September 25, 20131 Comment

5 Questions with Fashion Designer Maria Pinto

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We recently began working with renowned Chicago-based fashion designer Maria Pinto on launching her newest collection, M2057 by Maria Pinto. Maria came into the national spotlight several years ago for dressing Michelle Obama for several campaign events, including Election Night. Now she's become one of the first recognized designers to launch a fashion collection on the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. Here she talks about why she decided to do so, and her excitement about the confluence of fashion and technology.

What's unique about your new collection, M2057 by Maria Pinto?

This capsule collection of dresses, jackets, and wraps is all about fitting the needs of the modern woman. It's fashion that keeps up with you, that works for you, rather than the other way around. I'm taking the elements of my old collections, like high-end design, quality, and fabrics, but making them much more accessible. They're still beautiful, architectural clothes, but they're really versatile, machine washable, travel friendly, and they fit a variety of body types and sizes. All the pieces are easy to dress up or down, and could go perfectly from the the office to a cocktail party, and everything retails from $75-$250.

M2057 by Maria Pinto DressesHow can people order M2057?

You can pre-order the M2057 collection right now on Kickstarter, but only until October 14! In addition to the pieces themselves, we're offering some "behind-the-scenes" fashion experiences, where you can shadow me for a day or throw a fashion party at one of my favorite Chicago restaurants, Sepia.

Why launch M2057 on Kickstarter?

I really was looking to try something new. Everyone's told me I'm crazy for trying to launch on Kickstarter, and maybe I am, but I think the traditional retail model is evolving, and I think this could be the future of fashion. I love these experiments with bringing technology into the fashion world. It's not just about trying to sell a product—with Kickstarter, I'm building a community that will forever be a part of the brand. All backers will be listed on my website as special contributors, and will get special access to previews of future collections and other exclusive content. It's a way to more directly connect with customers and find out what they really want and need—we'll only produce what gets ordered, which also eliminates a lot of overhead and waste.

Jesse Dress singleSo M2057 is about looking to the future?

Absolutely. Literally, in fact. 2057 is the year I turn 100! But that applies in other ways, too. Looking at the future means looking at the future woman, and she's not slowing down any time soon. She needs clothes that can work for a lot of  occasions, can go a lot of places, and can hold up all day and still look great. I used these wonderful fabrics that have a high-tech feel and really work for modern, wearable designs, while still feeling soft and luxurious on the body. But they're incredibly functional, too. Unique designs that are high quality, machine washable, easy to travel with, and very flattering, all at a great value—to me, that's the future of fashion. A good one, anyway.

What have been some of the challenges with launching on Kickstarter?

It's definitely not a traditional way to sell clothes, nor is it a typical Kickstarter campaign. For a lot of my customers or potential customers, they've never been to the site before, so educating them has been a big part of this, and stressing the urgency and that it's time sensitive. If we don't reach our goal by Oct 14, we don't go into production! So encouraging people to tell their friends, and share the links on Facebook and Twitter has been very important. But it's been gratifying to see that once people go to Kickstarter, they get it, and they're excited about it.

Connect with Maria and M2057 on Facebook and follow on Twitter (@mariapinto).

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October 10, 2012No Comments

WindyCityRail’s Ray Hightower Talks Ruby Conferences

Last month all our developers took a trip to the south side of Chicago for WindyCityRails. It was a great conference, and afterward I talked to WCR organizer Ray Hightower about this year's event, what we can look forward to in 2013, and what other conferences Ruby developers should keep on their radars.

1. First off, how was Hawaii? 

Hawaii is wonderful! Aloha Ruby was a very well-organized conference full of smart people. I presented RubyMotion to a group of experienced iOS and Ruby developers. Some of the attendees produce the blogs, screencasts, and books that I use as reference materials. It was very challenging to have my teachers and mentors in the audience!

2. How did WCR 2012 compare to WCR 2011?

WindyCityRails 2012 was held on two weekdays, while previous years' events were Saturday-only. Last year's post-conference survey told us that attendees prefer to spend weekends with their families, so we shifted the dates to make that work. This year's attendance was higher than last year's even though we raised the price to cover two days of conference expenses. And of course, the venue was beautiful. The South Shore Cultural Center is in the middle of a golf course next to Lake Michigan. Since South Shore was so well received by the audience, WindyCityRails will return to South Shore in 2013.

3. What would you like to do differently for WCR 2013?

WindyCityRails 2013 will place heavier emphasis on the technical side of software development. For 2013, we've already confirmed two speakers who deliver large software projects on a regular basis. We will balance the increased technical emphasis with some creative ways for attendees to interact with each other. It would be great to make creative use of the golf course or the lake in 2013. Wonderful things happen when smart people collaborate, and WindyCityRails is a catalyst for powerful collaborations.

4. If you could recommend one non-WCR conference to a Rails dev, which would it be?

It's hard to recommend one, since I enjoy several conferences every year and each has special strengths. Aloha Ruby is exciting for the tech-cred of the audience and the speakers, plus the tropical island venue. MadisonRuby draws Ruby innovators from all over the world, and the organizers do a great job of bringing the local business community into the conference. If I'm giving a recommendation to a Chicago-area dev, I would lean toward MadisonRuby.

5. As a novice Rails dev in Chicago, what extracurricular activities should I be getting involved in?

Novice devs (and advanced devs too) will benefit from ChicagoRuby's monthly events. ChicagoRuby runs three activities each month, bouncing between downtown Chicago and the suburbs. Several strong groups can be found through Meetup.com, including Refresh Chicago, Rails Builders, and Chicago JavaScript. Finally, all devs grow stronger with practice. One great way to practice is to pair program with other devs.

Thanks for the tips, Ray!

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