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If you were to ask Leslie Gladman about her favorite things they would include fabric and fashion, trims and textiles. Leslie has always loved creating and 'making' things and for several years she held a home show called 'Christmas in the Country', "it was a whole lot of fun but didn't generate very much of an income," explains Leslie. "Eight years ago, at a consumer trade show in Abbotsford I took a class taught by Karen Booy called 'A Pattern for Success -- How to make money designing your own patterns'. That was the beginning -- I was completely inspired. I went home and got started designing and I have never looked back! My training is in Fashion Design and Clothing Technology so this gave me a wonderful opportunity to use that training."
Leslie is the creative genius (and owner) of Favorite Things Pattern Designs, located in Delta, British Columbia. Her pattern company specializes in easy to make and comfy to wear, mix and match clothing. Growing in popularity are the accessory patterns -- wonderful bags, slippers and spa sets. "Our patterns are easy to understand, go together well and fit well. We offer very good customer service -- fast and dependable. Our patterns are often unusual compared to most of the market and useful." Not only does Leslie design all the patterns, but also the website and all the graphic products too.
"We are often told how well our patterns fit and how easy the instructions are. Our designs are a little unusual for the quilt shops and often customers tell us how they enjoy making our patterns as a change from quilting. We are probably best known for our handbag and slipper patterns and we often have encouragement to keep designing more".
Leslie started plans for her business in March 1993 and six months later her company did their first show 'In Stitches', a consumer sewing show. "We had six patterns at that time and I was both excited and nervous about how they would be received. They did very well and it was both exciting and encouraging. We stayed in the Canadian market for two years learning the ropes. The local Vancouver quilt shops were very supportive. I remember loading up my van with patterns driving to "The Cloth Shop" for the first time and going in with my heart pounding.....beginnings!"
In 1995 Favorite Things ventured into the huge US market by exhibiting at the International Quilt Market in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Selling at Market has been very good and our business has continued to grow since that time with a number of different US distributors marketing for us."
How does she design and market such a great line of patterns? "I constantly watch the trends in style, feel and color. I never turn off in this area! This is really important in our business." Leslie subscribes to several consumer magazines like Victoria, Martha Stewart Living, Country Living and Country Home." Often my basis for a new design is what is the new trend that is out there that the marketing and graphic design opportunities of running my own company. Presenting my designs in great packaging, unusual catalogues and intriguing booths at the trade shows are a great challenge and real fun for me!"
It has taken a while but Leslie is now more confident about crossing the border with her product. "Fear of the unknown.... I find once you are educated you find that it isn't as bad as you thought."
Today Leslie relies on her website, www.favoritethings.net , a semi-annual catalogue, several US distributors and a Canadian distributor to help market her product online. In addition, Favorite Things also has two or three trunk shows that fabric shops can book with samples of their current designs. Leslie explains, "A Trunk Show" is a collection of actual samples done in current fabric lines of our newest and best selling patterns.
A store can book the Trunk Show for 2-3 weeks at a time to feature either in their window or shop. We have two new trunk shows annually. One is available for our US customers from Checker Distributors and two are available from us for the Canadian stores."
The website is used primarily as an online catalogue. "This has been helpful for customers all over the world to view our patterns and to learn how to order from us.
Favorite Things exhibits twice yearly at International Quilt Market (a US wholesale tradeshow - open to owners of fabric, and quilt shops only). The only retail trade show that Leslie does is the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington. "Favorite Things continues to do the retail show in Puyallup because it always is a wonderful show, sales wise, between 30,000 and 40,000 people attend! However, our main reason for going is to keep in touch with our customers. I find I learn a lot from them, as many of them return from year to year and their comments and input are both useful and encouraging."
Sue McKenzie (the model on the pattern front of 'The Button Jumper') is Favorite Things only employee, Leslie says, "she is wonderful and she is also my sister! I also have a number of people who I contract work out to."
Where is Favorite Things going next? "My dream has always been to design a line of fabrics. I am now moving through that process with P&B Fabrics (located in San Fransisco) and hope to introduce my new line at Spring Quilt Market in Kansas City this coming May. Other exciting developments? You bet! In June Leslie became a grandmother for the first time. Her granddaughter Annabelle is sure to influence the new designs of Favorite Things and Leslie has plans to name her new fabric line in Annabelle's honour.
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