Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mentoring by Tracy Toulouse

Tracy Toulouse, an Ojibway textile artist and aspiring fashion designer has been an extraordinary mentor to help me learn more about the world of Aboriginal fashion.

Although Tracy had an early awareness of her flare for fashion dating back to her high school days, it took many years before she finally followed her dreams to become a textile artist through studying fashion and a 3 year business program.

I met Tracy through my work with Northern Styles where we both have been involved in the same fashion events. Tracy is an accomplished designer and business woman whom I admire greatly. Our connection over this past winter with her as my mentor has been meaningful and informative.

The underlying motivation to Tracy's work as a textile artist is a profound belief in the spirit of the art she as a designer puts into her clothes. Tracy explains "Someone helped me see my spirit is in my clothes… when we create we put our spirit in the outfit… share that spirit with other people… just as in traditional garments.. all have spirit and the art we create is symbolic and we carry the outfits in high regard - the basic respect we have for the garment and way of carrying the spirit… there is power in what we wear…"

What I learned most from Tracy being my mentor is being more aware of the steps involved to ensure my work as a textile artist is successful. This OAC Access & Career Development Award has been an excellent foundation for me to become more skilled and ultimately more confident in my talents as a textile artist.

Tracy was tremendously helpful in giving me insight and perspective on how to develop a fashion show line up. As a textile artist, I have come to understand one way of featuring my fashion designs is to to break the show line-up in to three categories.

  1. Boutique is the Top Line - This line is devoted to items being manufactured professionally and going to retail. For an established designer like Tracy, this becomes the main line committed to filling orders requested by actual retail buyers. Here Tracy will create a simple line of four to five textile art designs in womens, mens and kids clothing items for at least two seasons. This would include: outer wear and jacket with a focus on creating designs marketed to the mass based on sizes, simple designs and costs involved
  2. Custom Orders - This line has more creativity involved and devoted to custom orders such as ball gowns, suits and high-end pieces. Many of shows we see at events like L'Oreal fashion week will include at least 25% of the presentation are actually custom orders being shown but not for sale - but are in the show for 'glam' just to try and get the interest of potential buyers, a way to work within a limited budget and a chance to find out the target market and which boutiques would be interested in your work
  3. Casual Line - this is the affordable line that often includes pre-fab outfits which are adorned with various treatments like silk screen, appliqué, air brushing. This is the wholesale line to be sold as affordable pieces for those who cannot afford a Boutique piece. The casual line is often easier to sell on the pow wow circut, casino boutique, web store and local trading store

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