FBI Wise Words

BLOG #6 From Rolling Hills to Opening Doors All Over the World

By Frances Harder, Aug 1, 2016

From Rolling Hills to Opening Doors All Over the World

After we returned to LA we found our potential dream house that was within our price point due to it being a foreclosure. We had lots of work to be done before we could call it home but I enjoyed the remodel. We all settled once again into the Southern California life style that we enjoyed so much and returned for, and fortunately we still do!


My first job was to return to FIDM and to teaching again part time while the children were busy with their schooling. Teaching was the perfect position for me as I did not want to work full time but I did want to work!  Soon new doors opened in a variety of ways, some good and some not so positive, but really mostly good. I made new friends and connected to many of my old acquaintances. But as happens with most of us some negative experiences often motivate us to move on and this can often turn out to be a blessing in disguise.


Over a period of years I started two clothing businesses and managed to get screwed both time in different ways. But both of these startup businesses were a huge learning experience that helped me understand the many startup challenges, which in turn gave me so much more knowledge. During these challenging times and out of the blue I received a call from Otis college of Art and Design fashion Department. They needed a studio instructor and had heard of me from another faculty member and so a new door opened and 9 years of teaching as a full time faculty member in one of the USA’s best fashion universities. I taught and at the same time I was taught and learned! I loved the challenges this new position presented me, which also motivated me. It also opened doors to some amazing freelance opportunities. All of the below list of places and design assignments are a story on their own and many occurred while teaching at Otis, or after I started the Fashion Business Incubator as it was called in 1999. With all these new experiences it motivated me to create a new further educational class for Otis on Entrepreneurship. This then led me to write my first book Fashion For Profit. It taught me that having a great idea is not enough!! You have to really understand the business side of the industry.


While in the midst of writing my book and still teaching at Otis I met Sandy Blifer who is a talented artist here in LA.  I partnered up with Sandy to start another new business venture, the Fashion Business Incubator, as it was called when we first started in 1999. Since the inception we have grown and provide much more than entrepreneurial training and evolved our job training program. So we changed to the Fashion Business Incorporated. Sandy taught me much about the power of networking and forced me to attend endless meetings in which we could pass out our business cards. Through these many meetings new doors opened at the city hall, which helped to fund our newly formed nonprofit 501c3 startup.


To close my epic story of the power and influence of networking, I have a short synopsis of some of the different experiences of the assignments, which I listed below.  I think I have made my point over the past few blogs of how my life’s network has guided me to experience amazing travel, make new friends, new work experiences,  and all in all a wonderful journey through life.


Istanbul – Turkey – Freelance designer and consultant to a knitwear company. Great to work with!


Tokyo – Japan – “Frances Harder” name under license for two years. I designed a junior contemporary line. Had the patterns and samples produced here in LA then the production was made in Japan. (Two visits) I found working with them for around 3 years to be a great experience. They never signed my contract but always paid on time.


Royal Place of Brunei – Brunei- Design/Consultant to assist with the design development for the royal sports teams uniforms. Nike had been producing them but the turnaround was too long, plus the number of units order where too few. Very interesting, very amusing and an amazing few days in Brunei. Especially at the meetings at palace and watching some of the team sports play with the Prince in attendance who is now I believe the Sultan.


Pricilla Priestly – Home Shopping. Designing for the middle America market that would be sold on the Home Shopping Channel. Pricilla was wonderful to work with and we sold out twice. I am sure she really didn’t need an extra income but did it out of a passion for fashion. I did a few art renderings of Elvis’s guitars to be used as a print for tee shirts to sell at Grace Land.


Guatemala City – Guatemala – Design/Consultant to a premium denim factory that was producing for a number of LA Brands. The workmanship in these factories are amazingly artistic. The city was a little scary with armed guards all over the place.  


Paris, Callie – France. This trip was an invite from the French Government to learn about what their top brands were doing to protect from counterfeiting. Another amazing experience of first class treatment by THE top brands in France. I was in the company of Harpers Bazar fashion editor and 12 other impressive fashion related representatives from the US on this amazing trip! This first class treatment ruined any future travels to France, indeed anywhere!


Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin – Germany – Invited along with other top fashion representatives from the US and other parts of the world by the German Government to see what they are doing with regards to green technology. As I lived in Germany in total for 6 years this was like going home and having an opportunity to meet old friends and at the same time to meet new friends from around the world. This was another incredible experience that was “einmalig” - A first class trip!!


Hong Kong – China (Twice) – Both trips I was invited by the Hong Kong Trade and Development Association to bring a group of our FBI members to show in their World Boutique, which is part of their Fashion Week in the Convention Center that is right on the water front. Loved Hong Kong and the foot print that was left by the Brits. I thought the show was a good experience and a door opener for our companies. We are taking another group this September but Trish will attend this time as I will be on a River cruise in Germany with old friends.


Shanghai, Beijing – China (Twice) -  First invited by the City of LA to accompany the Mayor’s office. Then the second time was due to my first trip’s networking and I was invited back by Shanghai University and a local Shanghai apparel manufacture to speak on the US market.


Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth – Australia - Invited by the Australian government to present in each city about how an Australian company should prepare for the US Market. Some of the topics I covered: Costing, Merchandising, Marketing, and Understanding Market Niche.


Lima, Arequipa, Puno, Lake Titicaca - Peru (Two trips) This project was through a division of the United Nations. They found me from my 16 years of bi annual presentations at the MAGIC show in Vegas. I was hired as a consultant to assist companies that were ready with product development for their wonderful Alpaca products to expand sales into the US market. This was a wonderful experience and at times I had to pinch myself. Loved these people and hope to work with them further.


Kathmandu – Nepal – (Two trips) This project was my second assignment with the UN to assist a third world country. This project was basically the same as my Peru assignment, to assist their Cashmere producers from Nepal who needed more understanding of production methods, merchandising, product development and the US market.


University of Manchester – England. Invited to lecture on the US market. Interesting to return to my home city on a family visit and talk about the basic differences between the UK and the US apparel market.


Later this year, or early next year I could be visiting; Vietnam, South Africa & Columbia. All these are in the works with my various network of connections and maybe will be included in my next tales of the power of networking!



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