Liza Deyrmenjian of The Cut Fashion Design Academy: “Pick up what you are putting down”

Whether it be in written or verbal form, communication is everything. Always. People need to be able to digest what you are saying. Conveying your message and people being able to “pick up what you are putting down” is a real talent. Take classes in writing and public speaking. These are great qualities and can […]

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Whether it be in written or verbal form, communication is everything. Always. People need to be able to digest what you are saying. Conveying your message and people being able to “pick up what you are putting down” is a real talent. Take classes in writing and public speaking. These are great qualities and can build a great deal of confidence.

Aspart of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewingLiza Deyrmenjian is a fashion industry vanguard with over three decades of experience in the industry. Her entrepreneurial ventures in the industry make her a sought-after fashion consultant and business coach for designers worldwide. She is the catalyst for emerging designer brands with clients who have graced the covers of WWD, InStyle, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar.

At age 19, Liza created a manufacturing firm in NYC selling to major national retailers. She went on to raise millions in capital and founded the first online destination for designers to market direct to boutique retailers, hosting 110 brands and serving 2,000+ retailers.

Liza has shared her business insight as a contributing writer to Forbes Magazine and has been interviewed by Fast Company, FOX Business and others intrigued by her ability to accomplish feats such as landing a 13-year olds fashion line on the racks of Nordstrom.

Now in Vancouver, Liza runs The Cut Fashion Design Academy & The Cutting Room, with dual components: fashion education and production. The Cut Fashion Design Academy is the fashion education arm of the work/learn environment, teaching the business, production, design, patternmaking, marketing, and sales aspect of fashion to aspiring designers, equipping them with the tools to build a successful brand and or career in the industry. While The Cutting Room specializes in pattern development, sampling, and production for recognized brands including Herschel, Park and Fifth, Lija, Dish & Duer, and more.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I began pursuing my fashion aspirations there were a limited number of fashion schools in Canada. There was one in Vancouver, where I was based, but Toronto was far more cosmopolitan in the 80s, so I located a school there. I graduated with average marks but memorable pieces in the final show.

After I graduated, I moved back to Vancouver where I started a studio that quickly grew to a large 9,000 sq. ft. factory within four years, with 60 sewers, and was manufacturing for brands like Umbro, London Fog, Marmot, Costco, and more.

I eventually sold everything and moved to New York where I consulted emerging fashion designers and helped them launch their brands. Many ended up in the pages of national magazines such as Bazaar, WWD, InStyle and a few became multi-million dollar companies. I also put together a two-day course called: “How to Start Your Own Fashion Business” that also did very well. I had a knack for showing people how to get started and equip them with the right knowledge they needed.

After 12 years in NYC, I moved back home to Vancouver. I opened The Cut Fashion Design Academy and The Cutting Room as a work learn studio. Part manufacturing, part accredited school, I wanted students to experience learning in a real workroom studio. I also wanted to address the problem of too many students in a classroom. Fashion school is a vocational education and you need one-on-one training to really get the skills required to add value to any job. We only take eight (8) students in our classes and for some, we only take six (6). This gives the teachers time to teach and really be in tune with their students to make sure they are learning and not falling behind due to a lack of attention. It also allows students to get to know their instructors who actively work in the industry. Instructors are the best recommendations for jobs.

And this brings us to now.

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

Courtney Love called me! Well, actually it was her assistant. I was doing one of my two-day “How to Start Your Own Fashion Business” seminars in LA and Courtney saw my ad in WWD. She wanted to attend. I said it would cause too much of a distraction and the other attendees may not be able to get the information they needed. I advised that I’d be willing to meet with her, and was invited to her house the next night. “Be there at 5 pm, please,” said her assistant.

She had a concept for a groovy clothing line. We spent hours going through her closet with her trying on most of the samples she had bought. Then we went into the ballroom where she had laid out even more samples. It was midnight by this point, and I had arrived on time at 5 pm.

I think this was 2007 because Courtney (or Hole) was coming out with a new album. She asked if I wanted to hear a song. She was in her bra and underwear now. I will never forget Courtney Love singing me a song from her upcoming album, in her undies, in her bedroom in Beverly Hills at 3:30 a.m. one Sunday night.

By 4 a.m., I let her know that the line she wanted to make would cost over a million dollars to launch properly. She choked on the number.

She then said, “I have another idea!” She proceeded to go to her dresser drawer, opened two drawers full of Kurt Cobain’s UNPUBLISHED diaries.

She had an idea of using some of the pages in an interesting way for a different line.

My night with Courtney ended around 5 a.m. No booze, no sex, but a concert was given by a world-class artist, in her panties. Just for me. She was super cool, a night I will never forget.

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?

My parents lent me $10,000 to start my business and co-signed another $15,000 from the bank for me. My loan was $25K. With that, I incorporated, bought furniture and a couple of machines, signed my lease, and had a logo created. This totaled about $7K. (It was 1990.) I put $17K into fabric inventory.

When I opened my doors, I had less than $1,000 in my account. I had put all my money into inventory without having any customers and now no money for marketing. A mistake I promised myself I would never make again!

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

I think what makes my company stand out is the one-on-one attention we give our students. With only 6 to 8 students in a class, if a student is going sideways, we see it. And by we, I mean the instructor and myself.

We had a student that I could tell within 3 weeks of starting her full-time pattern making class was struggling. The lead instructor, myself, and the head of admissions sat down with the student and talked through the difficulties she was experiencing. We were able to solve many of her roadblocks and we were also able to get an even better understanding of where she was tripping herself up. Pattern Making is one of the most difficult classes we offer so catching this early on helps everyone involved. The student graduated happy and having not only learned pattern-making but also learning some ‘hacks’ she put in place that will benefit her in her future endeavors.

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

Take a day off from all of your devices once a week so you can actually turn off. It is very easy in any industry to overwork yourself. In the fashion business, it is always forward-moving. We are not the trend, we are creating it, so we are even further ahead than the future! How is that for an exhausting thought?

One day. No phone. No devices. Just you. Your loved ones. Friends. Nature. Whatever it is. Just no connection with any smart devices. A recharge is essential to come at things with fresh head space.

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

When I had my factory, we were often manufacturing over 15,000 units a month. A lot of it was polar fleece. I would save the larger scraps and when we were slow, I would have my cutter cut 12×12 squares and then have my sewers sew the squares into 60×60 blankets.

Every Christmas, for several years, I would hand out probably over 800 blankets to the homeless. I’ve kept this to myself until now.

My parents use to say: You don’t have to change the world. Do what you can, when you can, and you can make a little section of your world a little better.

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

“You are protecting yourself out of a deal.” ~Quote from the movie, Million Dollar Baby

I see new businesses do this a lot. They are very busy worrying someone is going to steal their great design, and they never get around to making it. And the reality is, unless your design is patentable, it can be copied. So, they are protecting themselves out of a deal.

Morgan Freeman says this to Clint Eastwood because Eastwood isn’t letting Hillary Swank’s character fight the better fights. He was protecting her out of the deal, and from her being #1.

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?

The fascinating development I see is the younger generation who doesn’t care about labels much. They care about what the company does and stands for. I like this. Gen Z especially is really smart and demanding authenticity. You can’t bullshit Gen Z. They are not about green washing when it comes to sustainability, and they are demanding more than lip service from companies and brands.

I think this will push companies to be more innovative in collaborations and in their overall production strategy. More isn’t where it is anymore. This reality will elevate the shopping experience because I believe brands will be adding to their revenue with more experiential moments that drive revenue versus just more and more products.

What the youth do has always excited me. It keeps all of us young and on our toes!

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

1) Be nice.

I remember I had put together a large panel at FIT in New York. The moderator was Fern Mallis (the creator of New York Fashion Week), and when asked what was her best advice, she said, “Be nice.”

Many people can be entitled, rude, and have grand expectations. Bottom line, no one owes you anything. So, be nice and you will win more friends and influence more people (as the Dale Carnegie phrase goes).

2) Complete the job asked of you. Go the distance.

I have noticed more and more people do the bare minimum. Complete the job from A-Z. If you are doing something for someone, make sure they don’t have to do additional work for it to actually be done. Whether that be your customer service if you own a business or if you are working for someone, don’t make more work from the work you do.

3) Do your best.

Make sure whatever you do you want your name attached to it.

Some days might not be as good as others, but even on that lesser good days, do your best whatever that means for that day. Twenty years ago, I read “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz and though all four lessons are life changing, this one really comes up in my mind at the end of each day: “Did I do my best?”

4) Learn to communicate effectively.

Whether it be in written or verbal form, communication is everything. Always. People need to be able to digest what you are saying. Conveying your message and people being able to “pick up what you are putting down” is a real talent. Take classes in writing and public speaking. These are great qualities and can build a great deal of confidence.

5) Have integrity.

You can have all the above and more, but if you don’t have this, you won’t succeed in any business. Not with anyone of caliber anyway. Integrity is doing what is right even when it is hard. Principles. Don’t sacrifice your integrity for money or ego.

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

Becoming sustainable is a good place to start, along with bringing manufacturing back to the country and/or continent you live in. And don’t make so much shit that you know won’t sell.

Being sustainable means buying less as well as buying items that come from recycled products.

If our industry keeps pushing as much product as possible onto the consumer, we will always have an overage. The overage goes into landfills and this is one way the textile industry has become the second-largest pollutant in the world.

We, the consumers, have to make a conscious shift in our thinking to bring sustainability to the forefront of fashion. We can demand it. It is important that we continue to educate ourselves as to what the major pollutants are when it comes to fabrics and fashion brands.

As we have learned this year, we may not all be in the same boat but we are definitely all in the same ocean. What one of us does affects all of us at some point on the journey.

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. 🙂

I’m launching a sustainability solution called, WasteUp, which takes overage from fast fashion and re-sews the goods into yardage.

WasteUp will resell it back to brands as a truly sustainable fabric. In addition, we’ll provide solutions to create a quick turn team within these companies, enabling them to manage this within their own overstock goods. We anticipate that this will decrease landfill waste by over 50%. If we succeed, this could make fashion a leader in sustainability.

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