Monday, October 27, 2008

Open Call at Henri Bendel

it all started at 4 am this morning. I woke up, wishing I could have stayed in bed another few hours, because it is quite cold in NYC. But today was another one of those significant signpost days: The open call for new designers at Henri Bendel.

Left home at 5:00; took a cab to the subway and rode to mid Manhattan-on a relatively crowded train, mind you. This is NY. Always people going somewhere doing something. I love it.

So I got to Bendel at my targeted time of 6:00am, and already the line was around the corner from the entrance. As I calmly took up my spot, feeling like someone camped out for tickets to a Madonna concert or something, I felt very proud of myself for getting up and being there.

So the next woman who came right after me started to chat and asked me, based on my accent, where I was from. Would you believe she was also a Trinidadian! Amazing coincidence. Antoinette lived in Connecticut and was looking to develop a re-usable shopping bag from fine cotton in India. She was also a fashion designer for almost 25 years. So needless to say, things started off quite well. In fact, as a true Trini, she liked and wants to buy one of my steel pan bracelets.

After my friend Jennifer, another Trinidadian lawyer on a trip to NYC, came by at 8:30 for morale support, the excitement begun. Since I had never been on an open call for new designers at Bendel or any other store in New York or elsewhere, I was expectant, and had the mindset that what ever happened, it was a learning experience.

So after about 9:15am the line started to move, as about 30 persons were let into the building at a time. At this time, Jennifer and I became more organized. She would open the jewelry case and arrange the display, while I would start talking - the elevator pitch of key points that distinguished my collection - and set out the brochure and case and music CD, etc.

So at about 10:15 we entered the building, down into the basement ("the dungeon" says Jennifer) to register our name and await our turn. My new friend Antoinette, who was in bags, was seen first since there were so few bag designers (hmm. maybe I should keep this in mind). She returned with not too good news; Her bag was not accepted. Ah well. She was primarily looking for this type of feedback to decide how far to go with it at this time.

Then my turn came. Jennifer and I approached the buyer's line with a mixture of excitement and adrenalin flowing. All of 2 minutes I was told, while you stand and show them your stuff.

So as we got to the buyer's table with two young buyers, I started my elevator pitch. "Hi. I'm Liz Mannette and my jewelry is all based on the music of steel drums...." Of course, I forgot the speech and the elegantly worded sound bites. So much for preparation. The two pleasant girls smiled and asked a few questions about the jewelry and even examined a few pieces. And then they said, "It's very interesting that you're working with the drums, but we don't think it is for the Bendel customer." Sigh.

Ah well, at least they were pleasant, and you know what I took away from the experience; Do what it takes; if it doesn't work out, correct and continue. So listening for divine guidance in the whole thing, I heard it very clearly; Find the buyer's for this jewelry. Seek them out, get to know them and connect with them. So this is my renewed focus on connecting with my existing customer base; get them to refer me to friends and family and build the business globally in this way

Friday, October 24, 2008

Planning a show with a "Wow"" factor

This past week, I decided its time to do our own show; to introduce new items to our customers, to increase brand awareness and to allow people to understand the philosophy and values behind the Liz Mannette design company.

The National Museum is interested in hosting this event so we can combine the historic traditions with a new and dynamic fashion performance unlike anything ever seen. Certainly, it will be the first fashion accessories display of steel pan/drums jewelry because this line is the only such collection in the world. Other persons have a few pieces, but we now have almost 70 pieces in our collection, and much more if I consider the designs I alone wear because I decided not to produce them (as yet).

So we are looking to do a show with a difference; I want it to have a real 'Wow' effect to have the audience wondering "was this a jewelry show or theatre." Even though it will be in Trinidad, persons must feel that they were treated to a show that could have easily been in New York or London, in terms of the design and performance, though we will have our unique Caribbean, Trinidad and steel pan/drums element. So do keep checking the blog for the final announcement of the date and how you can get an invitation.

It will be challenging and a ton of work to pull it together, but we will have fun doing this for the first time.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Christmas 08 Collection on its way

New designs, new collection. The lifeblood of a fashion design company. Well, the new Collection for Liz Mannette that will be unveiled for Christmas 08 is coming together -finally. Some of the ideas in this Collection have been in my head for over a year, and now finally, the samples are almost perfect. This is the exciting part.

Next is creating the full Collection that provides some breadth and depth within the design theme. Now I haven't been to any fashion design school and so I know little about the formal approach to creating a Collection. All I know is there should be pieces in a range of price point so that almost everyone will find something on their level. Some may be looking for a gift for a spouse in the US$1000 range; others may be looking for something in the US$200 range. And then there may be several who are celebrating and want a piece in the US$5000. Also, from a design point of view, I seek to provide things that are trendy and fashionable at the moment as well as pieces that are classic and will last a lifetime.

Most of my first steelpan/steeldrum designs were pure metal with a smooth finish - sterling silver or 14K gold. Now I have added a stainless steel collection. This season I am venturing into some new pieces with different textures; one has a hammered finish. And also I am adding some color, with diamonds and gemstones. A few pieces will be designed in collaboration with a New York based colleague. This is an exciting new dynamic as she brings a totally different perspective. Others pieces will be ideas that have been churning around in my mind for quite some time.

So this is what's ahead from the Collection. Folks can read a bit more of the ins and outs of the design theme on my Ning page where I write a bit more openly to support a steelpan fashion design community.