modest clothing

How to Encourage a Fashion Designer

Abby of the Silk and Purple Christian blog

Abby recently requested that I add her Silk and Purple blog to the Fashion Belle blogroll, and after seeing the quality fashion, etiquette and recipe material she posts with the help of several other contributors, I was happy to do so. Abby also publishes an individual blog called La Vie est Belle (French for "Life is Beautiful") with even more photos of cute, modest outfits. While reviewing the Silk and Purple blog, I was impressed with a post by Abby and wanted to share it here. Thanks so much to Abby for giving me permission to re-publish her quote for this article.

Fashion designers have souls, too

On September 15, 2012, Abby commented on New York Fashion Week and the Spring 2013 collections in the news. She reflected on the anger that some of us may feel about the influence high-profile designers have on what types of styles infiltrate the stores and that are then worn by women around us. I identify with Abby's disappointment, because shopping for stylish, modest clothing in our culture is tough. Designers could do more to swing trends back to more coverage, but they rarely take the opportunity to do so. Abby recommended that rather than stagnating in resentment, a better way to deal with the frustration is to reach out in positive ways to designers. She suggested the following:

Take some time in your prayer life for these souls. Think of a creative way to spread Christ's love to them! Write prayers and periodically send them to a famous designer or celebrity, or encourage them through their Instagram or Twitter feeds. Or if the Lord calls you to become a fashion designer, design for HIS glory and lead hearts to HIM!

As a patternmaker who has worked in New York's fashion industry, including for one designer runway show, this suggestion meant so much to me. Designers and the people who work for them are usually exhausted after runway shows from work weeks that easily run between 60 to 70 hours or even exceed 70 hours in the months preceeding shows. Had some anonymous person taken the time to send a card of encouragement to my designer boss and his staff, it would definitely have been noticed and appreciated. While it may seem that most high-end designers have little respect for religion, my experience is actually the opposite. While working for three different companies in New York, I encountered many Jews whose lifestyle standards covered a wide range but most of whom observed the Sabbath and held a high respect for God (or G-d as they usually print it, to show respect by never destroying an item on which the full Name is spelled out). I also encountered female co-workers who did not dress modestly by average standards but who initiated conversations with me that showed they were seeking God related to various issues in their lives.

If a fashion designer is male, there is a regrettably large chance that he is also gay, though this is not always the case. I worked alongside a number of people who were openly homosexual who grew to respect my own expression of faith through modest dress and conservative lifestyle. Many gays in New York are involved in religious pursuits, though they may doubt the power of that religion. While my life probably spoke louder than any words, I had a memorable chance to speak about my faith to one gay man when he asked me a specific question about the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac. I later learned that he had been raised a Methodist. Many people may not realize this, but a fairly strong number of Christians work in New York's fashion industry. The Models for Christ organization enjoys a strong attendance at activities hosted throughout the year in major fashion capitols of the world. A card with an expression of faith sent to any fashion organization may garner more respect than you think.

Abby's two blogs and the others listed here on our site provide a constant stream of modest fashion inspiration that should encourage shoppers of any age to know that style and modesty can co-exist. Thanks for your insight, Abby!

Mode-sty's Use of Social Media

Mode-sty networking with a multitude of followers

Zahra Aljabri, a young attorney from Minneapolis, Minnesota USA, has worked with her husband to establish a business to provide modest clothing with high style. She calls her business Mode-sty, pronounced MODE-e-sty, to emphasize the mode or modern element of her style. So far, she has worked with designers to offer discounts on modest pieces of clothing through timed, flash sales similar to Ideeli, but she would eventually like to have clothing made exclusively for her customers, since it is difficult to find modest clothing with the level of style she seeks. I first learned about Zahra's work through a personal email she sent through this site in 2012 and have since enjoyed several emails and a couple of phone calls to discuss her questions about style preferences and apparel manufacturing. What has most impressed me about her business has been the large number of followers she has gained over social media within just a few months. I asked her about her strategy and wanted to share her answers with you for the benefit of those who operate their own blogs or commerce sites.

Start with your personal network

Zahra said she had a large network of personal friends and said that she started by spreading the word to them. Common sense tells us all that this is best kept in balance, which I'm sure Zahra does because of the courtesy I have seen her use thus far in minimizing advertising emails. Most of us have had at least one over-eager friend or relative trying to make us part of a multi-level marketing chain. If you cannot afford or don't need a product, it is harder to break that news to a friend who is pushing it on you than to a complete stranger.

Greg Harris produces an excellent series of speeches called Family Business Workshop. My parents went to the very first workshop on this topic he ever held, back in the 1980s, and they brought back recordings of the sessions which laid an early foundation to inspire my work with the Fashion Belle business later in life. One of Mr. Harris' mottoes for planning a business is to select something that can succeed separately from friends and family as your only customers. He called friends and family a sacred circle that should not be intruded into for selling purposes. He highly recommends using family members as employees, but the customer base should be able to thrive outside of that circle.

I think this is excellent advice, especially when selecting the type of business you want to develop. Multi-level marketing programs seem to be the worst for exploiting family and friend relationships, though some people may be able to manage it discreetly. Manufacturing your own product or offering skills and services lends itself better to an expanded customer base. For my own purposes, I am keeping announcement of this website fairly low-key among my personal acquaintances. I may send out word again when each of the patterns in development launch. The traffic we are getting through Google alone has actually led some of my friends to this site who did not otherwise know about it!

Comment on blogs around the web

This is a longstanding technique that Zahra said she and her husband use to spread the word about their Mode-sty business. She acknowledges that it takes time, and her husband has helped with it. Google and other search engines rank sites highly based on the number and quality of backlinks, that is, the sites that link to your site. Many blogs have "no follow" attributes added to links that are posted in guest posts which will cancel any search engine benefit. However, it is still worthwhile to post links on blogs for the benefit of interlinking the web community. People who read another blog may find yours through a link you post in a comment. Be courteous and leave meaningful content, not just a pure promotion for your own site. Most blogs are moderated, and comments that provide a thoughtful commentary on an article are much more welcome than pure advertising links.

Follow people on Facebook and Twitter

Zahra mentioned the principle I heard recently from another Search Engine Optimization expert that if you follow people on Facebook and Twitter, they will often follow you back, increasing your brand's exposure. Facebook has a policy that brand pages are not allowed to connect as friends to others' personal pages. However, you can add a page to your favorites list or use a personal Facebook page to connect. A certain amount of risk comes in using your full real name connected to a business, so we here at Fashion Belle have chosen to stay away from the personal page approach. However, Twitter is more flexible and allows following of any type of other Twitter account. Posting links back to your website on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites is helpful in gaining followers.

Ask for feedback

Zahra has set up two phone conversations with me to ask about style preferences and manufacturing tips and has said she would like to call again in the future. She has mentioned talking to hundreds of people, so it is my impression that she has reached out in a big way to get feedback, both through emails and via phone. Her interest in my advice encouraged me to think of what I might want to ask her, which is how this article was inspired, by the advice she gave me on social media. She sent a follow-up email to say, "Also for connection online, ask more questions so that you can draw people out to comment."

Zahra's attitude is remarkable in a society where so many people think they know more than their neighbor and refuse to ask for advice. It is the wisest people who are willing to ask for advice and learn from it. A former pastor of mine said once that everyone has something to teach you, even the homeless guy on the street. I thought of his quote often when I lived in New York City to work as an apparel patternmaker and saw the homeless sleeping on the streets and in the subways in all temperatures throughout the year. Indeed, they were surviving on next to nothing in a city the rest of us consider one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. They were tough, and I admired their tenacity to hold on to life when life was hard.

Read more about Zahra's work at the following link: Fascinating and Fashionable: Zahra the Modest Clothing Entrepreneur.

Dolce & Gabbana Lead in Visual Merchandising

Floral printed dresses from Dolce and Gabbana Winter 2013 fashion show

(Photo credit: Dolce & Gabbana, Fashion Show Winter 2013, Woman) The study of best practices in visual merchandising has become a special area of interest for me in the formulation of plans for marketing Fashion Belle sewing patterns, both on package covers and possibly in retail fabric stores with a display of custom fabric. New York City's concentration of designer flagship stores offers a stunning introduction to what can be achieved through the use of construction materials, finishes, color and layout in visual merchandising within retail stores. While perusing these stores in 2008 at the end of my 18-month stay in the city for patternmaking work, the Dolce & Gabbana store at 825 Madison Avenue impressed me as my favorite. (Future visitors to New York should be aware that with the company's opening of a nearby location at 717 Fifth Avenue, speculation exists that the Madison store may eventually close). The interior design was not one that I would have naturally chosen, with expanses of reflective black surfaces, oversize chandeliers and gold accents, as my tastes generally lean toward light colors and simple fixtures. However, the Dolce & Gabbana interior offered a perfect balance of simplicity with luxury, and I felt transported into a world of modern luxury as soon as I stepped inside. Plenty of open spaces and a grand staircase kept the black from overpowering, and the chandeliers provided contrast to the remaining simple shapes.

Because of my impression of the Dolce & Gabbana store in 2008, I have since visited the company's website several times to see what I might learn about online visual merchandising. Over the past few seasons, the site has offered a burst of random photos on the home page, and links lead to a maze of other entertaining material. People who want to spend time enjoying the fashion experience probably enjoy the depth of the Dolce & Gabbana site layout, but shoppers who want to go straight to the products may prefer more direct navigation. During one visit to the site, I was delighted to find a beautiful collection of needlepoint florals inspired by Sicilian Baroque for the Winter 2013 women's collection. Two of my favorites are pictured. To view close-ups of the needlepoint florals and the handcrafted gold accents that define the collection, see the Dolce & Gabbana FW13 Womenswear Video Guide. While Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are far from being known as designers focused on modesty, they do produce modest styles from time to time, as is common among most designers at their level.

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