The engineering of fashion

Nora Zabarah Pucci

“It’s more like engineering than anything,” laughs Ottawa-based fashion designer Nora Zabarah Pucci, as she reflects on the  irony of  her attempt at engineering school before studying business.

Wearing all black clothing, she sits in the basement-turned-work space of her home nestled away on a quiet street in Kanata with mannequins and patterns laying around as she is knee-deep in designs for her 2016 spring/summer collection.

Zabarah Pucci created Zarucci a year and a half ago after putting five years of serious thought into the idea. As a business management graduate, she decided while taking time off to give birth to her first child to start studying fashion, concentrating in the fabrics she was interested in – lace, silk and leather.

After assessing the risks Zabarah Pucci knew that breaking into the fashion industry would be challenging and explains her reasoning:

  • Free labour: There are a lot of people who are doing fashion design for free because they’re passionate about it, making it harder for the professionals to make money.
  •  Risk:Retailers are already in a difficult market, so they tend to play it safe and go with big chained international brands, making it harder for the smaller guys to get started.
  •  Lack of funding:The government gives  subsidies for artists and painters but not fashion designers.

Taking her brand slow, Zabarah Pucci decided to place her money into professionally marketing the brand, hiring pattern-makers and sewers and building a connection with retailers instead of renting a big space to work out of that could potentially put herself into debt pretty quickly.

“Nora has always been ambitious and quite the perfectionist,” says her cousin, Amal Luqman,  noticing her unique eye for fashion.

Always having an entrepreneurial bug, Luqman explains that Zabarah Pucci used her education and other business projects to help her create Zarucci.

Zarucci describes her pieces as evening wear that’s eye catching.  “It’s all about woman’s curves and using high end fabrics, standing out in a crowd for the right reason,” says Zabarah Pucci. “I like it to be elegant but yet a little fashion forward, to look more different.”

The fashion industry has two seasons, fall/winter and spring/summer, with designers working a year or two in advance. Zabarah Pucci attends regular seminars where fashion forecasters come over from France and tell designers what the trends are going to be two or three years ahead.

“But there’s a lot of flexibility,” says Zabarah Pucci. “There’s things they tell you like short skirts are out, it’s all about knee-level or longer, and you want to stick to that because that’s what women want to buy – what’s in at the time, and if everybody else is doing long dresses or long skirts you don’t want to be the one with the miniskirts.”

The main role of fashion analysts is to provide ideas about moods and trends that are going to be in style, says Zabarah Pucci. “From there, you try and tweak it and make it your own.”

When it comes to marketing the brand Zabarah Pucci says ultimately she would like to create a solid base with a group of retailers instead of custom designs, which can be time consuming.

“I always loved fashion from when I was little,” says Zabarah Pucci. “So even when I used to go to weddings I didn’t  buy [a dress], I bought the fabrics…I’d get it sewn and visualize what I wanted it to look like.”


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