The Psychology of Fashion.

This article was first published in the Stabroek News Friday edition on the 28th April, 2017.

I remember taking one of my first semester courses at college, The Psychology of Fashion, and thinking what on earth did I just pay money for.  In my narrow-minded purview it ended up being a shortsighted judgment. When you sit and think about it, you realize just how much of an effect the clothes we wear have on psyche. Simply think about the person you become when you get dressed every morning versus whom you are when you put on house clothes in the afternoon.

Alison Lurie puts it like this: “Long before I am near enough to talk to you on the street, in a meeting, or at a party, you announce your sex, age and class to me through what you are wearing—and very possibly give me important information (or misinformation) as to your occupation, origin, personality, opinions, tastes, sexual desires, and current mood. I may not be able to put what I observe into words, but I register the information unconsciously; and you simultaneously do the same for me. By the time we meet and converse we have already spoken to each other in an older and more universal tongue.” (Lurie, p.3)

People constantly speak about the importance and lasting effects of a first impression. When you apply this unspoken language Lurie speaks of you realize the significance of our instincts and initial judgments.

As human beings we interact with dozens of people on a daily basis. Not just those that we physically meet and speak to, but also the people we pass on the street and just make eye contact with. When you really break it down, what you wear becomes significant even to the serious businessman who is always wearing a suit and tie. They may deny an interest in fashion and clothing, but every day for them is carefully calculated based on what they want people to think of them when they walk into a room. The same goes for the person who actively dresses down— they may want people to think that they don’t care about how they look, or that it’s not a priority, and do so by dressing a certain way.

In my own personal experience I’ve used clothing as a way to express myself my whole life. I somehow figured out this unspoken language and learned how to use it when meeting different types of people. Currently, however, I’ve found that I put less and less effort into grandiose outfits and have adapted a work uniform, dark wash jeans and a white shirt, that I wear every day. I realized that even through this I’m saying a couple of things to people. I’m trying to look put together even though I don’t really have the time, but in the same breath there’s also a level of nonchalance in my new uniform that I think comes with the understanding that sometimes it just doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

Fashion allows you to become someone, and to get away from the person you think you are, just by getting dressed. It is an opportunity for you to say things you wouldn’t dare say aloud and be something you can take off at the end of the day.

Who are you when you get dressed every morning?

An economy built on carbon copies.

This article was first published in the Stabroek News Friday Edition on the 14th April, 2017.

Guyanese are notoriously shameless when it comes to copying people — or borrowing ideas. Just think about all of the business names and logos that bear a striking resemblance to well known companies around the world. But when do you cross the line of inspiration and venture into the land of imitation?

I was prompted to write this article after an experience I had buying a piece of work from a local artisan that was very similar to that of one in Trinidad. I felt a bit guilty supporting idea theft, so to quell my guilt, I started searching the style; and was pleased to find out that it was, in fact, just new to this part of the world and that similar designs were available globally.

Though imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, authenticity is the truest form of character.

In my own business, copyright infringement and idea theft is something I think about constantly. My fear is not so much in being sued, but in being thought of as trite. Every design that I’ve produced thus far has been done already, Dior’s peplum from the fifties, Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dress from the sixties. My point of difference lies in the fact that the fabric, colours and styling, is aligned with myself, and the brand I’m trying to build. I’m constantly reminded of the fact that there really is nothing new under the sun—but that’s no excuse to be unoriginal.

Pablo Picasso once said art is theft. As an artist you become very adept at taking people’s work and somehow injecting it with your own aesthetic with the end product being completely different from where you started. As with everything there is a right way and a wrong way of doing it—or at least a way that leaves you being credible, and your source of inspiration credited.

As disheartening as copycats are they also force new talent to come up with innovative ways to create, that are harder and more expensive to emulate. The more artists I discover here the more I realize just how much the new creative class of Guyana is succeeding in this. Artists like, Nadia Thomas Winter and Natalya Thomas, of Duo Collection, who design the fabrics used in their collections. They are setting a standard of creativity and a point of differentiation that they become known for, and are harder to copy.

I have to leave this graphic that illustrates good theft and bad theft, from Steal like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It would be wise to remember as you create that, though imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, authenticity is the truest form of character.

 

 

How do we change the current state of the fashion industry?

This article was first published in the Stabroek News Friday Edition on, 31st March, 2017.

Over this past weekend, my team and I participated in the ‘Women in Business Expo’ at Pegasus Hotel. It was an amazing opportunity for a startup business like my own to get in front of our target market, speak to the women whom we are trying to clothe and find out if they would buy what we’re selling.

I noticed a few things from all the conversations that I had, and the more I spoke to them the more clarity I gained on fashion in Guyana and what really went wrong.

What impacted me the most was how shocked people were to find out that the collection was made in Guyana. On one hand, it was great to hear that the quality of our finishing was so aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand, the fact that it was near unbelievable that they were produced right here was very telling of the type work produced locally.

Given these revelations, I have settled on three areas those actively invested in the local fashion industry can improve right now to begin the process of revitalization.

Improve the quality of your work

This is the easiest step you can take and anyone can do it. Read more, pay more attention to detail, research, ask for help, and get feedback from customers. Vigorously work at developing your craft, whether it’s sewing, drawing illustrations, creating fashion focused content or fashion photography. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours rule in his book Outliers and applies the idea that working at something for 10,000 hours would make you an expert in that area. It is human nature to become better at something by doing more of it. So do more.

Find a mentor

 This doesn’t necessarily have to be someone in fashion. It would actually be more beneficial to you and your fashion business if your mentor is someone in a different industry. My very first mentor was actually my boss. All of her experience was in management of some kind, she held corporate titles at Fortune 500 companies. One of my current mentors is a software developer and web designer-- and I can confidently tell you that he doesn't even know he mentors me. I say this to help you understand that fashion business is still a business. You still need market a business plan, market validation, goals and strategies —these are things an experienced businessperson can help you with.

Lobby

 The uproar caused by the parking meter situation has shown us a new side of the Guyanese populous. We are now in a place in Guyanese history where the coming together of a group of people in unison creates a catalyst for change. People are forced to listen when there are multiple voices chanting the same slogan. Fashion needs policies that give broader support of artistic development. The industry needs to be recognized at the cross section of art and business. We need critical structural support that focuses on bolstering an industry as impactful as fashion and the young creative class has to be given the right incentive to commit to Guyana. When I say incentive, I don’t necessarily mean money, but rather opportunity to work and gain experience in their field.

There is a grave misconception about fashion; that it is a frivolous, inconsequential thing. The truth of the matter is it is not. Clothing is what we live our lives in, it’s a necessity that is unavoidable.

I take pride in the fact that I can boldly emblazon made in Guyana on something that holds up to international standards. I also want other fashion business owners here to feel that sense of pride.

What are your thoughts? Are these suggestions feasible? What do you think can be done for this industry? 

Are we culturally prepared to accept a creative industry as a viable business sector?

This article was first published in the Stabroek News Friday Edition on March 17th, 2017.

In my last article I posed a question that got a lot of feedback, so I thought it best to address that head on. As I begin, it’s really important that we are all on the same page in regards to what encompasses a creative industry. According to the British Council, “At the heart of the creative economy are the cultural and creative industries that lie at the crossroads of arts, culture, business and technology. It includes thirteen sectors: advertising, architecture, the art and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film, video games, music, the performing arts, publishing, software, and television and radio.”

I believe, the easiest way to prove viability of this industry would be to attach an actual dollar value. In a January 2016 press release the UK Government stated that the creative industries is worth almost £10 million an hour. UNESCO published a global map of the creative and cultural economy and valued the US creative industry at $620 billion annually. What shocked even me, was the fact that in Latin America and the Caribbean the creative industry is worth $128 billion, and created 1.9 million jobs.

Here in Guyana things are happening. Last July a young entrepreneur, Jubilante Cutting, founded the Guyana Animation Network (GAN) with the aim of “raising awareness on the opportunities available in the Animation and ICT industries, for Guyanese.”

Ruel Johnson, Cultural Policy Advisor to the Ministry of Education, is working on creating policy that focuses on components of creative industry development, and education as well as ways to finance creative endeavors. He states that there are two big blocks in regards to bolstering a creative sector; first, intellectual property legislation, which is the cornerstone of any viable creative industry environment, needs to be in place and currently isn’t. Secondly, Mr. Johnson says, “A key challenge creative people have is that they are not necessarily business minded and we don’t have the infrastructure in place to help them with the business end of it.”

The Minister of Finance announced in the 2017 budget speech that an Institute of the Creative Arts is in the works that will carry a University of Guyana accreditation and run diploma programs. This is a step in the right direction. The Institute of Private Enterprise & Development (IPED), last year launched a program that set aside 50 million GYD in loan financing for businesses of a creative nature, specifically.

The industry needs help from both government and the private sector. We need better education and training, easier access to funding for startups and what I believe is critical, is guidance and mentorship to grow these young businesses.

What else can be done to progress the creative economy? I want to hear your thoughts and continue this conversation.

The fashion industry vs the garment industry. What does fashion business mean for Guyana?

This article was first published in the Stabroek News Friday Edition on March 3rd, 2017.

Given my experience within the fashion industry in Toronto, as well as my current position managing a garment factory here in Guyana, I really wanted my introductory article to be focused on the fashion and garment industry’ in Guyana today

The business of Fashion is a globally recognized behemoth of an industry that was last valued at 2.7 trillion USD. Trillion, with a T. The word industry covers everything from clothing and accessories, to marketing and magazines.

In the scope of Guyana, I have people constantly asking me what I think about the fashion industry here. Speaking strictly from a business perspective it doesn’t exist.

Of course, there are numerous issues to look at when judging an entire industry — innovation, stagnation, how accepted it is culturally, the resources that are readily available, access to guidance and mentorship, and sheer knowledge of opportunities that are out there or whether opportunities exist.

The use of the word industry intimates production and profit making — the kind of enterprise that has the ability to directly affect the economy.

According to a 2007 case study done by the United Nations Development Program the apparel manufacturing industry in Guyana grossed around 12 million USD annually, that was ten years ago.

Like any millennial, my google research first landed me on Wikipedia.com when I began looking at major differences between garment and fashion industries. This is what they had to say, “The clothing (garment) sector is concerned with all types of clothes, from fashion to uniforms. The fashion industry closely follows - and sets – fashion trends to always supply the latest in non-functional clothing.”

To people who are well versed in the topic, a fashion industry and garment industry go hand in hand — but though similar, they are not the same.

I’ll simplify, think about Facebook — when you log in you see the front end, and it is aesthetically pleasing, and seems effortless. This front-end is what we know as the Fashion Industry.

There is also a back end of Facebook where all the code lies. This is what gives the front end of Facebook the functionality it needs to perform. This back end is the garment manufacturing industry.

One side is glitzy and glamorous and what 98% of the people who are trying to get into fashion are aiming for.

The other side, is what the fashion industry is built on.

So how do we change this? Are we culturally prepared to accept a creative industry as a legitimate business sector?