An insider’s guide to fashion

While working as a fashion designer can sound as glamorous as far as jobs go, like most industries, there is a mountain of knowledge to surmount before you even pick a sketch pad up.

If you are more about the balloon skirt and the bodice and less about the manufacturing and the mechanics, you can enlist the help of someone who does know their way around the system.

Newcastle based consultant Marg O’Donnell has had more than15 years of experience navigating various cogs of the Sydney fashion industry machine, her first-hand knowledge ensuring you won’t waste your time way scampering down various rabbit holes that almost inevitably result in costly and time-consuming exercises that lead you nowhere.

Marg began as a patternmaker in the industry before moving into product development and production roles. She has worked for various fashion houses including Saba, Marcs, Reebok, Rockmans plus a bunch of other private label companies that supply to department stores like David Jones, Myer and Kmart. The lines she managed included ranges for women and men, children’s wear, corporate and intimate apparel and sportswear.

After revaluating what kind of working life, she wanted, Marg started developing what is commonly known as a “side hustle”.

While her Tech Fashion Design Lab is still in start-up phase, she has plans to take it to the next level this year after some solid advice from Kathie Heyman and her Masterclass.

So, what is it that this scientist of fashion does exactly?

In a nutshell, Marg brings fashion lines to life, from the sketch book to the catwalk to opt for a more romanticised term. That means everything from creating technical drawings or CADs (Computer Aided Designs) to sourcing the appropriate fabrics and factories to manufacture the garments.

Marg can also cost out ranges to avoid any blowouts, create tech packs and measurement specifications as well as oversee the quality control over the entire product development and production phase including liaising with manufacturers and periodic on-site factory inspections.

Besides providing these technical services to clients, Marg’s Tech Fashion Design Lab will also be a hub for fashion entrepreneurs to learn the ropes so they can take on more of the technical sides of things themselves.

“The beauty of this is that it gives me the flexibility to work on whatever stage their business development is up to.”

Marg is constantly across all the latest happenings in the fashion industry and after a bit of a lull in Australia, she said things are starting to pick up again.

“Times have changed and with the rise of social media, and small businesses are now well placed to make it in the fashion industry once again.”

Marg said she had always wanted to run her own small business but working in the industry, she had a hard time seeing how she could do that on a shoestring and compete with the big brands.

“Thankfully, these days it’s more about being authentic than having a lot of money,” she said.

“The big brands have made mistakes, and people are happy to support smaller labels particularly when their approach is authentic, sustainable and ethical.

“I’ve seen a growing number of small fashion businesses popping up, so I’m hoping to offer client assistance in the areas they need help with.”

Marg said she had been “tinkering” with various fashion-related pursuits since she left Sydney but the idea for Technical Fashion Design Lab had evolved enough to stand on its own.

“It’s become something I can’t let go of; I tend to it every day.”

Despite the nurturing Marg was giving her small business idea, she still trapped in that ‘hobby’ phase when she decided to do Kathie Heyman’s Masterclass.

“Although I thought I was treating it seriously, I had no website and no timeline that was leading to a launch of any kind. Kathie helped me to move forward, gain confidence and clarity with what I wanted to do.

“She made me realise that although it might be what I’m doing on the side (Marg still has a day job) that I did want it to be my future, so we put some steps and processes in place.”

This included building her own website and getting started with her social media platforms.

“I have no training in graphic design, branding and website design, so that was a steep learning curve but I wanted to build it myself so I can help my clients if they do also want to do it the hands-on or low-cost way too.”

Marg said the Masterclass made her feel more excited about the future and more confident about it.

“Kathie has been a great advisor. She took a personal interest in my small business journey and helped me with some clear steps with things like how to get my first clients, how to develop website copy, and the role social media plays.”

Marg said she hoped to build up the business to eventually replace her full-time job and expand enough to employ a small support team.

“I would like to see the Australia fashion industry in a better place than it has been for the past 20 years. With the remote working and small business opportunities also opening I feel this can only be a good thing. I’m feeling pretty positive about the next 20 years.”

To find out more about Tech Fashion Design Lab visit: www.techfashiondesignlab.com.au