Friday, June 14, 2013

Women in Creative Industries Speech

Hey guys! A few people have asked to hear/see the speech I wrote for my Women in Creative Industries High Tea presentation. Five women were asked to speak about their experiences in the Creative Industries and we were asked to discuss the challenges we faced as women in the industry, As I have never found any challenges specifically linked to any gender issue, I decided to talk about the challenges anyone (man or woman) would likely face in trying to establish themselves as young designers or anyone starting their own small business. Keep in mind I haven't really edited it and the speech I delivered did have some improve in it, but basically this is what I said. Yes, it does have too many commas in it to make sense as literature, but I had to put them in to remind myself to slow down and take a breath haha so here it a pic of my outfit :D
Blouse: Strummer
Skirt: Ask Grace
Tights: Ebay
Boots: Chloe

Good morning and thank you for inviting me here today. I’m Lexi Wittke from Evelyn Curtis, I’m here to share my story of my life in the Creative Industries. I graduated in 2010 from QUT, with a Bachelor of Creative Industries; Interdisciplinary, Majoring in Fashion and Minoring in Journalism. Since graduation I have been on a journey to develop and run my own fashion label, unassisted by any grants or loans, I have used the skills and experiences from my degree, to guide me in creating my business.

My story started in 2008 long before I had ever considered becoming a fashion designer, I was intent on becoming a fashion journalist as I knew I had a deep seeded love of fashion and a flare for writing, I couldn’t think of anything more perfect than a career as a journalist for Vogue or Harpers!

I never chose to be a fashion designer, but after a series of coincidental events it seemed like I had no choice but to follow the path I found myself on. I ended up getting involved in my first fashion show through a friend, whilst walking to the Library my friend and I ran into an associate of hers and he asked her if she wanted to be a designer in a show he was hosting, he then turned to me and without even introducing himself, asked if I could sew (which I could) and before I knew it, I had been signed up to my first ever fashion show as a designer!

 continued showing throughout my time at uni at different events, but it wasn’t until my final year at uni that I decided to launch the business. I registered my business name, got myself an ABN and launched my label as Evelyn Curtis at a Charity event held at The Marriott. I also begun my journey as a fashion blogger and started my blog “Take Off My Dress”.

2010 was an intense year for me as I tried to balance starting my own business, trying to finish my degree, working my casual job and keeping up to date with my internship at a local bridal couturier. My label was also featured in a magazine and showcased in several different shows that year, but it all proved to be invaluable experience.

2011 only got bigger and when I decided to host my own fashion show for the very first time. I launched Obsession. After being asked to PAY to be in other peoples fashion shows, I decided to create my own. I wanted Obsession to be a fashion show for the up and coming stars of Brisbane’s creative fashion world, bringing together designers, photographers, MUA’s and hair stylists and models. Everyone could participate for free giving everyone a platform to gain exposure and experience in a real life fashion catwalk show. Throughout 2011 I created and ran two Obsession shows as well as participating in charity events, such as Epic Ride Epic Fashion and I sponsored a charity event called Global Illumination, a charity gala held to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. As a sponsor I was given the privilege of dressing the host, Liz Cantor. I had previously provided a dress for her earlier in the year for an Oz Lotto appearance, and I jumped at the opportunity to meet her in person and create a custom gown just for her.

2012 brought about a new direction for the business as I realised that although I was experiencing some really fabulous things, it was time to get serious, and try to make some money from this little hobby I had now adopted to be my career. I started where many young designers did and headed to the markets. I participated in countless markets throughout the entirety of 2012, but the market scene was fickle and I was looking for something more stable to grow my business. That’s when I became interested in wholesaling and providing custom orders. Through the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 I was stocked in various boutiques including; Reverse Garbage, Handmade Highstreet, Hilde Heim, Elegance Plus and Principessa in the Valley, as well as doing custom orders for various clients. I was even lucky enough to be commissioned for a very special piece which was worn on the red carpet at the Arias.

This year has been a crazy ride with a huge spike in online sales, and I’m now attempting to master the art of social networking and branding, and slowly but surely it is coming together! I’ve now retrieved all my stock from the boutiques I was previously stocked in, due to the change in season, and I will be looking at expanding the label to Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast boutiques, as well as more online retailers towards the end of the year. This year has also brought about an increase of blogging, as my audience has now expanded to over 14,000, a dream that I never knew would come true. For me blogging has always been a creative outlet and I have always enjoyed writing so much, not only that, but it has helped to increase the online presence of my brand tenfold.

This year has also seen me launch back into event planning, and in May I held my biggest show yet. Passion Fashion Event was held at the GPO and consisted of 9 designers including myself, a jewellery sponsor and shoe sponsor, over 20 models, a full professional team of hair and makeup stylists, and a full team of photographers. Not only this but I put together a full new collection to showcase on the night and it was all organised in just 6 weeks. As insane and crazy and tiring as it all was, it was 100% worth it, but that’s not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of hurdles along the way. 

Being a woman in fashion has never felt as though it caused any issues and I can't say I feel as though my gender ever created more challenges for me, in fact, being a woman in fashion is possibly the nest thing there is, that said, there are so many things anyone, man or woman will face when it comes to starting your own business in the Creative Industries field.

To me, I think first and foremost, the biggest challenge you will ever face as a creative is always yourself. Being a creative you are always going to have to be the one pushing yourself and your brand, no one will just walk up to you and say “hey I heard about you through a friend of a friend of a friend of mine, let’s make you a successful business”. Unless you are somehow discovered or you really have a unique point of view, or you are fabulous at PR, when it comes down to it, your success depends entirely on you! You will have to be the one pushing your ideas to get through, pushing other people to support you and be the one driving the momentum behind your brand. That might sound daunting but trust me, I day dreamed plenty about some amazing fashion talent scout coming to one of my underground shows, seeing my potential and running up to me to tell me they want to make me a fashion star. Life isn’t a reality tv show, life is life!

And the funny thing about life, is that sometimes, whilst your busy trying to build your dream it can feel like you’re going nowhere, even worse, sometimes it can feel like you’re going backwards! But that’s just one of the challenges, you’ll have times when you see all your friends head out to party on the weekend, while you have to lock yourself in your sewing room because you’re trying to reach a deadline and think “this isn’t fair”. If you are in this position, I urge you not to work out how much you’re making an hour, this will only throw you into despair even more so, and besides, you do love what you’re doing, so don’t put a dollar value on it. I know that for me having little to no money spare is one of the hardest things about having a small business. I still have a casual job, but all my spare cash goes straight back into the business, this is pretty standard procedure unless you have an investor or get a business loan, but if you’re doing it for yourself, don’t stress, you can manage to keep your head above water, it just means you’ll have to sacrifice a little in these early days, but it will all be worth it later on. While all of my friends are jet setting off to Europe, I’m finding it hard to save because every time I do have spare money, I have already thought of a million ways to spend it on the business. Saying no to expensive nights out with your girlfriends at cocktail bars or saying no to that brand new dress is hard, but you just have to remind yourself it will all be worth it in the end! Your friends may not understand, and sometimes even your partners or family members won’t understand why you can’t just give up and go get a “real” job. Sure I would love to be working full time in a job that paid me several hundreds of dollars a week, splurging on new frocks and fanciful meals out with friends, but that’s just not what I’m in to. It will be hard for some of your friends and maybe even your partner to understand that your job doesn’t stop at 5pm, you don’t get to go home an vege out on the couch, or hit the wine bottle to fill in time, because you have emails to send, online shops to stock, shows to organise, patterns to make and clothing to sew! If you choose this life, be prepared to work harder than you ever thought you possibly could! Some days you’ll wake up and dread going to the studio, you’ll think shovelling a pigs pen would be more enjoyable than picking up your needle and thread, but you are the only one who can motivate you to get there, you are your own boss, and if you’re having a lazy day, you’re only going to be hurting yourself!

There’s just two other things I think are serious challenges in this industry, the first being that your life will become one of extremes. You will feel on top of the world when your picture is splashed all over the front cover of MX, but be warned, this “fame” comes and goes like the blink of an eye. It can be a challenge to stay relevant in your industry, but it can be even more challenging dealing with the fact that yesterday everyone wanted to know your name, and today your phone doesn’t even ring. If you keep it in mind that every success is a push in the right direction, the slow and quiet times won’t feel so hard to handle.

The last thing I’ve found a challenge throughout my career, is that you have to be very careful with who you let into your world, and who you share your success with. Although I’ve found success on many levels I don’t drive around in a BMW, and I’m certainly not doing this full time, needless to say, I’m not made of money. From the outside looking in, I constantly have old friends and people I haven’t spoken to in years say to me “it looks like you’re doing so well for yourself” and yes, I’m doing ok, but with every supportive comment from an old pal, just take it with a grain of salt. I’ve had people who were my friends stop speaking to me over business issues (mainly them not paying me for work I had been contracted to do), I’ve had people try to sue me despite them having no legal right to do so, but they were stuck in a financial bind and thought I would give them money, and I've made a few bad business decisions along the way. These are the little life lessons you learn as you go along. If you’re not sure about a business deal, take it up with a business manager, and whatever you do, don’t mix business with family or friends. Sure make dresses for your girlfriends and give them a little discount, because you’ve known them your whole life, but don’t get into business with someone, unless you’re sure they will work as hard as you will!

Now I’ve explained some of the challenges you might encounter, but it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Let me tell you about the positive side of being in the creative industries! You honestly do work in the best field there is! It is part of your job to be creative and innovative and make people smile with a product or concept that you came up with. They say when you do something you love you will never work a day in your life, and that is honestly mainly true. If you do what you love and what you have a passion for, even if you’re having a bad day, and your needle has broken three times, and your jersey knit is slipping and rolling, you’re still doing something you love. You’re not stuck at a desk daydreaming about what you wish you were doing, you’re living the daydream! One of my favourite things about my job, as I mainly work for myself, is that I keep my own hours, no doubt I’d still lock in a good 35-45 hour week most weeks, but it’s on my terms. I go to bed late and I wake up late, it’s my rhythm, and there aren’t a whole lot of places you can spend your entire work day, roaming around your house in your giraffe onesie after sleeping in till 9am, only to get up and play with pretty dresses and pyjamas all day. When I want something done I go and I do it, other than waiting for fabric to arrive, I know I only need to depend on myself to keep my business moving forward, and that’s a liberating feeling!

One of the most exciting things about deciding to take a creative path is that it’s so different to everyone else’s. The usual rules of go to uni, get good grades, go find a job, and work your way up just doesn’t apply here. Provided you have a strong work ethic and you’re willing to work for your success, you don’t need to know every fact out of a text book. You will be challenging yourself every day with new opportunities as you see them arise, and you will accomplish so much more than if you were sitting around working for someone else. You will surprise yourself with all of the things you can achieve, and when you look back at them, you will know you made it happen for yourself, because it’s what you really wanted and you worked hard to get it! You have to understand that the benefits in a creative industries job (especially something like fashion design, or anything where you work for yourself) don’t really work the same as if you were working in a run of the mill sales job. There are no bonuses and free Westfield vouchers, your bonuses come in the form of personal and industry relevant recognition. What I mean by that is, if you are into physically getting something to congratulate you on a job well done, you’re probably in the wrong industry. Our bonuses come in the form of a happy customer, or a personalised message thanking you for your time and dedication to a project. Your Westfield gift cards come in the form of your peers and your mentors patting YOU on the back and saying well done.

That is what drives us to continue to do what we do, and we might not have brand new cars, or the most expensive pair of Marc Jacob mouse shoes, but we have a feeling inside that fills us up more than any material object can. You can take pride in your work, knowing you made someone feel special because of your efforts, and you know that because those people will tell you! They will beam out all their happiness and appreciation of your work to you, and when you’re feeling a little flat or down in the dumps, it’s those times you will look back at, and it is those times that continue to motivate you to work harder and produce even better work! At the end of the day, if nothing else rings home to you, at least you can take satisfaction in knowing you are creating a career for yourself. I know that what keeps pushing me to work hard on my business isn’t due to someone telling me I need to, but the fact that I have a dream that I’m chasing, and I’m determined to reach it! So whatever it is that you want to achieve, go out and work for it, good things don’t come to those who wait, they come to those who go out and grab what they want from life! Good luck with all of your future endeavours and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to come up and ask me.

Thank you!