Three lessons from the Startup Fashion Week business of fashion conference.

Photo by Jim Orgill

On Wednesday October 17th, Toronto’s Startup Fashion Week dedicated to supporting up-and-coming designers and brands, held a business of fashion conference consisting of industry professionals from across the fashion spectrum. This event saw designers, PR specialists, strategy specialists, social media stars and even a corporate lawyer, who dedicated their time to talk to an attentive crowd.

Any aspiring fashion entrepreneur knows the difficulty of starting fresh in this industry. It’s not easy trying to navigate the various challenges that these newcomers face while also dealing with the competitiveness in the fashion industry. However, when listening to first-hand experiences and advice on how to keep your head above water, everything seems a bit less intimidating. To make things easier for you, we have collected some of the evening’s key tips and tricks, and narrowed it down to the top 3 lessons that any fashion entrepreneur needs to know to achieve success.

#1 Branding

Rick Amaral from Jacknife Design speaking about Branding / Photo by Tyrone Mitchel

Branding is not simply a label on a sweater, but a story that gives your business life and value. When we think about our favourite brands, what are some of the key selling points that make us want to come back to the brand? Rick Amaral, VP of strategy at Jacknife Design shared his wisdom about successful branding to an eager crowd. Amaral emphasized how vital a brand’s story was to its relevance in the industry; good brands have a good story. Take the example of a simple white t-shirt. If you were to choose between two of these tees, other than the price, how did the brand speak to you? Perhaps it could be the ethics behind its production. Since we are now drawn more to products that adhere to our moral standards; if a brand claimed to have CSR (corporate social responsibility) as their main concern and stated that half the proceeds went towards the growth of a community in a developing nation, it would naturally equate to a higher value than that of a mass fashion brand. 

We never realize the impact of a certain brand’s story on our minds as we purchase products, until we explain why we prefer one brand over another. What then, makes for a good story? While there is no short answer to that question, Amaral Referenced the book ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek, mentioning the importance of focusing on the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’. In more tangible terms, Amaral explained that a successful story must be in service of a company’s reason for existence and must consistently convey those messages. Furthermore, to create a story that truly provides an impact on the minds of customers, a successful brand will include engaging content, consistency in tone, and transparent values that are at the forefront of their business.

2. Passion

Eni Buiron, designer of ‘Lulu et Gigi’ children’s couture discussing the importance of passion / Photo by Tyrone Mitchell

Passion is definitely a driving force when starting a new business. The greatest success stories don’t come from someone being partially invested in an idea. Passion is an obsession that runs deeper than one can explain. If you don’t find yourself waking up each morning with an eagerness to push yourself further and give it everything you’ve got, then you aren’t where you are meant to be. Eni Buiron, the designer of Lulu et Gigi, engaged audience members as she spoke about her journey to success and how passion was the underlying factor that allowed her brand to grow into the fabulous (and sparkly) company it is today. Drawing inspiration from your own life and using your passion to take you to greater heights is a lesson each and everyone of us can relate to- whether you are in the fashion industry or not. Passion is everything.

3. Looking at your business from every aspect

Jodi Goodfellow, founder and CEO of Startup Fashion Week closing speech / Photo by Tyrone Mitchell

The last lesson, but perhaps one of the most important, is to look at and truly understand your business from every possible perspective. While this may sound like something incredibly simple, it is much easier said than done. Jodi Goodfellow, the founder and CEO of startup fashion week, closed the night with some insightful knowledge on her own experiences with startups by sharing more than just a success story; a story of failure. Goodfellow bravely talked about her past experiences with a startup, and how the failure of that company led to a lot more passion, motivation and the required knowledge to create what is now the Startup Fashion Week (SFW). She touched upon all the areas that helped her develop her skill set and that you would need to think about when starting your own business; from networking to PR, and even financial literacy. Goodfellow emphasized the importance of understanding your business and what you need; like the marketing strategy that would be most effective for you, where to invest money for the type of business you are, how to approach your customer base and other aspects. This approach is aligned with the idea that what works for some, may not work for others. Ultimately, what has to be understood is that every move you make is a step towards the direction that you want to go- and not where anyone else does.

At the end of the night, every attendee took home something very valuable to think about and implement in their fashion careers and dreams. Whether you’ve had twenty years of experience or have just begun your journey, the Startup Fashion Week business conference is a perfect way to gather insight into the industry and strengthen your own business skills.

Infuse Magazine Editor in Chief Tess Morgan with Nikole Mutombo assistant producer for SFW Montreal / Photo by Jim Orgill

To learn more about startup fashion week please visit:


To learn more about Jackknife Design please visit:


To learn more about Lulu et Gigi please visit:


Written by Tess Morgan

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