On my third year of doing grad dresses for students of UP, I had a total of seven clients. Four were undergrads, 2 took up their masters degree, and one was an instructor who hosted the rites. This was the most challenging graduation clientele I ever had, but they were all worth it. <3
Making these dresses went side-by-side with making the collection for PhFG. (Click here to learn more about my Philippine Fashion Gala experience). Both deadlines fell on June so imagine having to think about making a total of 1 dresses in a month. I knew it will be really hard but I still went through because I needed this clientele. I spent around 30 to 40 thousand for Montañosa so I had to work extra hard to at least cover a portion of what I spent for PhFG. If having sleepless nights means having cash-on-hand while I still haven't sold the collection, then challenge accepted!
The most challenging part was that this batch were all complete strangers. (Well, except for Sam. She is my friend's sister but I never really met her). How did they know about me? In the middle of a rainy day, my boyfriend and I were brainstorming about how to get back what I spent in PhFG...which means how to get more clients. I then remembered that graduation season is coming so I posted my sample graduation dresses in a Facebook group for UP students. I was surprised by the feedback! 600+ likes in 24 hours??? And my inbox in both my personal profile and facebook page was flooded with inquiries that I had to charge my cellphone twice because I needed to reply to all of them ASAP. Knowing that back then, I still had to finish my PhFG collection, I limited my clientele to 5, stretched to 6, until it ultimately became 7 because it was hard to reject an excited Iskolar ng Bayan. Not to mention, I also had bridesmaid and bridal inquiries and that will be a separate blogpost. ;)
Anyway, since I don't have an atelier yet, I had to meet my clients one-by-one in different cafes and restos in the metro . The place has to be quiet and not crowded. Based on the FB conversation with the client, I had my sketch prepared, measured them, and had the final approval of design, fabric, and quotation. The best seller design was the modern Maria Clara.
To be honest, I only started the batch after PhFG so that I would have full focus on it. The easiest to make are the ones in neoprene. Neoprene is a very nice fabric! It clings to the skin and is very durable. The most time consuming is the one with lace appliques; takes around 15 minutes to sew just one flower, so since it has 24 flowers, I leave the math to you. ;) The hardest ones to make are those made out of shiny fabrics like charmeuse and duchess. They are extra sensitive and slippery. Actually, I am not a fan of shiny fabrics at all but my clients wanted it so I had to deal with it. LOL. I also thought of leveling up the packaging. Boxed every dress with a little sunflower on top to make them excited for their special day!
It was hard to set the appointments. Each client should have 2 fittings: one to check the structure and fit and another for the final fitting and claiming of the dress. Due to time constraints, each fitting had only 2 days in between. All fittings happened in the final week before the graduation ceremonies. The fittings took place in Diligence Cafe Katipunan, a study and co-working space in QC. The place was perfect for fitting because it was quiet, not crowded, and has a decent bathroom for changing. There was even one time that they allowed me to use the meeting room as a changing room. All thanks to my dear friend Elmer Cuevas who owns the cafe! So during that week, I was almost everyday in DCaf. During one of the client meetings, heavy rain poured down the metro and it flooded outside so I and my client were stranded for a few hours in the cafe! Thanks to unlimited coffee and juice in Dcaf for keeping us comfy and safe!
Every fitting was nerve wracking. I was scared that my clients wont like it. Thankfully there were only minor revisions and the clients were happy with what they are wearing! they sent me sweet messages and in fact, one client posted a long message for me on her social media account. <3
I think as a designer, you will only feel secured about the dress when you see your client wearing it at the event. On June 24, I was waiting for them to post on their social media accounts wearing the dress with the sablay. I swear I was all smiles every time one has already been posted! They were generous enough to even mention me in their captions. <3
Di ako nagkamaling mag-pm that day and mag-go with you making my grad dress. - Czarina
Sobrang dami pong nagsasabi na ang ganda ng grad dress ko! Thank you so much for making this dress come true! - Celine
I truly learned a lot from this batch. Some of which are:
Shiny fabrics are vulnerable. Neoprenes are the best!
You really need to hang up a full circle skirt for 24 hours before sewing the hem.
Always stock extra fabric in case of revisions.
Create a written agreement between you and your client.
I think I will keep doing this every year. To be part of your client's special day is an honor and it even feels more fulfilling when they are very happy with what they are wearing. But more over, the reason why I love making grad dresses for UP students (and instructors) is that in my own little way as a designer, I am able to give back to the university that not only taught me well in the fields of humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and management, but also helped me discover my passion in fashion and honed me to become a strong individual that I am now. UP encouraged me to believe in myself, speak out on important issues, and make wise decisions. Through UP, I became more independent. It was because of UP that I found myself. #DesignerWithAPurpose
To all the graduates of Batch 2018, congratulations and padayon!