career karma – Bergstrom Originals

When I was a scrappy little fashion student, I used to make hand painted silk scarves and when I was feeling gutsy I would walk down Queen Street West and Kensington Market and drop into stores and try to sell them.  That’s when I met Christina Bergstrom –  she had a little studio and shop up a flight of stairs near John Street.  Her clothes were bright and graphic and suited the style of scarves pretty well, and she let me leave a few on consignment.  I think we even sold a few.

Christina has since moved to a bigger store on street level – she’s now on Queen Street East, east of the Don River.  I walk in and say hey from time to time, and this week I sent her a few questions about what its like to be a designer-retailer.

Why did you decide to become a designer/retailer?

Deciding to go the route of retailing my designs in my own shop was actually just a natural progression in business growth for me. I had started my business in the 90’s doing custom clothing design. After about 5 years of business experience with that, and a growing client base, I felt the need to have more design liberty, but to maintain the personal interaction with customers. Retailing Bergstrom Originals seemed like the perfect step.

It seems like its a lot of work to be a designer, and it also seems like a lot of work to run a boutique. What are the advantages to doing both? What are the challenges?

I think no matter what route anyone chooses in this industry, hard work is important for success. I definately live and breathe my work, but the bonus is that it doesn’t really feel like “a job”.

The Advantages of combining designing with retailing are:

– having direct contact with customers (the people who are actually wearing my product) getting feedback on designs
– being able to use the boutique and its atmosphere as part of the branding of my label. I think the clothes and the space work together to create the image of Bergstrom Originals.
– being in control of customer service, which again strengthens customer satisfaction with the brand
– Having a relatively short cycle from an idea to reality means I can respond to, and work with trends, market conditions and just a “feeling that’s in the air”.


– Time management. No doubt can be a huge challenge. Working with people I trust, in the store and for production, eases this issue
– Knowing what feedback to listen to, and what not to listen to: Not everyone that I see in the store, offering advice and suggestions, is necessarily in my target market.
– Finding a balance between creative freedom and good business sense.

You are able to interact directly with the women who wear your clothes. Do your customers inspire your designs?

They certainly do!
I love that my line has developed from getting a real sense of who my customer is. I always think about the lifestyle trends of my customers when I design. I am a realist, and appreciate good value, so I always strive to design clothes that can be worn in the many facets of my customers life.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

Rather than one specific moment, I have a huge sense of pride when I see a satisfied customer, or when I gain a new customer through a referral.
Everyone is thinking twice about their spending patterns these days, so I feel honoured when anyone chooses to make a purchase at Bergstrom Originals

career karma – Jennifer Allison

Walking TallJennifer Allison‘s collection “Walking Tall” was one of the highlights of Mass Exodus, and if you missed seeing it then you can see it again at [FAT]. I asked her a few questions about creating her grad collection.

Going into fourth year, the prospect of doing an entire collection – from sketches to patterns to samples to presentation – is pretty daunting. I remember when I was designing my fourth year collection, I had some goals in mind and some strategy too. What were your goals last September and what was your strategy to accomplish them?

I wanted to use this opportunity to really push my limits and experiment. My goal for this collection was to focus on texture, surface detailing and gradation on a large scale with elongated and exaggerated silhouettes.
Considering the strict and short time frame we had to work within I had taken on a fairly ambitious and time consuming collection,. In the initial stages, although I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me I felt it was important to make something that would reflect my personality. I also wanted to make something I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do on a regular bases.

My ultimate goal was to create something I would be able to look back on and be proud of. For most designers, I think we are our own toughest critics. With that said, to be completely satisfied with how your work has turned out , for me, is the ultimate accomplishment.

In order to be successful I realized that you truly have to enjoy the entire process. So much time, money and so much of yourself goes into making a collection that if you are not completely devoted and committed to your idea it will appear in the outcome. The only strategy I had to get through was to keep a positive mind frame. You need to believe in yourself and your abilities no matter what because if you don’t, no one else will.

Inevitably as you go through the semesters, circumstances conspire to change your collection – “design creep” its called sometimes. As you go through multiple critiques, attempt to render in fabric what looked good on paper, and are confronted with limitations in budget, available materials and time, designs are sometimes forced to evolve. Did your collection stay true to your original vision? If not, how did it change?

The most important part of the design process is the initial stage. It is so important to put your time into developing your ideas and taking the time to truly get inspired. I personally always develop a storyline that goes along with my collection to make the process more meaningful.

This year my collection “Walking Tall” was initially inspired by totems and Native American tribal legends.

A totem can be the symbol of a family, clan or individual. Native American tradition provides that each individual is connected with a selection of animals that will accompany them throughout their life, acting as spiritual guides. Different animal guides come in and out of our lives depending on the direction that we are headed and the tasks that need to be completed along our journey.

“Walking tall’’ is a collection designed to tell a short self-created story of a girl named Aurora, a daydreamer seeking adventure. Throughout 10 pieces you will be taken on a journey and witness piece-by-piece, Auroras self-discovery. You will be introduced to the characters that help Aurora find her way: The bird, The Bear, The Deer and The Rabbit; to name a few.

Due to the scale of each of my pieces in the collection, my biggest challenge was keeping within my budget without having to sacrifice too many design details. One of a designer’s main responsibilities is to be able to clearly communicate a vision and to execute the initial vision accurately from start to finish.

Obviously the “design creep” is inevitable and therefore another important role a designer must acquire is the ability to problem solve. Overall I remained very close to my original vision. Due to my budget barrier I was forced to be more resourceful and in the end pushed my ideas further.

The afterglow of graduation as I remember it was followed by the ennui of possibilities. How do you feel so far? Do you have plans for the rest of your life?

Until know I’ve always known what to expect in the near future and for the first time a wide door has opened and the world is full of endless possibilities. I’m anxiously looking forward to the future. Upon graduation, I eventually have my sites set on developing her own label and exposing my work to the Canadian and international market.

In the mean time I want to make sure I have a good understand of how the industry really works and build the contacts and knowledge I will need once I am on my own. Ultimately I am looking forward to collaborating with other creative individuals who share the same appreciation for design, attitude and optimism!

career karma – Caitlin Cronenberg

I went to fashion school with Caitlin Cronenberg, though I was way too shy to talk to her until third or fourth year.  She is one of those rare people who seems very comfortable being solitary, she has that quiet confidence thing going on.  When you get past your nerves and talk to her you discover that she is caring and smart, loves her friends and always has a lot of projects going on.

After graduating, Caitlin became a photographer.  One project that she has been working on is a book of nudes, which was a massive, long term commitment and an exploration of the dynamic between photographer and subject reduced to the essence.  You can see a selection on display at Rosemarie Umetsu’s studio at 96 Avenue Road until April 30.  She also has a group of photos on the subject of nature showing at [FAT] next week.

I was one of the early subjects, and after she took her shot, she took this photograph by my request, showing the ribcage harness that I made for Alive Inside.

spine and soles

I asked Caitlin a few questions about her life as a photographer, and she took some time out (from sleep, I’m sure) to answer them for me.  Thanks Caitlin!

You have a lot going on right now – a collaboration with Rosemarie Umetsu for CONTACT, an upcoming book of nudes, you’re showing photography in the theme of nature at [FAT], and I assume you also have all sorts of client projects and top secret stuff in the works too. Is there anything I missed?

Luckily I no longer shoot Bar Mitzvahs but that is relatively new. It’s been a very busy year so far and I’ve been thrilled to have the chance to focus more on my art photography and personal projects. My problem is that I never say no to work if I think it’s going to be fun, hence the never ending list of projects, and the sleepless nights.

As an artist with your own business, you have two sides to what you do – the part where you create the work and the part where you get out and show it to people. In the cycle of creating a show or a book, what parts are the most fun and what parts are the hardest work?

Getting my work out is actually very new to me. I’ve been working on my book for almost three years now, and I’ve only just started showing it to people. It’s scary but exciting to share your work with people when it’s something you’ve invested loads of time in, as opposed to pictures published in magazines that were one day shoots. The business and promotion side of my life has been a lot of trial and error. You make mistakes and get screwed over and say the wrong thing, but then you learn from it, hopefully. It’s all fun and it’s all hard, but I love it. I really enjoy planning and organizing a show, from the printing of the photos to figuring out how to get positive press. I can’t separate the business side from the art side anymore, it’s just my job.

I imagine as a photographer those solitudes blend a little – a photo shoot often has the aura of performance around it. Besides being behind the lense you also have your own star quality and seem very comfortable in front of the camera. Does being a subject of photography affect how you do your own photography, and on the other hand, does being a photographer help you be a better model? How?

Oddly enough I was the shiest child alive, and I still feel shy most of the time. Because of the nature of my job I’ve had to learn to walk up to people I don’t know and ask them if I might steal their soul for a moment. My ability to perform in front of the camera certainly came from asking people to perform for my camera. I wasn’t always comfortable, but I’m learning how to fake it at the very least. I believe that having the camera turned on your makes you more aware of the subtle tricks which exist to make one’s subject more comfortable. I think each position makes you more aware of the other. When I am being photographed I know what the photographer can do to put me at ease and make me cooperate, as well as what they might do to make things awkward or unpleasant. Then I take what I’ve experienced and apply it to my own shoots, putting my own model at ease and making sure they are enjoying themselves. I believe the resulting photo will show the feelings of the subject during the shoot.

You grew up within Toronto’s creative community and count so many talented people among your friends. Who are your mentors and heroes? How have they helped you and inspired you?

I am constantly amazing and impressed by my friends and family. My Ryerson graduating class has dispersed into diverse fields and many former classmates are wildly successful. It is always inspiring to see other young artists following their various passions. My heroes are my parents. They have had, and continue to have amazing lives full of adventure and fervour, and do so with class and respect for everyone around them. It is inspiring to experience first hand that it is possible to be successful without playing dirty. My mentors are my photo editor at Hello! Magazine, Peter Bregg, for giving me a chance when I was just starting out, and continuing to support me as I learn. I have also had the pleasure of working with an amazing and eccentric photographer from New York named Henny Garfunkel. She’s been an incredible mentor and the queen of the human condition.

What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?

I have never felt as proud as I did last night when people gathered to see my collection of nudes for their first public showing. The event was a huge success and everybody had a wonderful time. After months of planning this event and the insanity it caused me, I finally cut myself some slack and I’ll admit, I was proud.

career karma – Jennifer Campbell

Jennifer Campbell won my heart when she named me as one of her favourite blogs on Masthead Online.  I had a soft spot for her way before that though, because as the online editor for FASHION Magazine she had been in touch with Canadian fashion bloggers in a genuine and inclusive way, sharing opportunities for bloggers to contribute and inviting us to events.

After I did this little email interview, I asked Jennifer if I could come over and “take her picture” – though it was really just an excuse to check out my neighbors, St Joseph Media and their offices.  It was a delight to find cubicles full of friendly faces, it made me consider applying for an internship.  Seriously, if FASHION were a girl she would be the sweetest girlfriend you could ever want.

How did you become the online editor at FASHION Magazine?

The short answer is that I had been working here at FASHION as the assistant editor/fact-checker on the print magazine for a little over a year and when the online opportunity came up, I went for it.

What is the best thing about your career?

What I love is that I have the opportunity here to dig in to lots of new things, which is really fun. I’m doing everything from going to management meetings to producing videos to sitting on the floor of the beauty closet with the beauty editor, learning how to pick products for a story. I also have to say that I work with fantastic, smart, dedicated people on FASHION and, which is the other best thing about my job.

What are your favourite magazines, websites and blogs?

Magazine wise, I love Monocle and Dwell right now. I also read any fashion title that comes my way–Lula is sitting on our photo editor’s desk and I’m itching to get my hands on it. As of today, I have 59 sites in my daily bookmarks, but my favourites (other than you and Auntie Fashion) are The Cut, Jezebel, Refinery29 Pipeline and Style Bubble. For a daily bit of Zen, I hit up Cakewrecks and Lovely Listing, for disastrous cakes and disastrous real estate listings, respectively. Oh, and Twitter.

I hear it is not an easy time to be in the magazine business, and that the internet has something to do with that. Is this true? As the editor of a website for a magazine, what is your role in determining the future of the publication?

The web is certainly not hurting our title—we just learned that FASHION cracked the 2 million mark for readership, the highest ever for a Canadian fashion publication. To the second half of your question: Because we’ve done things like launch our new blog, upped our video and held a cross-Canada blogger search, I think the site is becoming more and more its own thing. But I also think that this has actually helped integrate it into our brand. We each have our strengths, the mag and the website, and when I’m working with the editors, we try to create content that makes the best use of what we can do online, like video or our new Ask FASHION column. And to me, that’s my role—to understand what FASHION is all about and bring it to the web.

career karma – Sarah Nicole Prickett


Sometimes you meet people with a future you can feel.  What they do and the way they do it, the way they carry themselves, it just seems inevitable that they will be influential.

Sarah Nicole Prickett is like that.  She is a young fashion writer/assistant, who walks and talks like a fashion editor.  She has attitude and opinions.  Her pieces provoke reaction.  When I read her work, I find myself identifying with her and disagreeing with her on a regular basis.  That is good.  If I sound a little envious, I might as well admit it.

I asked her a few questions about starting out as a fashion journalist.

You’re a journalism student who has already collected an impressive portfolio of published work. How do you find ways to get your writing out there?

I’m actually not a journalism student, as of September. Does that make it less impressive? I did go to Ryerson for two years, 2006 – 2008, and I learned a lot about how I don’t want to write. (Kidding. Great school.) Then I got an internship at FASHION Magazine, and started writing for them pretty quickly, and now I’m sort of a contributor-slash-assistant. Hyphenated jobs are very post-millennial. I’m also a contributing editor (weirdly, I don’t do much contributing or editing) at; I’ve been writing there since October 2007, which is three decades in blog years. As for freelancing and “getting it out there,” unless you’re moneyed or connected–and I am neither, proudly–it’s like being an amateur cook. You’re throwing batches of spaghetti against a wall and hoping one sticks.

How did the opportunity to review shows for FASHION at London Fashion Week come about?

Um, I leaned over the cubicle divider and said “I think I’m going to England in February. Is that ok?” (I have family in Oxford; also, thought it was about time I took my first solo trip to…anywhere, actually.)

And Leah Rumack, my editor at FASHION, said “Oh, you’re going to be there for London Fashion Week.” I said, “Well, yeah, I was kinda thinking…” So half an hour later she came back and was kinda like, “OK, off you go.”

The magazine wasn’t going to send anyone to London, and I would have gone on my own anyway, so it was a bit of luck.

How would you define a well-crafted runway review? Who are the masters of the craft? Do you compare your own reviews to other writers reviews of the same shows?

I’ve never really thought about how to review a runway show. I just started doing it one week (L’Oreal Fashion Week, actually; it was the first thing I covered for Torontoist). That’s a terrible answer. In general, good reviewing comes from an intuitive mix of adoration and wariness about a subject.

I was talking to my friend Terese about reviewing art, and how out of my depth I feel in that field. She said it’s just a matter of adopting the language. And that’s a good point: every subject has its own lexicon. Either you can speak fashion, or you can’t.

The best show reviews are usually on, and of those, my favourite are usually by Sarah Mower. Cathy Horyn is a genius, though not always a good writer. Hilary Alexander of the UK Telegraph is both. I read every single one of her reviews when I was in London. Those and The Moment (NYT blog) twitters. And that’s it. There’s no point comparing my scrambled and rambling blog posts to the cohesive thoughts of experienced pros, so I don’t bother.

Anyway, for FASHION, I wasn’t even supposed to be *reviewing* as such. They just wanted a first-person take on the action at the shows. But I find it hard to shut my critical eye.

(I’m dying of pretension right now, I think.)

What are you looking forward to at LGFW? Has your experience in London changed the way you think of fashion in Toronto?

I’m looking forward to new designers and student shows, because London was so insanely new-new-new. It totally shifted my view of what’s “out there.” I’m craving a little shock again now.

The devil-may-care experimentation of young London was inspiring, almost terrifying at times. You wonder: is this the future? Or a crazy little time capsule to be marvelled at or mocked someday? FASHION EAST was one of my favourite things: three young female designers, each with a very sharp and separate attitude. (Natascha Stolle, Maria Francesca Pepe, Holly Fulton. Google!)

Here we have uniforms. In London they have costumes. That’s how I’ve started explaining it to people, because everyone asks me this question.

I don’t think designers in London give a shit about the recession; that’s why designers have PR people. There’s not a Central Saint Martins grad who’s opened a Financial Times in the last year. I guarantee you. And that’s kinda cool, if foolhardy.

Anyway, I hope to see some of that brazen creativity here too.

What are your favourite websites and blogs? What magazines do you read?

I read all my friends’ blogs every day, or try. Beyond that I’m not very good at internet voyeurism anymore. Besides, all these new style bloggers are so tiny! And not in the size two way. In the “I’m turning 13, and here’s the Commes des Garcons-inspired ensemble I’m wearing to my bat mitzvah” way. I wish I were secure enough to say it’s not depressing.

The only magazine I religiously read every single word of is Interview. In Canada, I like Hobo (from Vancouver) and this little Montreal quarterly called Maisonneuve. My favourite fashion mags, besides the one I work at, are mostly French I guess. Purple is the undisputed best. The international Vogues are getting awesome: Italia and Nippon, especially.

I also read the New York Times Style Magazine (my boyfriend and I got a New York Times subscription for Christmas this year, and honestly, it’s better than Jesus) and The Moment blog.

And I brought back one very precious copy of Katie Grand’s LOVE, her new biannual adventure. It’s like a British fashion yearbook. Loud and uncritical.

Of all the things you have written, what are you proudest of? Why?

Through one of those serendipitous internet connections, I got to interview a Japanese illustrator named Makiko Sugawa for the latest issue of Nico Magazine, a Luxembourg-based international quarterly. I knew nothing about her, and she barely spoke English, so it was a spectacular challenge. But I loved it and I loved her work. And it ended up being the cover interview, and that was a thrill.

What are your career goals after graduation? What is your dream job?

Well, um, I’m not graduating. So this is it. My dream job is to have my own magazine, so I can hire all my friends and live in a loft above the office and write looong letters to a faintly interested readership every month. That’s not unrealistic, is it?

career karma – Andrew Sardone

andrewsardoneIt seems like a million years ago now, but once upon a time, no one knew about fashion bloggers – we had just begun to get to know each other.  Little did we know our little trend was being watched by a few perceptive journalists.

One of them was Andrew Sardone, style editor at NOW Magazine, Toronto’s free “alt” weekly.  He invited five of us to participate in a futuristic-styled photo shoot way back in February 2007.  We were so excited to dress up and pose!  I think I picked up a million copies of NOW that week.

Andrew is always open to everything new and stylish in Toronto to keep his section fresh.  In addition to featuring the personal style of creative city people, checking out all the shops for new cool stuff, NOW also holds fashion design competitions and sponsors events.

He also took a chance on me, and gave me my first editorial job.

Besides his day job, Andrew volunteers as the head of the creative committee for Buy Design, writes for other publications, and works on communications for his boyfriend, menswear designer Philip Sparks.

Andrew is great at asking questions, he rarely talks about himself.  Now I get to satisfy my curiousity and ask him a few questions!

How did you become a style editor and fashion writer?

I grew up on the usual diet of Fashion Television and Fashion File. I used to design clothes on a Judy in my aunt’s basement using fabric scraps and buttons that I would pin to the form. I studied journalism at Ryerson. I designed and sold a line of handbags. I ran a little collective shop that sold all Canadian designers. When the job at NOW came up, those experiences all added up to me being qualified for it.

What do you like better, styling or writing?  Why?

I’m learning to like styling as I do it more. A lot of young stylists think styling means throwing a pair of thick framed glasses, ten bangles and a fedora on a model. I’m learning that, more often than not, styling means realizing a look doesn’t need to be junked up to have a point of view.

But I definitely love my job for the writing and being able to tell a story in a smart way before anyone else.

What are your favourite magazines and websites?

The only other fashion writer I read regularly is Cathy Horyn at the New York Times. It’s an obvious choice but I like the tone of her columns and envy how well she connects with her readers. Right now, I like The Selby, Designerman and Jak & Jil. I’ll always remember the good ol’ days when Tommy Ton photographed gaudy gowns on socialites at Forest Hill garden parties.

Magazine-wise, it’s Monocle despite my dislike of Tyler Brûlé’s affectations.

What is the greatest misconception about your career?  The greatest challenge?  The greatest reward?

A great misconception is that fashion journalists are unapproachable. There are some who are but the good ones are curious, social and desperate to have an interesting conversation in a sea of air kisses.

My greatest challenge is beauty reporting. Coming at that industry as a man means my skepticism is maxed.

It’s neat watching stories we tell get picked up by other outlets and hearing that business has boomed for people and products we cover but the greatest reward of my job is being part of our fashion and design community. Covering the international style beat would have more cachet but I love boosting Toronto’s designers, retailers, writers, stylists, photographers and other personalities and hearing about their growth and success first hand.

career karma – Gail McInnes

Gail McInnesOnce I began attending fashion events in Toronto, Gail McInnes quickly became a friend and a patron.  Gail is tremendously active in the fashion scene in this city, it seems like she knows everyone.  She is a passionate advocate for all the talented artists in this city, whether they are models, designers, makeup artists, photographers, stylists, actors, musicians… or illustrators.

Among her many ventures, she runs a fashion blog called The Style Box where she posts about Canadian fashion, pop music, and her favourite inspirations.  She is also the managing editor of the TFI News.  I can’t recommend this monthly newsletter highly enough – thanks to Gail and her wonderful team, it collects all the Canadian fashion insider news in one place, with a focus on items that serve fashion entrepreneurs.

Gail, along with Anita and Carolyn, have informally taken on the roles of older sisters to me in a way.  They never let me forget I am the baby of the group.  I turn to them for advice and encouragement, and we keep eachother in the loop for fashion scene news.  I feel incredibly lucky to have such a tight crew on my side, I would do anything for these amazing ladies but most of all I just want to make them proud of me.

I am always fascinated by the people in the business side of the fashion industry like Gail.  They do not get the glamour and media attention like the creative jobs, yet they are integral to the existence of the fashion industry.  I asked Gail a few questions about her career.

How would you describe your career now?

So far it’s been completely varied. I’ve worked in events, casting, management, reporting, promotions, public relations, production, trend forecasting, marketing, etc… The list is exhaustive, but seems to have a common thread: guiding other careers. I’ve been an agent for models, actors, hair & makeup artists, and stylists; I worked with new fashion designers at the Toronto Fashion Incubator, and I was the personal image manager for a handful of TV actors during Toronto’s last Fashion Weeks.

Right now I’m at the most diverse time of my career: I’m the managing editor of TFI News, I do trend and market research for a few companies in the States and promotion management for fashion designers and local celebrities. I’m also working on a few exciting projects with my best friend; we’re evolving The Style Box into an innovative new business and are pitching a television show. (Cross your fingers that it gets picked up!)

How did you get your start in the fashion industry?

I was lucky to have a fashion program at my high school. I thought I wanted to be a designer, but it was the creation of the item on paper that I preferred rather than the sewing part. I coordinated a few fashion shows for local charities and the local department store and thought I could do that as a full-time career. I ended up at Humber’s “Fashion Arts – Promotions and Special Events Management” program. (Longest title ever!) It had a class specifically about planning fashion shows, but I soon found out that it was a very competitive area. My second choice was to become a model agent. Luckily one of the top agencies was looking for an intern in their Men’s Division – I ended up working there for over 5 years.

What do you like about what you do?

Having the opportunity to meet and build relationships with some of the most creative and inspiring people and watching their careers reach great heights.

What is the greatest misconception about what you do?

That fashion is “fun”. People forget it’s a business. It’s hard and competitive, like any other industry.

The greatest challenge?

Trying to find time to do all the things I want to do. I also have a hard time saying no if it’s something that I can help out with.

The greatest reward?

Seeing success happen to deserving people.

And having my mum think I’m famous because I’ve been interviewed a few times. (She’ll be emailing this link around the world – So cute!)