| “Accesorios” 9th grade Paula scribed across the top of the black poster board in neat neon lettering. She paused, brushing back a long strand of hair that had fallen from her blonde ponytail, before penning the word in English directly below its Spanish version. Did it have two “c’s” or two “s’s” …or were each of these letters doubled? As a proud businesswoman and co-owner ofFashion Runway, she could not risk a mistake on the advertising for their big sale. So she consulted Isabella, her marketing designer, before proceeding. Neatly stacking their handmade fabric flowers, headbands, and button covers, Ana Maria, her business partner, held up two fingers, “Dos,” before adding, “The way I remember it is that I always want two of everything when I go shopping.”
Made sense. Although Paula wished that their customers felt that way. They weren’t even making single purchases. Let alone doubles. Business was muy lento. Slow. Squinting, she watched consumers make their way through Colegio San Juan del Camino’s MicroSociety Marketplace. A sea of sameness. Navy blue V-neck sweaters atop stark white collared shirts. Navy blue slacks. Navy blue plaid knee-length skirts. Nothing like the pages of her Latinitas magazine or the styles she saw on mannequins in the department stores. A hair accessory or small rosette would make little difference. The palette that they were starting with was just plain dull.
“We need to change our business model,” she blurted out.
“Huh?” Ana Maria responded, through squinted eyes.
“Forget the accessories.” Paula simply stated, “We need new uniforms. No one wants to buy the stuff we sell because they don’t care about what they wear. There’s no sense of pride in how we dress when we all have to wear the same thing day after day.”
Ana Maria and Isabella nodded. ” Besides, they are itchy and stiff.” It was mischievous. Disruptive. A bit rebellious. But she had to admit Paula was onto something. So they did some market research. Nix that. They did A LOT of market research. Surveys went out to each citizen in the society, from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. Do you like your uniform? Do you feel confident in your uniform? If you could change one thing about the current uniform what would you change? The girls carefully analyzed the feedback. They researched why schools enforce uniforms in the first place. TheyGoogled schools around the world to get a sense of global uniform styles. They hosted a fashion show and invited citizens to vote on the threads they liked best. All the while, they kept their real planultrasecreto.
Until it was time to approach Sra. Bermudez, the principal of their school. Accordion folders in hand, they knocked on her door. Paula glanced at her watch. 5 minutes early for their appointment. “Vengan,” they heard, and so enter, they did. “We are here today to propose an idea for you,” Ana Maria began their elevator pitch. “There is no personality in the uniforms we wear now. We are special. We are a MicroSociety school. What we wearneeds to show that.”
Sra. Bermudez looked intrigued. So Paula proceeded. She laid out her sketches on the table. Three different sets. Each contained three uniform styles. For males and females. Options. The principal granted her stamp of approval. But refused to select one out of the set. That was for the student citizens to decide. Those who would be wearing them.
And so they did. The triumphant trio interviewed many manufacturers. Prior to each meeting, they requested design samples, which they scrutinized stitch by stitch. Granting exclusivity to create the uniforms was huge. And they treated it as such. Eventually, the three bestowed the honor upon a local manufacturer, who promised to faithfully turn their vision into reality. To bring the sketches to hangers. To put pizzazz to the polyester. Well, now organic cotton.
On Micro Night, Isabella’s father was amongst those who came to see their children at work. He pulled her facilitator aside. “You know, my daughter is my only child. Because I did not have a son, I did not know who I would leave my business to.” He took a long breath, “Now I do.”
Stay tuned for an update from the girls of Colegio San Juan del Camino’s Fashion Runway. A second installment to come shortly…