The financial struggles facing up-and-coming local designers and in-fighting among local fashion industry insiders may have a silver lining: a new organization called CreateSF that hopes to bring the San Francisco fashion community together while excising the drama.
When we heard about CreateSF’s mission, we had to know more. Read on for our in-depth Q&A session with CreateSF founders Ashton Miyako and Alfonso Collazo and their thoughts on what’s missing from the local fashion scene, what emerging designers can do to better promote their brands and how bad attitudes they encountered along the way prompted them to start an organization of their own.
If you want to hang with the CreateSF crew, you’ll find them at this weekend’s Evolution [of Fashion] 2 event, where they’ll be announcing the winners of the recent Bay Area Fashion Awards.
What inspired you to launch CreateSF? What was missing from the local fashion scene that you hope CreateSF brings to the table?
AM: CreateSF was inspired and started by a bunch of friends around a kitchen table. There had been a recent “drama fest” happening in the community and we decided it was time to sit down to discuss ways of bringing the community together in a drama-free environment. We wanted to create a space in which local designers could make money doing what they do best, dressing the fashionistas of the world. The local scene has been missing the drive to create an organization that helps them make money. Here we are, one of the most fashionable cities in America. We love fashion, we love to buy fashion, we love to see fashion, and we know that tourists love to take our fashion home. So why are we not the top fashion capital of the United States? CreateSF does not know the exact details as to why we are not there yet, but we are working everyday to bridge the gap between buyers and designers.
AC: For me it’s very much a personal love affair with fashion and the marketing process: In high school and college, I would read WWD religiously, in awe of what all the fashion power houses were doing in order to establish and grow their brands. I attended FIDM’s (SF) campus from 2003 – 2006, right around the time that e-commerce and social networking were starting to take off. I could sense an energy then, that something really special was happening. Once graduated, I knew I wanted to launch some kind of organization, applying the principles I had learned, my respect for the marketing process, and the energy I was observing in the local scene. I was lucky enough to meet Ashton, whom I could tell was as much a visionary as I. This year, our industry friends helped us identify the lack of communication between San Francisco’s indie designers, boutique owners (buyers and managers) and the blogosphere, who are left to their own devices for the scoop on the latest and greatest. We do not aim to copy Facebook or the other social media outlets. Why? Because CreateSF was born out of a need that needed to be filled. So here we are, helping the industry use our platform for the most basic human instinct: to connect and communicate.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing local, independent designers in San Francisco right now?
AM: Confidence. We have amazing talent here in the Bay Area. However, many of them have been told and truly believe that in order to make it as a designer, you have to live in LA, New york or Milan. There is a part of me that sometimes believes that myself, but I know we can do it. Passion is the single most inspiring thing that I can offer this community. We just have to rise up together as a whole, not as separate entities. We also need to put that barter train in its place. If we are trading all of the time, no one is making money.
AC: The lack of an organization such as CreateSF that can connect the right people. The talent here is beyond amazing, but there is a lack of a business engine behind it. Once we get our footing, I see CreateSF facilitating communication between passionate designers and entrepreneurs with capital to fund such endeavors.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming designers who are trying to turn their fashion aspirations into a sustainable career?
AM: Create a website, print business cards and promote yourself everyday. Be professional at all times. Although social networking sites are a great tool to sell your clothing, be careful of what you post. Don’t blog or tweet about anything you wouldn’t want a new customer to see. Wear your clothing as often as you can. If you are a man who designs women’s clothing, find women to wear your clothing every time you go out. People are more likely to buy from you if they can see your work up close and personal. They want to meet the designer behind the clothes. It makes them feel special, almost like they’ve just met a celebrity.
AC: To watch and learn, make calls, push buttons, be that endearing kid who randomly shows up at a boutique with three of your friends dressed in your designs (asking to speak to the manager). You are the representation of your brand. Don’t be snooty. I have learned something about San Francisco which is, regardless of who you are or what you are selling, you have to be kind, you have to be gentle, you have to be real. Individuals who want to succeed will need to sacrifice a bit. You may not be able to attend every party, stay out all night or even do lunch with your friends. Dedicate yourself to your craft and be selective about the events and places you go. If you are too busy designing or too broke to go out and market yourself, then *create* an impromptu event. San Francisco has so many resources that people just don’t take advantage of. Sunny day? Then call up your friends, stage a play at Dolores Park and have them show up in your designs while your best friend passes around an iPad taking orders. Success comes to those who create opportunity for themselves.
Who is CreateSF trying to reach? What do you offer that audience?
AM: CreateSF is trying to reach out to the local designer community for now. I am sure that we will expand in the future, but right now we want to help the local designers find a way to make money, promote themselves in a professional, positive light and ultimately turning the Bay Area into the next fashion capital. Move over Milan, we’re coming through.
AC: The success and growth of local designers and promoting San Francisco as a fashion commerce destination is our purpose. But we can not do it without the support of the community. We aim to reach out to any and all that might listen. We want the people of San Francisco to embrace each other, support each other and succeed with each other. That is why participation in our online community is key. In the next 18 months, we will be communicating with local businesses and organizations to make CreateSF a virtual, interactive platform where the community, not corporate interest, drives the success of our local fashion economy.
What are some of your favorite, stylish places in San Francisco?
AM: Honestly, I shop local as often as possible (or I design it myself). Clothing wise, I find inspiration by walking down Market Street. The Bay Area has its own sense of style. We cannot look to fashion magazines to tell us what the latest trend is because we have created our own. I love to promote my friends, so I buy local and stuff their business cards into my pockets so that I can pass them out every time someone tells me that they like my outfit.
AC: My God that is a tough question. I see beautiful, inspiring people everywhere. San Francisco girls have a certain look about them. It is sophisticated but gentle, carefree but edgy. There are also some very stylish gentlemen around, and you see them everywhere. Recently I was hanging out at Cafe Du Soleil, and the people-watching was fantastic. I would say that neighborhood is the epitome of San Francisco style.
What events, projects, etc. are coming up for CreateSF?
AM: CreateSF is a platinum sponsor for the upcoming Evolution [of Fashion] 2 show this Saturday. We will be interviewing attendees, promoting our site and announcing the winners of the Bay Area Fashion Awards. Early next year we will be promoting our event, Some Like it Haute, an event created to bring the Bay Area boutique owners and the local designers together. We are creating a “meet and greet,” fashion show and vendor opportunity to help the entire community get to know each other. We feel like once the lines of communication have been open, there is no stopping the flood gates from producing something amazing.
AC: We undertook, rather impulsively, the execution of what we call the Bay Area Fashion Awards, which will take place at the Evolution [of Fashion] 2 event at Horatius. In the coming weeks and into the New Year, we will be working with the local press and media outlets to promote the creativity and careers of all the winners. We are not kidding around. Think of us as a marketing engine for San Francisco fashion.
What are some of the ways people can get involved with CreateSF?
AM: Join our website, www.createSF.com. By becoming a member (click on the “Social” portal) you get the latest updates as to what we are working on, opportunities to directly help us on projects and discounted tickets to local events. You can also email (email@example.com) us with any ideas you may have. We read and respond to every email. We love our community, and we do what we can to hear you out. We wouldn’t be here without you.
AC: I’m not going to be shy, we need interns, interns, interns! We welcome driven sales people who can pitch marketing campaigns, get the job done, not fret and enjoy a glass of wine or whiskey at the end of the day. Work and life should never be about drama. We’d love to give opportunities to those who feel they have what it takes, but don’t have the 3 – 5 years experience required in today’s job market. Interested candidates can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What irks you the most about the local fashion scene?
AM: Drama, lying and people not owning up to their own mistakes. Now is the time to be honest. If you messed, it’s okay, we just need to fix it and move forward. Here at CreateSF, we do not support “trash talk” toward anyone in our community, including our competitors. We feel that we need to set an example for how we believe this community should be run. I’m not trying to go all Miss America on you, but we really do want local fashion peace.
AC: I’m an individual that gives my all and dedicates myself to others 1000 percent of the time, but my patience ends when selfishness begins. This year, we saw a lot of selfishness from a couple bad apples, something that Ashton and I have no tolerance for.
What is your favorite thing about fashion in San Francisco?
AM: We are sooooo unique. No one has or can copy our style. New York can sometimes resemble Milan, L.A. can sometimes resemble Miami, but at the end of the day we just look like ourselves and no one else. I feel so lucky to be a part of a community that values daring takes on fashion and promotes green living.
AC: The people who make up the industry. While I admit, to an outsider, the fashion scene can seem a bit intimidating, there is something about San Francisco that makes people very kind and approachable. We are coming together and building close bonds. Designers, models, event coordinators, etc., we are all people, and we have a unique ability in this magnificent city to lift people while we are lifting ourselves.
Photo courtesy Douglas Alan Birnbaum via CreateSF social page.