Filed under: Interviews

Fashion Junkie in the Press!

Cynthia Cheng of Toronto-based Prospere Magazine, profiled yours truly in a feature story about my passion for fashion, unpredictable career path (from editor-turned-blogger to marketing director) and overall mission in life: to make the world a better-dressed place, one person at a time. Check out the Career Profiles section for more.

Dara Fleischer – Blogger, Marketing Director and Fashionista

Dara Fleischer, originally of Montreal, is a graduate of Ryerson University’s broadcast journalism program.  She has worked in a variety of different fashion-related publications and companies, including LOULOU magazine and Club Monaco.  She is currently the Marketing Director of Beyond the Rack, an online shopping club based out of Montreal.  Dara was one of the earliest employees of the company – the fourth actually, and is the only employee of the company based out of New York. She works out of a home office.

Prior to Beyond the Rack, Dara was the editor and founder of FashionJunkie.com – an online style source for “serial shoppers,” including herself.  It was actually one of the earliest blogs online – before the term “blog” and “blogger” were in the everyday vernacular – and focused on the day in the life of a “shopaholic.”  The site was originally very bare-bones, but was revamped a few years later when it became Dara’s full-time focus.  Though Dara is now working with Beyond the Rack on a full time basis, she still finds time to update the site – it is her baby, after all. What’s very interesting is that though Dara has worked in the fashion industry for most of her career, she did not take one fashion course at Ryerson. Dara’s FashionJunkie.com site also organizes shopping tours – called “fashion safaris

The Beyond the Rack site, which operates similarly to other shopping clubs like Gilt Group, gives members access to purchase designer items at a lower cost short time (ranging from a few minutes to a few days). In addition to luxury products, Beyond the Rack also offers items from more moderate priced brands.  Best of all, unlike other shopping clubs, Beyond the Rack delivers to Canada and the United States. What does Dara think of her job? “When you’re really passionate about something, it’s not a job – it’s not work – it’s something that gives me a sense of pleasure and makes me happy. If I can help everyone look great and feel their best, it makes me smile.”

Exclusive Deal for Fashion Junkie Fans! For your FREE Beyond the Rack membership, plug in the following promo code on the landing page: IHEARTBTR. Happy shopping!

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Compulsive Shopping Decoded: Warning Signs & Treatment

imageDo to an overwhelming response following last week’s Confessions Of A “Recovering” Shopaholic post (I guess that’s good and bad), I thought I’d do us all a favor by delving a little deeper into the subject by interviewing one of the industry’s leading compulsive buying experts, Terry Shulman.

As Founder of The Shulman Center For Compulsive Theft & Spending, Terry shares his personal experiences and provides thoughtful insight to questions that could help you (or those near and dear to you) to get back on the road to recovery.

FJ: Can you tell Fashion Junkie readers a little bit about your background and why you decided to establish The Shulman Center?

TS: I’ve been an attorney since 1992 and a certified social worker and addictions therapist since 1997. I have been in recovery from shoplifting addiction since 1990 and started C.A.S.A.—Cleptomaniacs And Shoplifters Anonymous in 1992. I have always been interested in addictions since my father struggled with alcoholism, gambling, and overshopping. In working with members of my support groups as well as with private counseling clients, there was a lot of money issues, spending issues, stealing issues that were not being addressed in a specialized and serious-minded way.

FJ: What kind of services do you offer at The Shulman Center?

TS: I offer professional, specialized counseling in person here in the metro-Detroit area as well as by phone. 90% of my counseling clients are phone clients. I am also set-up to do phone or video-conferencing through SKYPE. I am the author of 3 books—on shoplifting, employee theft, and compulsive shopping & spending—and offer my books as helpful tools for education and change. I direct persons to resources (books, support groups, counseling, financial services, etc.). I write articles and do interviews both in print, on radio, and on TV to educate the public. I put on seminars and speak at seminars or trainings on theft and/or spending/money issues. Finally, I do private consulting with individuals and companies about theft/spending/money issues.

FJ: How do you know if you’re a compulsive buyer? What are the typical traits/warning signs?

TS: The traits are similar to most addictions/compulsions but include:

  • stress or emotional turbulence related directly or indirectly to shopping or spending;
  • trouble managing debt, paying bills, etc.
  • an increasing preoccupation with shopping/spending which results in changes in sleep, eating, productivity, schedule management
  • arguments over money/spending with friends or family or significant others
  • a loss of control over one’s limits, repeatedly breaking of promises to stop or reduce shopping/spending
  • lying about what you’ve spent or where you’ve been, hiding purchases, opening up secret accounts, stealing to get money to buy things and/or pay off debt
  • increase depression, anxiety, guilt, remorse, low self-image and esteem
  • a pervasive feeling of pressure that something bad is going to happen

FJ: What types of people are most at risk?

TS: All people are at risk of becoming compulsive shoppers/spenders but some more than others, including:

  • young people (who tend to be more image-conscious and peer group conscious and more impulsive and naïve about financial management
  • persons with previous or current addictive-compulsive behaviors (there’s a tendency to switch, replace, or transfer behaviors)
  • persons who are image-conscious, perfectionistic, control-oriented or persons who tend to give gifts to others excessively to win love, buy approval, attempt to avoid abandonment (co-dependents)
  • parents with children (may overindulge their kids out of guilt for not giving them enough time/energy/love)
  • persons with poor impulse control or with ADHD or OCD
  • persons who frequent stores a lot, watch TV a lot, or are online a lot (open to more frequent advertising and messages and triggers/temptations and access to goods)
  • persons who grew up either materially or emotionally deprived or persons who grew up materially spoiled or overindulged

FJ: I’ve read that people who suffer from compulsive buying disorder exhibit similar traits to that of a gambler or drug addict. Is this true and why?

TS: Yes, all addictions are similar in that “one is too many and a thousand is never enough.” Once you’re hooked, you chase that feeling of exhilaration and there’s no prolonged satisfaction. The gambler—whether she wins or loses keeps chasing the high; it’s not really about the money. Same thing for the shopper or spender—it’s no longer about the thing bought or the thing spent on; it’s the feeling of satisfaction, calmness, euphoria, completeness the shopper/spender feels for the moment.

FJ: Does the saying, “once an addict, always an addict” also apply to a compulsive buyer? Assuming this is true, what are the chances of having a relapse?

TS: I’m not dogmatic about this but tend to agree with this conventional wisdom. The interesting thing about some addictions and recovery such as with shopping/spending, sexual addiction, co-dependency, workaholism, and overeating is that we are not shooting for sustained and complete abstinence (one day at a time) as like with alcohol, drugs, shoplifting, gambling but, rather, balance and manageability. Recovering overeaters need to eat and find a new relationship to food and their bodies; sex addicts need to find a new healthy relationship to sex and sexuality; co-dependents need to learn how and when and how much to help or give to others not stop completely; workaholics need to learn balance with work, etc. So, compulsive shoppers/spenders need to learn what they are really shopping for, identify and begin to heal their core issues/wounds, and develop a rigorous recovery program of support, accountability, honesty, and filling up of their time in a healthy, productive and self-affirming way.

FJ: What are some of the treatment options for a compulsive buyer… do they really work?

TS: As with any addiction-recovery treatment strategy, success is measured one day at a time for the rest of one’s life. Some factors that add to a successful outcome are: competency of the therapist/treatment program, commitment of the client/patient, strength of the support system, medication management (if needed), degree of honesty, avoidance of triggers (negative people/places), change of lifestyle, consistent support group attendance, ongoing interest in reading books and literature about this particular subject as well as personal/spiritual growth in general, and an acceptance of recovery as ongoing rather than looking for a “cure” or endpoint.

FJ: I’m embarrassed to ask, but I have to… what are your thoughts about the movie, Confessions of A Shopaholic? Do you think Isla Fisher’s character (Becky Bloomwood) was portrayed in a realistic manner?

TS: I’ve seen the movie twice since it came out and have recently read the book as well. Of course, the book and movie are not intended as serious docu-dramas so, no, they don’t portray things realistically for the most part either in actuality or tone; things are dramatized for laughs and comedic effect. However, there were aspects both in the book and in the movie that gave a glimpse of what many “shopaholics” experience: anxiety, distraction and shame over debt; dishonesty in relationships which cause problems; humiliation; denial; attempts to minimize or excuse debt; excessive hoarding; lying and hiding and sneaking to avoid paying debts or to avoid discovery by others of the problem; a lack of ability to focus on one’s higher talents and callings; the larger familial and cultural pressures to shop, spend, and uphold an image; and many unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop shopping/spending. So, in sum, the character in the book/movie played by Isla Fisher was mostly for comic effect but did have some moments of pathos and distress that shone through.

By the way, The Shulman Center is given a small credit at the film’s end for permission to use “Shopaholics Anonymous” for the name of support group.

FJ: With retailers’ aggressive markdowns due to the depressed economy, it almost seems justified to be a “serial shopper.” What are your thoughts on this? What can someone who suffers from compulsive buying disorder do to stay away from the so-called “danger zones” (e.g. sample sales, deep in-store discounts, etc.)

TS: One of my favorite sayings is: “you have to spend money to save money.” People with a shopping/spending problem still need to avoid the deals because they are still shopping/spending with money they usually don’t have, driving themselves deeper into debt especially when using credit cards and accounting for interest, late fees, etc.—a deal isn’t always a deal in the end. Also, what about the time, energy, and focus lost on shopping/spending on deals. You feel a momentary victory, then what? Disgusted. Running out of space and hoarding is another problem. Arguments with others about the spending and clutter kill relationships. And, in the end, nothing we can have or own (money or things) can really fill the void and make us happy. Find other creative, fulfilling and inexpensive ways to spend our time and connect and be productive.

FJ: What do you think of the growing phenomenon of luxury “flash sale” sample sites or online shopping clubs such as Gilt.com and BeyondTheRack.com? These sites have garnered a cult following for selling deeply discounted designer apparel and accessories for a limited period of time to their members.

TS: I can understand the appeal: we all like to belong to a club and feel we’re a part of something exclusive, somewhat below the radar, and who doesn’t like a great deal?! Still, what are the costs ultimately and do they outweigh the perceived benefits. Many shopaholics, once they get well, report they can’t believe how crazy, misguided in values, and out-of-control they were. The newfound peace, meaning, and self-esteem they discover are priceless.

FJ: Can you recommend any other associations, books or websites that compulsive buyers can turn to if they need help?

TS: Besides my book “Bought Out and $pent: Recovery from Compulsive $hopping and $pending” and my website shopaholicsanonymous.org, I’d recommend Debtors Anonymous meetings and “Shopaholics Anonymous” meetings online at www.yahoogroups.com. I’d also recommend the counseling work of Dr. April Benson out of New York and her new book “To Buy or Not to Buy.”

FJ: Are compulsive buying tendencies highly correlated with any particular socio-economic demographic?

TS: As stated before, anyone can become a shopaholic or compulsive shopper/spender. I’ve worked with rich and poor alike (those who shop for Chanel to Shabby-Chic). One of the ironies is that, with the fledgling economy and almost everyone tightening their financial belts, there’s been a corresponding increase in compulsive shopping/spending both among the newly afflicted as well as those previously struggling; not only are the bargains hard to resist for many but just the stress and complex emotions related to the economic woes and other related losses and uncertainties make many even more vulnerable to trying to escape reality and soothe themselves through shopping/spending which makes things even worse and, of course, a vicious cycle continues until a bottoming out financially or emotionally or both.

Do you suffer from compulsive shopping? Share your stories with the Fashion Junkie community.

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FashionJunkie.com Profiled on StyleSight.com!

In the shameless act of self-promotion, I thought I’d share the latest FashionJunkie.com press mention with everyone. Our friends at Stylesight.com, a leading online fashion trend forecasting service, profiled Fashion Junkie in a “Market Intelligence” news story. Check out the complete profile right after the Jump!

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FashionJunkie.com founder Fleischer says personal shopping service is on the rise, despite economic downturn
Posted On November 11, 2008 (1:38 pm)

imageDara Fleischer calls Fashion Junkie an “online style source for serial shoppers,” a business that would seem to be bracing for a severe downturn in today’s gloomy retail climate. But despite choppy retail waters, founder Dara Fleischer is finding that rather than shy away from spending, savvy consumers in search of smart investments are more prone to taking advantage of her services. “People are obviously shopping less, but people have to wake up and get dressed everyday so for me I’m always going to offer expert tips for looking and feeling your best,” Fleischer told Stylesight News in an interview. “People are always going to need that.”

Through blogs and emails from her website, FashionJunkie.com, subscribers can discover new ways to update and reinvent their wardrobes, knowledge that any shopper can build on for the cost of a personal shopping trip with Fleischer herself.

With the unemployment rate on the rise and the value of the U.S. dollar still waning against international currencies, it would be safe to assume that her personal shopping business is taking a hard hit. Instead, Fleischer has noticed an uptick in requests for advice on what to wear on job interviews, and says that her European clientele has also increased.

“I get a lot of European clients who want to get good, affordable clothes,” she said, adding that her tours can serve as a cost-friendly alternative to Broadway shows. Fleischer recommends that tourists looking to shop for bargains invest in one of Fashion Junkie’s tours, which in addition to her expert advice, can lead to discounts at some of her retail partners, which includes SoHo’s popular shoe boutique Te Casan.

Group walking tours range from $100 per person for a group of four to $125 per person for a group of two or three, while individual private tours run $275. All shopping tours are available any day of the week, last for four hours, are tailored to each client’s need, and promise a one-of-a-kind tour of Manhattan’s neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side, Nolita and the West Village.

Fleischer prides herself on taking clients to stores that are “off the beaten path” and aptly refers to shopping tours as “Shopping Safaris” on her website.

Perhaps the most widely-discussed development in fashion today, aside from the sinking economy and investors’ woes, is how the style of the new first lady, Michelle Obama, is impacting the consumer mindset. Fleischer says that the new first lady embodies the bargain and quality-seeking attitude that she encourages in her clients.

“She is a perfect example of mixing low end and high end designers,” Fleischer explained, citing Mrs. Obama’s popular J.Crew set on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and her election-night dress by American designer Narciso Rodriguez.

So what would this self-proclaimed fashion junkie recommend for fall?

“Color is so huge right now,” Fleischer says. “With the depressed economy everyone is wearing black, but I say ‘give your wardrobe a shot of color.’” Fleischer also recommends that women invest in lace-adorned shoes and handbags, menswear-inspired vests, or a leather motorcycle jacket.

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Filed: Interviews, News & Views, Press

Christopher Kon: Exclusive Designer Profile!

imageAs a follow-up to this week’s Crazy for Christopher Kon… Handbags write-up, I thought it only fitting that I also blog about the brains behind the biz: Chris Kon. A dedicated follower of fashion since the tender age of 7 (I repeat, 7!), Chris clearly has always had a “handle” on his career path.

Praised for his winning purse-o-nality and business savvy, Chris has been churning out wearable works of art for women of all ages for nearly a decade. Spotted on the shoulders of fashionistas from Montreal to Manhattan, Chris’s coveted leather carryalls can be found hanging around leading retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Saks, Macy’s and Nordstrom. Fashion Junkie chats-it-up with this cool Canadian about his obsessions from surfing (who knew?) to satchels. Check out more, after the jump.

imageFJ: What prompted you to become a handbag designer?

CK: I have always been creative. I started designing around the age of seven and I started formal teachings in Painting at the age of 12. Handbags were the family business and I knew it well, so it was natural for me to evolve my art into the business.         

FJ: Describe a day in the life of a handbag designer.

CK: Magazines and coffee to start. From there, styling, designing and working with customers to better understand what they need.

FJ: If you weren’t a handbag designer, you’d be a… ?

CK: Jewelry Designer, musician of pro surfer.

FJ: Who is the typical Christopher Kon woman? For example, is she a student, a full-time Mom, a career-obsessed fashionista or a jet-setting retiree?

CK: I think a Christopher Kon customer is less about lifestyle and more about the values that our customers have. Someone who doesn’t need a label to let them know they have made it. Someone who is confident and knows what they want. Our bags don’t take away from a woman, they add to her.

FJ: There are so many back-busting (a.k.a. over-sized) bags on the market. Can you offer Fashion Junkie readers tips on choosing (and using!) a silhouette that flatters their figure?

CK: with the exception of a few bag lines that are known to be “heavy” to start with, the biggest problem with big bags is the stuff women put in them!!! More room = more stuff!!!!! Women live with their bags… all the things they carry are important to them, so our solution is to make the lightest leather bags we can. The thing is, that the bigger the bag, the more dramatic it is. The leather falls better. I love the way flat hobo’s look on women, they fall really well, and they suit most body types. Most of all, they are easy!

FJ: Now that the “It” bag status has finally subsided (thank G-d!), a plethora of contemporary handbag lines have suddenly flooded the market. What are you doing to differentiate yourself from the competition?

CK: By keeping a focus on what we have always done: keep things simple, yet edgy with our silhouettes and timeless design.

FJ: Your Fall/Winter ‘08 collection is absolutely stunning! I’m especially obsessed with your “Amy” shoulder bag in plum (style #0155). Who or what inspired this particular collection?   

CK: manipulation, moulding, patching.

FJ: Myself (and hundreds of hardcore Fashion Junkie handbag fanatics) are dying to know how much labor goes into each Christopher Kon bag design? Can you please explain the production process from start to finish?

CK: I always start at the bottom…with a pencil and paper. All designs are done old-school here at Chris Kon. No computer aided design programs…it’s the only way to really FEEL it! From there, I work on the pattern to make sure proportions and details look right…then were off looking at leathers!! Once we find the leather (by the way, the inspiration can start with the leather also) we start the sampling process. The average time for a bag to be produced is 3 hours.

FJ: How has the state of the current economy affected your handbag collection?

CK: we are focusing on service, quality and price. We try to stay creative in all facets of the business, not only in design.

FJ: What prompted you to launch your new entry price-point brand, Co-Lab? How will this line differ from your original handbag collection?

CK: due to popular demand. We can reach a lot more people at those price points and felt that it was the right thing to do. The reaction has been great and our history in manufacturing has helped us greatly as we know what to look for when it comes to possible problems in production and materials.

FJ: I love the name of your new Parachute JUMPER collection. When will this line be launching and what exactly is it?

CK: It won’t be launched – we will throw them off a plane across all of north America! It’s called jumper, because we are using high quality parachute material for this line and trimming it with Veg leather. It’s an answer to the big problem women are having with heavy bags… I also felt it was time to bring Nylon back baby… it’s been too long!

FJ: What are the hottest handbag trends and fabric innovations in the market? How will these be incorporated into the Christopher Kon Spring ‘09 lineup?

CK: again, it will be about the Nylon… I’m not big on canvas, although we do offer it in Co-Lab. Nylon and Leather is where my focus is for spring/ summer… super light, super bright!

FJ: Who’s sense of style do you most admire and why?

CK: I love Karl Lagerfeld. It’s crazy rock. I don’t know, on him it works! Anyone who just doesn’t care too much about it… it’s all too serious sometimes..

FJ: Where are your favorite places to shop in Montreal and New York?

CK: hmm…tough question. I don’t really shop in Montreal, but if I had to pick: Simon’s for basics and American Apparel. When I’m in New York, my favorites are Laundry, Atrium and so many others.

FJ: What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to break into the fashion (design) business?

CK: DON’T DO IT NOW! It’s a tough time to start now as most retailers are not bringing in new vendors. My advice is: keep you head down and work hard. Always stay inspired and don’t worry about anyone else’s business – worry about your own. Hard work will get you to point B!

FJ: What’s next for Christopher Kon?

CK: VACATION! I’m leaving in December with my girl and I’m so excited to get a little time off. After that, it’s about super luxe snakeskin for Christopher Kon in Fall ‘09! I can’t wait!

Craving even more Christopher Kon? Visit christopherkon.com and make sure to join his Facebook fan club!

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Filed: Interviews, Trends

FashionJunkie.com Live on ABC NewsRadio!

When it rains, it pours! Not only was FashionJunkie.com just featured in The Wall Street Journal, but FJ also provided tips for a live Komo 1000 NewsRadio broadcast in Seattle (ABC affiliate) about finding bargains in the depressed economy.

Hey, Matt Lauer… should you happen to be reading this, I’m ready for my Today Show debut! Hint, hint…

Tune into FashionJunkie.com’s live Komo 1000 NewsRadio broadcast right here!

Happy shopping!

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Filed: Interviews

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