when you trust your style, you're trusting your heart. welcome to my blog, a celebration of fashion, art and design + all the people who trust their own style.

- mary jo matsumoto

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saturday, january 23, 2010

the business of style: getting ripped off

every talented designer i've ever met has been ripped off. i'm not really planning to discuss the david vs. goliath syndrome, like the current case of carmen colle vs. chanel. it's obviously a serious issue, but for most of us, that's not going to be where the loss of an idea or a whole line, and the momentum, joy, and money-making that goes with it, happens. that said, my first brush with being ripped off was by a major couture house and it happened within the first month of being in business. it may sound strange, but i view it as a very fortuitous experience. a friend of a friend recommended that i use a broker in ny who would oversee the manufacturing of my bags in india. when i didn't place a large enough order, my extremely detailed palette composed of 20 unusual patchwork shades was sold to one of the most famous couture houses in the world and within 3 months, my patchwork bag was marched down the runway in milan. everyone who heard about it was horrified, but i was strangely elated that these designers thought my idea was good enough to put on the runway. the fashion veteran who'd made the introduction to the broker screamed at me to sue, but i took it with a grain of salt and felt lucky to learn within a few weeks of starting my business never to source my production anywhere that i couldn't physically supervise. to me it was a business of fashion 101 lesson and i didn't take it personally.

i recently met with a friend who's been trying to launch a lingerie line for the past couple of years. her designs are great and right out of the starting gate she had a big order from a large chain of stores. at the time, she was involved with a group of business students and mapped out how she got the account in detail with them. one of the girls in the group took her work, copied it into her own business plan and launched a competing line. as a result, my friend spent the past year trademarking every design, concept, and name in her line, completely depleting her financial resources in the process. when she talks about this experience, she's pained and refers to it as what "crippled" her business. in my mind, the issue is the confidence and momentum she lost. as cliche as it may sound, creative people are often very sensitive to the pain and betrayal of backstabbing, especially creative women not trained with a business school mindset of competitive gamesmanship. the good news is you don't need an mba to make your line work!

here's the thing--from the moment your designs hit the stores, they will be open game for anyone to copy. when you move to the next level and have your designs in a showroom where buyers come to place orders, the stealing begins even earlier. in my ny showroom there was one designer, we'll call her c., infamous for stealing from the other jewelry designers in the same showroom. i was friends with a lot of the designers and you couldn't walk out of the showroom to grab a coffee without hearing complaints about how c. had ripped off their latest design. the showroom turned a blind eye to the whole thing because c. made them way too much money in commissions. some of the designers spoke up for themselves and demanded that c. take their design out of her line. not surprisingly, the squeaky wheel designers who complained usually got the showroom to back them up.

in fashion, like any other industry, there's always going to be a c. who thrives on stealing from the best. my advice is to stay away from the c.s in life and do your own thing. by the way, c. did rip me off, but waited until i left the showroom. her imitation made it into one magazine but her version didn't have a long life in the stores. when you have a point of view in design that's coming from a genuine place, it translates into strong design. i truly believe that a copy that's not coming from that place doesn't have the same feel as the original. people can feel beauty and are attracted to the real deal, so don't get discouraged if you get ripped off, just keep honing your design voice. instead of stopping when you're copied, be prolific, because while someone may lift one or two designs, no one can copy a fully expressed vision of a designer that is continuously flowing. buyers with a good eye and successful track record with their stores recognize and reward strong design voices.

being ripped off sucks, it's that simple. you can't take it personally because not all people are emotionally invested in design like us creative types, and so for a non-invested person it might not be viewed as stealing as much as taking an idea and making a good product cheaper, more efficiently, etc. i think the best way to approach the concept of being ripped off is to use the sweet baby approach. as a mother, you do not hand your sweet baby off to a pack of wolves. good moms don't paddle out into the ocean with their newborn to swim with sharks--they carefully wrap their baby in a blanket and stay with them on the beach until they're old enough to learn how to swim. it's okay to protect your sweet baby, to firmly stand up for it, to speak out if anyone is trying to steal your baby. it does not mean you need to obsess about all the bad people out there trying to hurt it.

one of the best ways to care for your sweet baby is to take the legal steps to protect it. there are many books and resources available for free on the internet that talk about how to trademark and legally protect your designs. my friend cece of rock and revolution is now writing a weekly post with business attorney laurie butler, that covers issues dealing with the protection of artists against copyright infringement, trademark, intellectual property law, contractual obligations and more. i urge you to check it out! cece also recently posted a great link to an article on copyright laws that you might find helpful.

before i sign off, i wanted to announce that as promised, trust your style has teamed up again with uprinting to offer 100 4x6 postcards with full color on both sides to one lucky business of style reader! postcards are a great way to promote your business and i often carry them with me in place of business cards.

to enter, leave a comment telling me how you would use these uprinting postcards to promote your business. if you'd like to have an extra entry, sign up as a google friend and for another chance to win, sign up to follow trustyourstyle on twitter (the buttons are on the top right hand side of this page).

* the contest is open to u.s. residents only and uprinting requires that the winner pay for shipping, but it's very reasonable.

if you entered last week's business card give-away, you'll automatically be entered into this give-away, and if you haven't yet signed up to google friend or follow trustyourstyle on twitter, you'll get an extra entry (or two) if you do!

friday, january 22, 2010

happy friday!

it's friday! here are some of the things that made me happy this week:

1. when i saw yesterday that you make me happy sold in the craft hope etsy store to raise funds for doctors without borders for haiti, i was literally teary - that it works, that people want to support this project, that something this little could make me so happy!

2. my vintage perfume lockets are finally starting to arrive in the trustyourstyle shop. there's more goodies on the way--i can't wait!

3. i found a place to get involved in that i believe in. i hope you'll join me!

4. the switch over to green business cards, perfume labels, etc. feels so good! it wasn't hard!

5. this photo (ducks in sink via richard austin) and quote by eve ensler i saw over at leading lady: "cherish your solitude. take trains to places you have never been. sleep under the stars. learn how to drive a stick shift. go far away so that you stop being afraid of not coming back..." it made me realize that although i went there kicking and screaming (mentally) two years ago--what would happen if i left my fun life, all the nightly events, the front row seats at fashion shows, my friends...but once you get to that place you never wanted to be (in my case grief and the loss of my father) and just surrender to it and accept it, coming back isn't important any more. and that's when you can come back. never thought i would, but i made it back.

6. there's finally a place to talk to the people who are thinking about starting a creative/design business right here at trustyourstyle on saturdays + some of my friends who have run amazing businesses will be dropping by in the coming weeks to share their stories and advice. hope you'll stop by tomorrow (there will be another business-related give-away).

7. i'm actually keeping my resolution to support etsy more than ever this year--thanks to marie at blushing & sweet i saw this poster and had to nab it!

8. a few of these amazing & stylish metallic eco-friendly bags arrived yesterday--i love them!! best part: there's going to be a fab give-away next week of one of these bags for you!

9. you! your comments, the emails i get to exchange with you. the friendships i have that are so dear with so many of you. you make me happy!

10. the rain stopped this morning and the sun came out, if only for a moment.

so please tell me, what makes you happy this friday???


valentino prettiness lives on!

maria grazia chiuri and pier paolo piccioli were panned their first season out, not surprising considering their impossible task of walking in the giant footsteps of agostino valentino. i'm happy they're beginning to hit their stride with their spring '10 collection. not all of their big bows and ruffles work for me, but i'm a fan of their smaller detailing, the winged shoes philip treacy whipped up for them, and their shorter skirts. plus their orchid print is by far my favorite of the season! here's some of the pure prettiness that i always crave every season from valentino. enjoy!

all photos courtesy style.com

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thursday, january 21, 2010

red is {so} not dead!

again, the gray skies must be getting to me because all i want to do is lose myself in the pre-fall collections. there's been a lot of talk about the new direction at valentino, {more on this tomorrow} but all i have to say is that this red patent trench made me smile the second i saw it; i literally said yes out loud! to me, nobody cut a trench better than valentino, and to see it in valentino red is glorious. even more glorious, the update of patent leather, something mr. v. might not have done, which is why it's the perfect mix of old and new.

p.s. i'd gladly trade another month of rain for this trench as long as the lovely valentino frock below was part of the deal.

photos courtesy style.com.


wednesday, january 20, 2010

break for the wild & mocha loving

it's pouring buckets of rain here, so i find myself drawn to these new pre-fall 2010 giambattista valli designs. no matter how many times animal prints are done, a good one can always get my attention, and isn't his chocolate draped skirt below divine?

speaking of chocolate, i treated myself to a mocha coffee after my trip to the vet today. it was my first experience with a drive-thru starbucks--very convenient with a pet in the rain i must say. i always get a little stressed when i have a potentially sick pet, but the super nice vet people at huntington beach veterinary hospital made it completely worth driving on the freeway in the rain--thank you ladies!

how about you, how is your mid-week afternoon going? if you feel like a calorie-free chocolate treat, be sure to check out my new all natural cocoa truffle solid perfume over at my etsy shop or cocoa flora, which is another one of my favorites. oops, almost forgot to mention the new mini trio, for chocolate, coffee & candy lovers: that includes mini natural vanilla latte, cocoa flora, and you make me happy.

p.s. make sure to scroll down and enter the pretty bag give-away below!

photos courtesy style.com.


win a little valentine's cheer!

i'm so happy that today's trust your style give-away is such a sweet and pretty bag that cheers me up just to look at it!

yak pak has created the liberty bowler, modeled after the traditional bowling bag, to give heavy-duty hauling a stylish spin! the liberty bowler has a large external pocket, which hides two smaller pockets, a zip close, a large zippered internal pocket, and two petite internal pockets perfect for your cell phone or mp3 player.

yakpak has generously offered to give two lucky trust your style readers this pretty liberty bowler. if you'd like to win this bag, please leave a comment telling me why and if you'd like to have an extra chance to win, please follow me on google friends or twitter (for 2 extra chances). good luck!!

tuesday, january 19, 2010

is it wrong?

...that my mind has already skipped over spring 2010 and i'm obsessing over fall '10? the colors are vibrant, the cuts are bold. call me crazy but i can't wait for these new collections to hit the stores!

i wasn't able to get on the phoebe philo all-black minimalist bandwagon for spring, but man is her pre-fall 2010 collection with crayola colored shoes my cup of tea!

p.s. in case you missed it, my picks of best bags & prettiest dresses in the rain at the golden globes is over here.

i'll be back later today with a fun give-away, so stay tuned!


monday, january 18, 2010

please come in for a vanilla latte!

hope you had a wonderful weekend! since it's a rainy monday, and i always like to ease into the week with a steaming cup of coffee, i thought you might want to come in and join me for a delicious vanilla latte.

photo via rocks & daggers

hope you're in the mood for some decadent chocolate with that latte because today, not only am i introducing my new natural perfume, vanilla latte, as part of a sweet little trio of mini natural perfumes, but my first solid perfume, cocoa truffle, is also debuting in my shop!

i love the idea of a mini natural perfume set because it gives anyone who doesn't have much experience with natural perfume, a chance to begin understanding the beauty of this luxurious commodity without breaking the bank! the trio comes in a pretty organza bag with silver gift box, so it's a lovely little gift for yourself or someone special. in case i forgot to mention, this mini trio, like all my roll on natural perfumes is 90% organic/10% all natural. here are the scents included:

* vanilla latte, a wonderful combination of strong natural coffee essence softened with the delicious comforting and reassuring aroma of vanilla, a base note that will mix deeply with your body chemistry.

* you make me happy, a melding of the high licorice note of anise with layers of orchid-derived vanilla, benzoin, and peru balsam.

* cocoflora, a beautiful mixture of the creamy sweet note of ylang ylang and the complex floral chocolate notes of cocoa--it's a light, bright, and pretty scent.

there's a full description in my shop here. some of you have been asking me for a mini size bottle of my signature perfume, magical mind, and voila! it's also in the shop now, you can view it here.

i've been dying to introduce all of you to my new line of solid perfumes and today cocoa truffle is debuting in my shop! this one is really special, you can check it out here. in case you're curious, imagine the most luxurious chocolate laced with blood orange, and you have a glimmer of what cocoa truffle smells like. the interesting thing is that once it's applied, the scent is dominated by the elegant aroma blood orange with just a hint of creamy chocolate/earthy white truffle...

if you've been wondering about why natural perfume is so much better for you than conventional synthetic perfume, there's a short article here that does a really nice job explaining about the harmful toxins found in conventional perfume. i hope to have a downloadable pdf soon that will cover the basics as well as give some helpful tips about how to chose a natural perfume scent.

before i sign off, i just want to say that it's hard not to think about what's happening in haiti. i love what craft hope is doing by taking handmade donations for their etsy shop to benefit doctors without borders. in less than 2 days they're already raised $7,000! you make me happy is for sale here in the craft hope shop and if you order it, i will pay for shipping as i want all proceeds to go to the haiti relief effort. if you'd like to donate a craft to benefit doctors without borders, please go to crafthope.com to get involved.

you can also click over here, and $10 toward the haiti relief effort will be donated if you leave a comment.