How to Get Answers to Your Questions

Why do you read this blog? To get information, right? To get answers to your questions?

Let me just make this clear: I do not make my living off blogging, not here and not at my own blog. I make my living as a designer and illustrator and my blogging is a culmination of my wanting to help people, meet other industry folks, display my work, rant to people who have shared the experience and can empathize, and engage myself and others in interesting conversations. I’m not going insult you by trying to lie and tell you that all my motives are completely altruistic. Even people who donate millions of dollars to charities do it for the resulting tax break and the warm fuzzy feeling of do-good-ing. I gain a lot of benefits too–the top one being some of the amazing people I’ve met that I never would have otherwise.

So what’s my point? My point is that sharing my experience with you is not my job. I’m not obligated to do it. But under the right circumstances, I enjoy it immensely.

One of my favorite things to do is have coffee with a colleague and have some great conversation. Yesterday was awesome–three hours, great fellow designer, some snark Oscar fashion talk, some industry griping, some troubleshooting and offering advice (both ways), some good coffee, and plans to carpool to the LA Textile Show together next month.

So approach me–I do want to get to know you. And if I can, I want to help you too, but trust me, everyone has boundaries and expectations of professional behavior. You can only win by being respectful–in all things.


Your first email needs to be professional. After we’ve established a relationship, sure, bypass that final grammar check, but I’m not the only who won’t take you seriously if you email me like ur on im omg can u help me???? how cum no 1 will hire me??? No way in a million years will I refer you to any of my industry contacts. r u kidding me???? Go buy a vowel and a clue.

You are in no position to be demanding. Would you ever approach a fabric guy and say, “Ok, tell me everything I need to know about all your fabrics. No, I’m not going to buy any, I’m just trying to pry all the information out of you to start my own business.” Count the milliseconds before the fabric guy would toss you out the front door. Email me on my recommendations on books and let’s have a conversation–tell me what you have, what you like, what you don’t like, and be specific. “I’m trying to learn more about dyeing silks, and book X didn’t give me what I was looking for. What would you recommend?” Do not ask me to regurgitate all the information I have from having read all those books. Book reports are for lit majors.

Check your sense of entitlement at the door. You are not entitled to me sitting for five hours typing out all the knowledge I have in my head, especially if you ask me to “do it really soon cuz i’m totally on a deadline”. You know what I don’t understand? How being polite and professional became old-fashioned. There’s a line between bold and rude–don’t cross it.

Note: Just because I respond to you with a link from a older blog post of mine does not mean I’m brushing you off. It ONLY means I’ve already written about it and I’m directing you to information I don’t want to retype.

Yes, I’ll probably come across as a crankypants in this post, but I don’t care. If you think this post is nasty, you’re in the wrong business. I write this with your best interest in mind. You want to succeed as a designer? An entrepeneur? You absolutely need to be polite and professional, especially when soliciting free help. You’d be amazed at the doors you can open for yourself just learning to introduce yourself properly. First of all, I’ll be more inclined to give you a more in-depth answer to your questions and I’m easier (in that regard) than a lot of industry professionals I know.

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29 comments

  1. Alison Cummins says:

    Crankypants? Hm, given that these are exactly the sorts of criteria I used to use in my internet dating years… totally appropriate!

  2. Big Irv says:

    I liked this post very much. I really agree with what you say about entitlement. I too, have no problem assisting new ventures in this business, but remember if you are not paying that person he or she is ” volunteering” to help you out.

    A couple of things that have really irked me in the past . As a contractor I spend enough time in the office and on the production floor. Please don’t ask me to meet on a weekend at the factory or afterhours as you cannot take time off work from your paying job. If you are serious about this industry, meet during normal working hours.

    Don’t make appointments and not show up . Don’t send me emails saying you couldn’t take any time away from work or that you decided to shelve your idea for now.

    This hasn’t happened to me recently as I have not let it happen.
    I hope any of you would not do this to any contractor or supplier.

  3. Karen C. says:

    Wow, sounds like you have really experienced some rude people. Sorry to hear that. Rudeness is a big irritant to me and so unnecessary.

    By the way, will you be at the Textile show on Monday? We’re having a meet up around 5 p.m. in front of the book store (see the meet up section in the forum). Hope to see you there.

  4. Heather says:

    preach it sistah!

    Ok, maybe I should spell check.

    Your advice is very appropriate and not at all crankypants. It’s good to know what the ground rules are, especially if someone doesn’t have the background to know what’s acceptable and what’s not.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Boy Zoe, do I have material on this! The most outrageous one I got lately was from this girl. She wanted me to ask all of you to send her clothes for a fashion show she wanted to put on. When I asked her if she was serious because she didn’t even give me her name or anything, like I’m going to post that? She wrote:

    im not going to put my address and phone number up on the web for god knows who to come and call me. my idea was to see if any one was willing to loan me the clothing b4 i put all my personal inforamtion out there.

    I don’t know why I bothered to respond but she finally mentioned she lived in “elkgrove”, like I know where that is. How many can there be? I asked if she just expected people to drop ship to “Elkgrove USA” general delivery, no name or anthing else and she responded:

    “elkgrove” is in california. it s right by sacramento. look it up on mapquest so you wont remain ignorant in your geography.

    Here’s a sampling of stuff I get. I stick these in my “dumb or delusional” file. These are old, back when I still found this amusing. These days, I just delete them. Again, no names, no addressing me by name and no thanks.

    Hi i recently started designind clothes I drew schethes. I keep coming up wiyh ideas. Im good, wiyh a sence of style an eye for fashion and i am talented. only thing im 17 years old, also have a baby im a junior in high school. If someone could look at my designs i know my age wouldnt matter.
    ————–
    i need some serious help with getting started with my line…your advice is much needed for me..if u had some great designs but low income what would u do to get started and how will u make it a success..
    ————–
    i trying to get started with my clothing design.How do i get started and how do i get manufactory to make my cloths ect.please help
    ————–
    IM TRYING MY OWN CLOTHING LINE AND I NEED HELP TRYING TO MY SKETCHES
    ————–
    im startin a line & i need help on my plan.please contact me @ oonxxx@yahoo.com …or if u feel,u can leave a #,open to ideas
    ————–
    hey im trying to start my own clothing line i have sketches and more ideas but dont knwo what to do next i was woundering if you could help me you can contact me by phone or email
    ————
    This last one was a real gas. No name, no contact info, nothing.

    We, are searching for a manufacturer to take on our apparel line. Our corporation seeks to produce classic upscale apparel that neither sacrifices quality nor style.

    Company Info:
    HQ-(US)-Office- Atlanta, GA

    Image- Upscale
    Male & Female
    Product Lifecycle- start up/growth (orders will start out small and grow through out the year)
    Through a year we would order at the very least 13,00 pieces.
    Our line will first introduce both men and women tops ranging from tank tops to sweaters. We would like the ability to produce some garments with embroidery, silk screen, and other embellishing processes.

    Our Inquirers:
    Turnaround time
    Shipping method and cost
    Payment terms & methods
    What do you offer design wise
    Minimum order

    And people wonder why I don’t give out referrals.

  6. Marguerite Swope says:

    I’m a lurker so far, and yes I own the book (if you’re a lurker and don’t own it, shame on you). I’m a bit overwhelmed with all there is to learn (and my husband has taken my book to work to read, so I’ve only read it once). Worth every penny and more. I will post a bio and become more active when I feel up to speed, but I just had to reply to this post.

    I am an eBay-trained business consultant and my contact information is on eBay and I get this type if email all the time. Believe me, it’s all too common. No salutation (even though my name is posted with my contact information), no spell check, abbreviations for words (like “u”) that make me nuts, and they want me to tell them what to sell and where to find it and make them the next eBay millionaire, and of course, no name given. Surely there is somewhere in the education system where people are taught the basics of polite correspondence–maybe not. I know I learned it many (many) years ago at Las Cruces High (yes, I grew up in Kathleen’s town–I about fell over when I ordered my book and saw where she lives!)

    So, Zoe, thank you for bringing this up. Like you, when someone approaches me in a professional manner, I am willing to bend over backwards to offer advice and helpful tips.

    I hope all the lurkers are listening!

  7. Heather says:

    In my high school we had business classes that taught us how to answer a phone politely, how to frame a business letter, etc. I think email tends to break down the etiquette line quite a lot though. And skills like our old business class just aren’t taught anymore.

  8. Jan says:

    I empathize with the frustration of the ridiculously demanding nature of the general population, who thinks they are *owed* your knowledge! Nothing annoys me more than an email asking me, point blank, how I do what I do.

    My husband has been teaching at the college level for 12+ years, and every semester his sighs and groans get deeper and more annoyed. His students don’t know how to think critically about anything and refuse to attempt any form of problem-solving that doesn’t involve their next text message. Let alone their complete disrespect for the rules dictated by their syllabus…the rules do not apply for the loudest of this upcoming generation of ego-centric youth! So sad!!!

  9. Amen, Sister! I have spoken with Kathleen and find her so generous with her expertise. I’m not a DE, but I just love to read the words of wisdom here, because they have relevance to many types of businesses. Plus, it’s interesting. Kathleen, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    PS – the Elk Grove that I have visited was in Illinois. I assumed it was that one.

  10. Dorez says:

    Kathleen, I totally agree with you. Even as my daughter Anna and I struggle to gain brand recognition for our clothing line, we are still willing and eager to help others in our industry. We give referrals, share leads, and offer words of encouragement any time we can.

    I also agree with the other person here (was it Big Irv) who says if you are serious about this industry, then you need to meet with vendors, contractors etc. during normal business hours.

    Kathleen, I realize you’ve undertaken this job to help others and as you said for other reasons. I just want you to know that I appreciate it very much.
    – Dorez
    Jahqoi,Inc.

  11. Malissa says:

    I totally understand where your coming from. I’ve been told I should charge for the knowledge I dispurse and if I could put a value on it and get people to pay I would, but at this time I don’t see that happening. So, I monotor who I speak with and measure what I get in return. I find that the network I ‘ve created and the friends that I’ve made are worth their weight in gold.

  12. kath says:

    *sigh* It’s a sign of the times. You’re not the first person I’ve heard complain about this type of thing. One of my friends teaches college writing courses and said at this point she doesn’t know whether to grade on content or grammar and spelling. If it’s the latter, then virtually every student would fail. Companies in NY are complaining to the NYS school system about applicants coming out of college who can’t write a complete paragraph, yet expect a starting salary comparable to their parent’s current one. The sense of entitlement is incredible.
    Another point you made was about the lack of return addresses on emails. Writing an email should be governed by certain rules, just as any written inquiry is. Maybe this is something we should encourage English teachers to cover in school while they are teaching the letter writing lessons.
    Finally, in the comment earlier by Margaret Swope, she said “I hope all lurkers are listening.” I just want to ask, listening to what? Was that supposed to be a cheap shot? I’m not undertanding the comment. Please clarify.

  13. Marguerite Swope says:

    No cheap shot intended. Just wanted to make the point about how to approach someone for answers. Sorry it was taken wrong.

  14. Karen C. says:

    Kathleen,

    I think I know who that person in “elkgrove” is. I don’t remember her name but was contacted last year about submitting clothing for a fashion show. I told her I was smack dab in the middle of getting first patterns made, etc., for a collection and if she could tell me who the buyers were that she invited, I might consider it. The response I received was very defensive and all about how they had put on shows before and didn’t I review their materials??? I get hit up all the time to be in “fashion shows” by people who don’t really understand what drives sales or where a designer must put her money, time and energy. I call them the “Mickey and Judy want to put on a play” people.

  15. carissa says:

    thanks for my laugh of the day! I know this is really not funny- it’s just horrible- but I can’t help but laugh.

    cathlein i’ve got great ideas can u loan me $? Others want 2 really bad but i thot i’d give u first chance

    tee hee hee

  16. Lisa NYC says:

    oh Kathleen…you’re right on the money!

    I, too, constantly get emails asking me to share any expertise I may have by anonymous people. Oh yes, let me tell you what I’ve spent the last few years learning, yet you cannot even sign your name…LOL.

    Don’t even get me started on grammar and spelling. It’s just sad to think these people hope to be successful in any field when they have yet to learn the basic rules. Go figure.

    With friendship,
    Lisa
    Downtown Joey

  17. jay says:

    i really understand what you are writing about. i get various quick, unpolite and even stupid emails of people who consider some of my websites as shops or anything they are not at all.
    i have a invitation only community site and instead of a proper introduction i get emails like “hey let me in”…
    i read somewhere the internet is connecting the global village and in every village there are village idiots.

  18. Megan says:

    Wow…people really do have no clue do they? Although I suppose you haven’t really made it until you get these sort of requests, eh? lol I haven’t gotten any this ridiculous…though I’ve gotten a few requests for free jewelry for this or that auction or cause.

    Poor spelling and rude comments seem to be the norm – it’s very sad. I’m no expert on grammar but when I see every other word misspelled I get distracted and want to hit delete right away.

    I also want you to know that I really appreciate all the extra work I know it takes to keep your blog up to date. I enjoy reading it and getting your perspective. :)

  19. dosfashionistas says:

    Hello, I have been a lurker so far, but your comment here remind me that out of politeness I should at least say Thank You for putting all this together. I have gotten good information from reading your blog and I am most grateful.

    To introduce myself, I am a retired pattern maker, now selling plus size clothing on eBay, some of which I design and manufacture. Design I know, patterns I know. Production I do not know. But I’m learning. I would love to get to know you better and feel myself part of a community, but my work leaves me little time at this point, so I will probably be a largely silent particapant; but an appreciative one.

    Sarah (on eBay dosfashionistas)

  20. Jessie says:

    Honestly, I am about to go against the grain on the majority of comments posted so far. I am from the supposed “me” generation and I feel that your attitude right off the bat is actually disrespectful. Yes, this site is very helpful and yes I can tell you put alot of time into it. But I can also tell you are older and what some may call “Resting on your laurels”. There are alot of people out there who can’t afford to go to fashion college and with the internet, with the click of the button these uneducated people have easy access to you. I don’t feel that you should answer every request or even one request that would require you to spend too much of your precious time pointing somebody in the right direction. It is up to you. But, there is a fine line between not having the time to tell somebody something new and hoarding information. I feel that each one should teach one and that it is your duty as an educated individual to share what you know. If you are forced to guard this information like the torah then don’t complain when you keep running across ignorant people. And no I am not attacking you, this is a MAJOR problem in the fashion field. The sense of “I went o fashion school and I trained so I’m not going to let you in..” and the next thing you hear is “Why are all these people so dumb?” Now THAT is annoying. I am put off by this topic, sounds like the majority of you are coming from the “me” generation. So please get off your high horse and you’ll soon discover that some people who can’t spell all that great are actually nice people who were never given a chance. Now, if the content is rude by all means don’t respond. I just don’t like the tone of this topic.

    [note from Kathleen here: Jessie left a fake email address. Typical. The site rules are that all comments are deleted from fake email addresses but I decided to leave this one because it couldn’t illustrate the entitlement that we’re complaining about any more clearly. And, of course, the idea that the rules don’t apply to them. They’re “special”]

  21. Kathleen says:

    “Resting on our laurels”? LOL! By all means, go for it, knock us off our perches. But if you knock me off mine, keep in mind I won’t be posting daily or answering questions like yours. By all means, step in and take my place! Go wild. It’s all yours.

    This comment is a riot, “hoarding information”? Look around you, where do you think you’ve landed? Can you find this information anywhere else on the web? It’s all there, read it! What we object to is when people fail to exercise due diligence. While not everyone can or should go to fashion college, btwn the book and the site, your bases are covered. You need to invest your time to read it. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. In such case, it’s inappropriate for the horse to complain of thirst. Hoarding information…LMAO!

    I have to go now. It’s 4:30 AM and time for me to go back to resting on my laurels.

  22. “Jessie”‘s post doesn’t annoy me, but I’m rather flattered that she thinks I’m “older”. Ha! I’m barely getting rid of pimples.

    But on a touch more serious note, if someone thinks requiring civility is rude, they have bigger issues than not having gone to design school.

  23. Minrose says:

    Hi

    Its very suited that you post that up. And no, you are not being crankypants. I can understand where you are coming from.

    Being nice and having people returning your courtesy and help with bold and rudeness is simply unacceptable.

    Its a good thing you typed it down all of what you did on people who just jump on you for help. You really can’t tolerate people like that. It’s just useless. If you think of helping such people, knowing they’re that way, they’ll start returning back and asking for more.

    And for now, I’m going to plan my way up to become designer/entreprenaur and when I know what I want to ask you, I’ll send you an e-mail.

    Bestest Ever Regards,
    Minrose

  24. Nicole Marie says:

    first off….i bow down before you….

    and as to ” jessie”-she probibly IS one of the people who actually does these type of things.

    and EXCUSE me but everyone can go to collage, thats what federal grants are for, its just that some are to LAZY to do the 500 word essay that is requiered to get the grant.

    Thank you V. for venting for me.

  25. Anita says:

    I’ve been lurking here for a few days now (I’ll be buying the book shortly) and have to say I’m thoroughly impressed by the wealth of knowledge here and the generosity of those who are sharing it. I’m not impressed by people who are lazy and want others to do their work for them :-) There’s a big difference between asking for a little guidance from someone with a lot of experience and expecting them to drop everything and do it all for you.

    I read something in an employment-related article recently that proposed that one reason for this behavior in this generation is because they were brought up in an environment where they were always told how “special” they were. Everyone always won an award and they never learned how to lose or to be wrong about anything. Consequently, they don’t know how to think for themselves and don’t feel they have to expend any effort to succeed. Boy, are they in for a shock when they enter the real world!

  26. Gretchen says:

    I know this is an old post, but I came across it in an archives list and just wanted to say thank you for all of the time and effort you put into this blog. I don’t own the book, but that’s because it’s not my field. I’m not a designer/entrepreneur or in the industry at all; I just really love learning about areas outside my normal experience. If I ever decide to get into the business, the book will certainly be my first purchase! In the meantime, though, thank you for making all of this information available for anyone who chooses to put in a bit of time and effort to read it. I may be a member of the “me” generation, but that doesn’t give me an excuse to be rude to people who have been nothing but helpful for me. So thanks.

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