Blessing Okoro is about to see what it’s like when a dream comes to life. This coming February, the Canadian entrepreneur launches Perfect Fit, an e-commerce startup that’s one-part fashion show and one-part boutique. Okoro’s timing couldn’t be better, which explains why she seems more intrepid than trepidatious. In 2013, the world famous Montreal Fashion Week fizzled into oblivion when it merged with the Fashion+Design Festival. Toronto Fashion Week – the North American go-to after New York’s namesake – followed suit earlier this year. It’s a trend that’s sweeping the globe.In a not entirely unrelated move, fashion retailers are pulling their inventories from Big-box store shelves, closing the doors behind them – at an unprecedented rate – and setting-up camp on the battlefield of online shopping. “The lesson,”Okoro said, “is that people want to do their window shopping and their actual shopping from home and that means fashion designers have to look to new ways to get their latest creations noticed.Self-promotion has become more of a mantra these days for everyone and that’s where Makingtheperfectfit.com comes in.”
She’s right. Self-promotion is the new norm. But it’s a two-way street. In the last decade or so, social media has given consumers a voice like never before. Getting what you want from your purchase has never been so connected toyour persona, online and otherwise, and manufacturers have taken some drastic turns to meet increasingly personalized demands. For those of us who grew up in a world where a pizza was the only customizable purchase we made in the run of a day, the examples are ubiquitous. I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this who know the words “They’ll stop hurting your feet after a few gym classes” all too well. Now, a trip to Nike, Vans, Converse or Adidas.com with mom gets you custom sneakers and a pain-free walk home from school. This is the new shopping standard and there’s a whole generation of consumers coming up with expectations of Made for Me products.
“We’re trying to eliminate those frustrating online shopping experiences in the design and fashion world where finding something that actually fits is more difficult than finding something you love,” Okoro explained. “I have a lot of experience with this being a plus-size girl. It’s a reality more and more shoppers – not just online shoppers – from every demographic are dealing with every day. It’s frustrating to pay more for something because you have to have it taken-in, fitted, or break it in. I want to change that. That’s the motivation behind this online community. Your choice, your measurements.”
Where better to base a business built on choice and voice than in the shadows of Parliament Hill, Canada’s bastion of federal government. “Perfect Fit is based in Ottawa but everything is done online. We are a platform connecting fashion designers with shoppers and an online marketplace where we allow fashion designers to create their own boutiques and shops,” Okoro outlined. “They are able to upload their designs and connect with the shopper directly in order to provide specific, custom designs to every aspect of their size. We don’t have restrictions on what the designer can post. In other words, they don’t need approval from me to profile and sell a new design. They upload it instantly. They have full control of what they post and what we sell. Perfect Fit is the ultimate in custom fashion.”
Okoro’s business model expertly links the wants of the sovereign shopper with the self-promotive needs of contemporary fashion designers. “For designers, it’s extremely expensive to start your own collections. It’s difficult because creating inventory comes with more challenges than people think. You have to take a look at the state of the industry and ask yourself ?How many of this design should I produce in the small, medium, and large size ranges?’ and these upfront inventory costs really stop a lot of people before they start. It’s also tough when you have to sell each piece just to break even. We’re trying to break down that wall. So every time you make that dress, for example, you’re making a profit. This is the perfect setup for young designers.”
“Another thing to consider,” Okoro continued, “is that we don’t have a fashion council in Canada, a council that helps designers with grants or organizes shows or fashions weeks. Fashion weeks are dying, actually. The government just isn’t sponsoring this industry. Most designers in Canada have to struggle to promote themselves and unfortunately, many have to leave the country to find success. For now, I’m focused on Canadian designers only for the reason that our fashion industry is comparably weak. Giving talents in Canada the chance at recognition is step number one.”
It wasn’t hard to tell that Okoro is serious. Her knowledge of local, regional and national talent is comparable to the baseball card expert everyone grew up with.
“The designers on-board in the pre-launch stage are amazing. They are mostly graduates from the Richard Robinson Academy of Fashion Design, the top fashion school in Ottawa. Designers like Ines Kljajic and Rebecca Rowe are on-board and I couldn’t be more excited. They’ve been showcased in the Runway for Hope where they raised $4,000 for CHEO, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, so their profile is well-established.”
Okoro is equally faithful in her market.
“Our clientele is going to be diverse. There won’t be any restrictions on the demographic. I could tell you 18 to some other arbitrary age but really, Perfect Fit shoppers will be anyone who has had frustrating online – and brick and mortar, for that matter – shopping experiences when it comes to finding fashion that fits. I know I’m an idealist, but I believe people should be able to go online and find products that are tailored for them in all facets of life.”
“I hope Perfect Fit can bring people in the design community together – I hope it brings everyone together. We’re going to work hard to connect designers with shoppers.”
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