Conventional approaches to designing products for the general public are being challenged by a new generation of Humber alumni.
Carrie Holmes, 24, is a graduate of Humber College’s Bachelor of Commerce-Fashion Management program and the founder of BlakBlak, an online retailer specializing in goth apparel.
Part of what inspired Holmes to start her company was the lack of representation she encountered in her youth.
“At the time I was just getting into the alternative scene. I grew up in Guelph, which is a smaller town. There weren’t a lot of clothing options out there and it was really frustrating,” Holmes said.
A fashion class in high school propelled her into Humber College where she found encouragement for her ideas while simultaneously encountering resistance from the traditional business crowd.
“My business isn’t really a traditional thing. I felt like I spent a lot of time convincing people goth is still a thing,” she said.
Though the push to make products that are accessible to all is tempting, it can also be an impediment.
Holmes found inspiration from CEO’s and fashion designers who specialized in goth clothing and decided to take a different approach to her business.
Instead of focusing on simple, ready-to-wear pieces she has decided to focus on more elaborate, individual pieces.
“I’m kind of trying to focus less on the business side. Not ignore it, but not let it control me as much,” said Holmes. “I found when I was in business school I was overly concerned with making things marketable.”
Paul Griffin, associate dean of marketing at Humber’s business school, sees the value in having an unconventional idea.
“Her products and ideas have appeal for her community,” said Griffin. “If an idea has merit that idea should be pursued. It may not have wide appeal, but that’s okay.
“At least you know who your market is and you can market to them,” said Griffin.
Griffin also cites how communication and seeking advice from experts specific to your field can assist in marketing unique products, as was the case with Holmes.
“It can feel like an obstacle if you feel like you don’t get any traction with the people you’re communicating with,” he said.
Nicholas Coleman, anoth er Humber graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Design, was taught to create a widely marketable product, but is noticing an increased appetite for niche designs.
“There’s a general rule with design: form follows function. When designing a product it has to appeal to a certain number people, but people are targeting niches more,” Coleman said.
Like Holmes, he notes how people value exclusivity.
“People want to have personal experiences,” he said.
Holmes talks about how the push to make something marketable was not beneficial to her creative process, but also notes how some thrive off of that pressure. Ultimately, she wants people breaking into the industry to be true to themselves.
“You have to do things the way that you want them to be done,” Holmes said. “I mean, listen to people, take constructive criticism, but in the end you have to do things for yourself because we’re all going to die one day.”