When Chloe Allison was a little girl, she had a pair of pink patent leather dress shoes that she loved so much she wanted to sleep in them. Now, Allison wants to create that feeling for other little girls with her children's wear and accessories business, Alli C.
Allison, a Milwaukee native who attended Alexander Hamilton High School, founded Alli C. in 2011 after working for Kenneth Cole, an American fashion brand. Alli C. offers beanies, blankets and accessories for infants from birth to 24 months. Her clothing is sold at boutiques in Evanston, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. Allison also sells her brand at baby showers and to Milwaukee residents through email. She is currently developing an e-commerce website, which will make it easier for her to sell online.
Allison's best-selling items are silk-lined beanies and blankets. She got the idea from watching her hair stylist put pieces of silk behind her baby's head in the car seat. Silk does not soak up lotion or creams that may be on a baby's skin and does not get tangled in hair.
Allison did not always want to go into fashion; when she was growing up, she wanted to be a veterinarian. It wasn't until her sophomore year of high school that she realized she would be unable to put down a sick animal or work with reptiles. That year, she went to a summer fashion program for high school students at the Savannah College of Art and Design. While at SCAD, Allison realized that she was talented at fashion design and had a passion for the work.
In college, she hoped to design bridal wear, but after coming up with the idea for Alli C., she decided to create children's clothing instead. Allison said she loves working with children so it has been a good fit.
According to Shirah Rachel Apple, spokesperson for the U.S Small Business Administration Wisconsin District Office, entrepreneurs starting a small business have a number of hurdles they have to overcome.
Apple noted that planning helps small business owners grow their businesses more rapidly. "We have seen it time and time again that business who do more planning make more money, hire more people and stay in business longer."
Apple recommends that small business owners contact a mentor through Milwaukee organizations such as SCORE or the Small Business Development Center run by the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. "It is definitely a challenge for small businesses to get started, but we have a lot of resources to help them," she said.
Nyerere Davidson, president of Social X, an organization that works to help young professionals thrive in Milwaukee, has mentored Allison. "I think she has a huge vision for her company," said Davidson. "She has a huge vision for fashion in Milwaukee, especially for children's fashion."
Allison runs Alli C. on her own, but said that her family has been helpful in unpacking merchandise and providing emotional support. Her day-to-day activities include calling boutiques, designing new collections, going through inventory and working with sewing contractors in Chicago and Janesville.
She would like to manufacture her products in Milwaukee but said there is not a large enough sewing force locally. Sewing is a "dying art in Milwaukee," she noted. Allison said that she has been working with the Makers Coalition, whose mission is to build the sewing industry in the U.S. A branch of the group operates in Milwaukee.
Although her business is six years old, Allison said she still considers it to be in the "startup phase." She observed that it has been a struggle to market her products and get them placed in boutiques; most of her business comes through word of mouth.
Nevertheless, Allison said she is committed to grow the business in the next five years.
According to Davidson, "She knows what she wants; she is very driven and very tenacious."Read more at:formal dress shops
The College of Fashion & Design in Dubai is the first dedicated fashion college in the GCC. The fact that we have opened this college goes to show how much the home-grown fashion industry in the GCC is booming. The Islamic fashion industry has a multi- billion-dirham turnover.
So many people these days want to become fashion designers, but they don’t yet know the correct steps. They don’t understand that you need to know your fabrics, how to cut them, what cut works with what and how to manage a business.
A lot of people in the UAE enter the world of fashion because they love it, but they end up faltering after a few years. That’s because until now, we haven’t had proper incubators for fashion designers. We’ve had fashion schools in Sharjah, but this college is different, because it’s completely dedicated – we have the facilities and the expertise that budding fashion designers need.
The campus also has what the students need to relax, such as a restaurant, cafe, spa and salon. That’s important, because this is a creative industry.
One day, I would like to see the college’s graduates working for my fashion label, House of Hend. I’m always looking to take on people from the local market, because they understand local tastes better.
Emiratis are the ones with the buying power, and I believe you have to be born and bred here to understand our requirements.
They understand the market here. For example, that a particular item needs a lot of ironing, so it doesn’t last very long, or that more revealing dresses don’t sell as fast.
The Bahraini make-up artist Zahraa Hubail is a good example of how to be successful, because she sells high-quality products at low prices. A lot of designers make the mistake of starting out with really expensive tailors and fabrics, then when they come to sell, customers are reluctant to splash out on them because they’re new and untested. You need to understand your market, and cut costs from the beginning. You can make higher profit in the long run if you understand how to raise prices at the right time.
We have done fashion shows in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuala Lumpur, and also during the Cannes Film Festival and AltaRoma (Rome Fashion Week). But as well as big shows, we used to do non-profit fashion shows, where everybody would chip in Dh1,000 to Dh3,000 and we would organise the models, make-up, hair, photography, PR and media. We had a lot of local designers whose careers were born from these mini fashion shows, but they were junior designers, and they didn’t have the proper know-how.
Because we didn’t have an entity that would act like an umbrella, we created the Designers Guild, which became like a private club for anyone in the field of design.
As well as fashion designers, our members were photographers, graphic designers, models, make-up artists, jewellery makers and bag designers. People would come to pick up tips. We had a wide remit, and had a lot of fun helping each other.
* As told to Jessica Hill
Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassemi runs fashion label House of Hend. She recently became chairperson of the advisory board for the new College of Fashion & Design, which took on its first students last month. She is also the chief executive of Paris, London, New York Events and Publishing and editor-in-chief of Velvet fashion magazine.Read more at:formal dresses adelaide | formal dresses perth
For decades, real fur has festooned runways in Europe and North America, featuring in the fall/winter collections of leading global brands.
This season’s fashion weeks were no exception, with houses from Prada to Chloé making use of shearling, and more rare and exotic animal pelts.
In an independent study commissioned by the International Fur Federation (IFF) in 2012-13, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimated that the worldwide fur trade was worth more than US$40 billion [Dh147 billion].
The research was one of the first audits of the fast-evolving sector. It also estimated that the fur industry supported more than a million people – from farmers to designers, to workers in department stores and sports outlets.
Despite the resurgent popularity of fur abroad however, some UAE designers are hesitant to incorporate pelts fully into their seasonal lines.
"I’ve used a little bit of fur in previous collections ... I’m not completely against it," says Arshia Khan, fashion designer and founder of the label Arshys. "But I would only use mink for trims or accessories that are detachable from the garments, never stitched on. I’d also never consider designing full fur coats.
"I’m sure there are some who might argue that no designer’s winter collection is complete without fur."
Khan’s upcoming fall/winter collection debuted in the UAE this week to select clients and press. It featured Japanese cotton jumpsuits, flared pants and oversized military coats.
Keeping pace with designs seen on European catwalks, Khan’s range focused on independent, high-achieving modern women – using graffiti-print slogans to convey messages of empowerment. Where it differed from collections revealed by major houses, however, was that real animal fur detailing was replaced by draped ties and insulating scarves of natural fabrics.
"I’ve never had a problem with faux fur, because it can look similar to real fur," says Khan. "And it still seems to be trending so it’s probably best for me to use. It’s all about responsibility and being able to trace things back to a source.."
Arguably the fashion world’s loudest and proudest fur advocate is Fendi’s creative director and collaborator of 52 years, Karl Lagerfeld. Established as a fur and leather business in 1925, the Italian atelier has long been recognised by the industry for its groundbreaking techniques.
It’s also largely credited for revolutionising the way fur is used for apparel and accessories.
Lagerfeld’s ready-to-wear fall/winter collection for Fendi at Milan Fashion Week ran the gamut, from boxy bombers to long and languid jackets. Fur cuffs detailed cloth coats while other designs featured two-tone fur-on-fur, hand-embroidery, prints and inlaid collages.
For decades, Lagerfeld has courted controversy and fans of fur, most notably in 2015 when he launched the label’s first "haute fourrure" collection at Paris Haute Couture Week. The event marked his half-century at Fendi’s helm and the runway was awash with lavish floor-sweeping coats, enveloping cocoon silhouettes, appliqué stoles and woven capes.
Voicing concerns about animal welfare outside the show’s Théâtre des Champs Elysées venue were members of La Fondation Brigitte Bardot, carrying banners reading, "Fendied".
"For me, as long as people eat meat and wear leather, I don’t get the message," said Lagerfeld. "It’s very easy to say no fur, no fur, no fur, but it’s an industry."
While he draws the line at using panther – on account of its supposed inflexibility – Lagerfeld has expressed his love for sable and ermine in the past. He treats furs as fabrics and malleable materials, shaving them, dying them and even double-lining and reversing them, as with a chinchilla and astrakhan coat he debuted for Fendi in the 1980s.
Enduringly popular pelts in Europe and North America are mirroring current trends in the region, according to Planeta Mexa, one of the UAE’s biggest fur outlet stores.
"Chinchilla is very popular with Arab clients right now," a company executive told The National. "It’s very luxurious and warm with a uniquely soft texture. We also have a lot of Emirati clients visiting us in December, when many of them might be getting ready to travel to ski resorts. Because of more fur being shown in fashion shows across the world over the last five to six years, we’ve noticed a big increase in business, especially with younger clients.
"My advice is that, if you’re going to buy something made of fur you really have to be comfortable wearing it. It should also be stored in a dark, dry place and taken outside to air every month or so."
Mink items account for up to 90 per cent of Planeta Mexa’s total sales, followed by sable, fox and beaver garments. The store says clients spend on average Dh3,500 to Dh7,500 in the UAE, while haute couture creations in Paris or Rome can fetch hundreds of thousands of dirhams.
Regional designers and furriers source the majority of their pelts from auctions in Greece, Denmark, Finland and Russia.
Knowing the provenance of the skins, and the conditions of the facilities from which they came, is vital for people to know before they invest, experts say.
Despite pressure from groups like Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which began anti-fur campaigning in the 1980s, consumer appetite for extravagant pelts has rarely waned, according to Tamara Hostal, founder of fashion institute Esmod Dubai.
"I think its popularity has increased because people love to have ‘new things’ in fashion," she says. "Fur makes many people curious; they’re interested in it. I remember a time when it was impossible to find fur coats, boots and accessories here in the UAE. Now you see fur everywhere and that’s attracting big numbers of clients, from Russia for example."
While some regional designers may be willing to experiment with wild skins and exotic furs, there are just as many with no desire to touch it.
"The subject is still very sensitive," says Hostal. "Fur may be very popular at the moment but that doesn’t mean it’s becoming more accepted by everyone."
One of the highest-profile designers to have shunned the use of any fur, leather and skins is Stella McCartney. The 45-year-old daughter of singer Paul McCartney and late animal rights activist Linda McCartney, launched her vegetarian label in 2001, under the principle of producing exclusively environmental and ethical pieces.
Catering to the similar eco-fashion aspirations in burgeoning designers at her institute, Hostal is teaching students about a full range of unconventional materials, including recyclable and biodegradable ones."We are very aware of the need to focus on the trends and educate students more about sustainable fabrics," she says.
"People are looking into everything from vegan clothes to organic accessories. Unfortunately, they do have some limitations ... and like fur – where there must be traceability – the same applies to organic printed cotton, for example. Where has the ink come from? And if you’re using plastics, where was the oil from? You must be absolutely sure that nothing can be traced back to animals. You must have proof."
Dubai-based designer Dina Melwani is both a vegetarian and vehemently anti-fur. "Today, the fashion industry provides the consumer with so many options, other than fur," she says.
"The variety of fabrics that can be used in clothing is enormous. Shoppers don’t ever need to choose fur items to create a stylish look for fall or winter ... I would never put fur into my collections."
Despite being born and raised in Eastern Europe where fur remains an accepted part of many wardrobes, Melwani is happy to layer when she travels to cold climes rather than opt for a gilet made of lynx, raccoon or sable. "In Moldova there’s a social status attached to wearing fur. To have a fur in your closet represents something to be proud of. While I come from that type of background, I will personally never eat meat or wear fur. I’m just a very big animal lover."Read more at:formal dresses sydney