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EFF SOURCE Fashion business success without compromise

9 September 2013

Setting up shop: Working collaboratively to increase reach

Contributor Jill Heller

PureThread collab

In her fourth column for SOURCE Intelligence, Jill Heller the founder and director of PureThread explores how collaborating with forward-thinking fashion designers and other key industry innovators helps to build up her boutique stylist and retail business.

Throughout my multi-decade career, by working with great designers, artists, photographers, graphic design teams, stylists, consultants, editors, publicists and countless companies, I have learned that entities in a healthy collaboration accomplish more than the group’s most talented members could ever achieve on their own.

Being open to collaboration has given me more resources – financial, skill, knowledge, energy, and more – than I have on my own as well as constantly stirring my pot of creative juices and offering the opportunity to build the professional and personal relationships I have come to relish.

I have been grateful for multiplied rewards of shared achievements, have enjoyed the benefits of when groups come together for a common purpose, as well as noted disappointment when group energy fizzles. That my professional life continues to be defined by one collaboration after another keeps me inspired and ever evolving in this self-carved career. The strategic alliances I have formed serve as a form of stability, bridging the gap between my small business and my big ideas.

PureThread, my boutique sustainable stylist company, is in some sense a collaborative platform for the many designers I work with. Each piece is valuable in the bigger story of what our company stands for, and the story behind each of our designers helps to enrich our work and the lives of those who wear the pieces.

Sometimes it feels like a team of individual athletes – like a swim team or a dance troupe – where each person has to perform to their best ability, but it’s the success of the whole that creates the real win. I depend on my designers to keep cranking out beautiful garments that dive more and more deeply into sustainability, and they depend on me to tell their stories and create a desire in the market.

Take, for example, PureThread’s relationship with designer Suzanne Rae. We are about to have our second event in which PureThread clients can connect directly with Suzanne, who will help the customers to learn more about her brand, creating an emotional connection with the pieces and building a personal relationship that is longer-lasting than when you buy something off the rack.

Suzanne Rae AW13 collection

Other similar collaborations have included exclusive product designs with SOURCE member and up-and-coming designer Titania Inglis and forward-thinking brand, H Fredriksson.

Based on a shared idea to create the perfect wardrobe essential for PureThread clients, Titiana Inglis designed a basic shell that can be layered under sweaters and blazers. With H Fredriksson, we worked together to create the Iris Coat – a comfortable, reliable, multi-use blazer which has quickly become a PureThread client wardrobe staple.

Titiana Inglis AW13 collection

Hopefully, too, these collaborative approaches have prompted my clients to ask more from their fashion. Forming this direct bridge between designer and customer is a big part of PureThread’s mission.

This coming November, PureThread is going to collaborate with Milan-based fashion materials library C.L.A.S.S. on an event in which we will invite specific New York area designers, ranging from small to large scale, to learn about the newest and most innovative sustainable materials that designers can use to create cutting-edge fashion.

In other ways, I am always working collaboratively to push forward sustainability in fashion. For example, I recently advised new sustainable fashion e-tailer Modavanti the lead up to launching. In addition to giving them some much needed business guidance, they also tapped me a younger market than I normally work with. It was a win-win relationship.

All-in-all, the effort in working collaboratively is more than worthwhile. The gains far exceed the amount of work you have to put into making the relationships useful. I am so grateful for all of those who have taken the plunge to work with me throughout my career, and am eager to continue building the collaborative PureThread community. There’s strength in building alliances; it’s about defining the standard you represent by the company you keep.

Jill’s Top 5 tips for making the most out of working collaboratively

  • It’s important to be able to connect with the right candidates so that concepts can be successfully built. Make sure everyone is on board with the very first task…commitment to the project.
  • Recognise when things start to go downhill so that you can problem-solve or step away before there is no solid ground.
  • Protecting a brand is sometimes complicated, so setting up brand guidelines is essential. But overall, the benefits vastly outweigh the risks.
  • Keep the conversations on-target and precise so that everyone is motivated to work to their fullest potential. Aim high.
  • A great collaboration often involves individuals with different and unique skill sets. Differences between partners creates exciting exchanges and often results in innovation, where each individual is challenged to move beyond their own perceived limitations.

About PureThread:

Each season PureThread presents a curated collection of unique high end fashion design by designers and brands who are addressing environmental awareness and social responsibility within the fashion industry.

About Jill Heller:

PureThread Jill Heller is a passionate tastemaker and trendsetter with expertise in the designer and contemporary fashion market. She always anticipates the waves of the future, both in fashion and in its greater context.

With small companies improving eco design and larger design firms starting to implement sustainable initiatives, her goal is to place more and more sustainable fashion – and the stories behind it – into the hearts and closets of her clients. Because Jill represents both the traditional side of fashion and beauty and the renewed ethics around protecting our world, her selections reflect a rare, discerning edit of the ethical fashion marketplace.

Jill launched a high-end boutique – On the One – in Westchester County,NY in 2003. Presenting her vision of clean sophistication by showcasing contemporary designer brands and merchandising the finest in casual luxury fashion, she selected special items from a diverse array of designers based on her taste level and intuition. The lifestyle shopping atmosphere fostered a unique connection with the customers as they discovered their own personal expressions of style. She is now ambitiously embarking on a new kind of bricks-and-mortar boutique focused on promoting exemplary sustainable designers.

Get in contact with Jill if you have a creative idea of how you or your company could collaborate with PureThread.

Read the last column from PureThread’s Jill Heller – What we can learn from Generation Y.

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