Sorry for the radio silence but I’m back again!
Where does an aspiring blogger and designer seek out inspiration? From a well-established professional of course! I met recently with Tracy Gold, a stylist, designer and blogger to chat all things fashion and I have to say I was blown away by her knowledge and her kindness. Meeting someone who has years of experience and is so open and willing to share her story has become a rarity in the fashion industry.
You’re a stylist, a designer and a blogger – where did it all begin?
I went to study Fashion Design straight out of high school, I loved learning how to create clothing, the industry itself I didn’t enjoy. It took me a while, I’m 43 now and so it took me until I was about 28 to feel ready to start my own business. What I discovered was that if I was going to do fashion that felt good to me, I was going to have to do it my own way.
For me, ever since I was a little girl, fashion was there to make people feel fabulous about themselves, but that’s not what the fashion industry does. In fact they almost do the contrary – they make people feel like they’re not good enough, beautiful enough but “buy this product and you will look awesome.”
I really had a problem with that, I found as I worked in corporate for a short while and I was asked for my opinion, I was often called into meetings because I gave my opinion. I didn’t fit in very well, I’m not a conformist, and as I do like the forward-thinking approach to things it meant I got into trouble a lot. I also didn’t know how to handle the business side of things and that’s so important because a lot of creatives don’t have a clue and I didn’t.
I mean I started and failed and started and failed, and so when I turned 28 and I hit a “I’m turning 30” crisis point in my life. The fascinating part was that I decided, I was working in sales at the time and I thought I’m going to work and I’m going to start this on the side. The thing is, we often think that we have to leave our jobs and start this career. I disagree with that, I actually think in most cases it’s a really good idea to test the market while you’re still working. It’s stressful because it means you’re working two jobs but it’s definitely is a safer option.
And so I started my collection and I realised I was a small built girl but I was struggling to find clothes as a woman, if I wanted to look like a 16-year-old then it was fine but I didn’t. I started on my collection and women would say to me, “I love it but I can’t wear that because I’m a mom now” or “I can’t wear that because my butt is too big” or so many other excuses. It made me realise that there was this massive inner dialogue that was happening and some of it was true but a lot of it wasn’t.
I could make beautiful clothes and I could make various different sizes but unless I taught women what they could wear it was not going to happen. I also was under this crazy illusion that women actually planned their wardrobes, because you know at the beginning of the season, I would look at the trends and pick the ones I wanted to adapt but no women don’t plan their wardrobes so I realised that I needed to teach them how. And that’s how I started my business, the Tracy Gold concept is not just about making a woman feel fabulous but also teaching them what they can wear debunking the myths and with that slowly my range grew.
When I started it was interesting because most designers, what they do is they create styles for one size (model size) and then they just grade it up from there. But that doesn’t work – because we’re based on sizes we’re based on body shapes. What I found was that I graded sizes and from there I found the changes that needed to be made.
I’ve been doing this since 2003 full-time but for a year and a half part-time before then. It grew but I had to close due to the recession in 2010 and start-up again but you know what, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Because the way I work now, I enjoy it so much more, I’ve kept it small and manageable and I have lots of fun doing it. When I started my business, I started networking with other people and other women who were starting their business and the whole ethos was make yourself redundant in your business. Well, that was great for then but when the recession hit it was no longer great. I credit it for what it was, it was a different world to now.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love the vlogging part of things, I really absolutely love it. It’s a lot more work than it seems, coming up with concepts and the actual filming is quite tiring some times. I love presenting workshops, I really enjoy that group energy. I do both men and women which are equally interesting but it’s so fascinating, I think specifically women feel like they’re on their own in this whole concept of disliking our bodies and then actually we realise that we’re not alone, we’re all in the same boat and it’s just about how you deal with it. I love designing, the production part not so much. I love designing clothes and I think one of my favourite parts is seeing a woman transform when I do make overs. When I see them really start to love what they see in the mirror because they’re wearing the right clothes. Especially when they thought it wasn’t possible for them and they see what is possible, that is incredible, that is truly the best part.
If you weren’t in the fashion industry, what would you be doing?
I think that I probably would have studied psychology but I’m not a very academic person so that would have been a struggle for me. But then I still within that would have needed to present workshops and teach. I get very bored doing one thing and the brilliant thing about my work is that I get to reinvent myself. I love learning new skills, I love creating new things and I really do love the business side of it all. A lot of creative don’t enjoy the business side but for me it’s very exciting.
When it comes to design? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I read a lot of international magazines, although I’m inspired by different things not just actual fashion, it could be fabric or a design or it could also be a feeling. A lot of my inspiration comes from my clients – a client will bring me a picture and I’ll create something that’s very different from that picture and yet it still works. So I’d say that predominantly my clients inspire me. However fabric is very important, I have to like the texture, the print, the colours, and I always look for colours and prints that are going to be fairly timeless and suit a variety of women. Because I have a very small collection, it needs to fit quite a variety of different body shapes so that does restrict me somewhat, I can’t go for structural things where it’s only going to work for certain people – it doesn’t make business sense.
And shoes. Shoes inspire me.
Would you say that your personal style aligns with that which you design?
I’ve been thinking about that, I think my personal style has changed a lot since I started and my personal style is quite a lot more edgy than my collection. I like pushing the envelope, like at the moment I quite like that Rock Chic/Goth Princess look. The dresses that I make generally to below the knee and they can always be made shorter, I always wear mine quite short because I am fairly short and I quite like my legs. I do design things that I like but I design a lot of what I think is going to suit my clients. What is exciting for me is that the same pieces can be worn in different ways, it’s not about creating a “Tracy Gold style” it’s about creating a “You style” using the collection.
Do you believe that there is potential for growth for the fashion industry in South Africa?
I think there is always potential, I’m actually one of those people who feel that South Africa is on the cusp of something major and I think we need to think that way. I think we have incredible talent here and I think we could possibly be an example to the world. I think what is challenging for us as designers is lack of really skilled labour here – I mean I remember what a nightmare finding seamstresses was, I only have one now and she’s worked with me from the beginning. I think there are also fabric challenges and we have very few designer importers and I think a lot of the local designers have to work from the same pool. I’m quite fortunate because my clientele like exclusivity and my price point is quite a bit higher than the average which enables me to buy expensive fabric which means I can buy from more exclusive places which I really like because it means not everyone is going to have them. I think that until we get to a point where we can either import more fabrics or find ways of producing our own fabrics there will still be those. But do we have potential? Hell yeah!
Would you say that South African designers rely too much on African heritage in their designs and don’t showcase enough international influence?
I think there are designers that do focus on African heritage and I think that’s amazing – I do think that’s because if they’re going on the international stage they want to stand out and what’s different about them? African heritage is different. But then within that, if you look at Marianne Fassler, she started very much that way but now she has her own signature look that is very her and that stands out on the world stage and is amazing. So she uses elements of that but she’s not restricted to that. I think we could afford to be a little bit more unique, as a whole design community, we could afford to design for different shapes I find it a little frustrating compared to when I go overseas and see as a South African what is in from a buyer’s perspective. When I take clients shopping, if baggy tops are in, that’s all you’re going to find and you can pay R2000 or you can pay R200 and you’ll still find similar things. For instance pants shapes, I mean come on, not all of us can wear skinnies! It drives me insane, because lots of women need to wear rather boot leg or wide leg and they’ll look fabulous but can you find them?
Talk me through the makeover process?
So we’ll have a chat, I want to know who they are and what their lifestyle is like and how they feel about their body shape. I also want to know what look they want to create and what their personal style is. I get them to come to me, because what often happens is “I want you to come see my wardrobe” and that’s not a good idea. I used to do that but what I find is then we end up getting caught in the stuff that doesn’t work for them and it just starts a negative spiral because then they’re depressed as nothing in their wardrobe works for them. Most women have an abundance of the same thing, so what I say is bring a few things that reflect your personal style and then I look at it and I can see straight away whether a wardrobe is lacking shape or is too much of the same.
Then I get them to do the mirror test, stand in front of the mirror and mention three things that they like about their body shape. Women tend to dress to cover the parts they don’t like rather to accent the parts that they love. So I teach them how to do that, and I use my collection as a tool, they’re not under any obligation to buy from it. I use it as a tool to show them, this is what works, this is what doesn’t and then we hit the stores. It helps them to know what we’re looking for, also if the items are not in store they’ve seen what they’re looking for. And so we buy things and put pieces together, I love it.
If you have any advice to give to someone looking to start in the fashion industry?
I think you need to do your research, I think you need to find your gap in the market and you need to brand yourself extremely well. It is a competitive market, I mean it get so many emails from people saying ‘I want to style’ and Cape Town is a tough place to do styling. If I only worked in Cape Town I would be poor, Johannesburg is a big part of my market but also I’ve been going for 14 years. If it’s something you’re very passionate about, I never say people shouldn’t do it but do your research – what do you need to earn and be realistic and if you can’t afford to just work on a salary like that then start doing it part-time and build it up from there.
I absolutely loved the opportunity to get to chat with such a great talent! If you’d like to read more about what Tracy does and book a makeover be sure to click on the link – www.tracygold.co.za
Also be sure to leave me a comment to let me know what you think.
Thanks, VB xx