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December 20, 2014 11:21 am

9to5Hell Interview: Breaking Into the Fashion Industry

From ballet to finance to being a stay-at-home-mom, Cara Cerutti Holmes isn’t your typical fashion designer. Cara studied professional ballet in college and worked in finance for 8 years after then. After her company made budget cuts, she decided to stay at home and raise her kids.

Cara’s product, FUCHSIN AVE is a garter purse for fashion forward women. The garter purse idea was 10 years in the making. Nine to Five Hell chatted with Cara and she shared her journey of breaking into the fashion world.

How did you get the idea of the garter purse?

I always had an idea for garter purses and went back to my clubbing days. I remember one time going dancing with my girlfriends and I left my purse on the table next to me and it was stolen. I thought, there has to be a better way to carry the essentials without the ugly cross shoulder bag or fanny pack. Nothing really came out in the market. 10 years later, I’m playing the park with my son, I was holding my cell phone in one hand and keys in my pocket, trying to go down the slide, and take pictures. And I thought the same thing, I needed a garter purse.

I really wanted to be fashion forward and functioning. I always tell people it’s Lara Croft meets Coco Chanel. I really wanted something that’s meant to be seen.  A woman accessorizes with her favorite handbag and what she’s wearing that day. So I wanted something that was like that. You can wear the garter purse with your leggings or pair of shorts or the pool in Vegas. It’s really versatile. It’s really intended for a woman whose got the confidence who can pull it off.

pack

Oh hell no.

How did you turn your idea into a product?

I can’t sew whatsoever. I sat down at the kitchen table with colored pencils and came up with designs. I didn’t have lots of money or investors. So I looked into the community and got creative. I approached a fashion design school and obtained an intern who got a few prototypes going. I used a lot of local resources and read a lot of books about entrepreneurs, branding, prototypes, trademarks and patents. I have a provisional patent on the garter purse so no one can steal my idea.

One of my favorite books that walk you through the entire process of bringing a product to market is The Mom Inventors Handbook. It has nothing to do with being a mom, it’s really practical, provides resources and website. It’s where I found my manufacturer.

What’s your advice to someone breaking into fashion?

It’s important to have a solid vision. I took all of my ideas and put them all on paper. Even though I didn’t have a product or photo shoots done.. Put all of your ideas into a look book and it’s easier to approach people with your plan and where you want to go. And people get excited about being part of projects.

How important is networking?

I was able to get associated with Phoenix Fashion Week through meetup.com. I started going to those networking events once a month where I started meeting photographers, models, and the director of Phoenix Fashion Week. And then when my product was ready, I took my product and was one of the featured accessory designers at the fashion show last year. I was able to get the product on the runway. The more that you can reach out and feel the vibe and figure out where you want to be in the fashion industry. Bartering is awesome. Whether it’s trading photographer services where you can offer babysitting for the next year. Or you can offer web design. My husband helps me barter. You have to get creative.

Where do you find your inspiration?

It feels good getting feedback from a customer and hearing, “I’ve never been able to find something like this before.” Or it help solve their problems. I have one customer that uses her garter purse to carry her diabetes insulin and syringes. It feels good to help someone solve a problem. Anything that I can do that makes it easier.

Any other advice?

You just have to jump in. One of my favorite quotes is,  “There’s no such thing as perfect, there’s such thing as good enough.” If you’re waiting for everything to be perfect and waiting for an entire fashion line that’s ready to go ,by the time everything’s perfect , someone may have already passed you up. But if you want to start a headband line, put yourself on Etsy and just get started. You’re going to find these lessons learned in the beginning steps anyways. It’s about keeping going, that’s the hard part. The fashion industry is not glamorous, it’s hard work. You’re going to have another source of income. If this is the source of the income, it’s going to take away from putting money back in the business.

Check out Cara’s fashion accessory line at fuchsinave.com

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