From the outside looking in, the fashion industry looks like a collective for the one percenters of society. Scenes from “The Devil Wears Prada” start circulating around my head, yet still, I am drawn into this mysterious world. Just recently, I had the opportunity to attend my first fashion show at Toronto Fashion Week and although I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb, I felt this magnetic energy that resonated from everyone within the space. It should come as no surprise that Gail McInnes, the owner and president of Magnet Creative Management was responsible for the magnetic energy felt in the room. The entire experience coordinated by Gail was so well put together, and extremely organized that my perception of the fashion industry dramatically changed. I got the chance to interview Gail to discuss her path to become the icon she is today.
Why did you pursue a career in fashion? Was there a specific moment in your life that promoted such a strong devotion?
Pop culture more than anything drew me to fashion. From old Hollywood movies to music videos of the 80’s. I was always fascinated by image and how that translated to evoking a feeling or moment in time. Fashion does that – it reminds us of a time and place; whether that is simply what you wore for a special occasion or what a celebrity wore on the red carpet.
What were you doing before you got into fashion?
I’ve always been in fashion. Even in high school I was helping organize fashion shows in The Bay and did a little bit of modelling. My first professional job came during my first year in fashion school at Humber College when I was offered a part-time job as a model agent.
Why did you decide to create The Stylist Box?
I had been a model and talent agent – representing actors, stylists, makeup artists as well as working with emerging fashion designers at the Toronto Fashion Incubator during the first decade of my career. Stylist Box was my way to create a win-win-win situation where designers received the exposure and opportunities they needed to grow their brands, stylists could discover new talent and access their samples for photo shoots, and celebrities could access exclusive fashion brands for their many special appearances. The first incarnation was developed in 2008, named after my fashion blog The Style Box. I then opened my fashion management company Magnet Creative Management in 2010 with the plan to relaunch the showroom in a new direction. Connecting with the brilliant mind of my now business partner Christian Dare, we opened Stylist Box in 2013 and haven’t looked back since.
What inspired you to create The Pull Magazine?
Christian and I launched The Pull Magazine to provide an outlet for creative Canadians in all areas of the arts. There is an immense amount of talent in this country which we all should be supporting and promoting more. The Pull is just one additional outlet for us to do that.
Hollywood portrays the fashion industry in such an intimidating/daunting light that both discourages people but leaves them wanting more. With your personal experience, how would you challenge this perspective?
I’d be lying to say I didn’t enjoy those characters. Where would we be without the Devil Wears Prada types? But let’s be honest, in this industry, those who rise to the top have to build a wall around them; otherwise, they’d never get anything done. I don’t think I’d want to challenge the perspective per se, but I would like people to know, especially those who are looking to pursue a career in the industry that time is precious and until you pay your dues, no one owes you anything. That being said, of any of the people in my life fashion people are the kindest, warming, funniest, zaniest, and the most accepting group of people I have ever encountered. I am so lucky to be inspired and surrounded by some of the world’s most brilliant creative minds.
What are some major challenges you faced throughout your career?
I think the biggest challenge was believing in myself. I always had some level of confidence in myself, but I found certain situtions intimidating and found it hard to express what I wanted or to know when to move on. Best decision I ever made was dissolving my first business partnership. Since then I haven’t let anything hold me back.
Have you ever considered creating your own fashion line?
I’ve had passing thoughts but I don’t have the technical skills to create and produce a line. Though I have said if I ever did start a line, it would be an accessories line because there are no grading or sizing challenges. I’d want it to be a line that everyone could wear and enjoy.
What are your favourite fashion trends today?
I’m loving seeing people wearing all the 90’s fashion that my friends and me used to wear back in the day.
If you had obsolete power within the fashion industry, what would you change and why?
I would insist the government include fashion within the sports, arts, and music grants. It frustrates me to no end that fashion is excluded, especially when the economic boost could generate billions to the economy not to mention the number of jobs that would be created as fashion businesses grew. I also would introduce enticing tax incentives to retailers who carry Canadian made apparel and accessories. I’d also abolish the use of the misuse of the term “influencer”.
What are your next steps? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Perhaps I’ll be teaching. Or running the LA office of Stylist Box. Or maybe just writing a book at the cottage. My main focus right now is editing out the stress and simplying enjoying what I do more than anything – so the future could be all of that or none of that. I have no 10 year goals and that is liberating.
What are some tips that you would give to young entrepreneurs?
Be authentic. Don’t pretend to be anything but who you are. Never follow the “fake it till you make it” rule – those who have made it know you are faking it. Respect other’s time. Use all our available resources. Give back. Volunteer. It never hurts to ask. Be nice to everyone. Find a key group of talented people to work for you. Never settle for mediocre work. Smile – it’s the best way to meet new people.
Photos: Ted Belton, Ryan Emberley