Back in March, the entire world disappeared into their homes to slow the curve of a global pandemic. As we cared for our own city, the streets of Denver were left empty. Malls, boutiques and other small shops were forced to close for an indefinite amount of time. Local brands and designers were also affected, as they quickly had to find new ways to keep business steady. Emi Zerr, a local designer, is no exception to that.
With plans to promote her new line Earthy Emi during Denver Fashion Week and the announcement of it being delayed, Zerr was in search of other ways to sell her work. As a young designer during these times, Zerr is taking to social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok to sell her clothes. She spoke with 303 Magazine about resurfacing trends, her journey to becoming a designer, how her grandmother sewed all the first garments for Earthy Emi and more.
303 Magazine: As a young fashion designer, how would you say social media has impacted you?
Emi Zerr: Social media has been a very large part of my brand since the very start. I think much of my success has been thanks to social media. Although, that is not to say that my brand and my social media are not one and the same. Social media to me is just a tool that I use for extra purposes. I keep my sole purpose for creating separate from social media.
303: With new information surfacing every minute how do you keep up with what is going on?
EZ: I think it is important to stay up to date with everything in order to stay relevant. However, that also means keeping a happy medium with the amount of media that I chose to intake. I find that sometimes too much can cause me to have creative blocks and taking some time away from it always seems to bring it back. So, staying in tune with what is going on is important for my voice on social media but having a good balance of knowing when it becomes too much is important in order to maintain creative sanity.
303: What platforms do you mostly use?
EZ: Currently I mostly use my Instagram and TikTok for promotional work and for updates on how my brand is evolving.
303: You have recently gained attention on TikTok, how would you say that has helped your brand during COVID-19?
EZ: It has helped me immensely. I started my small business about a year ago and only advertised through my Instagram. This only brought me around three sales in a matter of five months. The important thing here that I would note is that I did not let the amount of income I was making determine the value of my art and so I kept going.
One day I decided to make a Tik-Tok showing all of my 402 followers what I was creating with my sustainable fashion designs. That one Tik-Tok ended up getting millions of views and I made over $1,000 that same night. To this day, I now have over 40k followers on the app and it has been my most successful way of advertising my brand. Ultimately giving me my voice in the fashion industry. These past few months have been hard with the business but I am so lucky to have gotten to the success that I did with my business before all this so that when everything started to go online my business still continued being recognized and customers always seemed to come back.
303: Many fashion brands and designers are pushing for a bigger and greater social presence. Would you say that is just as important as the designs they make?
EZ: Yes and no. I think having an audience is definitely important in order to get noticed and make a good amount of income. However, the work in which you create will always stand on its own without any outside source and the numbers should not change the value in which you view your work, they are just a bonus. I would say if you truly enjoy creating these pieces for the sake of creating you will only be seeing success no matter how much of this “success” you get from it. It really is all a mindset and the more positively you see it, the more positive outcomes you will attract to it eventually.
303: Not only are brands and designers having to make sure their own page can sell but also reaching out to influencers for sponsored content. How has that affected the buyer?
EZ: I think this over time has created a mindset in the buyer which shrinks the amount of trust they put into brands nowadays. Trust is one of the largest selling points in the industry right now. So when brands are more transparent with who they are, the better their outcome with their customers seem to be. The buyers are becoming smarter about what they invest in so in turn I think it is our duty as brands to give them valid reasoning to trust us.
303: Just as quickly as viral fame comes and goes, a brand or designer could just as quickly be “canceled,” like we just saw with the brand Reformation. what are your thoughts on cancel culture?
EZ: I fully support the part of it where it brings the conversation to situations such as that with the brand Reformation and how they should not just get off so easily with such hateful actions. I see two sides to this “cancel culture” — on one hand, it could be productive to progress society by bringing up issues that need to be addressed, but then, on the other hand, it may not be productive when spreading toxic messages that we now see contributing to depression and many more issues.
I think that this “cancel culture” would benefit so much more if it was created into a more educational culture where hate is replaced with informed conversation.
303: Social media also has the power to resurface trends. What are some trends that you have seen resurface?
EZ: I love this question. ’70s BABY! I think it’s safe to say 2020 has already and will continue to be bringing back the ’70s trends from upcycled denim, bra tops, platform shoes, scarf hairpieces to orange being the new color of the year. I think seeing all these bright new colors and quirky styles coming back seems to make all the hard things that have been happening in 2020 seem a little less heavy. Fashion has the potential to create so much good and seeing these trends that are resurfacing creates some long overdue smiles, I think we can all agree that that is the start of some good positivity in 2020.
303: What are some things you have personally done to create a bigger following and fan base for your work?
EZ: Like I talked a lot about before, the thing that has built my following most is transparency. Building trust with my fan base is the most important thing to me and I hear that a lot from my consumers as well. This includes the sustainable aspect of my brand, the exact process I go through to make them, and even how my grandma started out sewing most of my pieces and finally taught me how to do them on my own. This brings them in to be more emotionally invested in my brand by taking them into my life and creating more vulnerability from me to them. A lot of people would tell me they loved my designs not just because of the look but because they loved the story that was carried through them and to me that is such a large part of why I love and continue doing what I do.
303: What can we expect from you in the future?
EZ: With Denver Fashion Week being postponed till possibly Fall I have decided to take this opportunity to start completely fresh. I am so excited to announce that I will be releasing my secret line on all platforms in July! That being said it will give me more headspace to create brand new pieces with more intricate designs and stories so stay tuned. XOXO Earthy Emi 🙂
All photography courtesy of Emi Zerr