The idea for The Femme Stories was born last year, but with any small business some ideas just have to wait. When everything started happening surrounding the pandemic I was PROUD of my friends and colleagues for how they were tackling these unprecedented times and I wanted to document that, these are their stories.
Heather | Dotty
I met Heather from Dotty at my first OOAK show, I was a baby in the “market” world and was grateful for the group of women I was surrounded by. This first show I just broke even paying for my booth and was slightly discourage. Thankfully Heather was there to give advice and encouraged me to come back, she reminded me this is a process and each show you learn, adapt and grow. Now I still go to her for advice, but also a good laugh because she is hilarious, and occasionally a couch to crash on.
During this crisis Heather pivoted really quickly to help her community. She donated her own scrap fabric, along with recruiting other designers to do the same. Between herself and the local factory she works, who were working from home, she got 1300 scrub caps and 7000 masks sewn for hospitals in the Barrie Area, plus has donated close to 2000 masks!
With OOAK being postponed and then cancelled how did this affect your business?
When it was postponed I knew that was the right call, and like a lot of us, I thought this would be over by June. I was worried, with it being pushed that people would already have the dresses they needed for weddings and summer parties, but felt confident my diehard clients would come out and support. As we all realized this would take longer to get under control and OOAK announced it was cancelling the Spring Show, I was ok at first, but mostly because I was in shock. When it set in that it wasn’t going to happen, it was a big blow, most makers heavily rely on the revenue generated at OOAK. For me, it is written into my yearly budget and this season I had decided to invest in lighter weight fabric which I normally don’t do, so it definitely has hit me.
With that said, were there pieces you were excited to have your clients see in person and are there any pieces that you aren’t moving forward with now?
The white eyelet tunic dress, it is the grown-up version of the cotton eyelet dresses we all had as kids. When I posted pictures of this design I got a huge reaction online, I am sad I won’t see customers try this style on in person. For my samples, there are ones that I am so in love with but without shows and stores to sell at, it makes no sense to move forward with these styles. Over the winter I had started selling with a local shop, Fresh Collective, and my pieces were selling like wildfire, and because of this, I was thinking if Dotty is selling great in Jan/Feb I better order up extra fabric for Spring to prep for OOAK as well. Thankfully I use a lot transitional fabrics, with OOAK being at the end of March, it is still winter in Canada, so I will be able to transfer these fabrics into Fall and even Spring for next year.
Before COVID did you focus on online sales or were shows a bigger sales generator for you?
Nothing brings me greater pleasure then hearing that cha-ching when I make a sale online! My pieces are great to ship, they don’t wrinkle, so it arrives to the customer looking the exact way it would look at the show. This past year I have been focused on my website, I hired consultants, worked on my SEO and upped my photography game by shooting each piece on different women. We all have such loyal customers and I wanted to give mine a way to buy Dotty in between shows and pop ups.
How has it been running your business on top of homeschooling your kids?
The hardest part is not having a schedule, we are all juggling our own things. The older kids are busy with their daily zoom school chats, my husband is working from home, and we both balance our work and make sure our youngest son is doing his school work and being entertained throughout the day. As much as possible I try and get a schedule organized for each day so we stay on top of it. Our two oldest kids help a lot, they each watch their younger brother for an hour so that I have time to look after orders that need to be shipped out. It definitely has been a team effort, we are all helping each other get through this.
How have you used social media to connect with your clients during this time of self-isolation?
This is another thing I have been working hard to get better at and be more consistent with. It took me awhile to get into doing Instagram stories, but I can’t argue with the reaction I get from them, clients feel more connected to what I am working on. With my newsletter I am more personal, these women are choosing to hear from me via email, it does seem different somehow. A few weeks ago, I was really missing my Dotty ladies, OOAK is our time to catch up, so I sent out an email asking how they were doing and told them what I was up to. I talked about my family, how we were coping and wished that they were all staying safe. I got so many responses, it felt amazing to hear from them, it reminded me that they want to see our journey. They like hearing from us and seeing what fabrics or buttons we are choosing. At first, I kept thinking they don’t want to see this, but they do. They want to see it all come together at the show and I know myself and my clients are missing that right now. So social media and emails has been huge to stay contacted with my Dotty clients.
Heather is a community ambassador for the Fashion District at OOAK and even though we jokingly bring her “our problems” to tease her about this, she would actually do anything to help a fellow vendor. She is a great representation of the Made in Canada Fashion movement and I am often lucky to be her neighbour at these events. Her energy, positive attitude and straight up honesty are infections and I can’t say enough amazing things about this woman.
Dotty is a womenswear clothing brand that has a classic fit. Fabric is all hand selected by Heather and she takes care to choose not only bold colours and unique prints, but also fabric that is machine washable and wrinkle free to make taking care of your Dotty Clothing easy and hassle free. Heather’s designs are all Made in Toronto and work for your real life, whether you are heading into the office or need a date night look, her designs will always have you looking great!
Don't forget to follow her journey on Instagram.