Marisa Clark

Our #MoneyCrushMonday this week is Marisa Clark, fashion designer and founder of FAUN Studios, a socially responsible clothing line based out of Calgary, AB. Marisa talks with Claire Halley Robbins about entrepreneurship, following your passions, and incorporating the issues you care about into your work.

After graduating from London College of Fashion in 2016, Marisa started designing one-of-a-kind pieces made with ethically sourced fabrics from artisans in Vietnam. In 2017, she presented her first runway collections at both Vancouver’s and LA’s fashion weeks.

Based in Calgary, Alberta, Marisa is now working on a ready-to-wear collection, allowing her pieces to be made available to a larger market. After presenting her collection at Paris Fashion Week – Marisa launched FAUN. 

https://www.faunstudio.com

https://www.instagram.com/faunstudio/

CHR: WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO LEAVE YOUR FINANCE CAREER AND START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

MC: I completed an undergrad degree in Political Science and Economic Policy with goals to find a way to pair my philanthropic and entrepreneurial aspirations and somehow ended up in the field of financial advisory at Investors Group. Everything happened so quickly and, before I knew it, I realized that I had strayed from the things that I love; in particular, I missed being creative. I realized that I needed to make a conscious effort to get to know myself better and find a career that I was willing to dedicate myself to. Growing up, I was constantly painting, sewing, and dancing. While working post-graduation, I started an online boutique selling fair trade, handmade pieces that I curated during my travels in Asia and South America. So, when I started thinking about creating my own line, I realized that I was meant to quit my job and go to design school. 

CHR: WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU EXPERIENCE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?

MC: I feel guilty complaining about a job as incredible as mine, but I still face a lot of stress and struggles starting a business. I often struggle with the fact that I am contributing to people’s insecurities by flaunting the best parts of my work. I try to be candid with my followers about the fact that I deal with grief, anxiety and depression because of the loss of my mom and brother, but I know that most people still see my life through rose coloured lenses. While there are so many things about owning a clothing company I love (primarily being able to be creative on a daily basis), there are still many hours spent doing things I enjoy less, like spreadsheets and invoicing. The other thing I find difficult is feeling alone. When there is a problem, like a delay in production, I don’t have anyone to help problem solve or simply vent to. The best way I’ve found to overcome this is by constantly attending networking events and collaborating with other entrepreneurs and creatives. 

CHR: HOW HAVE YOU COMBINED YOUR SOCIAL INTERESTS WITH YOUR BUSINESS?

MC: As far back as I can remember, I have always been involved with charity and international development, so it has always been imperative to couple that with my career. As many know, I am a huge animal lover, so last winter when I was in South America buying fabrics and studying traditional artisan techniques, I took a side trip to Guatemala to volunteer at the Animal A.W.A.R.E. shelter. It was a gruelling but incredibly rewarding experience – especially because I ended up adopting my one-eyed dog, Lucy, from them. I currently sell shirts to raise profits for the organization on my website: https://www.faunstudio.com/shopall/save-the-strays-t-shirt

CHR: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE TO WOMEN INTERESTED IN STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS?

MC: The first, and probably most important thing, to consider is your passions. You are way more likely to succeed in a field that you are interested in. Then the only thing left to do it take the risk to make it happen. I also think its important to create goals for yourself but not to tell people until that goal has been achieved. People mean well, but they will often bombard you with questions and doubts. It sounds cheesy, but the most important thing is to believe in yourself!

CHR: WHAT IS THE GREATEST SUCCESS AND THE GREATEST FAILURE YOU’VE EXPERIENCED IN BUILDING FAUN STUDIO?

MC: Presenting a collection at Paris Fashion Week was by far incredible, but my show at Vancouver Fashion Week was the most monumental for me because it fell on the anniversary of my mom’s passing. Looking at my pieces on the models I realized that every piece I design is a direct reflection of the connection we have. This moment helped me come to a point of acceptance and appreciation for my lost ones. 

Everyday I experience small failures, whether its not making a sales target or having a delay in production, but I believe overcoming these struggles makes the business stronger and more resilient. 

CHR: WHAT’S NEXT?

MC: We will be announcing our list of retailers this winter and are excited to see our pieces in stores across North America. At the same time, I’m designing new ready-to-wear pieces and preparing for my next fashion show at New York Fashion Week! 

CHR: LIST OF RESOURCES (BOOKS, PROGRAMS, WEBSITES, ETC) FOR READERS TO LOOK AT IF THEY’RE INTERESTED IN STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS

MC: If you are interested in starting your own clothing brand, you have to read “How to Set Up and Run a Fashion Label” by Toby Meadows. The course I took with him when I studied was by far the most valuable thing for my career. It covers everything they don’t teach in design school when it comes to turning your skills into an actual business. I also loved “The Personal MBA” for a more well rounded approach to running a business and “Zero to One” for a more theoretical overview of how to create a product that will change the market. Another recommendation I have is an app called Blinkist which allows you to read a short synopsis of a non-fiction. As a busy person, its a great way to acquire knowledge on a variety of topics and allows me to spend more time reading novels!