little lackluster” according to Retail Eye Partners consulting firm. 

Marshall Cohen of NPD Group provided a really insightful, yet so basic and fundamental thought: “Retailers are not going to look back on Black Friday this year to see how busy it was.  They’ll look to see how profitable it was.”  Yes, what good is 100,000 hits on your retail website if only 1% is converted into a sale?  Who wouldn’t take 10,000 focused hits with a 20% conversion?  Twice the cash.  The same goes with brick-and-mortar stores.  People are in business to make sales FIRST, not to get people talking or thinking about buying something, someday.  Of course, being too pushy or aggressive is bad but that’s the value a well-calibrated salesman on the floor provides to a company. 

When I worked at Banana Republic as a salesman when I was 16 (strangely enough at the time, you had to be 18 to work at Gap and Old Navy), one metric they measured was the percentage of people that come into the store against the number that bought something and the average transaction value.  Banana Republic is a very well run company and I would imagine they are fairing very well for measuring and monitoring this so tightly.

Random fact that made me laugh out load as I was reading about this on the train this morning: There were “big spikes on the Internet (retailers) before and after Thanksgiving dinner… that used to be taboo.”

As happens every year, there was a big sales boost in the past few days after Thanksgiving.  Here’s a picture I took at the Kenwood Towne Centre while visiting Cincinnati:

Will the Black Friday boost this year be comparable with the government Cash-For-Clunkers program?

Image provided by The Oil Drum 

Will we see a big boost in sales one week followed by a plunge the next of people who just fast-forwarded a purchase they were already planning on making.  As Standard & Poor's equity analyst Efraim Levy said of Ford, “we see some cannibalizing of '10 sales.”  Or will people that went shopping last weekend make multiple trips this holiday season?  I’m excited to see what happens and learn from it :)