Friday, January 18, 2013

My Lesson # 5 Learned in Millinery: "Form Creative Parterships".

 One of the greatest challenges I faced as a new designer was bringing the name of the brand to the surface, getting press and making sure that the name of my Atelier is well known. You see, nobody really tells you how exactly to achieve it. Universally, it is recognized that apprenticeship or internship with one of the big names in the industry can provide an opportunity to see first hand how it all happens. Both, of course, have huge value in terms of seeing the inside operation of the business, client relationship and everything connected to running successful millinery. Starting out from nothing at all is always difficult. My first priority was always the quality of the design. If you do not have sufficient, well thought through and well executed collection - you will not sell it. Period. Once you do have your beautiful collection of hats than the question becomes: what's next? If you are a wealthy person and  have money to invest than the easiest way to go is to hire a professional PR firm. In exchange for monthly fee of anywhere from 2,000$ to 10,000$ (depending on how successful the PR firm is), your PR representatives will handle the placement of your hats, pitching them to a wide verity of stylists and editors, arrange celebrity placements. Sounds fantastic, but the truth is - you will have no control of your hats, no control of who handles them and how and you will spend a fortune without any guarantee that your hats will be featured on the pages of magazines. I remember having this conversation with one of my dear friends who owns a showroom in New York  sometime in 2009 regarding this subject. She told me:"Darling, in modern day industry it is almost impossible to get noticed without proper representation. Nobody will take you seriously if you are standing on your own.It is all about who knows who". Admittedly, I was heart broken. I did have money to invest, but I was just about to open my Atelier and did not think that making a commitment of paying out thousands of dollars in addition to the overhead expenses of the Atelier would be a smart move. And so my only choice was to prove my friend wrong and find my own way. One thing I did right from the very beginning - I decided that one of the biggest investments for my business will be high quality photography. It was an instinctive move for me and I never regretted it. Every so often, or, let's be honest, very often I come across pictures of the hats designed by other milliners and what I've noticed is that only 30% of professional milliners make an effort to photograph hats professionally.
 Overwhelming majority displays pictures of a very poor quality, obviously done with a regular camera. The reasoning behind it is very simple: why spend more on photographing the collection if you can do it with a regular camera. Right? Wrong! The truth is: unprofessional images not only take away from the hats, rob them of color and have no aesthetics whatsoever, they send clear message to everyone who is looking at them. And the message is: I don't take myself seriously.If you don't take yourself seriously than nobody else will. Least of all stylists and editors who have very high standards and  access to the best in the industry. You, literally, have 30 seconds if not less to grab their attention with your work and guess what: you just lost another chance. It is really simple: your level of professionalism is judged by the quality of your images and, of course, quality of your designs. I could never understand milliners who consistently choose to present themselves as professionals while displaying poor quality images of their work. Just like in hat design, photography is a science on its own and unless you are trained as a photographer, every attempt to cut corners will be, well, will give you nothing more than a mediocre,forgettable picture. To me the images of my hats are not just pictures. They are representation of the hats itself. They tell the story of each and every design I create, each collection. I style my own photo shoots and it is always a labor of love, my way of telling the world who I am as a designer, what I represent and how I work. To me it is a matter of pride. Besides, it always gives me an opportunity to work with absolutely amazing, talented people. I have been lucky to start my millinery career along side my talented visionary, my exclusive photographer and now my friend  Ed Hafizov. Five Collections later his images of my hats grace the pages of fashion publication across the Globe. This is my #1 creative partnership I cherish so much. I often say that Ed has an amazing ability to somehow see what I have in mind for each and every hat we photograph. The result is always fantastic! Our partnership is often branches out into creative collaborations. Another thing I did right from the very beginning is taking an advantage of free Internet opportunities: Blogger and Facebook (besides official website which is a MUST if you think of yourself as professional) became two major outlets for me not only to display my work, but talk about things that inspire me, move me, influence me as a designer. In fact, I found my audience through my Blog and through my Official Facebook Page. It is hard work, but it is rewarding.
I started my Blog back in 2009. At the time there were very few millinery blogs but with in the next two years millinery blogs became very popular and seemed to pop up everywhere. It was great for a while... Today, I know only handful of millinery blogs that keep breathing with new regular updates. Majority of the Blogs froze in time and no longer updated. I discovered that the key to keeping my Blog alive is consistency and original content. To achieve it, I had to make sure I regularly post my work with more beautiful photography, more beautiful hats. Imagine my surprise, when I started to get inquiries from very reputable publications like Vogue Latin America, Vogue Paris, Italian Flair, Harper's Bazaar and many more domestic and international glossy publications requesting either samples of my hats for the photo shoots or interview with me. I instructed my secretary  Beatricce to ask everyone how did they find my Atelier. The jaw dropping answer was: through Facebook, Blog and than website. With each year (my atelier has been in operation since 2010) I receive more and more inquiries. I now can choose which publication I want to work with and which publication I will decline. Some of the inquiries led to the continuous work with top stylists in the industry. Inquires for the interview always came with the request of the large number of the photographs of  my hats and I know with certainty that I would never be able to be a part of it if I would have poor quality images. When phenomenal Louis Bou contacted me requesting permission to include my work in his book entitled "Couture Hats" - I knew I would never be able to be a part of it without the beautiful images of my Collections. The book is out now and it is absolutely amazing. So, in conclusion - the key to the creative partnerships and collaborations lay in the way how you present your work. If you have done everything you possibly can to show your art, gave it your absolute best at 200% - people will see it, they will work with you and they will bring you on the journey you never thought is possible. You will have more press than some of the designers who pay to retain PR firms. All you need to do is to be smart, love your work and make others see the beauty of it. Invest in good photography, create beautiful hats and I can guarantee you that you will be noticed. :-) For this post I asked my beautiful model Anastasia to wear "Rocco-Baroque" hat created in my Atelier. :-)


VM Creation Atelier said...

Outstanding great post,dear Anya!

Reallly good,because that´s TRUE:-)
What a wonderful less!!!

Indeed,using of low quality pictures makes your work not better......
Poor quality pictures make your work completely broken,despite that you so much time,energy and your heart invested in it!

Yes,of course you can be in possession of money,but you choice the way....HOW you use your money.
Always thinking creative:-)))* You know?.....
Our OWN way is your proud,is your name and your face-is your presentation!!!

I have said so many times,Anya:

You are not only talented designer and ideas grower,but amazing smart person!!!:-)))*

How much talented peoples in fashion and in another branches tried to make themselves known?....
But they look elsewhere and some of them can not combine creative work with business way to think ahead!:-(((

Thank you so very much for your wonderful less!

Your ''Rocco-Baroque''is afeast for the eyes,little treasure with a fantastic SOUL inside:-)))*

Sending you my warm wishes for this weekend,

Much Love,

Little Rus said...

Wonderful post, Anya! I often wondered how it all was for you and I am very glad that you decided to share some of the insights. Must admit, your blog and hats stood out from the very first time I saw them - it was the quality of the post and photos that grabbed me and made me fall in love with your creations. :)

On a different note - have you heard the news about Galliano? Posted them earlier today - I actually cried... :) Was too emotional not to.

carla fox said...

Thank you for sharing your creative journey. Your success is well earned and your willingness to share your experience and expertise is much appreciated. You, my dear, are a "class act" all the way. Thank you!!

lorenabr said...

Your post is very inspirational and gives me a lot of hope to make it in this creative industry.

I love your work...:) I try my best to have great images till I can pay a great photographer.

Tracy | Designer Communion Dresses said...

Wise words. I appreciate you sharing your "secrets" with the rest of us. And indeed your pictures sont manifique.