by Brigette Mashile, founder of Roka Roko
Each time I speak to someone who renders a service I need for the business but know nothing about, I let them blab on with a straight face and say, ‘ok cool, I heard nothing but proceed’. They laugh; and attempt to explain again. And I start venturing into my happy places filled with waterfalls, meat, whisky and music… then return for the expected ‘uhhmm’. This goes for the accountant, the digital marketing ‘what what’, the furniture creator guy, etc. I tell them you have no clue what ‘arm scye’ means and is needed for in garment construction…wait what is garment construction?
Communication was a subject at Wits University, in the Commerce curriculum…I did not select it. I mean hello…I know how to talk. Right? But am I understood? Through the years I have learned the hard way to literally speak like a Grade 1 child with all my clients. For me! Not to undermine their level of knowledge - it is more to protect ourselves; and finally, the client too. This is also the reason I insist on clients coming to the studio to finalize orders; on the phone (or whatsapp), chiffon is whatever the client believes it to be… and it is what we know it to be!
I have spent an hour before discussing a dress for a client; and failing to come to an agreement about how it should look. I finally asked her to describe the fabrics she was referring to; and discovered therein lies the problem. In her head; what she’s describing makes sense as the fabrics she’s asking for exist and can achieve the process. But for me, NO! I have even had long arguments with sales people in fabric stores about a fabric I needed, and they showed me something that is not what I was expecting.
It would be so great if we all had some inter industry dictionary - one that explains patterns, SOE, BP, palette, lapel, croissant, oak wood, shoeboot, Roquefort dip (side eye this one), macaroon (add how to say this), etc. One which I could refer to every time the accounting folk say dividends; or digital people say Facebook audience targeting….and for the rest of my people on COLOURS! Oh my goodness… I demand clients find the colour online and send me a picture. I have learned that blue is everything from turquoise to navy, and I mean Everything! Lets thank Pinterest for their hard work on colour palettes here.
There is no such fabric as jean….I am sorry to announce. It is all denim. Even if Google says so. Silk is not shiny…well at least not as shiny as we expect it to be. And it can go from extremely light to thick; but yes it is costly. Net is not lace…lace is 2 or more things woven together to create one fabric. Lace can have a net, wool, beads, sequin, etc. And there are a million types; also varying in prices. As I write this, I understand there is a need for a more interactive education programme on this definitely! The worst thing is creating an outfit for someone and have them disappointed as they were expecting something totally different.
Most of us also forget ourselves when we speak publicly; we go deep into our industry lingo. We will say things like, “I believe there is a need to review the sizing spectrum of our people based on who we are; and refrain from using international standardized sizing records; our people just require different pattern creation prior to the garment construction process….” And all the accountants in the room go ‘whaaat?”. This is the exact response I have when an engineer speaks too...
We need to find ways to simplify our communication with clients; remember those exhausting forms you have to fill in at the doctors rooms? They are attempting to get information from you in the easiest way possible. Perhaps we should learn from the doctor and have our own versions too. Then listen attentively; ask as many questions as possible, have samples on the table for your clients to refer to; have pictures as well to assist yourself. This is especially essential if you are in an industry where prices for your services and products are high; making errors in such a business is detrimental.
Brigette Mashile is the founder and creative force behind Roka Roko, a custom fashion design business based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The company passionately delivers quality tailored and trendy fashion to make their customers happy, and specializes in styling women by creating unusual combinations with fabric, culture and style. Brigette has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Witwatersrand and a Fashion Diploma from Studio5 School of Fashion. She’s a former fashion buyer for a major retailer in South Africa, and an international direct selling company. She’s been passionate about fashion since the age of 10 and gained invaluable experience in the fashion world running informal fashion creation businesses until the day her own Roka Roko brand was born. Find out more by visiting the Roka Roko website www.rokaroko.co.za
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