How can we as women support one another? The answer is point and run.

I heard this on Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast. In one of the very first episodes, she had a conversation with Abby Wambach, retired American soccer player, 2 time Olympic gold medalist, and FIFA World Cup Champion. Whenever she scored a goal, and there were many in her career, she would point in celebration. She would point to her teammates and coaches because without them, there would have been no goal. And, whenever someone else scored a goal, she would run towards them in celebration.

This applies to everything we do in life including our careers, our businesses, and even our families. We never do anything entirely on our own. There’s always a supporting cast who help make it happen.

So we need to celebrate each other’s victories. If one of us makes it over the hurdle, then we all benefit. The one in front clears the way so we can all run towards her. She in turn can point to those who helped her along the way. And that lifts us all up and carries us forward. Not necessarily to a finite goal, but to making the world a better place, as cliché as that may sound.

Who I point to and run with

With that in mind, I would like to point to the women + 1 man who have offered me a helping hand and cheered me on to becoming a clothing designer. I would like to clarify that these are the people who helped with the design part of my business. There are many people who have helped me in other areas of my life and business. Far too many to mention in one blog post.

Twiss & Weber

Let’s start from the beginning. I had not a clue how to become a designer. I loved clothes, had a fashion merchandising diploma, worked in retail, and had some ideas. That’s it. It was Laura Twiss and Tonia Weber of Twiss & Weber who truly helped me get the ball rolling. I took my crude sketches and samples of clothes I liked and met with them in their store/studio which was in Westboro. These two were just what I needed.

Together, they were encouraging, funny, forthright and above all, patient with me, They shared information on fabric and suppliers, and advice on how I didn’t need to worry about getting business cards (which, of course, I didn’t listen to), and so much more. They provided me with what I needed, my very first sample, and then pointed me in the right direction and sent me off to find my way. I will always be grateful to them. They got me started.

How can we as woman support one another by Colleen Kanna. My first sample top made by Twiss & Weber

My first sample top made by Twiss & Weber

CRW Design

Next I headed off to Toronto and met Nikki Francies and Sherri Carlson of CRW Design. They took my first sample and made it into a garment. They tweaked it, made a pattern, graded it for sizes, got labels made, zippers ordered, and cut and made my first top, the Maddison. CRW is an all in one production house which is perfect for small designers like me. They took care of all my needs. It was a great place to dip my toe into the manufacturing world. This duo produced my first 5 styles, and I still work with them today.

First top produced by CRW Design. Model Credit: Christen Bennett

My first top produced by CRW Design. Model Credit: Christen Bennett and Photo Credit: Steve Haining

Micaela and Sandy

Developing new styles from afar has its challenges. So the next 2 women, Micaela Cook of Seconds Before Waking and Sandy Goldsmith are local designers, pattern and sample makers. It was great because I could meet with them in person without hopping in a car for 4 hours. They were both talented and great to work. They were the right people at the right time.

Milena & Duey

Then I headed to Oshawa and met up with a dynamic sister and brother design duo, Milena and Duey. I have so much admiration for these two. They have their own line called Frère du Nord. It’s fresh, young, and hip and has really taken off. They also have a small manufacturing facility in Oshawa. Two years ago, Milena and her hubby purchased a building in downtown Oshawa, renovated it, and now it houses their production facility, their storefront for Frère du Nord and has 6 apartments above which they rent out.

Duey and Milena of Frere du Nord, Duey is on the left wearing a grey hoodie and red pants, Milena is on the right in a grey tunic.

Duey and Milena of Frère du Nord

They are my inspiration. It’s my dream to do something similar. I learned so much from these two. They run their business with a lot of heart and soul. We had many interesting and enlightening conversations. I learned how to find and source suppliers beyond just my fabric. They introduced me to Amit Thakkar of Roopa Knitting Mills who custom knit my Fiery Fuchsia, Silky Blue, and Midnight Black bamboo fabric.

Liz Lee

From there, Milena connected me with Liz Lee of Modes Identity Int’l, a production house in Chinatown, Toronto. Liz took over the business from her mother. Liz is also putting her skills and experience to work during the pandemic by making I SEE U face masks.

How can we as women support one another by Colleen Kanna, I SEE U face mask made by Liz Lee

I SEE U face masks by Liz Lee

I felt like this was another big step in my business. Here, I had to source everything and be more organized. They are not in the business to hand hold like the others. They are a larger production facility producing garments for well known brands. Still, Liz has been doing a lot of hand holding with me because she cares and wants to help me as much as possible.

But, at the end of the day, I needed to step up and am still learning to do this. I’m probably her only small client who does production runs of only 50 garments at a time. I’m her only client that resides out of the Toronto area so they store a lot of my supplies which they don’t typically do. However this results in some mishaps along the way. So again, I need to step up my game and provide cut sheets with fabric swatches and labels and whatever other notions are required. Previously I was writing everything down. Sewers are visual workers. They need samples to look at, not words to read.

Barbara Starr

Liz introduced me to Barbara Starr, another amazing designer and pattern maker who also has her own clothing brand, Terra Cotta Clothing, and a small production house in downtown Toronto. I love Barbara’s straight forward, no nonsense style. She has a wealth of experience and knowledge. She’s also my demographic and understands women’s bodies beyond middle age, and tries things on for me and provides valuable input.

How can we as women support one another by Colleen Kanna, Photo of Barbara Starr of Terra Cotta Clothing

Barbara Starr of Terra Cotta Clothing

These are my point and run to people. They are all people who care not just about dollars and cents but about helping others. They work alongside other business owners and help them be successful. I’m forever grateful to all of them and strive to do the same for others.

Everyone is trying to get through this pandemic right now. When I talk to these people, they are working hard, working at half capacity, working with all the safety precautions in place, and doing the best they can. They understand when we help each other, when we share our knowledge and wisdom, we all get carried forward. And, that is how we support one another.

Happy International Women’s Day!

P.S. I’m looking forward to a new shipment of the Carolyn reversible dress before the end of March. Just in time for spring.

Until next week,

~ Colleen

Colleen Kanna, Photo by Anna Epp Photography

I’m a recovering Chartered Accountant and Breast Cancer Champion turned Fashion Designer. My COKANNA Canadian-made bamboo clothing is all about comfort and style. Giving back to the community is important to me so I support Rethink Breast Cancer‘s metastatic breast cancer education, support, and advocacy work.