Katie Farnan: “It’s not always going to be perfect ”

It’s not always going to be perfect — Being a perfectionist is a curse and a blessing. When things don’t look like you originally planned, accept it. From the acceptance, you can choose to make it better or believe that what you created is supposed to be as it is. Don’t let it stop you in your tracks. […]

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It’s not always going to be perfect — Being a perfectionist is a curse and a blessing. When things don’t look like you originally planned, accept it. From the acceptance, you can choose to make it better or believe that what you created is supposed to be as it is. Don’t let it stop you in your tracks.

As part of my interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Farnan.

Katie Farnan is a women’s contemporary clothing line based, manufactured, and designed in Chicago, IL. Katie is a transplant to the Chicago area from Atlanta, Ga where she grew her love of fabrics and clothing construction. The line was developed in 2016 with the simple idea of creating modern classics with ready-to-wear ease that can be incorporated into any closet. With years of personal styling under Katie’s belt, and the belief in a bold female presence, her women’s clothing line is a thoughtful collection of signature silhouettes.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series, Katie. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Becoming a clothing designer has been a lifelong dream. Technically, being 11 and making clothes for my American Girl doll is what brought me to this career path. More recently, what made me take the leap and pivot into owning my own business, and creating the clothing designer trajectory, was being in a job where I couldn’t make my own rules. Right before turning thirty, I made the decision that this is the time to go out on my own and create something that I and others will enjoy.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

This moment was not only interesting but very close to my heart. My cousin and best friend asked me to make her wedding dress. Her experience buying in stores wasn’t ideal and I immediately said yes when she asked. As I started designing I knew I wanted to incorporate the strong women in our family. When I finished, her dress included a button from our Nana’s wedding dress, embroidery from her mothers, her sister’s wedding dress belt, her aunt’s (my mother’s) hook and eye, and our great grandmother’s handkerchief sewn into the pocket. It was extremely special for not only her but everyone in our family.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I laugh at it now but at the time it wasn’t so funny. In one of my first seasons with a manufacturer, I was notified on the day of going into production that their cutter had left the company. The cutter of course cuts out all the fabric before production. This doesn’t sound too hard but when you are making 100 garments an electric cutter has to be used for time and ease purposes. I was on a time crunch and budget crunch so I hired a contractor to do some cutting and I decided to do the rest. Terrible idea — there is a reason people are trained to cut garments. I went home and got all the cutting mats and rotary cutters I could find and for days I cut patterns and fabric. I had so many band-aids on my hands when I finished from accidental cuts I looked like I got in a knife fight! In the end, I got it done and everything worked out. Laughing now, but wasn’t then.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

There are two ways our company stands out. 1. The way we present our garments and brand is meant to induce confidence and beauty. We get so many kind messages from our customers that not only does the garment make them feel beautiful but also the presentation of our unpacking process makes the experience feel polished and truly KF. 2. Our philosophy of creating a capsule collection. This idea of a true built out wardrobe created with every piece in a collection works for the modern woman. I am also fairly certain that my love for a capsule collection stems from my business degree and the amount of Lean Management I studied while in college. Using every piece in a collection is not only easy for our customers but it also is creating a sustainable wardrobe.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The love for what you do does not have to engulf your life every second of every day. Hobbies and other interests are important. I am a true follower of the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron and through the course, you take artists’ dates. The small ‘dates’ have to be a different activity from what your career is. Enjoying another task gets you away from the ‘burn out’ and for me, design better.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As Covid hit everyone went to their drawing boards to adapt to a new life. We did this as well and also started doing research into the amount of waste that comes from the fashion industry. Moving into 2021, as a company, we will be changing all of our packaging, stationery, and office supplies to recycled materials. We will also be creating a recycling program that will launch at the end of 2020 where our clients can donate pieces they no longer need. This will create an opportunity for less west and help to continue the clothing lifecycle.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

‘Stick with people who pull the magic out of you.’ Everything is a feeling, a deep emotion. I create from that space and I feel the most alive when I am with people who are joyful and think bigger. Being your own boss you get to pick the people you work with and bring that magic out of you. That is one of the most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur.

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

Sustainability has become a very hot topic and I think it is wonderful. We all need to evolve our processes into something that works for the environment and our client’s lives. Also, inclusivity. Fashion has been known in culture as an industry that sticks to a ‘look’ or alienates people. Sadly, it is of our own making — but I see a shift — and that is very hopeful.

What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Be resilient — So many no’s happen that at times, I wondered if I even knew how to design. We have been through it with stores, clients, buyers, etc. The ability to wake up the next day and move forward is key.

2. Plans change — A big lesson for us this year. Pandemics happen, recessions happen, things change. Pivot, create a new offering, evolve, whatever you need to do to keep moving forward. Like many designers, we quickly shifted to creating stylish masks and just recently launched our At Home Collection of elevated, comfy basics to help get our customers through this new normal of staying at home. We had to make quick and strategic decisions in order to weather this unpredictable year.

3. It’s not always going to be perfect — Being a perfectionist is a curse and a blessing. When things don’t look like you originally planned, accept it. From the acceptance, you can choose to make it better or believe that what you created is supposed to be as it is. Don’t let it stop you in your tracks.

4. Be solution-oriented — Working with so many people every day is not always going to look or be easy. When a problem arises there is always a solution. I have learned that if you come from a place of the solution, anything can be fixed.

5. Work with quality fabrics — Great advice I received from a Chicago based fabric source early on. Search for the best fabrics until you are blue in the face. Quality materials create beautiful garments that will last a lifetime.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

Along with sustainability and creating new ways to recycle, upcycle and downcycle, I think the fashion industry can improve itself by implementing a new calendar. In the last year, as things have changed drastically, many designers and ateliers have come forth to propose a new schedule for wholesale, fashion week, and consumer habits. If we as a community can get on a calendar/schedule that stops early discounting, buying 6+ months in advance, and pushes production closer to the accompanying season, this, in turn, will create less waste and turnaround of fast fashion. Pieces and collections will be more thoughtful and will last longer.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

On par with sustainability, if I could get every person in the world to donate or gift a lightly used garment to a friend, someone in need, a thrift store, a family member, etc. I think that would create a very cool ripple effect.

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