To be a designer – a dream for many including Bojana Sentaler, who decided to make that dream come true no matter what it took.
Bojana was uncertain as to what she what profession she wanted to go into when she chose Schulich School of Business, but says fashion had always been part of the unofficial plan.
“I always wanted to be in the fashion industry. Getting a business education at Schulich helped me get there.”
She takes a different attitude towards a career in design than some would expect, explaining that it takes more than just art and design skills to make a successful line. “Fashion seems to be glamorous and only about design, but there is a whole business behind it. I always wanted to have my own fashion line, it was a matter of finding the right opportunity to start”, she reflects.
Shortly after she graduated with a business degree, an opportunity arose for Bojana to travel the world, which inspired the birth of her own line of coats.
“I was greatly inspired by fashion, art and architecture that I saw in different countries. I had a vision of creating something unique and different that did not exist in Canada. The focus was on quality, elegance and timelessness.”
She learned about the fashions and cultures of places like Europe, Asia and South America. In South America she fell in love with the texture of alpaca fur, and began to see herself designing a high-quality line of outerwear from the rare fur, and when the time came to move back to Canada, this idea was what motivated her.
It was not easy for Bojana to get to where she is now but by planning each move she made carefully, she has overcome and avoided many difficulties.
“Like in every business, you face ups and downs. This is normal. However, I have always been very confident that Sentaler will make it and I have never given up.”
Extensive background learning in everything business and marketing, along with having a fashion and design-oriented mind has helped Bojana become successful in her field. “It is the combination of my business acumen, my sales and marketing experience on a national and international level, my pattern drafting education, my personality and love for fashion and keen sense of aesthetics that helped me to create Sentaler.”
As an entrepreneur, it is important for a designer to get into many diverse marketing events. Many young would-be entrepreneurs find it difficult to get themselves involved and begin contacting organizations to market themselves, but those who will make it most importantly have to like working with people, as Bojana does.
“I love being involved in different events and organizations,” she says. “This is what I’m good at.”
Because of this and because her line is so phenomenally well-designed, Bojana has not found it too difficult to have her line carried in stores of her choice, though for now it is sold mostly in the Sentaler Studio and online.
“The Sentaler flagship store is Sentaler Studio in downtown Toronto, where the entire collection is available for purchase. Sentaler is also carried in selected boutiques.” Understandably, the designer places great value in keeping in contact with her clients, which is something she will not be able to do as her business expands and is carried in more stores. “However,” she says, “with Sentaler growing, it will be necessary to give Sentaler to more retailers.” When her line does get to the point where it is sold more in retail stores than by the designer herself, she will have to give up that personal connection with the clients. After all, she says, “the next step will be to expand in other stores across Canada and US.”
Thanks to online sales, the line of coats can be purchased from anywhere in the world, which means that Sentaler is an international brand. “However, for now, the biggest market is still in Canada,” she says, never getting excessively carried away by her own successes. “I am excited to see what the future will bring.”
Bojana is, as any good salesperson would be, concerning herself with details such as her target market, “women who have a love for elegance and an appreciation for high quality.” Right now she’s finding that that market is reached best through word of mouth, as one client will tell her friends about the amazing alpaca coat she just bought.
She keeps track of how her growth goals compared to her actual sales, which helps keep her business on course for success and lets her know what she can do to improve her sales for next year.
“Like with every business, it is very important to set sales targets and measure them regularly,” she explains. “This allows you to see whether you are on track and if not, what action plan you need to put into place in order to catch up.”
Overall, Sentaler is doing very well but as Bojana shows us, a salesperson’s work is never done, especially if that salesperson is also the designer. Bojana’s line is currently only for fall, winter and spring, but she’s working on giving clients something to covet in the summer. “I am currently researching lighter fabrics that are of equal high-end quality [to the alpaca winter line] for a summer line.”
Many reviews and websites call Bojana Sentaler “one of the top up-coming Canadian designers, which must feel good after all the work Bojana has put into her work. “I have worked very hard since the beginning so it is great to get recognition.”
Overall, Bojana has every right to be pleased with how far she has come, but she doesn’t let it get to her head. She wouldn’t go back and change anything she did, even if she could. Wouldn’t everyone like to be able to say that? Well, here’s how she got to that point: “Every decision I made and every step I took had a strategy behind it.” And that is how you can live with no regrets.
The hard-working designer has a few words of advice from her personal experience for would-be fashion designers.
She has learned that being different is not all there is, and that the best is not always the far from the norm. The trick is designing clothes that anyone would love to wear, at a better quality than anyone else.
“Don’t get so caught up in trying to be different. You have to understand that at the end of the day, people want to wear good quality clothes that complement their figure and make them feel beautiful, so stick to the basics.”
“Also, don’t start a fashion line without having a well-round business understanding or a business-minded partner.”
And in closing, “follow your dream and don’t be afraid to just go for it!”
Keep up with Sentaler via twitter @Sentaler and on Instagram @Sentaler and like the brand on Facebook! Also, check out her WordPress blog here.
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Click here and here for past posts about Sentaler