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Victoria "creatives" as entrepreneurs


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#1 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 07:01 AM

I thought I'd start a topic under "economy" for items having to do with artists and/or creative types running a business and making a living from their talents.

First up, an item from today's T-C, Fashion: Small space, big ideas[/url:12c29], by Sarah Petrescu:

Fashion: Small space, big ideas
Tight quarters haven't cramped the style of Victoria designer
Sarah Petrescu, Times Colonist
Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hayley Gibson-Day's fledgling fashion house is barely 300 square feet of perfect space-use. Three sewing machines, a steam iron, dress form and shelves piled high with fabric hug the wall. A Murphy bed folds into a closet to make room for a desk. And a design table doubles as thread storage in the middle of the kitchen.

This is not only the home of Gibson-Day's debut line, Birds of North America, but it is also her home -- one she shares with her artist boyfriend, cat and dog.

"It's pretty incredible that we can both work and live here without going crazy," laughs Gibson-Day, 28, looking around at the small, industrial layout of her apartment in the funky Mosaic building.

Like most budding fashion designers, Gibson-Day has balanced day jobs and making clothes to sell in various boutiques over the years. But to make the jump from part-time artisan to full-fledged fashion maven takes a different level of commitment.

"It is basically a lot of really hard work to get your name known and get orders," says Gibson-Day, who has a degree in fashion design from Ryerson University in Toronto and ran her own tailoring business for the past few years. "That's just to start. It can take years of personal investment."

First, Gibson-Day had to come up with the pieces in her first official collection. She sketched out dozens of ideas, producing several in muslin-cotton prototypes, covered in markings.

"I'm drawn to feminine cuts that accent the waist, bust and hips," says Gibson-Day. "I was inspired by vintage uniforms, nautical wear and like hard-wearing fabrics."

The result is six pieces -- four skirts, a jacket and a dress -- made in heavy cotton twill, in three colours and sizes. High waists, muted colours and tarnished buttons unite the pieces that are interchangeable as casual or formal wear. They will retail from $250 to $500.

"Clothes like these are not cheap in price or make, but they're still affordable. You pay for quality and originality, which is actually very popular right now," says Gibson-Day, who is already starting on her spring collection. Birds of America is available in Victoria at Addiction (587 Johnson St.) and in Vancouver at Block (350 West Cordova St.) and Eugene Choo (3683 Main St.).

Gibson-Day's goal is to launch the collection in stores across the country, to participate in Toronto and B.C. fashion weeks by next year, and eventually to have her clothes manufactured (locally, of course). While I was at her place, she had just been asked to have her line featured in the October issue of Fashion Magazine and was scrambling to FedEx samples to photograph.

However, she's not interested in having her designs mass-marketed or in major corporate stores. "I still want my line to be designer clothes, made in Canada and independent," says Gibson-Day. But can boutique fashion design pay the bill?

"Definitely," she tells me. "There is a lot of money to be made in this industry, especially when people look forward to your work."

A few months ago I spoke to one of Canada's most successful independent designers, Lida Baday, who started on a path very similar to Gibson-Day's.

Baday also graduated from Ryerson's fashion design program and was cautious with how she marketed her signature classic, modern clothing. She told me how she built up relationships with retailers, including Donna Anderson at Hughes Clothing (564 Yates St.), who is still a huge fan, and handpicked where her line appeared.

Almost 20 years since she launched her line, Baday's designs are a staple at Holt Renfrew, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. She has more than 50 employees at her Toronto fashion house and her collections have grown to include hundreds of pieces.

"My artistic vision and integrity has always been the most important aspect to what I do," Baday told me. These aspects are also key to Gibson-Day, who struggled to let go of a regular paycheque to pursue her dream in fashion.

"It was pretty much now or never," she says. "I'm willing to not have a lot of stuff and stability in my life right now to go after what I really want to do. In fact, now I can't imagine doing anything else."

- Sarah Petrescu's Ready to Wear column appears Tuesday in Life. Send your comments, queries and style suggestions to spetrescu@tc.canwest.com.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007
[url="http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/story.html?id=563c2280-db61-46a2-b2a0-ac2b21da5ed6&k=89441"]http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolo ... d6&k=89441



caption:
Gibson-Day's line emphasizes high waists, muted colours and tarnished buttons that unite the pieces.
Photograph by : Debra Brash, Times Colonist
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#2 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 09:39 AM

Another couple of "creatives" doing something entrepreneurial, as reported by Ross Crockford in Monday, July 25: [url=http://web.bcnewsgroup.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=117&cat=44&id=1032596&more=0:beca5]Netting an Audience[/url:beca5].

They're not making a living at this (yet?), but it's a hell of an interesting angle on the music industry, and should get our support.

Oh, and if you are an independent musician, you might check out Tim Bray's blog (posted Apr.8/07) on [url=http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2007/04/08/Misirlou:beca5]Misirlou[/url:beca5], as well as the amazing and ...well, amazingly cynical?, video called [url=http://axiomsun.com/home/video/no_talent_no_problem!_how_to_create_a_sexy_pop_star.html:beca5]No Talent? No Problem! How to Create a Sexy Pop Star[/url:beca5] (posted Feb.17/07). Watch and weep (or laugh out loud).

It's fascinating to watch "Sexy Popstar" in conjunction with the videos Bray points to, particularly the [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AJxc3Lxn4o:beca5]interview with Dick Dale[/url:beca5], "where Dick offers advice based on bitter experience that illustrates, were that needed, how dysfunctional the music business is." Added bonus, Bray also points to a 1963 recording of Dick Dale & The Del Tones performing [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIU0RMV_II8:beca5]Misirlou[/url:beca5]. Classic, just doofyliciously classic...

Watch the [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AJxc3Lxn4o:beca5]Dick Dale interview[/url:beca5] for sure.

Anyway, here's the Crockford/Monday article on Victoria's own local heroes in the "free the music industry" wars:

Netting an Audience

By —Ross Crockford

Jul 25 2007

It’s a perennial complaint, muttered by musicians in every town in North America. There are hundreds of bands here. But they don’t get any airplay on local radio, aside from the college station. Local stations should support local music.

Stephen Jaundrew knows the feeling. “I was talking with friends who have bands, and all of them were looking for a way to get their songs heard,” says the Langford electronics salesman. So he’s done something about it. Like many audiophiles around the world frustrated by the limited musical range of commercial radio, he’s started an internet radio station. What’s unique about VicStream.com, though, is that it only plays Victoria artists.

“Both of us grew up in Victoria, so we know there’s a lot of great music here,” says Scott Sommerville, a University of Victoria engineering student who’s Jaundrew’s partner in VicStream. So far 17 local bands have posted songs on the site, covering everything from coffeeshop folk to metal. As it’s currently set up, VicStream automatically plays each song, in endless rotation. But Jaundrew and Sommerville are looking at a creating a formal program with a DJ and request line, and even recording live shows in local clubs.

“It’s a great idea and I’m glad someone is out there supporting local talent,” says Stephen McCallum, lead singer of the psychedelic duo Goo, one of the bands on VicStream. “I just hope they have a few listeners.”

There certainly is a potential audience. Newsweek recently reported more than 50 million North Americans already listen to internet radio, using free iTunes or WinAmp software to access stations specializing in everything from gay news to Bollywood soundtracks. (Personally, I’m one of 60,000 online listeners with a computer glued to KEXP, a great Seattle station that plays independent-label music without the tics and quirks of college radio.)

But such diversity may not last much longer. Earlier this summer, U.S.-based net stations held a day of silence to protest new copyright fees demanded by the music industry, requiring $500 or more for an annual licence, plus extra charges per song per listener—a type of fee ordinary radio channels don’t pay—even though few net stations make any money. (Few have on-air advertising, which is another reason why they’re popular.) North of the border, the Copyright Board of Canada will soon rule on Tariff 22, a scheme proposed by the music publishers’ association SOCAN requiring net stations to pay $200 per month, along with other fees. If Tariff 22 passes, internet radio will become an expensive hobby.

“I’m doing a service here,” protests Mark Murphy, who runs his all-blues station RadioVictoria.net out of his Fernwood apartment, using the free audio-streaming program ShoutCast. “There’s no money involved, and I post links to artists’ websites where people can buy the music.” He keeps the numbers of listeners limited to five at a time—which includes fans in Europe and South America, although he often uses the station himself at friends’ houses so they can hear his record collection. “If they do shut [net radio] down, it will go offshore, like the old pirate stations,” says Murphy, grinning. “It’s made for indies, people who are never going to be part of the star system.”

To avoid copyright problems, some net stations create their own content (such as the all-talk RantRadio in Vancouver), or cut their own deals with musicians, as VicStream is doing. Another option is using the vast array of songs that musicians have made freely available on the internet. Gordon Stark, a writer who’s run his all-electronica station Synerdata.com from a downtown Victoria office since 1999, has built up a database of 17,000 such songs. “It shows you how much competition the major labels have, and how much good music they’re burying,” he says.

A net radio veteran, Stark wishes new ventures like VicStream luck, but warns that he spends up to 15 unpaid hours every day maintaining Synerdata’s seamless 160-kilobyte flow. Why bother? It’s a labour of love for a genre that doesn’t get much airplay, he explains—for him, it started in the 1980s, when he DJed an FM show in Saskatchewan, playing Kraftwerk for wheat farmers. “I guess I thought electronic music would take over the world.”

Maybe not, but judging by the fans in Synerdata’s guestbook—in Australia, Germany, Portugal, Russia, and Turkey—his Victoria radio station is reaching it.




caption:
Scott Sommerville (left) and Stephen Jaundrew have started a channel for artists they can’t find on ordinary radio
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#3 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 11:00 AM

well, amazingly cynical?, video called No Talent? No Problem! How to Create a Sexy Pop Star (posted Feb.17/07). Watch and weep (or laugh out loud).


I'm not weeping at all. I happen to like hot chicks in videos, and catchy songs. I couldn't care less how the music was made, it could be all done by robot for all I care. Most of the music-buying world agrees with me.
<p><span style="font-size:12px;"><em><span style="color:rgb(40,40,40);font-family:helvetica, arial, sans-serif;">"I don’t need a middle person in my pizza slice transaction" <strong>- zoomer, April 17, 2018</strong></span></em></span>

#4 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 07:02 PM

Dick Dale -- and did anyone click through on the [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AJxc3Lxn4o:05f7b]interview with him[/url:05f7b] that I linked to previously? hmmm? -- is going to be playing in Victoria. Yes indeed: the King of the Surf Guitar is coming to [url=http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/arts/story.html?id=7737f075-8491-4a55-b891-be48957e6acf:05f7b]Elements Nightclub[/url:05f7b] (formerly "Legends") on Wednesday October 3. Tickets are on sale now, apparently.

I'm going to cross-post the T-C article on Elements in the bars/ pubs/ nightclub section. Kinda interesting.
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#5 Holden West

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 07:56 PM

Great way to kick off a new era. About time they did something about those terrible sightlines.
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#6 Holden West

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 07:47 PM

UVic dropouts sell men's suits over the internet with help from abebooks.com founders.
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#7 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 08:35 PM

Wow! That's quite the "dream team" of angel investors they have! Very impressive... And the suit prices are pretty good, ditto the thoroughness of the measuring process. I also really like the website -- very clean, easy to navigate, no stupid gimmicks or flash. Great.

(Just to nitpick: Hannes Blum, Boris Wertz, and John Chase aren't the abebooks.com founders, and Eric Jordan founded Pure Edge then and now is all-around angel in the UVic tech/ business community, but as I said, that's just nit picking. It's great that they're doing this sort of backing/ investing...)

I'm dying to get myself a custom-made suit now!! :-) I think I'd look very handsome in a tuxedo -- always wanted one!
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#8 Holden West

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 09:32 PM


"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#9 Holden West

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 09:36 PM

DWELLING: SOCIAL HOUSING

Creativity needs a home
A new emphasis on finding shelter for the destitute is welcome, but threatens to obscure the need to support the people who will build tomorrow's economy


TREVOR BODDY

January 11, 2008

With our forestry industry in decline, and our real estate boom losing its steam, B.C.'s economic health will increasingly depend on its creative and cultural industries.

[...]

Cities change, and that is part of their appeal, but Vancouver's options are limited by geography and civic policies which have had the effect of promoting luxury housing over all other uses. The bitterest irony of all this is, of course, that new residents in these neighbourhoods would like nothing better than to have more artists, writers and software dweebs around them, or at very least, waiters and spa employees who could still afford to live in the core.

Bully for our provincial minister of housing and his cabinet colleagues that they are now building homes for some of our most desperate, but this is just a start. Social housing, as we once knew it, is a dead letter in British Columbia. We now need new private and public ideas - which we should label economic development, not housing investment - to spark affordable lodging and workspaces for those who shape our creative future.


"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#10 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 11 January 2008 - 09:41 PM

Thanks for posting that! (Boddy redeems himself.)

(PS: your link url has an extra http in it -- this should work.)
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#11 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 06:02 PM

Great article about Indochino (see Holden's link, 4 or 5 posts up in this thread) in the Wall Street Journal: Former Yahoo President Jeff Mallett Suits Up. Indochino started in Victoria a couple of years ago.

Jeff Mallett’s most recent investment looks like a million bucks. But the price really starts at $300.

This week, the former Yahoo Inc. president strolled into the Dow Jones offices in midtown Manhattan showing off the fruit of that investment – a metallic grey, custom-tailored suit, matched with a pink-hued, made-to-fit dress shirt and a stylish skinny tie.

The ensemble was the creation of Indochino, a Shanghai-based online clothier that Mallett believes could be a revolution in designer men’s suits. He’s investing his own money and a lot of time to help the company grow.

“People say, ‘Jeff, what are you doing with this dinky little Web company,’” Mallett said. “But I think it can be a big winner in a $7 billion suit market.”

It’s a strange investment for Mallett, who became the 12th employee at Yahoo Inc. when Jerry Yang offered him the job of president and chief operating officer in 1995. Mallett went on to lead the company to an IPO the following year and $1 billion in revenue.

After leaving Yahoo in 2002, Mallett turned to investing, particularly in sports. He owns stakes in Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, the Women’s Professional Soccer league and Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps. He’s also dabbled in Internet investments, such as Napster founder Shawn Fanning’s online music store Snowcap Inc., acquired last year by Imeem Inc.

Mallett discovered Indochino through his alma mater, the University of Victoria, British Columbia. “I always ask them to let me have first look at interesting ideas that come out of the university,” Mallett said.

This particular idea was styled by Kyle Vucko and Heikal Gani, who were students at the university when they founded Indochino in 2006. It started when Gani went to buy his first suit and had a terrible experience. He thought the offerings on the rack were boxy, ill-fitting, generic and overpriced. “He was in a small town and couldn’t find what he liked,” Vucko said.(*)

Figuring there had to be a better solution, Gani and Vucko dreamed up a business that would sell high-quality, custom-made suits for an affordable price to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. They traveled to China and found fabric suppliers and a textile factory willing to let them set up their own operation at a cheap cost. It was an ambitious endeavor for a couple college kids who knew little about the fashion industry.

To get off the ground, the company raised about $300,000 from Mallett; Boris Wertz, an Internet entrepreneur and investor and the CEO of W Media Ventures, a Vancouver-based venture capital firm; and Action Capital Partners, a Munich-based investor in Internet and mobile-based, consumer-oriented businesses.

And it seems Indochino has achieved what it set out to do. The biggest challenge for an online clothing retailer is offering a smart way for customers to purchase items without having to try them on. This is especially the case for suits, which require a high level of customization. Indochino attempts to combat this by offering 10-minutes worth of video that outline how to take proper measurements for the perfect fit. Customers get a suit specifically crafted for their frame, delivered to their doorstep in two weeks.

Indochino also offers a 100% perfect fit guarantee. If a suit is anything less than perfect, customers can take it to a local tailor and have it adjusted on the company’s dime, up to $75.(*) In the case a suit is deemed to be unalterable, Indochino will remake it. And, if a suit just isn’t what the customer expected, they can return it for a refund.

The suits, which sell for $300 to $500, are custom made based on personal specifications, including details only found on higher-end suits, such as pick stitching and a functional buttonhold on the sleeves.

Indochino releases new men’s suits and apparel every week. Each Indochino suit and apparel item is exclusive and in a limited run. Once a custom suit or product item runs out of available material, the product is replaced by a new, more fashionable product.

“This industry is so interesting,” Vucko said. “You put in your order in March for the Christmas season. That seems crazy. We buy fabric as we need it for the orders.”

Mallett calls it “fast fashion.”

“If we see something in GQ that we like, we can turn it around in 48 hours,” Mallett said.

The company also makes shirts, ties, jackets and coats. While Mallett and Vucko declined to say how many suits they’re selling, Vucko said monthly sales have more than tripled since January and June was a record month. One of the biggest telling stats about the company is that currently about 35% of the orders are repeat customers.

“I tell them not to worry about failing,” Mallett said. “Worry about success. If we fail, all it costs us is a couple rolls of fabric.”

UVic has turned out some pretty good talent. I didn't know that Mallett is an alumnus. Add to the list - off the top of my head - Eric Jordan (formerly PureEdge, now president of the Premier's Technology Council), Mike Tan (of TeamPages), and Stewart Butterfield (Flickr, now Tiny Speck).

It's depressing, though, that Vancouver sucked each of them in (exception: PureEdge was sold to IBM; otoh, the Premier's Technology Council is Vancouver-based even though the provincial govt is based in Victoria). Victoria can't seem to retain talent.

(*) btw, I've always said that shopping in Victoria leaves a lot to be desired. At least the frustration produced a great new start-up, I guess...

(*) Another note: there's something wacky about the prices we pay here. Recently, the husband asked a tailor what it would cost to shorten sleeves on a dress shirt (and I know from my own sewing experience that it involves removing the cuff, cutting the sleeve length, and re-attaching the cuff). The answer: $45. The tailor said it takes 45 minutes - the fee is based on $60 p/hour.
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

 



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