July 22nd, 2013 / posted by paularath

Jasmine, left and Bliss, right, photo courtesy of Amanda Stevens

Malie Moran and Hawaii Red Style did a beautiful job of organizing the Brand Strategy seminar held at the Kahala Hotel & Resort on Saturday.

Speakers were jewelry designer Bliss Lau and brand strategist Jasmine Takanikos. Jasmine, who is based in New York City, has worked with companies such as New Balance, Lululemon and Nike. She’s an island girl, coming from Whidbey Island, near Seattle. In a private conversation she talked about how easy it was for her to relate to Bliss because they are both island girls, regardless of how different their islands are. Interesting, huh?

I found what they had to say very helpful. I wish I had attended a seminar like this before I struggled with my fashion studio and business in the late ’90s!  In so many ways, social media makes it simpler for a designer to reach an audience. However they warned that the social media world is fraught with potential pitfalls and is frequently misused.

L to R: Jill Kuramoto of KITV, who did a great job as emcee, Jasmine, and me.

Here are some random thoughts from my notes on Jasmine’s talk:

  • Jasmine is deeply involved in color forecasting with the Color Association. Twice a year they determine what colors are going to be trending in everything from paint to fabrics to fashions. She said her take on colors is largely defined by her “emotional landscape” and whether she’s in love or in despair, happy or dour. She said the trends spring out of a “collective unconscious” among designers of all sorts, from interiors to intimate apparel.
  • Since color forecasters work two years ahead, she said we were among the first to learn that she’s forecasting colors created by storms and tornadoes, as well as sunsets and sunrises, will be trending in two years’ time.
  • Jasmine also anticipated that we’ll be seeing a lot of ovals as a shape in the near future. What can you do withe ovals?
  • Your offline world should feed your online world, not the other way around. And everyone’s online world needs to be curated!
  • There’s too much white noise online. Value = content someone cares about. Focus!
  • Everyone needs a TRIBE, a group that cares about your brand and is loyal to it. These are your allies in both life and business. Communicate to your Tribe and they will expand your sphere of influence.
  • “My network is my net worth. I don’t call people unless I’m going to add value to THEM,” Jasmine said. It’s not all about you.

Nail art is something Bliss hopes to grow as an adjunct business. During her talk she said she was recently contacted by her dream collaborator in the nail arena. She couldn’t reveal the company’s name…yet.

And notes from Bliss’ talk:

  • “Being a designer is about being vulnerable.”
  • “I am forever in a battle with gravity” when designing her body jewelry and determining how it will drape on the body and flatter a body’s shapes and curves.
  • Her process: To draw seam lines on clothing and then subtract the positive space.
  • “I stopped making handbags when I stopped loving handbags and made myself a body chain for fun.” Her segue into jewelry was a happy accident.
  • Bliss loves to ornament unexpected parts of the body in unexpected ways. She’ll create a chain to go over a coat, around an upper arm, or even under clothing (how sexy is that)?
  • She calls her current jewelry collections “sensual armor” that is “engineered for beauty.”
  • “The philosophy of my brand can change every season but ultimately I want you to wear it how you want to wear it.”
  • Although Bliss makes her brand look easy, there have been struggles all along the way. For example, with one collection, she approached 20 manufacturers to ask them if they could help her produce it before she finally found someone who could do it to her specifications. “Don’t take no for an answer,” she said.”Keep looking until you find someone who will make it for you.”
  • “Limit yourself. Give yourself assignments to simplify and solve design problems. Get more creative by giving yourself limits.” This, BTW, is the same advice given to me by my art teacher, George Woollard. He suggests, for example, using just three colors, or the same size canvas, or a particular format, until you tire of it.
  • Bliss believes that press is the most important sales tool you can utilize. She hired a publicist as soon as she could afford one – and it paid off for her. Her press material is always dramatic and arresting  (see below).
  • “In order to get press you have to design crazy pieces. In order to sell you have to design what people will wear.”
One message to designers was sent loud and clear from both Jasmine and Bliss: ” Advertising does not work. It’s just a waste of money.”

The seminar packet provided a series of questions that would be extremely helpful to an emerging business. Here are a few to stimulate you to think about your business, whatever it may be:

  1. Please list three of your favorite brands (does not have to be fashion specific).
  2. What is your definition of a brand?
  3. What is your design philosophy?
  4. Do you listen?
  5. What does it mean to step into your world?
  6. What do you want to tell the world with your work? How do you perceive the world? How do you wish to enhance it?
  7. Do you truly see others? Describe a day in the life of your customer.
  8. What we see directly effects our every moment, how does that translate into your daily research, experience and personal expression? Do you look for details in the world?
  9. What was your last creative thought? Where did it come from?
  10. What is your percepotion of your brand/company in the market? Who are your competitors?

– Paula Rath

Bliss uses drama in her press photos, which editors love.

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