Boston Fashion Week isn’t all about the shows, it gives the city an opportunity to highlight their finest and an opportunity to grow for new comers to the community with knowledge shared from experts in their specific fields. Boston’s first fashion incubator, MadeINcubator held a panel discussion in a castle of royal fashion Bloomindale’s Chestnut Hill.
Host of the event Lisa Pierpont Editor in Chief of the Boston Magazine got right down to business with the first panelist Gretta Monahan; Beauty, Fashion and Wellness Expert. Monahan began by telling the tale of how she fell in love with fashion. At an early age she was graced by the glamour of a local legend Yolanda Cellucci by being able to assist in her boutique on weekend mornings. As she spoke on her current products attributed that her local spa G Spot is based on inspiration with what she learned from Cellucci. Monahan was passionate about saying, she loves having her stores here in Boston. Firm in saying, “There is no community like this community, fashion is fierce in Boston” also proclaimed that on her journeys through Paris, Milan NYC that Boston fashion is smart.
The next up on the panel was Leah Gardner, a Blogger Expert and Designer. Gardner shared her story of having a Chemistry background with a well-off corporate position yet wasn’t satisfied. She secretly had a fondness for fashion and started a style tip blog that seemed to be take on a life of its own. When Pierpont asked if blogging is a viable business Gardner replied, “It can be very competitive but if you do your research on how to market yourself it can be rewarding”.
Following was a leading lady in the industry Kathy Benharris, Stylist and Event Producer. Benharris began by creating the picture of the magic behind a fashion show. She spoke on how her team gets to tell a fashion story from what you see, smell, taste and hear. They come up with creative ways to make each event its own. She praised the workout on day of by burning the most calories during a show and prides herself on that she is only as good as her team. When Pierpont asked her to boast a bit about who she has worked with, Benharris replied’ “Size does matter”! She went on to tell of the 110-foot runway show she produced at Copley place with the Boston Bruins and proceeds benefitting Dana Farber. She also bragged about styling Miss Monahan for an event and how it was an honor that lady love bloomed between the two.
When asked how she found her way it was based on being an adrenaline junkie. The love for taking on a project as if she had been handed their baby and teaching it four languages, rocking every aspect and watching a client leave ecstatic it what gets her. Being a general in the industry as the Leader of the Boston Fashion Meetup and soon sliding into the Regional Director role of The Boston Fashion Group International she finds inspiration in networking and connecting people. She strongly believes; to find your people, your fellow creatives and go make magic together. If you keep focus on your clients, it will all piece together.
From there moving on down the panel was Elisha Daniels, Stylist, Designer and Author. Daniels has had her hand in many aspects of the business. She has contributed to from retail, marketing to dressing private clients. She glowed when saying styling is her niche. Still in Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and a list of high-end clientele she spends 6 days a week focused on preparing each in their own unique way. When sharing she is a breast cancer survivor makes a clear statement that all projects she signs onto gives 20% back to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation which Daniels is a Board Member of.
Next up was the one and only David Josef, Fashion Designer. Josef opened with a quick bio from his impressive resume of 45 years with highlights such as; being 19 in 1977 thinking he could conquer the world, saved money and bought a shop in Lexington when there was no social media and made his way becoming a tv sensation on local programming shows. From there, a show room in NYC on 7th Avenue where he sold to Neiman’s, Saks, deluxe retailers. In 2000 he came home to build a space in the South End as a custom designer. When Lisa asked what are the worries of a fashion designer a specific story came to Josef’s mind, “Neiman Marcus had a 100% sell through with two of my dresses and wanted a reorder in the next three weeks. Yet I was booked through the next season. Every day is a different worry the fashion design is easy, its everything else.
It was that experience which brought the change to custom design and not whole sale work”. Josef explained he wants to work when he wants to work and be his own boss. Which has created a problem Josef expresses that because of people like Kathy Benharris believing in him he’s busier than he’s ever been in his life. Josef was asked to give his opion on what new designer need to do when building their brand. He gave an honest answer of, “You have to have the talent in which brand you plan to build”. Then quickly claimed social media! “Right now, it’s all about social media you can build an image that you aren’t and create the persona you want.”
David gave credit to knowing what he does of social media from the lady who was on his right, Anna Foster. He now understands how to share his brand and talents. Josef has helped create charity events such as “Faith in Fashion” and “Runway to the Rescue” and says every ticket he sells is straight from Facebook.
Nearing the end was Anna Foster, Brand Strategist, Speaker, and Fashion Maven. After giving many thanks to those that were behind the event Foster expressed her many roles within the industry. Seven years ago, Foster started her business “A Mavens World” and explaining a maven is a Hebrew word for a person in the know. Foster felt strong that we as women wear many hats and feel that society says we should only wear one. Anna expressed that is unrealistic in her opinion and she works with small business to find their niche, their happy place. Her brand connects people to help them wear those few hats and be successful with them. She prides herself on helping open the doors in the city for women of color, creating a platform for them to connect and grow. Foster is currently focused on her global women’s conference and to bring more energy to Boston. She touches on the subject point that it’s a tuff time for entrepreneurs with the internet and social media as boutiques are going out of business. Foster explained, A Mavens World is really trying to find that space in between for business to survive.
She tributes to using failure as a stepping stone to success and encourages to embrace it and be mindful to have strategy and sharpen your skills. Foster has always been a person that gave, support to events and the community so she is quick to be honest when others get it wrong. “The early part of our generation is getting it backwards, they will direct message me and immediately ask for help. My answer is NO! I don’t even know you, can we meet first.?” A Mavens World teaches the process to building solid relationships and a reputation that gets you a yes answer. Ann ended with, “If there is anything you can take away from me being up here it’s that the human connection is huge, networks and relationships are even huger”.
The final seat on the panel was held by Janet Howard, CFDA Designer and Product Development Specialist. Also, a Co-Owner of The Martini Factory, a manufacturer for designers. Howard looks at her work as being a dream maker, designers can come to them and they create what they are looking for. They hope to take the aches and pains out of being a designer and let them enjoy the fun. Howard expressed she felt like a little bit on an outsider as they are in SoHo, NYC.
It was soon after her partner was called out of the audience as a well-known local, Kim Barbieri Co- Owner of the Martini Factory. Barbieri was a bit more comfortable on the panel with digging right into the business side of Boston fashion and where it needs to be. Barbieri soundly stated, “When you guys have Boston Fashion Week you must have the right people in the audience. You can’t just have your friends and family. Yes, it’s a nice thing but you have to make sure the event coordinators are inviting; press, fashion directors, managers of high-end retail stores because they are the only people who are going to make you successful.”
That may have closed out the scheduled discussion, yet the show went on. Honorary Chair and Fashion Designer Joe Malaika stepped up to say a few words. A question / answer portion took place with fellow Designer Samuel Vartan getting up with curiosity in the celebrity filled audience. Then it all came to a close with guests taking their fantastic goodie bags and getting up for a mix, mingle and network.
MadeINcubator is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization that is revolutionizing the way designers learn, build and succeed in fashion. We use fashion as an anchor to build economic development in the greater Boston area, a region once revered for its rich textile industry. MadeINcubator is the City of Boston’s first fashion incubator and its mission is to change the fashion world through innovation, by developing ecosystems that allow exceptional fashion entrepreneurs to create new products and companies better and faster. We are here to support the business of fashion in Boston through a 5-month intensive program, as well as free and low-cost public workshops and networking events. MadeINcubator will foster in a new meaningful and impactful economy in Boston by giving fashion designers the technical product development, business tools and training they need to create innovative products and competitive businesses based in Boston. Visit MadeINcBoston.com for more on the work they are doing.