Monday, November 5, 2007

Residents Speak: Hyasynth Tiramisu

In Second Life, there are many well-known fashion designers, and as I've said before and is well-understood by anyone who has spent much time there, some of the real celebrities of the virtual world are those designing fashion.

Among the most respected of that group, it seems to me, is Hyasynth Tiramisu, the doyenne of Silent Sparrow, one of the leading purveyors of hand-drawn clothing.

If you're not familiar with the difference between hand-drawn clothing and fashion that is known as photo-sourced, that's okay. I'll fill you in.

Basically, photo-sourced clothing is made by taking existing textures and incorporating them into fashion designs.

Hand-drawn clothing, on the other hand, is done from scratch, an often painstaking process involving a whole lot of PhotoShop and/or Illustrator work.

Often, hand-drawn fashions have a rich, multi-dimensional feel to them that can be missing from photo-sourced items.

And Hyasynth has built a pretty significant and lucrative business--Silent Sparrow--by refusing to do it any way other than entirely by herself.

This entry really isn't about hand-drawn clothing, however. It's about one of the suggestions Hyasynth made to me when I interviewed her for my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, and asked for some advice that someone wanting to start an in-world fashion business should be sure to follow.

She told me, "Make friends with other designers. It's really important to have a support network. Other designers will teach you more than any book or Website."

This is great advice, and I think it may come as a surprise to people with business experience only in the real-world, where competitors are often loathe to help each other. That's not always the case, of course, but there's certainly a higher degree of secrecy among competitors in the real-world than what I've seen in Second Life.

In SL, it's all about respect and mutual assistance, or at least being willing to pass on favors that you received from veterans when you were getting started to others later on.

Ultimately, the point here is that you really need to have a network of peers you can trust to be honest with you about your products--are they good? Bad? Need work? Need better placement in your store? Are you charging too much or too little?--or who can help you test out your vendors or who can just be available to talk when you need encouragement.

These are people you would turn to for help if you're in a creative rut, who will give you pointers when you can't figure out how to do something and who, if you're lucky, will refer customers to you.

Of course, you must give back as well as take. That matters hugely. No one is going to give freely of their friendship or advice forever if they feel you're not reciprocating. But assuming you are--and why wouldn't you?--other designers can be a terrific resource and a terrific source of support and understanding when you need it.

And that's really important because this stuff is hard. And having an ear to bend or a shoulder to lean on or someone who can just hang out while you work in your store or whatever, well, it will make you a better businessperson and will make your business more successful.

It's not going to happen overnight, of course. It's going to take a lot of proactive effort on your part to meet people in Second Life, talk to them and make friends with them. But you need to do that anyway when you're getting a new in-world business going, as I've written before. Building a business in SL is extremely time-consuming and requires that you do tons of leg work. And making the fashion designer friends who will make up part of your support network is another piece of that.

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