Startup Fashion Week was created in 2014 to celebrate, support and connect startups in Fashion, Fashion-Tech and Wearable-Tech. We had the pleasure of attending last year and cannot wait to do it all over again this October.

From runway presentations to notable guest speakers and special presentations, SFW has a lot to offer. So whether you’re breaking into the biz, looking for guidance and mentorship, or interested in connecting with like-minded peeps – you’re in for a loaded and inspiring week.

We caught up with Joanna Duong Chang of Henkaa just before her super inspiring talk at the Business of Fashion Conference yesterday.

SDTC: How are you participating in Startup Fashion Week this year?

JDC: I will be speaking at the Business of Fashion Conference about finding your niche and also providing the designs for the Startup Success and the Women of Influence in Canadian Fashion runway segment. Every garment made by Henkaa is convertible, so in each segment, all the women will be wearing the same convertible dress in different styles!

What do you hope participants take away from Startup Fashion Week?

Sell, sell, sell — even before you’re ready. I see way too many entrepreneurs take the approach of “build it and they will come,” but that is backwards in today’s day and age. If you have something worthy, people will wait and will pay! Start with a prototype or a sample or even just some drawings/mockups to prove your concept first before diving in and investing money or more importantly, yourself into a venture. There are so many tools out there like Kickstarter and social media to get the word out so there’s no excuse! You’re much better to put something out there and tweak or pivot early on. No customers, no business.

What’s the best piece of career advice you ever received?

The best piece of career advice I’ve ever received was that everything changes, and to deal with it. Whatever the change is, you need to figure it out. Those who can adapt will survive and will be okay. If you have expectations and hold on to those, that’s what will ultimately hinder your growth because change is constant.

Can you tell us about three designers/innovators who are currently doing amazing things that we need to know about?

This year, we’ll be outfitting the special Startup Success runway segment, which was done by Peace Collective last year. Every Torontonian is sure to be familiar with their patriotic “Home is Toronto” designs, but their added social purpose, with proceeds going to fight against hunger and eliminate hunger is so important. With Peace Collective opening their first storefront, they’re definitely one to look out for!

The guys at Garrison Bespoke are doing incredible things in the men’s custom suiting world. They’ve built a loyal following and even have celebs such as Drake, LeBron James, the cast of Suits as well as Bay Street lads and grooms across the city dressed to impress. They’re innovating, pushing the boundaries and exemplifying just how important quality, expert craftsmanship and experience are.

Bite Beauty’s Toronto Lab is just down the street from our showroom and I love seeing how they’re expanding in the lipstick market. Their lip lab in Toronto & New York, where you can create your own lipsticks, is such a fun and innovative idea! Although they’re a beauty company, their heavy focus on the experience around the brand is something I definitely aspire to.

What’s the biggest challenge young designers face in Canada and what can we do to help?

The biggest challenge young designers face in Canada is a lack of support. Toronto Fashion Week was recently cancelled specifically citing a lack of support. It’s not that Toronto or Canada has any shortage of talent, but many designers need to move to New York to find success. Canadians need to do more to seek out and support homegrown talent!

What everyone can do to help is to be more conscious of the choices they make when shopping. Money talks and what you decide to spend your dollars on speaks volumes. Are you aware of the source of your clothing? Do you choose fast fashion knockoffs over quality investment pieces? Are you buying Canadian-made goods? Being a smart consumer doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend more, it just means knowing who and what you spend on.

Where do you hope to see the Canadian fashion industry in five years?

In five years, I hope to see the Canadian Fashion Industry more visible locally and worldwide. Building a business, especially in fashion, is no easy feat. If we could all come together to envision a way resources could be shared, designers could actually focus on what they do best – designing and innovating. Access to capital and funding specifically for this space would be amazing too. There’s so much out there for the tech world but not enough for fashion!

I also hope for better shipping solutions in Canada so that online shopping can be as accessible as it is in the US. Shipping and customs really is a huge barrier to being competitive on a global stage.

Startup Fashion Week runs from October 3rd to October 7th across multiple venues in Toronto. You can purchase passes and tickets HERE.