We hope to introduce you to all the great Etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the 54th in our series with Luka of HellhoundFashion.
What is your most significant achievement (i.e., your proudest moment) with your creative business to date?
I'm still only starting to fully put myself into the business so I haven't seen much by way of results just yet. I think my biggest accomplishment is probably that I haven't given up yet. It's easy to get discouraged by a slow startup, which I've already experienced (this is my third attempt at my own business!), you've just gotta believe in yourself enough to keep going even - or especially - if you haven't made any money after a year. That and finally getting likes on Facebook from people I don't actually know!
Tell me your story about who you are and how it all started.
I'm a 20-something life-long art kid and animal lover. I started sewing when I was a kid, going through bags of hand-me-down clothing from my cousin and reworking them to fit my size and style. Hellhound Fashion started with me making geeky jewellery for myself that I couldn't find anywhere else, and a business plan I had to write in college. After years of my friends asking for me to make things for them and telling me I should sell elsewhere, I decided to open up my Etsy shop. I liked the name, tagline, and branding I'd developed for my marketing class assignment so much that I decided to use it as the basis for the shop.
Where and how did you learn your craft?
I first started sewing on my mother's machine some time in the '90s after a little instruction from her on how to use it. It was years before I realized bobbins could be wound on the machine and not just by hand! It wasn't until my last year of high school when I actually took my first sewing class, and after taking a couple years off after graduation, I went to college for a three-year Fashion Arts program.
The jewellery side of things was entirely self-taught starting with one boring rainy day in my first year of college. Lastly, my screen printing started in my high school art class. Admittedly, I did little to nothing to improve my printing skills until the last couple years. My general artsy skills can be attributed to genetics (my mother was a craft painter when I was a kid, and my dad is a very talented drawer even if he doesn't practice much anymore), and having an amazing art teach in high school.
Describe your creative process and inspiration(s).
My creative process is quite lengthy and a bit annoying at times. It used to be that I would just go straight to making something without any clear idea of how I was going to go about it. Just stitching things together and awkwardly fitting it to myself while wearing it. Since college, learning new techniques and why my old ones weren't necessarily good, that's all changed. Sometimes my ideas come from the fabrics I buy, sometimes the fabrics I buy are specific for my ideas. Either way, once I have a solid idea floating around in my head, I try sketching it out as best I can, but it never really translates the way I want it to. That's all different once the drafting starts!
With clothing, I sew up a quick muslin from my pattern blocks (think the plainest item of clothing ever), throw them on my mannequin, and start drawing on the lines of how I want the finished item to look. Once that's all said and done, I trace pattern pieces from there and begin sampling. Because you can't really tell how something will look until it's made from the final fabric, how the fabric hangs with the cut and if that armhole really sits where its supposed to or if it cuts into your armpit, the sampling can sometimes take days. Days of fussing over small details, screaming bloody murder at my sewing machine, realizing I have a better idea and having to start all over, until finally I end up with something I'm proud of. That's usually when I leave it be, grab a cup of tea and celebrate by being lazy for a full day before getting into the real constuction.
This translated into my other forms of art as well. Now, when I decide to do a new painting, I draw out the idea first. Then I work out the colouring and shading on paper with pencil crayons and ink before getting into the actual painting. It definitely helps to avoid being let down by your own mistakes if you work out your approach beforehand!
My inspiration comes from all over the place. The fabrics I buy, street and runway fashion, comic characters' costume design, the graffiti on the back streets of Queen West where all the best fabric shops are. Bright colours with dark contrasts, the right attitude, architecture and multicoloured hair. Inspiration can be found anywhere once you open yourself up to it!
Is this your full time job? What is life like outside of your creative world?
Hellhound Fashion has just recently become my full time job. That's not to say it's sustainable just yet, but I'm fortunate that our country believes enough in small business to help fund the beginning stages. I'm in development for all kinds of things that will hopefully see the light of day before this year ends. Outside of Hellhound, my life revolves around music. My house not only serves as HF HQ, but also as the jam space for many Toronto bands thanks to my very talented musician roommates. If I'm not buried in some sort of creative outlet (sewing, drawing, painting), or immersed in whatever music I might be listening to be it live or a recording, I'm probably spending time with my best friend in the world: my dog, Maila.
How do you envision you and your creative business growing in the near future?
Later in the year I plan on expanding into clothing. Using oversized t-shirts with licenced prints, my plan is to create edgy but feminine clothing for all us she-geeks out there who are tired of the same old boring t-shirt, but still want to show off our nerdy side. But it won't just be clothing, it will be purses as well! I have more ideas than I know what to do with, so my visions of the future are always changing, but I do know that I'd like to have a full (even if small) women's line by this time next year, and to expand on my mens accessories. Look for cufflinks around Christmas time!
Check out the other items available from Luka in her Etsy shop! You can find more of her work on her Tumblr, blog, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Interviewed by Rovena of HandmadesRovena in May 2013 in Toronto.