Photo by Graeme Mitchell

I’m not a networker. I don’t use MySpace, I don’t have a Facebook page, and until very recently, I wanted nothing to do with Twitter. Earlier this year, I left the comforts of designing a brand for a larger commercial company. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with my career, but I knew that my next venture would be entirely sustainable, somewhat conceptual, but most importantly, it would be all mine. Mistakes and all. When I accepted an invitation to show at The GreenShows during New York Fashion Week, I had only two months before the show and not one sample. One of my largest concerns was how to pay for the show and give a professional presentation that represented my aesthetic. I was then introduced to Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects. I gave myself less than 60 days to raise the $5,000 I guessed the show would cost me, and I immediately started networking.

THAT GIRL

Despite my antipathy to online social networks, I knew that these sites were invaluable to getting my message out to the public. Plus, I didn’t have the luxury of time to do it all through good old-fashioned face to-face-methods. I decided that if I was going to ask people for money to help me put on a show, I should also allow them certain insight into my work methods and my thoughts on the process. So I started a blog.

I’m not a networker. I don’t use MySpace, I don’t have a Facebook page, and until very recently, I wanted nothing to do with Twitter.

All of a sudden I was That Girl. I was blogging and tweeting every day while trying to design a collection. What I found was that telling people about my work was liberating, and the comments I received to some of my posts were not only encouraging but reassuring. It was therapeutic for me to hear from other sustainable designers who were experiencing the same emotions I was, particularly when I wrote about my insecurities about my work.

Study by Tara St. James Spring/Summer 2010 Collection

SOCIAL NETWORKING IRL

Designers are doing whatever they can to reach their customers directly and eliminate the large empty space that once separated them. I joined a co-op store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, last year that involves seven designers who take turns working in the retail space on weekends. Customers love meeting the designers while they’re shopping, and I don’t blame them. I’d be thrilled to meet the designer of a piece I was about to buy, as well. It’s invaluable to meet your end customers and hear what they want and need from their purchases, especially now that money has to be stretched so much farther.

It’s invaluable to meet your end customers and hear what they want and need from their purchases.

Consumers have begun to scrutinize every penny they spend on luxury items (and by luxury I mean non-food, non-vital items). They want to know that their dollars are going farther and doing some good. Instead of buying a shirt, they want a shirt that was produced by a women’s co-op from organic cotton. They want to know that their purchase is meaningful. I believe this trend in spending will continue long after the recession is over. Mentalities have changed.

Study by Tara St. James Spring/Summer 2010 Collection

A CHANGING DYNAMIC

This new relationship between the designer and consumer can only be a positive change. While Twitter, Facebook, email, and Skype are allowing us to communicate with the masses more quickly, in an increasingly shrinking world, we are rapidly losing our direct communication skills.

There was a time when you didn’t hit a key to purchase your goods.

Being able to meet our customers face to face brings us back to a time when you didn’t hit a key to purchase your goods—a time when we were able to ask vital questions pertaining to how and where the product was made, where the inspiration came from, and so on. These are the types of questions you don’t get to ask at large faceless retailers.

+ Study by Tara St. James

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