FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: What Passage of 111 Really Means for Austin Fashion

AUSTIN, TX (August 7, 2014) After years of grassroots efforts from all levels of the fashion industry, the Austin City Council unanimously secured the future of the local fashion scene with the passage of a measure on Thursday. 

When most people think of fashion, they envision things like fashion week, when venues all over town host runway shows with scads of models with artistic makeup and hair, or perhaps they think of fashion designers they see on Project Runway.

This measure, 111 as it was numbered on the August 7th city council agenda, is the city’s official initiation of its support for the backend of the industry — apparel manufacturing — and all of the economic growth that comes with embracing an artisanal uprising, as seen with the city’s endorsement of Austin’s thriving live music and culinary industries.

What the passage of resolution 111 truly does is recognize the establishment of what is now called the Fashion Industry Council of Austin — a group of various industry professionals that include designers, stylists, photographers, etc.  including all the glitz one normally associates with fashion. However, the Industry Council’s main focus in its efforts with the city is the establishment of its subsidiary apparel and textile coalition, which will oversee an eventual fashion district with an emphasis on apparel manufacturing and creating and bringing jobs. This organization will be known as Textile and Apparel Manufacturing Industries Coalition of Austin (TAMICA.)

TAMICA’s concrete goals primarily include securing an actual space for a fashion incubator, as seen in cities like NYC, Portland, Chicago and Detroit. Having earned an exclusive audience with city councilman Mike Martinez last week, Nailah I. Sankofa brought together dozens of individuals representing the various segments of the apparel industry in our city to draft a resolution to bring a collective vision to reality.

The efforts do not end with the passage of 111, though. “The City of Austin has to be steered into the direction we envision,” says Sankofa, whose vision began in 1987 before moving to Austin and has led the endeavor to develop a fashion incubator since 2009, “and that can only happen with clear goals — funding, space, visibility and a unified effort.”

Councilman Martinez has been actively working with Sankofa and TAMICA to obtain real estate for a brick-and-mortar location for a fashion incubator, with the hope of carefully transitioning its surrounding neighborhood into an Austin Textile and ApparelDistrict, complete with retail, studios, and educational outlets. Martinez is helping the group look into mostly easily-accessible, city- or county-owned spaces, but TAMICA is open to any centrally-located space in the community that will have the flexibility for such a multi-faceted purpose. 

Adding to the goal of establishing a central location, the city will be working to provide seed funding for TAMICA, as well as the industry at-large. The end result for the city’s population, and the magic words that the council undoubtedly considered when they voted unanimously for 111, is that these efforts will create jobs– middle income jobs and training for skilled workers, filling in the missing piece in our community’s employment growth and giving a stronger footing in our city to an otherwise diminished population of our national workforce.

Nailah I. Sankofa is the founder and executive creative director of Runway Underground (operating under the auspices of Diverse Arts) which has been operating as a launchpad for various Afrikan Diaspora-centered fashion and cultural artisan productions — notably NTUMA’PA, the apparel production mentorship and education workroom-studio on East 11th Street, which has major support from the Austin Revitalization Authority. 

Sankofa is an Akan Adinkra word from Ghana, West Afrika symbolizing the edict “returning to the past to claim what is yours, carry it to the present and move forward with it.” Nailah is Kiswahili for “one who succeeds,” fitting perfectly with what she has achieved for her industry and the goals she leads the effort to attain, now with solid support of our city government. 

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A Dip in the Creative Well

artmarket-butterfly babe hortense

“Hortense” by Stephanie Rubiano, seen and enjoyed at Art-Xscape’s first Art Market. She uses real (humanely harvested) butterfly wings in her work.

I haven’t done much since I left the fabric business at the end of January. Wait, that’s not true, I’ve done A WHOLE LOT, just hardly anything related to fabric or fashion. Well, actually, right after my business folded, I attended the glorious Essential Oliver brand launch fashion show, put on by my friend Tash Mahal. It was a smashing collection that blurred the lines of gender-based fashion and incorporated themes such as urban vs rural, white collar vs blue collar– really it was one of the freshest and most wearable collections I’ve seen on an Austin runway. Practicality won over pure concept. Well done.

And then there was South by Southwest. Ah yes, I should mention, I’ve began working for Neil Diaz PResents sometime in February, going back to my post-college experience doing public and media relations and event promotions. As you can imagine, SXSW is ripe for that kind of work, and boy were we busy. Yet, at times, we found ourselves pleasantly surrounded in networking contacts, the best people to know in the industry nationwide and internationally, and not feeling the urgency one usually feels to drop business cards and pitch ideas. It was the most productive, yet refreshing, SXSW I’ve ever experienced.

In March, I also began my efforts as public relations chair for Austin Travis County Integral Care (or ATCIC, formerly known as our local MHMR)’s fundraising arm, New Milestones Foundation. More on that later.

Oh yeah, and I’ve started a vegetable and herb garden… and also have become a full-time stay-at-home mom. WOW. Yeah. That’s kind of a big deal.

Underlining these last few months, however, has been an unrelenting depression. This bout, unlike my usual up-and-down cycle of depression, has been a steady low, dipping way down from time to time only to come back to long lasting dregs of sadness, self-pity, and low energy. Losing my own store has been hard, y’all– much harder than I anticipated. There’s a giant mountain of retail quantities of fabric jammed into my husband’s office, making it almost impossible to access his computer and completely impossible to use as the guest room it was intended to be. I’m at a loss for what to do with all of it, and I seem to be resisting every urge to dig in and clear it out. I keep telling myself that I have a trunk show in late April/early May, and I can do something about it then, but here we are in April and I’ve done nothing to sort out what stays in my personal stash vs. what goes on the sales table at Cloth Pocket (my awesome buddy Nicole’s new craft fabric shop.) It will certainly be an emotional journey when I do start in on that task, and I’m emotional enough as it is.

I’ve been fighting bitterness, anger, resentment, rejection, etc., and even though things are going beyond expectations working with Neil, all this amounts to being creatively dormant. Every time I even hear the word “fabric” I cringe and feel ugliness in my heart. What could cure me of this?, I wondered.

About two weeks ago, I received a phone call from Amy Nelson of AnLina Designs, leader/curator of Art-Xscape, who needed to utilize our services to promote their first ever Art Market, to go on along side their long weekend retreat, being held for 4 days at a hotel in south central Austin. We took it on and got them some great presence in the print and online media’s calendar listings. It was well-attended, and all of the booths there made money selling art, which is great for a first ever show of that kind.

Amy Nelson of AnLina Design's dolls. Art-Xscape's dollmaking workshop is in July 2014.

Amy Nelson of AnLina Design’s dolls. Art-Xscape’s dollmaking workshop is in July 2014.

What struck me being present at that event is that the participants, most of whom were there to teach or attend the retreat as well as sell at the market, were having a great time. Making their art, creating, collaborating, and learning were bringing them such joy and energy. The Art Market itself fell on the final night before the last day of the retreat, yet all of these artists were eager to make conversation and meet new people. At times each of the booths were juggling multiple conversations, inquiries, and transactions, and there were smiles all around. These artists were truly at home and at peace.

I envied their creative bliss so much. Looking at these wonderful people bustling and hustling, I felt a seed sprout in my heart. I need to get back to what truly moves me– fabric, craft, fashion, all things handmade. I have no excuses anymore. Depression is not even a good excuse. In fact, using my hands to make things again could even be the cure for what’s been holding me down.

Artist Cathy Taylor from North Carolina exposed me to the unique effects of alcohol-based paints at Art-Xscape's Art Market. These were class examples at their concurrent retreat.

Artist Cathy Taylor from North Carolina exposed me to the unique effects of alcohol-based paints at Art-Xscape’s Art Market. These were class examples at their concurrent retreat.

Post-event, I had a great conversation with Neil Diaz himself. He could tell I’ve been feeling low, while doing a great job hiding it with tremendous productivity these last few months. As we both have been becoming more involved with New Milestones’ event planning and promotion for their Bridging the Gap gala in November, I’ve learned a great deal about removing the stigma from mental illness, and that has to start from within. Depression has a strange way of convincing oneself that they are unworthy of help and at the same time pathetic for needing it. As we all know, depression is a liar– a really believable liar, but a liar nonetheless.

Yesterday, I called a close, safe, lifelong friend who has no attachments to fabric or fashion, but won’t mind the aesthetics of the job, to come help me tomorrow. We’re going to scale fabric mountain and reclaim it in my name again. (This may result in some new listings on my Etsy page again, too. Stay tuned on my Facebook page.)

The big pay-to-play scam that is Austin Fashion Week marches onward with little-to-no resistance beyond myself and the rest of the outraged fashion maker community, and while I refuse to pay a dime toward its exploitation of the fashion designers in our city, I do plan to support a few rogue events by attending where I can and (gasp) maybe even modeling in one of them. Let it all be more fuel for my creative fire, as well as for the Austin fashion scene at large.

The REAL Secrets to Small Business Success

Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge that yes, my small business Fabricker is closing the retail chapter of its overall business identity. In September 2013, the store joined forces in one (Fabricker’s) location with a couple other businesses, Stitched Fabrics and Lilia Ballí Tailoring to form Austin Fabric Co-op– a concept that enables those who want to make their own clothing or buy their clothing locally and direct from the maker. My partners joined me in my current lease to mitigate overhead costs and relieve all of us of the grueling 60+ hour, 6 day weeks we were suffering under our own separate roofs. It worked great!

…Until both the other businesses, now profiting more than ever, felt the need to expand their space and diversify their service offerings, because with all the growth, we were indeed starting to feel rather cramped. For a number of reasons, including a lease I’m still locked into for another year, I got cold feet at the thought of investing even more money into an expansion, including moving and essentially starting over. Even worse, I couldn’t imagine going back to carrying all the overhead of this store on Fabricker’s finances alone, and going back to the schedule of one day off a week for everything that needed to happen for my family, like lawncare, housecleaning, grocery shopping, and just plain togetherness. On top of that, while Fabricker has been somewhat profitable, all of the profits went into reinvestment, making me an unpaid volunteer for two years and counting. Forming a co-op allowed me to work part time and at least bring in a small income on the side, but never in an amount that would offset full time childcare. Without the co-op, I didn’t feel like going onward, alone again, back to square one. Without the business, I could return to some semblance of personal income and financial self-preservation.

So what gives me the authority to tell anyone what small business success looks like? Well, in the experiment known as “small business,” no matter the outcome, you get let in on a few very real secrets. Allow me to share them with you.

1. There is more than one way to measure success.

Financial worth seems to be our society’s way of measuring the value of everyone and everything, and many including myself believe this mentality is a widespread illness. There are so many ways in which my business and any other’s can be a success without making money.

In the life of your business…

  • How many times have you made someone’s day?
  • How many times have you saved someone’s ass?
  • How many times have you gotten someone back into a long-neglected hobby or interest, that now gives them joy again? Acquainted someone with a taste they’ve never experienced, or reacquainted someone with a flavor they thought they’d left in their past?
  • How many people have you introduced to one another? How many partnerships, friendships, and relationships have resulted from those introductions? What’s the sense of community you’ve created? Lives you’ve permanently and positively changed?
  • How much impact have you had on the culture of your neighborhood? Your industry? Your city and state?
  • How much have you learned about your trade?
  • How many credentials have you gained?

Opening a store, while profitable, didn’t make me money, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have value. Conversely, closing a store, while still profitable, doesn’t mean it failed. There are pop-up shops and restaurants all the time that exist with a limited expiration date, which creates an urgency among patrons and a freshness in the execution of their concepts. I admit that I never planned for Fabricker to close, but I did always hope to hand it off to others. In a way, I have. Austin Fabric Co-op is an entity that wouldn’t exist without Fabricker… or me! (I came up with the name.)

In these two years, I’ve forged countless friendships, formed a true community (and a venue for it), shaped the identity of the fashion industry in Austin (perhaps even Texas), won a “Best of Austin” award from my favorite local publication, was featured regularly in several periodicals, and on and on and on. How is that a failure?

2. Humble thyself.

When you’re first starting a business, you have a dream. In fact, you have big dreams. You see that big 5 bed, 4 bath house listed on Zillow? That’s going to be yours someday, with all that money you’re going to make with your brilliant idea and your fail safe plan.

NO, STOP. Please get real. They say you dislike in others the very things you hate about yourself, and this is precisely why I cannot stand to listen to untested entrepreneurs talk, because that was me two years ago.

“I have a degree and lots of experience.” “I am filling a niche.” “I am following a trend bigger cities have caught onto.” “I have capital, funding, savings.” “I have a sizable fanbase begging me to make it happen.” “I have a business plan with no spelling or punctuation errors.”

Other than your product, you cannot really sell any of that for money to recoup your investment. If your product is weak, undeveloped, low in stock, low in quality, hard to profit from, none of those “assets” you think you have at the beginning amount to anything except a radically inflated– and immediately deflated– ego.

Newsflash! Being an entrepreneur, no matter how good your ideas are, doesn’t automatically make you the special snowflake your mama always thinks you are. It doesn’t entitle you to easy cash, media recognition, or even a consolation prize. Time and effort MIGHT yield that for you, and don’t even for a moment hold your breath that it will.

3. The motivational posters can be bad advice.

Go for it/Just do it? Unless you are truly more prepared for failure than you are for success, please don’t.

Hang in there? Kitten, if you would just let go of that damn branch, you’re probably going to fall on all four feet and walk away to find yourself some kibble.

Everything happens for a reason? Maybe that reason is you needed to file for bankruptcy to evaluate what’s really important in life. Are you eager to learn that lesson?

4. You don’t have enough money.

You never will. The game is rigged that way. Thanks for playing!

For some reason we are sold this ideal in the movies that the best way to get rich and improve your life is to open a business, which is total bullshit. It’s more like joining the Peace Corps, “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

5. Don’t go it alone.

Find a partner. Enlist professionals. Hire employees (if you know you can afford them.) Delegate tasks to customer fans who are vested in seeing you succeed. Whatever you do, don’t try to be a hero and wear yourself out trying to be a one-man-or-woman show. You’ll find yourself a few months later disconnected from all your loved ones, trapped in a store or office prison for days on end with wonky bookkeeping, questionable legal practices, and unchecked messaging.

6. Don’t make promises (or announcements) you cannot keep.

Don’t “fake it until you make it.” That’s the worst advice I’ve ever heard.

Don’t make grandiose plans and sell them in your marketing/publicity efforts, at any level, until the dotted line is signed. Nothing worse for your credibility than saying you’re going to do some big thing, like opening a new location, taking on a big new client, expanding, etc., and then DON’T. Didn’t you read “Boy Who Cried Wolf?” No one believed that kid and he got eaten. No one will believe you either if you talk yourself into your own personal tall tale, and people (read: clients) will either avoid your proven dishonesty like the plague, and others (read: competitors) will relish in your failure to deliver or worse, profit from it.

7. Your competitors can be your best allies.

…Unless they’re totally insecure and have trouble dealing with humanity, in which case, good luck to them, because they’re going to need it going up against you, oh great entrepreneurial superhuman!

My co-op came about as a result of having a competitor up the road who sold similar, yet different, fabrics with just a little overlap. People came to us looking for what they sold and we didn’t sell, and we sent them there. They, in turn, did the same. Our relationship became key to their success, so much that I even got flowers from them on Valentine’s Day! When they saw an opportunity for us to partner even closer, we all wished we’d done so from the beginning. Now that they’re taking the business onward, a part of me wishes I could share in the journey. If we had done so from the beginning, I wouldn’t be nearly as burned out and cash poor, and probably would be seeing this through. It’s nice to know that, on some level, I will stay involved, and I can always say I was there in the beginning. None of that would have happened if I treated them like an enemy.

8. You are not your business.

Don’t take ANYTHING in business personally. I may slip up from time to time, but never refer to your business with the pronouns “I” or “me.” In this way, you never verbally and mentally tie the results, bad or good, of your business with yourself. Your clients to some extent buy into your identity when they buy from your business, but ultimately, it’s really about your product and the actions you took to deliver it, not you as a person. Besides, the big idea is that the company grows, and that you eventually  expand or even sell the thing. Then you really cannot refer to your creation as yourself, any more than you can call your natural born child “me.” If the business closes, fails, reinvents itself or otherwise ceases to exist, you are still here.

And so, here am I. My next move is to stay at home with my daughter and work from home as a publicist for a team who primarily deals in events with a substantial fashion clientbase. Public relations is one of the many hats I wore as a business owner, but something in which I also have work experience. Part of the job of being a publicist (a good one anyway) is being a business consultant. Knowing what I know now about business ownership has greatly enhanced my ability to market a client. We’ll see how it goes. I will definitely let you know.

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The Making of an Impossible Dress

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(Before I begin this post I should acknowledge that this will be my first since I have reclaimed the term “Fabricker” for myself as my personal brand and not the business I once owned. The retail shop, now known as Austin Fabric Co-op, exists on its own plane, with my involvement, sure, but not entirely on my shoulders. For that, I am exceptionally grateful to those who made the transition possible. You definitely know who you are. ~AKM)

Michele was one of those best friends one has in junior high who awakens the fun of the teenage years– the secrecy, the stifled laughs, the swapped wardrobes, and oh the shopping. (So much shopping! At THE MALL, of course!) Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, we were reunited a handful of years ago and reconnected to find so much and yet so little had changed.

When she learned more about what we’re doing at the shop, making fashion about making again, she asked for help with a very unique gift that came with very fun and interesting challenges.

Her co-worker and dear friend was obsessed– OBSESSED!– with this image she saw on Pinterest of what was basically her dream dress. Observe:

original pinterest

Try it yourself! Try to find where that image originally came from. You will find yourself in an endless loop of Pinterest hell, going nowhere. Not even Google Image Search can help you. So if you want this dress, there’s really no way to find out where to get it.

Michele, being the amazingly sweet and generous friend she is, decided to commission us to make it for her friend, who has one of those birthdays that falls so close to Christmas that it would otherwise be ignored, except that, from what I gather about this lovely woman, she’s the type to somehow combine the two occasions into this giant event greater than the sum of the two. (She’s so incredible a person to warrant the commissioning of such a wonder of a dress, so this is what I imagined about her, which has subsequently been confirmed.)

The added challenge? We are in Austin, Texas. Michele and her friend both live in Colorado, states and states away. No fittings! No measurements! What were we to do? Well, Michele had this genius idea to collect measurements from all of the co-workers so they can track their progress through a series of races, because they all are way into fitness and marathon running in the Rocky Mountains and stuff like that. Are they certifiably crazy? No, just delightfully extreme! So intense!

We tried in vain to find a pre-bejeweled fabric, and found nothing. Lilia Beaman, the tailor partner of Austin Fabric Co-op, made it clear we’d have to make this fabric if we couldn’t find it, and that she wasn’t particularly interested in sewing all that detail work. It would take hours. I confessed that I was actually hoping I’d be trusted to make it myself. The challenge excited me. Lilia was surprised to hear it, but cautioned me how long it would take, and then, with a twinkle in her eye, offered to help me make it happen in any way she could.

We waited for the big Black Friday sales at all the craft stores to clean up on all their sew-in jewels and sequins. Lilia took the north Austin search, and I took the south stores. Here’s our collection, to get me started:

jewels

I carefully placed the big jewels first, gluing them each in place, to ensure that a) we had enough and b) they were spaced perfectly. That’s about the time I started to realize… I REALLY LOVE DOING THIS STUFF!

placing jewels

For weeks I spent entire shifts on sewing the beads and sequins, which became evenings in front of the television, blissfully sewing away with warm quilts on my lap and my husband in the easy chair next to me to cheer me on. (What am I, 80 years old?) Before long, the progress started to add up, and the pieces were complete and ready for Lilia’s mad sewing skills.

jewel progress bodice pieces

And then, it was time to ship. We asked Michele to send us photos of the happy recipient, all the way from Colorado. Here’s what she sent:

devaney full  devaney guns devaney thumbs  devaney kicking

Doesn’t she just ROCK THAT THANG! Look at all that sparkle! The dress ain’t bad, either. ;) From Michele: “You put a lot of LOVE into it and it shows.”

Moral of the story is, if the challenges excite you, and the prospect of trying something new entices you to say yes, do it, especially if it makes someone’s dreams come true– even if you don’t even know them! Your heart will grow exponentially.

When You Invite Me to Your Fashion Event, Please Consider…

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I’ve recently made a very honest, personal decision regarding my attendance at fashion events.

Does it represent people I care about and their work? If yes, then I’ll go.

Does it represent innovative, artistic, and especially inclusive ideals in fashion? If yes, then I might go.

Does it seek to create a feeling of elitism by actively excluding various voices on the basis of socioeconomic status or any other materialistic factor? If yes, then I refuse to “be seen” there.

How to Shop at a Small Business Retail Store

I wondered for weeks if I should even write this, because I shouldn’t even have to write this. Well, I do. It’s a call for common and honest human interaction, but in a world where endlessly gazing at your phone counts for appropriate behavior at dinner in a fine restaurant, I’m not alone in the ambition to re-establish some very new and necessary rules for how to be nice, if not fashionably polite.

It seems that in recent years, “social awkwardness” is not just thrown around to magically absolve many, many outright bad behaviors but also to excuse out-and-out cruelty, and yet it’s also somehow becoming a prized and adorable trait. To those of you who will toss those two words to me to refute this post, I ask you… Do you even know me? Hi, I’m April, and I’m definitely the postergirl for “socially awkward.” Just ask anyone I went to junior high, high school, college or especially church with as a kid how awkward I was. It still never stopped me from minding my manners. In fact, I wonder sometimes if actually having manners is what makes me socially awkward in the first place…

Anyway. Let’s move on.

In case you’re new to this blog or to my world, I own a small (seriously, small) business– a fashion fabric boutique in Austin, Texas. It has just over 1000 square feet, and 95% of the time this place is open, I’m holding down the fort. I’ve put my literal blood, sweat and tears into this business (the blood and sweat parts building the fixtures by hand, as well as a few challenging sewing jobs.) I put my life savings, my severance from my former employer, my kid’s college fund, and my entire credit limit into opening and maintaining this shop. I hand curate every fiber of fabric in here. I lovingly clean, tidy, fluff, tuck, and drape everything in the store, every day.

What bothers me is this– saying hello. It costs nothing. It hurts no one. When you walk into my shop, or any other mom n’ pop small business, SAY HELLO. I make it a point to say hello or even ‘WELCOME’ to every single person that walks into my shop. Is that annoying to some folks? Well, I guess it is, because on a daily basis, I get responses such as a smirk, an eyeroll, yelling “JUST LOOKING!” at me, or even the dreaded total lack of acknowledgement of my existence. Worse, they leave without making a peep (which, I don’t know if you realize, looks an awful lot like storming out or– EEK!– shoplifting!) I spend more time and definitely way more money on this store than I do in my own home, and if you treated me like that at my house, I would ask you to leave. I’m serious.

Look, I used to work at Macy’s and Coach. I know how annoying the salespeople at department and chain stores can be, because I used to have to be one. Honey, this ain’t Nordstrom. This is a local, independent business that would not even exist if I didn’t make extreme personal sacrifices to make it so.

This rant is not just for me, it’s for every single small business out there– restaurants, indie comedy theaters, food trailers, coffee shops, whatever. Like the GOP hilariously chanted in 2012 elections, WE BUILT THAT. For someone to come in and treat us in a less than dignified manner in the very space we created? It’s an insult.

Maybe they just aren’t aware, I tell myself. Maybe I’m just being too sensitive. You’ll probably say the same thing. Sure, if I were talking about one or two people since we opened our doors, I’d agree. I deal with this daily. It wears on me. As much training as I’ve had in my retail career to treat you as a guest, and as much of an implied threat I get from every soul that enters my shop that I’ll get railed on Yelp later if I so much as focus on another customer more than them (again, I greet EVERYONE, and try to help everyone, too, which is sometimes impossible), the least you could do is 1/10th in return…

So if it’s a lack of awareness, I’m doing my part to change that by writing a blog about it. Say hello to a small businessperson when you enter their domain. Better yet, say goodbye or (GASP) thank you as you leave, even if you don’t buy anything. It probably won’t make their day, but at least it will persist in making them feel human. Being a small business owner is anything but easy, so please be nice to us.

P.S. Don’t ask for discounts. We offer many to those who need it, but let that be our call. Just remember every time you ask a small business for an arbitrary discount, it may literally be coming out of their kid’s college fund. When you lovingly pay full price, think of it as a donation to a kitten or a puppy at a shelter if that makes you feel better. My kid’s just as cute.

“Be Fake” is Terrible Advice

I’d like to ask all of you to STOP “FAKING IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT.” STOP FAKING anything at all really. It doesn’t do you or anyone around you to act less than authentic. You stress yourself out by living a lie and you disappoint everyone who depends on you.

Pay close attention to the similarities in what’s happened in the last few months with Lance Armstrong, Kevin Clash (the voice of Elmo), Oscar “the Blade Runner” Pistorius, and now even the Catholic Pope. We’ve put them on high pedestals, and they’re falling off.

Don’t do that to yourself. You want to be an expert on something? Adopt a “beginners mind.” Have humility. People are very willing to teach you things if you’re willing to admit you simply *don’t know.*

Before you think, “Is she talking about me?” ask yourself, “How much have I lied to people who depend on me lately?” If the answer is not at all, I’m obviously not talking about you. “Fake it ’til you make it” is a term that gets thrown around so casually that people who are making an earnest effort and being honest with themselves and others about their skill levels, while still achieving a modicum of success, think this advice applies to them. That’s just your humility talking. You’re not faking it. You’re just plain making it. I’m talking about all-out charlatans here. See examples above.

I have so many positive examples all around me of people who are open minded about learning anything they need to know, while I watch all these rich and famous fools on the news crumble. I don’t know about you guys, but this lesson is practically blaring at me lately. We need to stop using that term “Fake it ’til you make it,” because it’s basically a curse on our society at this point.

My friend Xtina adds: “I always feel like people who are insincere are trying to be controlling. I hate that!”

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UPDATE: After I wrote this, a very close friend of mine, whose business is on the threshold of wild success, posted something about how she’s feeling very novice in her experience and is just taking it one step at a time. Not surprisingly, a friend of hers commented “Fake it ’til you make it!” The most endearing thing about her work and her success is the inspiring balance of humility and confidence she’s demonstrated from the beginning. So frustrating!

Die ugly phrase, die in a fire.

Cultural Victory: Advice for Creatives from an Unlikely Source

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Timely, accurate advice from strange sources are an underrated way of connecting with a higher authority.

My husband and I play a video game called Civilization V: Gods & Kings that we’re (ok I’M) obsessed with. There are many ways to win the game, but one of them continues to allude me: Cultural Victory. All the other ways to win involve massive settlements, armies, and landmass so I assumed to win culturally the same would be true and have been playing accordingly. I’ve had a game going for about a week now, and even with that cultural intent, I’m falling behind in points with no hope of gaining.

The spouse started perusing the forums, and the advice we discovered was very interesting, paraphrased to drive home my point:

- Keep your empire small and focused.
- Don’t form bonds with anyone against anyone else.
- Focus intently on building as many wonders as you can.
- Maintain defenses, but don’t build armies.
- NEVER DECLARE WAR. It’s expensive and draining.
- If someone denounces you, it’s because you’re a threat to their victory. It means you’re ahead.
- Maintain and respect your boundaries. Don’t let anyone walk all over you.

As we approach Austin Fashion Week even earlier this year, let’s all bear these bits of advice in our minds as we create. The overriding point of fashion is making a cultural impact in our world, big and small, so let’s maintain that focus and avoid pesky distractions.

What “Austin FASHION” Means to Me

The word “fashion” comes from the root word facere, “to make.” To say that something is “Austin Fashion” should mean that it was made here by someone who lives here, ideally worn by someone who also lives here.

The term “Austin Fashion” gets thrown around a lot by bloggers and by mass media, and its use in poor context, while innocent, is pervasive, contagious, and damaging to the people it truly belongs to– local fashion designers, ateliers, and couturiers of Austin.

The term “Austin Fashion” does not belong to H&M, Target, Prada, Gucci, or Coach. It does not belong to Nordstrom, Saks, or Neiman Marcus… that is, until they start carrying local fashion brands born and made here in Austin.

When a blog wants to do editorial on the clothing and accessories of those who live in our city, that should be referred to “Austin Style.” Joanna Wilkinson and team at Keep Austin Stylish do a fantastic job of delineating these terms in covering both Austin Style and Austin Fashion in a way that combines local and international brands, even vintage looks.

Going forward, when something is worn by an Austinite, it does not necessarily mean it is “Austin Fashion.” Let’s offer the respect to our local designers by reserving that term exclusively for them. They work to deserve it. We should work equally hard to keep them in business, so they can continue to keep our locals clothed in true Austin fashion and… KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD!

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