I am thrilled to be kicking off 2023 with not one, but two inspiring guests for you!
Fashion Index is an innovative online platform that brings together all the industry participants on one intuitive site. Their purpose is to be the global one-stop resource that connects every individual in one place. Fashion Index can help you whether you are looking for a designer, patternmaker, seamstress, trim, fabric, or factory or if you need a coach guiding you through starting or scaling your brand.
I was thrilled when Tirsa Parrish and Marge Pietrera agreed to be interviewed for the blog series. They not only have a lifetime of experience as individuals but together they are a powerhouse to be reckoned with and they do it all with such warmth and grace. I am honoured to be a part of their platform as a coach. This interview is a must-read for both brand founders and industry freelancers alike.
Who are you and what do you do?
We are Tirsa Parrish and Marge Pietrera, co-founders of Fashion Index. Fashion Index is a web platform for beginning entrepreneurs looking to get their businesses off the ground or looking to expand into new product types. We have resources that want to work for you: coaches, designers, pattern makers, trim and fabric suppliers, factories, 3PL warehouses, and everything in between. If you are looking for a wholesaler, we have those too. Fashion Index is an interactive community with a concept incubator, blogs, and social media so you can get to know your peers and prospective business partners.
Why did you decide to set up your business?
We started Fashion Index after being in the Fashion Industry for 30 years. During the pandemic, we realized how disconnected the industry is. This is especially true for those looking to start a business.
What drew you to this field?
Marge and I were college roommates and graduated with Fashion Design and Merchandising degrees. We both have spent our careers working in product development and commercialization at some of the biggest and smallest companies in the industry (Gap, Kellwood, Warnaco, Tommy Hilfiger, JLo, and start-ups). We were destined to work together after doing so at the Limited. We want to help others and connect like-minded businesses to each other so they can ‘Make it Local and Sustainably’.
What has been the biggest challenge setting up your business?
Realizing that we needed to be comfortable putting ourselves out there and then doing it. We wanted personal anonymity so the platform and the amazing businesses listed are the stars that shine. Trust me they do, but we realized Fashion Index also needed a face, or in this case faces, that you can get to know, like, and trust. As Marge says, the first 1-minute video she did took days of preparation before she tried to record, and when all was said and done it took 48 takes. I was right there, too. It was not easy, but if we can get over that hurdle so can you!
What motivates you?
Knowing that we can make a difference. We hear stories from entrepreneurs of missteps, frustrations, and sometimes unfortunate and costly errors. We want to make the entrepreneurship transition easy and connect them to the right individuals and businesses to get their new businesses flying. We want to cultivate a supportive community. We LOVE helping make businesses grow and prosper, and we love hearing success stories from our community.
Who do you admire within your industry or as a business role model?
For Tirsa, Stella McCartney and Yvon Chouinard, of Patagonia. Their commitment to their product and environment is inspiring.
For Marge, Sara Blakely (creator of Spanx) is my biggest inspiration. She truly started from the ground up. She didn’t come from money… she had to be scrappy, like most of us. She had to dig to find the right factories to work with, the right raw material resources, and in addition, she did not even start with a background in fashion, she just identified a need, and fulfilled it. Even more than this, she maintained a certain culture in her company which was encouraging and supportive. She is the ultimate role model to me.
How do you deal with stress and big challenges?
Stress is hard for everyone but for me (Tirsa), I try to balance my work life with family, friends, and fitness. It’s not easy and I often have to hit the reset button.
For big challenges, I think of what my support system says, “How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time.” I take a target (date) and work backwards to set achievable goals along the way that will get me to success and I hold myself accountable. Sometimes that means being creative when something does not work as expected.
For me (Marge) I just yell at everyone when I get stressed… (insert smirky smile). That’s why Tirsa and I are a great balance.
What is the hardest and easiest part of your job?
The hardest thing is seeing the inequalities and disparities between men and women. Women are not being taken as seriously and given equal respect. I’ve faced this personally in my career several times.
The easiest is being part of the change — helping to support other women to be successful.
What skills have you found vital to your job?
I never expected this but being a good listener and inspiring confidence. Making the time to listen to others creates genuine connections. Taking the first step into something new is both exciting and intimidating. It’s vital for us to let those coming to Fashion Index know we get it and we are here to help along the way.
How do you manage your time?
Ha, as with any business, there is more to do than is possible in the day or week so we prioritize and reprioritize based on goals and upcoming events. We are also very good at dividing and conquering!
What are your goals for your brand?
Our goal for Fashion Index is threefold. One is to build a community that supports each other to be successful and lift up the community around each other. Two, move the apparel industry that, to date, creates so much waste and pollution to become a better, more nimble business model that offers products that allow for a cleaner and cared-for tomorrow. Three – Help as many people as possible to create independent, successful and thriving businesses ~ While doing what they love.
What does success look like to you?
Success is helping one individual/business and then making it repeatable.
How does your culture/background influence/benefit your work?
When I was younger I did not know it, but I was meant to be a Boy Scout. I believe in servant leadership. I believe in helping others. I believe in ‘leave no trace’ and ‘leaving it better than when I arrived’. My son brought me to scouting and I’ve fully embraced it and that inspires my personal vision and work.
What would your advice be to those wanting to start their own brand?
Believe in yourself.
Start with one product, hire a coach, who can truly save you from mistakes (which is just wasted time and money), learn from the experience of bringing that product to life and SELLING IT, and then expand.
What’s your proudest achievement in your career so far?
(Tirsa) When I recently got a note from a former employee that said, “Have I told you that you were the best boss I ever worked for?”
(Marge) Fashion Index is my proudest achievement – I love the opportunity to help other companies grow their companies, because as you’ve said, Deedee – there are all of these GREAT RESOURCES out there, and there are so many people looking for these resources. Fashion Index is the 1 place they can come to connect with any resource they might need to make their product and build their company!
What do you think I’d be most surprised to find out about you?
(Tirsa) In high school, I was voted the quietest in my class.
(Marge) I decided I wanted to be in the fashion industry when I was ten years old. I was super lucky to have supportive parents who did everything they could to immerse me in the fashion world from that time on!
What would be your personal tagline?
“Failure is not an option. ”
Unlock an industry secret for me
Today’s customers, particularly Gen X and Millennials, value authenticity and choose who they buy from based on ethics.
Thank you so much Tirsa and Marge for giving us a look into your world and how you got here.
If you have any comments or questions for Fashion Index, please leave them below. You can also find them here:
If you are an industry insider, have great advice to share and would like to be featured on the blog, please contact me here
To see how we can work together, book a 15-minute discovery call here
See you in a few weeks with my next guest! Deedee xx