On Thursday June 21st in the morning, I was sitting in the lobby of the Alt Hotel in Montreal, surrounding me was the smell of hot pastries, fresh coffee, and the come and goes of incredibly stylish and creative people.

The Montreal Startup Fashion Week started on Wednesday June 20th and had its closing runway night on Friday the 22nd.  I had the pleasure of attending several of the events organized for the occasion. In particular, on Thursday, I happily attended a conference organized for startup fashion designers. The experience was enriching and inspiring.

The most amazing part of this kind of event is that you don’t know who you are sitting next to, could it be your next business partner, a new upcoming designer, or a trailblazer of the fashion industry; only breaking the ice with a conversation will give you the answers.

The event was hosted by the lively founder of STYLE.CA , Elise Gasbarrino who worked for brands such as Burberry, and Oscar de la renta. Several guest speakers were in attendance: the keynote speaker Sonia Zarbatany and president of Vince Camuto Canada, Rachel Schultz the founder of Rachel Shultz cosmetics, Vincent Theriaut one of the co-founders of Surmesur, Aicha Tohry, founder of Arty Law, Vanessa Racine, visual merchandiser at Holt Renfrew, Nadia Signore, fashion recruiter at Prestige Recruitment and many more.

Overall, the day was filled with thrilling business stories and great insight into the fashion industry.

Tips and ticks for fashion dreamers

Here are a few tips that I heard throughout the day for building a fashion brand:

1- Use social media to promote yourself, it’s a free platform with great visibility.

2- You must have a new product in store at all times.

3- Use sale agencies to sell your brand.

4- Whatever you do do it with passion.

5- It’s never a good time to start.

6- People that work with you are as important as your clients.

7-Be mindful and ask questions to grow.

Inspiring business stories

I’ve heard very inspiring stories during this conference, most  of them have in common a great entrepreneurship spirit, a good support system from friends and family, and a lot of love and passion for the craft.

For instance, Vincent Theriaut founded his tailoring company “surmesur”  with his brother in a basement and, Sonia Zarbatany has been working in the industry forever, she worked with her father and worked her way up in the industry. Rachel Shultz started her career at the age of 18 as a freelancer and built her following and client base that way. This client base followed into the opening of a first makeup counter at the Rockland center.


The truth about the world of fashion

During the second part of the conference, SFW presented a sort of fireside chat with a stylist: Patricia Trépanier,  a fashion recruitment specialist: Nadia Signore, and a visual merchandiser: Vanessa  Recine. And I realized fashion jobs  are not as glamorous as it may seem. There, I said it, they’re still jobs. At the end of the day you have responsibilities, deadlines, sometimes you have to juggle different hats, and most of all you want to pay your rent.

What I’ve noticed while sitting there, in the conference room of the Altf Hotel, is that the fashion industry is changing.  You could feel and see around the room that people were either there to learn or to help one another. Even in the initiative of creating such an event as a business of fashion conference, you can see a desire to  uplift the next generation of Montreal designers.

At the end of her presentation, the keynote speaker Sonia took the time to answer some of the questions from the upcoming designers in the room. One question in particular from a young brown haired woman grabbed my attention, she asked: “how do you build a collection from something as expensive as shoes samples ?” And Sonia answered : “The most important thing that you guys should do here is network, you never know who can give you a contact, the simple fact that you asked that question gives you the platform so that everybody here knows what your business is doing. So, to answer your question there are such great loans for you, but you have to show a business plan.”

As I walked out I asked to the shoe girl, hey are the shoes you’re wearing one of your creations? She said yes with a beaming smile.


** Learn more about the emerging designers who rocked Montreal’s Startup Fashion Week runway here.

Author Image

Azna Fall

Communication and marketing intern, and fashion enthusiast. Iam a communication student, as far as I can remember I've always been passionate about fashion. I strongly believe that the way you dress sends a message to the world, and can contribute into making you a different person. Fashion is a way of communicating.

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