March 13, 2017
Attendees: Loun Loun Chua (@louneytoon), Tracy Travaglio (@atraceofcool), Kelly Gualtieri (@kellygualtieri)), Mohammed Burny (@mohammedburny), Eileen French-Jordan (@revivemarketinggroup), Galen Privett (@royalpittsburgh), Tori Mistick (@tmistick), Matthew DeSantis (@massmedialabs), Kate Colussey (@highwayrobberyvintage), Caleb Clark (@qonsult), Hannah Moon (@pantsquare_uspgh), Elysia Purnell (@elysiapandapgh).
When the Style412 discussion series started, I had no idea that we’d get to the point where we are today. The series was intended to be an audit or baseline of the current Pittsburgh fashion industry. I sent a survey out in advance to gather responses to answer the question “what will Style412’s role be moving forward?”
Q1 – What is your role in the style industry?
Elysia: In trying to determine the target audience, what type of individual would benefit the most from Style412? The most common answer was Business Owner and “Other”, who are the other?
Tori: I marked myself as “Other” as I belong to multiple categories.
Loun-Loun: I marked myself as “Other” since I’m in the business/consulting end.
Q2 – Please select the statement that best describes your interest in Style412.
Elysia: This is a difficult question. I approached it from a need-based perspective. You’ll notice that there’s a range of needs and interests such as social, educational, professional resources, entertainment, etc. The results indicate that the group’s needs are SOCIAL in nature. Not only that, there is an overwhelming desire to explore room for improvement and growth for our industry. If the last option were eliminated, which answer would have people chosen?
Tracy: I originally stated that I wanted to connect with other fashion enthusiasts, the first option; I would like to change my answer to support the last option, evolution.
Q3 – Which of the following resources is most valuable to you?
Elysia: People are interested most in the social aspects of the style community. People are most interested in using Style412 to build a support system. I was surprised that people weren’t just seeking funding.
Tori: Seeing like-minded people in person enables more thoughtful discussions and fortifies deeper connections. This goes beyond a typical networking activity.
Eileen: For most small businesses, funding is a big question mark. Learning how to get funding is a necessary and important skillset.
Kate: I feel that networking leads to finding the money so it’s an ends to a means.
Q4 – Would you be interested in continuing the monthly topic-based discussions?
Elysia: It's flattering to see a general consensus in wanting to continue these discussions. Were we to continue we wouldn’t have the structured audit to focus on. What kind of topics would people want to discuss?
Tracy: It would be good to work towards a purpose.
Matt: Skill focused meetings would be good as well as a speaker series.
Q5 – What other types of future events would interest you?
Elysia: There was interest expressed in every category, let’s break this down a little more…
Tori: Art Institute had a series, but it wasn’t ongoing, so if you miss one, then there is no opportunity to learn/attend again. It would be good to have an ongoing, repeating series.
Elysia: I like the consistency of every second Monday that people can attend consistently.
Tori: Morning meetings might be possible
Caleb: Like Unstuck PGH on Mondays at 7:55am
Elysia: (clarifying fashion presentations)… they are a more intimate experience and opportunity to see details up close. Fashion presentations are also an opportunity to develop better industry connections between the designer, buyers, and consumers.
Kate: As a business owner, I have to turn away fashion shows, they’re not economical. There is no return on investment (ROI) as a store owner on a piece of clothing that might sell while it’s on the runway (e.g., it may get damaged, etc.) Presentations are a great opportunity to actually speak in detail about sales volume, ordering minimums, etc.
Tracy: The last discussion we talked about the trade show concept, fashion presentations may be a really viable option; they are much more financially feasible than fashion shows.
Eileen: Professional growth is a must, it’s an opportunity to mentor and swap skills.
Matt: Check out Praxis as an existing model (http://praxislabs.org/).
Q6 – What form do you envision Style412 taking post-discussion series?
Elysia: The Council for Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) is actually a for-profit trade association. Nonprofit and trade associations were the top two types of organizational structures so I’m just curious about why.
Kelly: I was a bit confused as to what the difference is.
Mohammad: Trade associations are typically nonprofit. The real need is to clarify the purpose of the organization to determine what structure it will have. Generally for a trade association, members pay dues which are used to fund salaries, etc. The association could require tiered memberships.
Elysia: The organization will definitely require staff and salaries.
Tori: As an employee of the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce (http://thinkshadyside.com/), I can provide some visibility into how the Chamber functions. The organization is tax exempt, but donations are not tax deductible. Most of our operating funds come from membership dues which are based on the number of employees (size of business). Larger restaurants pay $500 a year for memberships, smaller businesses, individual entities such as bloggers pay smaller memberships; there are different tiers. For the sake of accountability, I would strongly discourage a volunteer organizational structure.
Elysia: The organization may start off as a volunteer board that evolves into a different type of organization.
Mohammed: An option would be to setup a trade organization that offers programming and services on a fee for service basis. The Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA) charges a membership fee that ranges from $50-$150 a year; this fee is much lower than the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce.
Tori: The Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)(3). Most other chambers are focused on business to business (B2B) as opposed to business to consumer (B2C); the Shadyside Chamber is different in that it is focused on B2C and puts a lot of effort into marketing the neighborhood to consumers. We have a volunteer board of 20 members with about 10-15% active members, the Executive board members are a lot more active. Out of the 120 total members, about 10 people are really active. For resources, there is an option called ChamberChoice (http://www.chamberchoice.com/) that offers small business resources and healthcare; there are lots of organizations out there that provide benefits to small organizations.
Q7 – Would you be interested in joining the association?
Elysia: Fantastic to see 100% interest.
Q8 – Which benefits would attract you most to join?
Elysia: Workshops and lectures the most popular.
Eileen: A directory would be a huge benefit. Increasingly there are groups out there that develop directories, this is a great entry point.
Elysia: I agree, the association will naturally lead into a compilation of resources.
Eileen: Revive has become an entry point for certain things, a lot of times we get out of market calls that can be funneled in other directions. It’s an opportunity to benefit the city to funnel more outside dollars into the city.
Tori: I think having a press section focused on organization local and national press contacts would also help
Eileen: Charge fees to develop a centralized repository of fashion industry related press releases so that journalists and other media outlets can go online and pull information for press releases.
Tori: We could also include member discounts at other member businesses.
Eileen: Events can be submitted, but the association can pick and choose what we publish against certain quality standards for a calendar. I think this should be a Style412 calendar that’s been “approved”.
Q9 – What is the maximum amount you would be willing to contribute towards an annual membership?
Elysia: The emphasis is on maximum. Membership price should also be pegged on benefits provided as well as the focus of the organization. Membership dues could start low and change as the organization grows and provides more value.
Kelly: I would have gladly paid more than $100 because Style412 has done the work in terms of coordinating with industry.
Tori: Take a look at the women’s leadership Group through Propelle (http://wepropelle.com/) called Rock It (http://wepropelle.com/rock-it/). As membership prices have gone up it has not affected membership. Membership is currently at $35 a month or $350 for the year.
Q10 – Are you in support of an annually elected council to oversee the operations and growth of Style412?
Elysia: Again, happy to see 100% support, how should we determine the number of council members?
Eileen: 20 council members is very high to start, the council could consist of one to two representatives from each distinct industry segment for representation.
Tori: We could take one to two people from each major category from Q1.
Elysia: Positions would start out as part time volunteer roles.
Eileen: A good guideline for boards: “Give, Get or Get Out.” Boards are really starting to hold members accountable by parsing out specific, focused tasks.
Tori: One of the boards that I’m on meets only twice a year.
Q11 – Would you be interested in committing your expertise towards a position on the council? What should the application / selection process be?
Eileen: I suggest nomination. Have people present themselves as opposed to having others nominate them.
Mohammed: For resources, there are non-profit legal organizations that are set up to offer resources for free to the arts. Two local resources include under The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council include:
1. Volunteer Lawyers of America for the Arts (https://www.pittsburghartscouncil.org/vla) – Assistance is available to nonprofit organizations with operating expenses less than $1M in the most recently-completed fiscal year, includes pro bono work under the other category
2. Business Professionals for the Arts (https://www.pittsburghartscouncil.org/bva) – Again, no category for fashion, assistance is available to arts organizations with an operating budget from $25K to $250K. Very low application fee. Even just going through the application process would help refine the idea by getting the idea in front of a lawyer. These folks will help develop a business plan as well.
For the final two meetings, we will focus on funding and marketing/community outreach. Please feel free to invite others who might be interested. In July, we will hold the Retrospective where we’ll recap and celebrate the year, announcing a counsel to move forward with future initiatives.
Don’t forget, the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) Material Worlds Fashion Show inspired by the "Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion" exhibition will be held next Friday, March 24, 2017 at the Ace Hotel.