How did I get started?
An aspiring bridal designer asked me on IG how I got started. As I formulated the answer it occurred to me that it would be so incredibly long- I should blog about it. Like I have said before, the fashion industry is very secretive, nice people get burned and taken advantage of... but I am still gonna try and share my knowledge with you fabulous peeps.
I have always been a designer- I used to sew clothes for my dolls as a kid and went to college to major in Apparel Design and Manufacturing. In school, I learned sketching, sewing, patternmaking, portfolio, fabric manipulation and even history of art. I LOVED my classes and was often the highest grade on projects, that's because I was an annoying overachiever and had to go above and beyond for every class assignment. I still felt like I needed more experience with couture, I researched schools in the USA and only FIT seemed to have a course on Couture at the time. It was a semester long, and I had zero intention of moving to NY.
Well, as fun as that sounds, I needed a crash course in Couture Sewing Techniques and I came across Susan Khalje. I wrote her an email asking if she could teach me couture techniques in her one-week classes and she said she could. I spent all my savings and then some, booked the class, booked the trip, and ordered a duchess silk satin that was so gorgeous, I'm still crushing.
But that is not all, I wanted to soak up her knowledge in such a way, that I designed the most complicated, structured and detailed dress I could imagine at the time. It was a strapless empire mermaid dress, with a corselette (how do you make smooth lines without seeing the corset boning?), with some netting for the skirting (which actually makes a gorgeous sound called rouging when we walk), an invisible zipper I put on by hand and fabric covered buttons on the back as design detail. Long story short, I returned to her classes 5 years in a row as my yearly vacations. I highly recommend it. It's worth every penny. Check her classes out, Couture Sewing and French Jacket are my favorites!
5 years ago I purchased a condo, 4 years ago I started this Carla Valcarcel adventure. Needless to say, I spend all my money on the business and have been away from sewing school for WAY too long. It is like missing a dear friend, and there's a hole in my soul, that's been killing me forever, it's a place where a garden never grows... yes, I just quoted Aerosmith. It's how nostalgic Couture Sewing School makes me.
Once I had done my research and decided to move forward with production- I needed fabrics and manufacturers. So, I did what I had always dreamed of doing and attended the largest fashion trade show in the USA- Magic at Las Vegas! I used all my rewards points for air travel and hotel stay, dragged my boo/Co-founder/CIO/CFO all the way to Las Vegas, and attended sourcing. Sourcing is actually free, you just need to sign up- ps. you need to be a registered business. The actual tradeshow has a price but as a designer on a budget- I just focused on Sourcing, where the manufacturers, fabrics, notions, boxes, labels and even Pantone had a booth. It is super interesting to see the backend of the garment industry, I was in wonderland.
This is where I found my current manufacturer and fabric supplier. Side note: I did not find a lot of sustainability there. Sustainable manufacture seems to be a small niche of the industry and whenever I asked if they were sustainable, I got a whole lot of weird expressions- as if they never, ever heard the term and I was insane. Probably. So no, I am not producing fully sustainable gowns at this time. I have done what I can with the resources that are available to me but will continue to work towards full sustainability as we grow. I am ok with that.
Need lots of logo ideas at a reasonable price? There is a website for that.
Need to set up your own store with zero programming knowledge? There is a website for that too. Need to find professional services like translation, marketing, programming, videographers, patternmaking, digitizing, accounting, so on and so forth? Yes!!! there IS a website for that! (Unpaid advertise BTW!) What I love about these websites is that they are kind-of global, so you have an incredible bench of skills and knowledge that can't be surpassed at a local level. They work as bids, we post a job and prospects post their offers. You can chat and choose so the "winning bid" gets the contract. I do like working with local talent- but when I need to consider the best investment for my money, sometimes the reach needs to be a little larger scale.
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The key to good fit is to look for the widest measurement of your body and match the measurement to the size using the size chart below. For your top, the widest measurement is almost always the breasts. For the bottoms, the widest measurement is the hip. See the image below for more information on these measurements.
*Measured in inches.
The best way to measure is with a sewing measuring tape. These are flexible, inexpensive, readily available, and easy to use. Wear a form-fitting tank top and leggings when you measure your body. We also suggest asking for help. The tape measurer should be as parallel to the floor as possible all the way around the body, which is hard to do all by ourselves. A friend is also super useful to measure the dress hem length for any customization. I want to reiterate that it is extremely important that you have the right height shoes on when measuring for length. We can talk about this further during our Touch Base call if you make a purchase.
Wear the bra that you will be wearing with the dress. We remind you that our dresses have build-in bra cups so we suggest something with a little padding in order to maintain the measurement true to size. Measure across the fullest part of the bust.
Bend to one side. Wherever the crease forms, that is your natural waist. Pull the tape across the narrowest part and measure.
Stand straight and look forward. Wrap the tape around the fullest part of your hips (or rear) and measure.