I had the amazing opportunity to interview Eve Gravel when I was in Montreal. She studied at the prestigious Richard Robinson Academy of Fashion Design in Ottawa; where I take part time courses. Eve’s fashion label has been thriving for 14 years now. Her feminine and flirty designs have received international acclaim and have been featured in Elle Canada, Lou Lou Magazine, and the Huffington Post to name a few. Eve’s collections can be found in numerous boutiques in Canada and the United States as well as on her website.
Some of my favourite pieces from Eve’s latest collection…
Photographed by Marjorie Guindon
I interviewed Eve about her business and fashion design experience, here’s the full interview…
Jenna: How did your training in fashion design prepare you for what you do now?
Eve: My training in fashion design didn’t prepare me for business, but the training taught me the skills of high fashion production. I graduated from the academy 18 years ago, and haven’t used high fashion since. I’ve been using ready to wear techniques since I graduated. The applied experience I got working with designers and manufacturers practically prepared me for the business I run today. School is a foundation, and it is up to the individual to build upon that foundation.
Jenna: What advice do you have for students just graduating who want to start their own ready to wear clothing company?
Eve: Get experience by working in a workshop for a designer. Because when you graduate you have only made a handful of dresses, shirts, etc… Although, if you have the resources to fund your business and hire others with experience and expertise right after graduating school that’s another story. Every fashion designer and entrepreneur has their own path as there are many different business models in the fashion industry.
Jenna: What has been the key to your success?
Eve: I’ve been in business for 14 years. I believe the key to my success has been focussing 50% on business skills and 50% on creative fashion design and production skills. I developed the business skills by doing my own sales when I began my business. Before starting my business I took a brief 3 course program in management.
Jenna: How did you grow your business, organically or with investors?
Eve: I own 100% of my company. I have a team of 5 with many interns. I grew organically, and started out doing all the roles myself including doing my own sales. I then hired an assistant to help with the technical skills of fashion production, an assistant to help with marketing, and a sales representative.
Jenna: What is your role in your business?
Eve: I am the designer, in charge of creative direction, and overseeing everything in the business. I create two collections per year, and sketch the designs for all the pieces. My role is like a musical conductor in which I direct and oversee my team. I spend 1.5 months in creative development that includes sketching the designs; then 3 months working with my team to direct the production of the collection. I do the fittings, and the full production of the garments are done by a contractor and seamstress in Montreal.
Jenna: Do you put on fashion shows for your collections?
Eve: I use to have a runway show in Montreal fashion week before it got cancelled. Now we organize events with a PR company we work with for the presentation of the collections. The return on investments for these events are the same for Montreal Fashion Week.
Jenna: What is one thing you are trying to improve for the future of your label?
Eve: I’m always improving. I’ve had 28 collections so far. There is always room to improve in all areas of business. I listen to feedback from customers as well as boutiques we sell with.