Fashion Networking – with Fashion Group International

This year, Fresh Collective’s CEO, Laura-Jean Bernhardson, took a position as a board member of Fashion Group International Toronto.  FGI is a global professional networking organization for professionals in fashion and related industries.  Their mandate is to provide networking and educational opportunities to support its members in growing their businesses.  The last Tuesday of each month is a different event to learn and connect with other professionals.

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Laura-Jean (left) shmoozing with Roger Gingerich and Ashlee Froese at FGI Toronto’s event “”Protecting Against Fashion Design Piracy” Breakfast Session.

In March, Ashlee Froese, a lawyer at Gilbert’s LLC, hosted an awesome event, “Protecting Against Fashion Design Piracy” Breakfast Session.  She presented a fascinating talk about how to protect your intellectual property; what can be trademarked and copyrighted and what can’t.

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FGI Toronto’s Co-Regional Directors Jessica Jensen (left) and Monica Mei, introduce the talk.

Co-Regional Directors of FGI Toronto, Jessica Jensen and Monica Mei have created the theme of “Think Big” for events this year, and 2014 is off to a great start with exciting monthly events and awesome networking opportunities to connect with established fashion professionals.

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Natalie Catania and Laura-Jean, co-moderators of April 29th’s event, Profit is NOT a Dirty Word.

FGI breaks the stereotype that the fashion business is cut-throat.  People at FGI are supportive, creative, open and ready to connect to see where mutually beneficial relationships can take root.  Business is all about relationships, and FGI events are the perfect place to start some new ones.

Come out to FGI Toronto’s next event!
Profit is NOT a Dirty Word:
Successful entrepreneurs share stories of what it took to grow their businesses profitably.

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Buy tickets here.

 

If you are a professional in fashion or related creative industries, join FGI Toronto and attend the monthly events.  You can find more info and join here.  Connections are made at FGI events!

Photos by JR Bernstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Letter From Laura-Jean

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Shaping our communities one purchase at a time

We all hear the shop local message, and I want to take a minute to share, from a local retailer’s perspective, the impact of that choice.

When you choose to spend your money with us instead of somewhere else, what you do is invest in Toronto’s neighbourhoods and culture- your neighbourhoods and culture.  These communities are a delicate ecosystem and they’re yours to shape.  When you come to get your hair done on our block, have lunch and then buy a dress, those stores stay in business one more day.  It’s that much of an impact.  And when lots of you do it regularly enough, we all stay in business another month and another year.  When you tell your friends, we thrive and the designers we work with thrive as well.

What that means for you is we can invest in more products, upgrade our store, invest in more exciting marketing to improve your whole experience with our business. Our designers can try new styles and materials.  It means next season, we have MORE great offerings for you and your friends, and you feel even better about how you look!  You dress better, you build your wardrobe, you land new big clients and you get a promotion!  You have more money and you come shopping more often!  Everybody wins!

That’s what drives us.  We’re there for you, and we’re grateful everyday that you love us enough to choose to spend with us.  We’re also hugely grateful when you tell us what you’d like to see or when we’ve let you down!  If we’re missing out on your business, we’d like to know why so we can choose more effective strategies in the future.

Once my husband was describing what I do for a living to a friend. He said, “She has these three stores, Fresh Collective, but there’s more to it than just stores.  It’s more like a movement.”

Yes, that’s exactly what I started.  It’s a movement to revolutionize the fashion industry for you.  We aim to provide you with gorgeous, amazing clothing and accessories so that you live the best life possible.  You feel so gorgeous and confident that you fall in love, you take your business to the next level and beyond and you make the world a better and more joyful place just by being you.

My goal everyday is to support our customers to have great lives.  And we are forever grateful that – two decades after I started out as a girl from Saskatoon making sweaters hoping to break into the Toronto fashion scene – you continue to shop with us helping to support our three stores, seven fabulous staff members, thirty five passionate Canadian designers and, by extension,  all our families and the communities we live in.  Your shopping choices shape Canada’s culture.

2014 is going to be an exciting year for Toronto communities and for what Fresh Collective has in store.  We look forward to sharing it with you!

Love; Laura-Jean and the whole Fresh Collective team

 

Style Profile – Sarah Couture McPhail

In our seventh Style Profile, we feature one of Laura-Jean’s best friends, Sarah Couture McPhail. Laura-Jean and Sarah have known each other for more than 15 years.  Sarah met Laura-Jean through one of the first employees of Fresh Collective, and then worked part-time at the Kensington store when it was still called Fresh Baked Goods.

“Sarah has always been among the most stylish women I know.  She effortlessly mixes and matches, and uses accessories in creative and fun ways to produce endless looks.  I feel like I’ve never seen her wear the same thing twice, but I know she pulls from her closet from past seasons and just makes things look new.

She’s an avid Fresh Collective shopper, and loves to find the unique Canadian designer pieces that make her wardrobe so special. Aside from being super stylish, Sarah is fun, amazing and incredibly kind hearted.  She is a mom of twin boys, an artist and active in her community and her school.

She’s the kind of friend who has great get-togethers, awesome parties for her kids and can feed you or find a glass of wine for you just because you popped in her back door unannounced. She shows up at your door with home remedies when she knows you’re sick and her house is the one all the kids just gravitate to in the summertime.  I feel blessed to have Sarah in my life and I wanted to let the world know how much I love her.

xoxox   – Love, Laura-Jean”

Name: Sarah Couture McPhail
Occupation: Mom/Artist/ Mastercrafter/Workshop Facilitator/Student
Age: I am trying to own 40
Lifestyle: Urban Political Artsy Mom – ya I listen to a lot of CBC Radio 1

Dress: Calamity Jane - Annie 50 $179.00Sweater: Yvonne Cardigan - Paper People Clothing. Regular price: $149.00 now 20% off $119.20Necklace: Curious Oddities $25.00

Dress: Calamity Jane – Annie 50 $179.00
Sweater: Yvonne Cardigan – Paper People Clothing. Regular price: $149.00 now 20% off $119.20
Necklace: Curious Oddities $25.00

What’s a typical day like for you? I am rushing. I rush kids and myself off to school; I run to the studio; I fetch errands; I work on Parent Council endeavours; and I cook up other community projects. I try to squeeze in friend time, quality kid time, and time with my partner as much as I can. This usually results in scrambling hard for a stretch, then crashing hard for a couple days.

What in your life is really important to you? So much is important to me, but my family and friends are paramount. My house is full. I like it that way. I am also very appreciative of the quiet time I get to spend at the studio I share. Without any doubt, I am fortunate.

Dress: Frill Dress - Desserts and Skirts. $165.00Shoes: Miz Mooz, past season from Sarah's own wardrobe.

Dress: Frill Dress – Desserts and Skirts. $165.00
Shoes: Miz Mooz, past season from Sarah’s own wardrobe.

What would you like to be remembered for? “I aspire to help build communities and create them where they don’t already exist.” That is a quote from my resume. More than that though, I would like to equally and wholeheartedly be remembered for being a good friend/ mom/ and partner. I would also like to leave behind some damn good art… since we are being optimistic here.

What role does fashion play in your life? Fashion has always been a special source of inspiration. In the past, I’ve really enjoyed conceptual dressing. Whether it be playing with a nautical look or rocking 70s librarian, I am drawn to the associations that clothes ignite. Dressing up is often like taking on a new character. Though I might not act like an 80s glam superstar, when I wear a metallic blouse with a belted harness (not as crazy as it sounds) I am trying to conjure a feeling. When it works, it puts a strut in my stride and nothing can go wrong. Today while I dress a little more conservatively (by my own standards), I am still drawn to vintage and vintage inspired pieces. I like structured and well made clothes that will last. I also like blending modern clothes with retro ones too.

What do you love about shopping at Fresh Collective? I have been a fan of Fresh Collective since the beginning. Finding clothes that fit me is not easy. Stores don’t stock for short and curvy people. I love knowing that the clothes I buy from Fresh are conflict free. I also love knowing that I am supporting local designers and fellow artisans. I hardly ever walk out of the stores without buying something, which leads me to avoid going in sometimes. But the clothes, and the skilled and helpful sales team at Fresh Collective never fail to draw me back in… often.

Top: Panel Tee - Desserts and Skirts $58.00.  Skirt: Dotted Pencil Skirt - Michelle Carey $96.00. Belt: Kimono Belt - Susana Erazo $185.00 Shoes: Lonna T-Bar shoes - Hush Puppies,  $100.00

Top: Panel Tee – Desserts and Skirts $58.00.
Skirt: Dotted Pencil Skirt – Michelle Carey $96.00.
Belt: Kimono Belt – Susana Erazo $185.00 Shoes: Lonna T-Bar shoes – Hush Puppies, $100.00

What do you have that you want to promote? Right now I am busy at school and doing personal projects, but you can always check out my tumblr, for upcoming workshops and events.

Is there anything else we should know about you? I am extremely uncomfortable “tooting my own horn”. In my line of work, it is unfortunately essential. This was a good exercise.  Thank you Fresh Collective for this and for being a positive place for women of all shapes, a reliable place for edgy/on trend fashion and an amazing gang of people. You all are extraordinary.

Style Profile – Michelle Carey

In the sixth edition of our Style Profile series, we feature one of our long term designers, Michelle Carey. Michelle has been selling her line at Fresh Collective for more than five years now, and it has developed into one of our most popular lines. Her Amy Dress is a perennial best-seller and her pieces are known for flattering fit, meticulous construction, and feminine silhouettes that suit a range of women and figures.

Michelle is a sweetheart and her nephew is the light of her life.  She visits him frequently and was thrilled to be able to wear the ring he gave her in her photos because he would be excited to see her wearing it.  Michelle sews every stitch of her beautiful garments herself, and is just one of the awesome designers who make up our community.  I’ve enjoyed every minute of working with this talented, dedicated, and lovely entrepreneur all these years!

-Laura-Jean

Name: Michelle Carey
Occupation: Fashion Designer/Business Owner
Age: 33 (as of Sunday March 2)
Lifestyle: Calm and quiet with little splashes of excitement so I don’t get too bored.

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Top: Adrienne Top – Paper People Clothing. Regular price $65.00, now $39.00
Skirt: Darcy Skirt – Michelle Carey. $96.00 (new for spring!)
Shoes: Michelle’s own.

What’s a typical day like for you?
Coffee, work, food, work. Some days I might actually go outside.

What in your life is really important to you?
My family and friends. Living a life I can be proud of.

What would you like to be remembered for?
Adding some beauty to the world.

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Top: Kate Chalet Sweater – Bernice and Barclay. Regular price $79.00, now $47.40!
Skirt: Marie Houndstooth Skirt – Michelle Carey. Regular price $180.00, now $108.00
Necklace: Magnifying glass necklace – Curious Oddities. Price $40.00

What role does fashion play in your life?
Besides creating it all day? Its ability to brighten my day. Putting on something cheerful and fun always makes me feel better when I’m having an off day.

What do you love about shopping at Fresh Collective?
Supporting my friends (the other designers.)

What do you have that you want to promote?
I’m currently working on a web store that, with any luck, will be up and running in a few weeks.

Is there anything else we should know about you?
I consider myself the costume designer in the movie that is my life.

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Dress: Amy Dress – Michelle Carey $198.00 (new for spring!)
Ring: Michelle’s own (a gift from her nephew).
Shoes: Michelle’s own.

 

Style Profile – Laura-Jean Bernhardson

Our Style Profile series is where we feature some of our fabulous outfits in real life, on real women. In the first of our style profile series, our CEO Laura-Jean talks about what she wore to a Rock’n’Roll show at Lee’s Palace.

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What to wear: Rock’n’roll show at Lee’s Palace

My husband, Steve Singh, worked with Brendan Canning for about 2 years on his new album You Gots 2 Chill (my favourite album title of all time!) and finally it’s done and the tour has started.  Steve is a music producer and all around musical genius.  The only instrument he can’t play is cello.  He also plays with Ron Hawkins in the Do Good Assassins as well as with several other partners on various projects.  Ok, like he is just awesome.

Their big kick off gig was at Lee’s Palace, and I had to deal with the what to wear dilemma.  I texted Joe, the leader at at Fresh Collective Roncesvalles, and said I needed a dress for a rock show and I’d be there in half an hour.

When I got there, I was skeptical when he pulled out the striped tunic from Studio Fresh, but he insisted, “It’s rock ‘n’ roll!”  and showed the jewellery he had selected – two bracelets from Burfurtart’s Ch-ch-chains collection and rings from Curious Oddities.

Yeah, ok, I got it.  Joe got me out of my pretty dress comfort zone and got me thinking like an “I’m with the band” babe.

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The outfit:  A-Symetry Tunic by Studio Fresh; $159; Look at me Spanx leggings, $80, Curious Oddities rings, $25, BurfurtART Ch-Ch-Ch-Chains bracelets, $65 each, Amelia boots, $268.

All available at Fresh Collective.

What I loved about this outfit, aside from how great, effortless and cool it looked, was the versatility.  I could wear the tunic to work, with a pencil skirt, with skinny jeans, belted or not.  Both bracelets convert into necklaces with an extender.  Each piece I got will be a great long term building block of my wardrobe.

I did dark red nails and lipstick, a messy ponytail and black eyeliner on top only.  Easy.

PhotoGrid_1384709308004-1Since my husband was on stage, I needed a date or two.  I called up my wogging partner/ex-boyfriend from 1993/ current lawyer, David Shiller, and my business partner at my other business (Rowanwood Daycare), Annie Chan, and we prepared to party the night away.

Oh, what’s wogging you ask?  It’s something I invented which is half-walking, half jogging and I force David to do it with me in the wee hours of the morning.  He grumbles and whines but I think he secretly loves it.

And, oh, ok, enough about me.  What was the show like?  Freakin’ awesome!  The band rocked!  Special guest stars galore!  I hung out backstage and got free beer!  I danced!  I stayed out past 2 am!

I saw old pals like Kevin Drew (who introduced me to my husband in 1998 – thanks Kev!) and Ron Hawkins as well as met new friends like the other-worldly voiced guest singer Daniela Gesundheit from Snowblink and the amazing Lisa Lobsinger.

This band is incredible.  Buy the album.  Go see the shows.  Check out all my pics from the show!  This is the future of music.

XO

-LJ

 

Love Letter From Laura-Jean

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One evening as we were winding down, my seven year old son Dexter got excited out of the blue and said, “Awesome!  The day after tomorrow is chocolate milk day!”  It was one of those gorgeous little parenting moments that brings tears to my eyes.  I just loved that he could be so excited about this little weekly treat they get at school, and that he looked forward to something so simple with such enthusiasm.

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That attitude stuck with me.  I really took it to heart, and started looking for all there is to celebrate in my everyday life.

Like most entrepreneurs, I still have my share of stress and worry about the juggling act that is my life and my businesses. I see how that stress and worry is just pretty much garbage.  Knowing that it’s garbage doesn’t make it go away instantly, but I can choose a different frame of mind in that moment.

Looking forward to chocolate milk day, metaphorically speaking, is a perfect trick to displace stress, worry or boredom and create a whole new way of being.  We all have tons to celebrate in our lives.  Really, tons.  Take a look right now in your life and see.  What is already there to celebrate?  And what could you create to celebrate?

For me, there’s my amazing business and the people in the community who help it thrive; the designers, staff and you, our wonderful customers – who all believe in this dream I made up 10 years ago – this is one of the best things on my list of things to celebrate.

I have Stuart, my little rescue dog, snoozing beside me as I write this.  He just sighed and snuggled a little closer. Him being this cozy and cute, and our family having found him to adopt is something to celebrate.

Today, everything worked out so that I could pick up my son from school and complete this blog from home.  His friend Jacob was coming with us, and entertained me all the way home with stories about how he is the only seven year old in the world legally allowed to work for money, but right now they just pay him in cookies (it sounds like he helps his mom at the restaurant she works at but it’s hard to know how accurate his story is).  That little joyous walk home with two boys is something to celebrate.

There has been some sunshine today after a lot of grey days.  I picked up some great cheese from Kensington Market which I forgot about, so I had a surprise awesome snack when I got home.  My mother-in-law’s pasta.  Wearing pink.  A call from an old friend out of the blue.  Brand new socks. Uninterrupted bubble baths.  Family game night.  Coffee dates with girlfriends.  Playing old records.  A Saturday matinee with my son… Once I start listing things, it’s hard to stop!

So really, anytime you’re bummed out, bored or stressed, just take a moment to look at what you have to celebrate.  Remember to create your own chocolate milk days, and then don’t forget to look forward to them!  Dexter may have just hit on the whole secret to happiness in his own awesome seven year old way.

XO

-Laura-Jean

Laura-Jean’s Holiday Love Letter

love letter copy copyEvery year around the holiday season, we hear a lot of women guiltily saying, “I should be buying for other people, but …” as they browse and buy for themselves.

I always joke around and say things like, “You can’t give to others unless you first give to yourself!“. This year, I started looking at this phenomenon a little more seriously.  What is it about women that we feel so guilty about doing nice things for ourselves?  So many of us, whether we’re moms, sisters, daughters, wives, friends or partners give and give all year round.

I’m thinking of my friend Sarah who contributes to her community in so many ways. She plans and runs events at our sons’ school, is on the Parent Council, does fundraising and organizes fun events for us all when we get together.  She’s also the one you can always count on for a thoughtful gesture, a hug or a glass of wine just when you need it.  She’s everyone’s emergency babysitter.  And she does it all with a smile.  She just gives and gives all year long to everyone who knows her.  Her friends, family and community are all so lucky to have her.

Then, there is my friend Jaclyn who can always be counted on for all kinds of amazing things.  When a bunch of her friends who didn’t know each other were pregnant or had babies around the same time, she started a monthly “Mommy Meet” group – even though she has no kids!  While we got to know each other and talked about the perils of maternity pants and diapers, Jaclyn loved every minute of it because she’s just so into her friends and bringing people together.  Seven years later, we’re still all good friends, celebrating birthdays and milestones and even though Jaclyn has moved out of the country, she makes the effort to visit often and stay in touch.  She also makes jam, hosts bike repair workshops and makes quilts for anyone she knows who has a baby.

I have many women like this in my life.  I’m sure you do too, and I’m sure you’re one of them – giving for the pure joy of giving all year round.

So, now, and I’m going to get tough here:  Don’t you go walking around feeling GUILTY about giving to yourself!  You go out and buy yourself whatever lovely treats you want this year!  You ask the people in your life for what you really want!

Think about all those great women in your life who keep your family running smoothly, who help take care of your kids, who contribute to your communities and who just make your life better and more fun by being in it.  Maybe they could use something nice this year too?

Now, of course, to make it easy, we have a great selection of presents at Fresh Collective. We have earrings, necklaces, nail polish sets and tights, all under $25.00, and we have our favourite gift, The Best Gift Ever.

The Best Gift Ever is a Fresh Collective Premium Wardrobe Makeover Service with a gift certificate amount between $250 and $1000. This means you or your favourite person gets a two hour consultation with our style staff, and the biggest and best gift of all, everything they want! Based on their body type, style, life, and work, we work with the recipient to have them look as stunning as they are. Our Best Gift Ever is perfect for the hard-to-buy-for person on your list. It’s The Best Gift Ever to request for yourself too – It means you don’t get a frumpy sweater from some chain store that everyone else has; you get YOUR LOOK. Picked just for you with the help of our Style Staff.

How awesome would it be this holiday season to have everything you want? How rewarding would it be for you to give someone on your list this holiday season, everything they could ever want, and might not know to ask for?

You can pick this gift up at any one of our three stores now. We love The Best Gift Ever and we hope you will too! Check out our Wardrobe Makeover Page for all the details on our Premium Wardrobe Makeover, which comes with The Best Gift Ever gift certificate.

 

Love Letter from Laura-Jean

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Editor’s Note: Read through to the end to find Laura-Jean’s giveaway for a complimentary Wardrobe Makeover!

Helping a customer during a Wardrobe Makeover last week, I saw a transformation happen before my eyes.

She came in looking like a 23 year old hipster.  Lovely, fun and awesome, but not necessarily someone you would trust with a $100,000 marketing budget or assume she could ensure a staff of 7 would get a project done on time.

A couple hours of her trying different looks in the change room and I saw her differently.  This cool and colourful young woman started to look to me like an Art Director with a capital A, a Marketing Manager or a Filmmaker who could make the film, on time, on budget AND accept an award for top grossing independent documentary.

It was a TOTAL transformation in who she seemed to be, and all this was in line with the career she wanted to create over the next few years.

I’ve built Fresh Collective over these years to provide women in Toronto a place to find the outfits that allow them to project the best version of themselves.  Like it or not, fashion is a language.  It’s like hanging a sign around your neck telling the world who you are.  When we think of it that way, what does your sign say? Is there something you’d rather it to be saying?

When we do a Wardrobe Makeover, we start with a Style Profile.  You fill out a quick survey that tells us about what your style preference is, what you want it to be, and what your lifestyle is like.  We specialize in awesome looks for real life. We know how to create looks that work for you and work with you.

We set an appointment to work with one of our Style Coaches who pre selects looks based on your style profile. All the browsing is done for you to make it easy and simple for you to find whatever you’re looking for. When you show up for you appointment, the fun begins.

Many women book a Wardrobe Makeover when their life is changing, but it can be done anytime, and the holiday season is a perfect time for women to use the service to find the perfect holiday wear.  One of the biggest advantages is learning what works and doesn’t, and having an experienced professional help you build a wardrobe that all works together.  Too many women experience that old cliche: “A closet full of nothing to wear.”

We help you make smart choices, choosing versatile pieces that work together, fit and are comfortable so you have fun creating new outfits and getting a lot of wear out of each piece.  We also help you stay focused on dressing for that life you are creating!

You’re newly dating and you want romance?  Dresses, fun and colour are what we’ll steer you towards!  The Wardrobe Makeover is time set aside for you to experiment with this new language of fashion and watch yourself transform in the mirror.  Women often surprise themselves, saying things like “I didn’t think I could wear this colour!” or “I usually wouldn’t try something this bold but I LOVE IT!”

Want to jump start your career?  A polished yet creative look positions you as a leader, a problem solver and someone who can be trusted to get things done.  We’ll choose the pieces to help send that message out into the world, everywhere you go.

Think it’s too expensive to build a fantastic wardrobe?  Take a look at your closet and add up how much you’ve spent on clothes you didn’t like, never fit right or didn’t go with anything.  We’re committed to wardrobe building- choosing quality pieces you love that you’ll wear for years to come.

Worried it’s too much work to look good?  I am the laziest dresser out there.  I have NO time to spend on primping and fussing.  I throw on a dress, a cardigan, a bracelet and boots and fly out the door.  With a son, 3 dogs, 2 businesses and taking classes in the evenings, I’m just like so many of our customers.  Each season our store staff take on making my life easy by putting together the perfect looks for me to get ready in a second.

If you’re in the market for the perfect holiday dress, or maybe the perfect wardrobe to kick off your career in 2014, I’ve included our style profile form for you to complete. We’ll pick three lucky ladies who have completed this form, to participate in a complimentary wardrobe makeover at any of our stores. We’ll notify the winners by November 30th.

If this sounds like something you want for yourself, please fill out the style profile and let’s get to work!

 

Talking Business With The World’s #1 Small Business Guru – Michael E. Gerber – Part Two

Our CEO and founder, Laura-Jean recently had the opportunity to spend time with her business mentor, Michael E. Gerber. In part two of the two part series, she shares the advice she received from Michael and the impact it’s had already!

Continued from Part 1

 Never, in all those years, did I dream that I would sit down and have a conversation with Michael E. Gerber about my business – about Fresh Collective – for almost an hour.  In this conversation, he just GOT everything I’ve been trying to do and articulated it in his magical way.

Michael meeting participants at The Art of Small Business

Michael meeting participants at The Art of Small Business

As I sat transfixed and reminding myself to breathe, I said

“Yes, this is everything I’ve been trying to do and build and create for the past five years or so and it just came out of your mouth.  I can’t believe it.”

He chuckled and said,

“That is the next thing for you to do.  That’s it.  The secret sauce.  And you will do it.  You can do it.  And you’re going to do it.  And I know the next thing you’re going to ask is ‘But Michael, how do I do it?” and I don’t know.  But you do and you will.  You’re a natural.”  *

Yes, he’s right!  I do know – and I will know.  That’s the next thing for me to do -and I’ve already started.

* (Quotes are approximations of what was actually said.  I didn’t take notes.  I mostly tried to not faint.)

Michael Gerber delivering his talk at The Art of Small Business conference

Michael Gerber delivering his talk at The Art of Small Business conference

 

As I was working on this blog post, an email came through from Mr. Michael E. Gerber himself, in response to a thank you email I sent to him through his assistant.  This is an exact quote, copied and pasted:

 “Bret sent me the delightful email you sent through him, and it was truly delightful.  As are you, Laura Jean.  The fire in your eyes betrays the vitality that lives in your heart and soul.  Share all with everyone unstintingly, Laura Jean.  Without fear.  Without self-recrimination. Without any limitations whatsoever.  Give them all the room to do what they so naturally do, and to be touched by you and your innocence.  Yes, innocence, Laura Jean. There is nothing more spectacular than innocence.

Love, Michael”

You see, what Michael understands about business that so few others do, is that for those of us who approach it with passion, with all our heart and soul and treat it as a purpose for living, as I do, that it really is an art, a creation, poetry.  It comes alive and through businesses that are created in this way, humanity is celebrated.

The business becomes less about the “stuff” that is bought and sold, and more about the how and why around the stuff.  Why is it there? How was it made or sourced and why? How is it sold?  How is the business a celebration of what is essentially human about living our lives on this earth in this time?  How does it bring people together?  How does it express love, joy and beauty?  So few business owners dare to take on these big questions, and yet, what an amazing inspiring world it would be if business owners did!

I’m curious.  What do you think it was that he – the world’s #1 small business guru, seller of 8 million books worldwide – said were my next steps?

What do YOU see as the next step for Fresh Collective to build into our business?  I’d love to hear what you see is there for us to work on. Please email me here with what your thoughts are! (select my name from the drop down menu).

XO

-Laura-Jean

Love Letter from Laura-Jean

love-letter-copy-copyPeople often ask us how we choose what product to sell in our stores. With the new, fresh, fall season upon us, what better time than now to let you know a bit of our product selection process.

First, our specialty is independent Canadian designers with a focus on Toronto based lines.  We carry boots, shoes, and tights from international brands so we can offer a complete look for our customers.

When looking for product, we really have your life in mind.  We know our customers well and are always looking for what’s going to work for the lives YOU live in the clothes.

For instance, when sourcing tights and leggings, we’re thinking about what you’re doing in them. We know you’re living big lives – going from daycare drop off to a client meeting to grocery shopping and back again…  Or working a full day, then planning your art show or new business launch at night…  Or maybe you’re finishing your PhD and working part-time while dating a hot new guy and training for a 5K run.  Our job is to pay attention to the quality of the tights, knowing that they have to stand up to your full, busy lives, and has to be a high quality, as to not run or catch when your dog jumps up.

WE KNOW!  It’s crazy, right?  And really, would you have your life any other way?

So that’s why we source cute dresses you can ride your bike in.  Boots that look sexy but you can walk all day in.  Soft and cozy cardigans that take you from the office to a date.  We look for comfort, practicality, quality AND great style, flattering cuts and awesome colours.  We seek out timeless shapes, versatility and pieces that can build a great wardrobe.

Then, we let YOU decide.  We try out lines based on our best instincts, and then we keep and expand on the lines that are selling.  Every week we analyze our best-sellers to see why they’re succeeding – what it is that you like about them – and then we work to replicate and expand on that in future choices.

We believe fashion should be easy and fun and support the big stuff you’re up to in life.  We do the legwork so you can be gorgeous, free, comfortable and look like a million bucks with ease.

And with that, I’d like to introduce two of the lines we’ve launched this fall; enCircled and burfurtART.

This fall, we were intent on finding pieces with “convertibility”, the ability to wear it more than one way and to provide our customers a versatile piece for your wardrobe that can last you season after season. Both burfurtART and enCircled fit this bill perfectly with many different ways to wear pieces in each of their lines.

enCircled creates The Chrysalis Cardi. We loved this piece because it can streamline your wardrobe, so you can maximize your closet (and suitcase) space, and make space in your life for other more important things, like travel, friends and family.

The many looks of the enCircled Chrysalis Cardi

The many looks of the enCircled Chrysalis Cardi

We loved that enCircled creates products thinking versatility first. Innovative design, iconic style. Sustainably & ethically produced, to give people more with less.

Kristi is the Chief Fashionpreneur of enCircled. enCircled creates ethical, sustainable and versatile women’s apparel, manufactured in Canada from eco-conscious fabrics.  enCircled’s first design, the Chrysalis Cardi is available at all Fresh Collective locations in Raspberry, Black and Cobalt. For more information, check out http://www.encircled.ca or follow enCircled on Facebook.  (http://www.facebook.com/getencircled)

Check out her most recent blog post here.

Salome is the force behind burfurtART. We love her line because it is as quirky and fun as she is, AND the ch-ch-chains collection sold us on the versatility. It can be worn as a bracelet, or a necklace with an extender. With two bracelets, you can increase the drama of the necklace for a real statement piece. It’s a collection that you can have for years, and add new ch-ch-chains pieces to refresh the look.

Laura-Jean modelling the pieces from the ch-ch-chains line

Laura-Jean modelling the pieces from the ch-ch-chains line

She told us in her own words why she does what she does:

“I know that I’m not the only jewelry crocheter in the world, and that’s cool. But I do strive to be as distinctive and unique as I possibly can.

 

I make, really and for true, one of a kind.

Everyone of my pieces are individually hand made by me, never to be exactly reproduced again. I’m not comfortable with re-making the same piece.

 

I use high quality stock, and buy small amounts of semi precious stones. agates, amber, carnelian, coral, jaspers, Canadian labradorite, pearls…I could go on forever.

These are but a few of the stones that inspire me.

As often as possible,  I strive to ensure that the piece you own fits you perfectly. When you wear my jewelry, you get noticed. When you get noticed, you feel good… When you feel good – I’ve done my job.

 

On a different note…

 

The first cat I ever had the pleasure of being an owner to, was wonderfully fun, charming and beautifully awkward. After he passed away, I promised myself that at some point in my life he would be honoured.

 

So, I named my company after him.”

You can read more about Salome’s journey to Fresh Collective here, and see pictures of her fantastic lines, including her convertible ch-ch-chains collection here.