It's pretty easy to recognize the Chanel logo and the signature "LV" design on Louis Vuitton handbags, but how much do we know about the names and faces who create these patterns in the fashion industry? CEO Cassie Betts is working to change that entirely for an industry that is predominantly underground - until now, with her company District2.co working to create a virtual garment district and provide a voice and presence online for indie brands, designers, manufacturers, and suppliers. Today we're taking strides in her shoes as she tells me how small brands can start leaving a big imprint online, why social networks are the new Google search, and why it matters to stand your ground at an early age in fashion.
Hillary Gadsby: What is District2.co’s mission and how does “a virtual garment district” work to help out fashion designers, manufacturers, and brands?
Cassie Betts: District2.Co (pronounced District2-point-co) is essentially the 2.0 upgrade for the garment industry. Our mission is to deliver continued technological advancement in order to serve garment/ fashion industry professionals. Our Virtual Garment District is a pimped-out search directory where fashion designers, garment manufacturers, apparel brands and others in the apparel field can find their "people.” Imagine taking all of Downtown LA Fashion District and putting it in one virtual space. You type in a keyword and filter; let's say "Denim Wash House" "Los Angeles", click the search button, and all the Denim Wash Houses in the Los Angeles Vicinity pop up, with contact info, pictures of their work, and little dots on a map to show their location. Our initial focus is to have all of Downtown LA on lock. After we are certain all of LA's underground garment industry is in our Virtual Garment District, we will expand to other cities & then to under-developed countries overseas. I'm getting excited just thinking about it!
HG: The District2.co website mentions that the underground garment industry, for the most part, isn’t seen online. What’s your advice on how indie brands can get online and start getting noticed?
CB: There are two main ways to get online and get noticed. 1. SMM- Social Media Marketing 2. SEO- Search Engine Optimization. #2 requires a well developed website that is optimized to show up in search engines like Google. It can be expensive and time consuming, but is very effective. #1 is free, but there is a certain science to it. Consistency is important. Post to multiple social networks at least 2-3 times a week. There are even social networking tools such as Hootsuite and Pagemodo that enable you to set up all your posts in advance and post on multiple platforms all at one time. Also, hashtags are your friends! If you're a pattern-maker, every post or picture should be accompanied by #patternmaker, #graphicdesigner if you're a graphic designer, #screenprinting if you're a screen-printer, and so on. These hashtags are searchable. Social networks are the new Google search - when I need to find hot designers for a promo fashion show, I go to Instagram and search #fashiondesigner. Pictures from all of Instagram's fashion designers that include that hashtag will show up. It's a very quick and visual way to do a designer search for hot up-and-coming designers.
HG: You’ve been in the fashion industry for 15 years – what has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in the business?
CB: Personally, my biggest hurdle is people taking me seriously. When I was 25, I looked 12. I was in charge of Production for a multi-million dollar denim company. I would fly to China to tell those much older and more experienced than I how to improve their production quality and efficiency rate. I was raised to respect my elders, but people will run all over you if you don't stand your ground. You have to be twice as good, know twice as much, and work twice as hard as everyone under you in order to gain his or her respect and cooperation. Now that I'm, um, older than 25, I still look very young, but have mastered the art of gaining respect within the first 15 minutes of conversation.
HG: What kind of shoe are you most like?
CB: I'm most like Christian Louboutins. Christian Louboutin shoes come in a plethora of different silhouettes, colors and designs, but that red bottom always remains constant. Red bottoms are not just the sole of Christian Louboutin, they are the soul of Christian Louboutin. My outer appearance changes daily. I look like a completely different person with the slightest change of hairstyle or wardrobe change. You never know what Cassie you're gonna get! However, in my core, underneath it all, I am always the same. As I evolve and climb this proverbial ladder of success, my soul never forgets where I came from.
HG: What are your three biggest wardrobe staples?
CB: 1) A good pair of "barely-there" nude thong panties, cause no one needs to see your unmentionables... ever... well, maybe not ever! 😉 2) Sexy 6" high "get-it-girl" heels. No matter WHAT you have on, you put on these heels, and suddenly you're high fashion! 3) Blazer jacket - this is important for the professional woman. I can have on the shortest, tightest mini dress... Rock it with a blazer, and I'm CEO-ready!