Spreading Awareness Through Clothing
Meet Marlene Solis
Marlene is the Founder and designer of her forthcoming sun-protective clothing brand, Florescnt, based in Orange County, California. Florescnt’s goal is to further carefree lifestyles for individuals, by producing UPF 50+ products. Throughout the past decade, Marlene has been able to apply her knowledge about fabrics, fit, and production methods to help launch numerous fashion startups before recently launching her own fashion venture.
Marlene grew a passion for fashion designing as a child. The originality and creativity her parents ha played a major in her fashion career. Marlene stated,
“Growing up my parents could not afford the ready-to-build kits at art supply stores. Instead they taught me how to use my imagination and hands to craft together school projects from items around me.” Marlene eventually made her dolls’ clothes from her own used clothing, which is where her desire for designing took off. Fast forward today, she has found herself in the DIY punk scene and her passion for and the concept of becoming a designer, and forming out of the box collections, began from her expression of going against the norms.
ENTERING THE SCENE
To dig deeper, I asked Marlene what her challenges were in regard to entering the fashion world. She responded candidly, ”Can I tell you something? I’ve never held a ‘fashion designer’ position since I started in this industry.” Right before Marlene graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, she found what she was great at - which was pattern making. Marlene started in the industry as a junior pattern maker and applied to many design pattern positions. She had no luck, but with her strong background in the technical aspects of design and manufacturing, Marlene has been able to produce and maintain the luxurious look of finished products with the ability to also see how to design her products in a cost-effective way.
With pursuing a career in fashion designing, you might want to consider going to design school. Marlene has had over a decade of experience in the industry and she has witnessed people waste a ton of money trying to develop brands without any prior knowledge about how fabrics work. Her motto is “fabrics are science”. She advises someone pursuing fashion design to take the time to learn the different fabrics in ways such as, how they’re made, what their purpose is, how they drape, sew, and how the fabrics react to outer influences. So in general, her advice is to not rush into designing something until you can tell your manufacturer exactly what you want your product to look like.
GOING ON YOUR OWN
Transitioning from design, if you’re looking to start an apparel brand of your own, there are some things you have to consider. Time is a key component to consider in designing clothes for your own brand. Marlene also says that flexibility, knowledge of fabrics, finding pattern makers, and obviously money are important. Fashion isn’t a cost-effective business so to get started, you’re going to need some capital.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Marlene also shared with me her experience starting a fashion venture of her own, and what an average work day for her is like.
“While at my first job I was exposed to many unique sectors of the apparel industry, here I came into contact with early adaptors of sun protective apparel. The people at these brands exposed me to the dangers of the UVA and UVB radiation that make it past our planet’s ozone”. Marlene’s current venture, Florescnt, focuses on a cause spreading awareness and educating people on melanoma, which has had enough cases diagnosed, each that are equivalent to filling 1,001 Rose Bowl Stadiums. Melanoma is the number one diagnosed cancer among 25-30 year olds, and Marlene’s objective is to fill the gap of the absence of education to younger people about melanoma and how to protect their skin from the sun. Her brand offers a way to protect the skin from the sunlight through products that are UPF 50+ protection based. With starting a new venture that supports a great cause, Marlene’s average work day isn’t filled with glamour. “Apparel factories and other vendors usually open before 8 am, so I am up and looking at emails at 7 am. “Emailing back-and-forth with vendors eats up most of my day, especially right now as we are preparing for the first production run and brand launch in January. “As a startup owner, I juggle many duties and have a never-ending ‘to-do’ list with various types of tasks. When it’s time to go to bed, I ground myself by reflecting on the day’s blessings, including another opportunity to work on my dream”. So, if you’re looking to start a fashion venture, be aware that you are going to be busy all the time.
Now you’ve figured out what you need to create a fashion brand. You know what to expect on a consistent basis, the certain concepts you have to consider following, and now you want to know how to promote your brand. One way to promote your fashion brand is through crowdfunding. Marlene promoted Florescnt through family and friends, as well as a crowdfunding campaign on IFundWomen, which is a crowdfunding company for women entrepreneurs. From her campaign on IFundWomen, she then released a website and created social media accounts (which were gaining traction) for her potential consumers to learn more about Florescnt. Currently, Marlene has an intended release date set for January and wants to continue to gain even more traction by hosting outdoor events closer to the release date.
In the current state that we are all in as a country, in regards to being in a pandemic, there are huge adjustments that had to be made compared to our prior lifestyle choices. For business owners like Marlene, she had to be accustomed to doing business in a different way.
“I started noticing that the pandemic was going to be an issue in February when I started to source for sampling. “I called a trim vendor who could not get info from his factory in China and then I started noticing that other brands were having the same issue. When the US shutdown in March, I was ready to commit to a hefty contract but asked to postpone for a few weeks until we figured out what was going on. Like all business owners, I eventually broke down not knowing what I was going to do; I could have stopped there at the idea stage. After delegating the odds, I decided to push forward, I had to pivot the grand idea I had for the company and scale it way down. Things moved rather slowly for months as Los Angeles and China started to open up. But COVID-19 has made me a ‘rush to research the next option’ type of business owner”.
TIMES IN A PANDEMIC
COVID-19 has put a strain on business owners, and as Marlene described her experience, it has been difficult. Her advice for others starting a new venture during the pandemic is, “be ready to pivot every other week”. The pandemic has hit the entire world unexpectedly and as we all know, there are many corporations that were pushed out of business because of their failure to adjust in a timely manner. Marlene believes that because of COVID-19, it’s giving designers more time to be even more creative on making their vision come to life.
TO SUM IT UP
Overall, the fashion business and especially fashion design is a strenuous and time-consuming industry. Marlene thinks that people entering fashion should “do their homework”. “Honestly learn about fashion first, I cannot stress that enough. There are so many steps that need to be taken before you have a finished product and before a design gets mass-produced. You will lose money if you do not know what your production partners are asking about. I have worked in a factory so I know all of the lies that a contractor will use and if you cannot see past them, you are putting free money in their pockets”.
To learn more about Marlene, and her brand Florescnt, you can visit her website florescnt.com as well as watch her short video below. You can also follow @shopflorescnt on Twitter and Instagram and if you have more questions or would like more advice from Marlene, you can connect with her directly on LinkedIn @MarleneSolis.
If you’re thinking about starting a career in fashion design, or starting your own brand, prepare to become a Busy Bee. A lot of time is going to be spent from research and studying, to actually preparing to design your product. So go out there, follow through the process, and create something special that will be recognised in due time!