Does Marilyn do appearances at special events or functions?
Yes! You can invite Marilyn to speak at your next meeting, class or function. Contact Marilyn directly for details.
What is your most memorable moment in all of your career?
When when Honourable Hilary M. Weston Lieutenant Governor of Ontario gave me the Order of Ontario for my contributions to the fashion industry in Canada, mentoring young talent, and fundraising efforts.
What was the high point in your career?
Helping charity. From Big Brothers to AIDS benefits and everything in between. When you give your ideas and talents to help, it makes a difference. Another high point was when the Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton declared Marilyn Brooks Day in Toronto in recognition of my achievements in the fashion industry and for my work with charities.
What was the low point in your career?
The day the bank called my loan and I had raise money to buy back my company. I had to make an offer just like every one else and thanks to a dear friend who loaned me money, my offer was the highest and I bought back my company.
What is your best retailing tip?
Retail is the closest to show business. Make the shopper happy and give each person a moment of magic when they shop at your store so they will never forget that HAPPY moment…it is like a dessert – you never forget that wonderful taste and you want to experience that taste again and again!
Do you think a large company or a small one is better?
A small company is wonderful but when it grows, you have to have good cheer leaders that are followers of your ways. If the company grows and grows you might have to give up a part of it as a trade off, and then you have to also decide if you can actually afford to give a part of it to someone else in order to move to the next level you’d like it to go. Are you ready for that to happen? It is not for everyone.
How did you get interested in fashion design?
I got interest in fashion from a very early . My mother was a sewer and also did alterations for a few stores. So from the age of six I was sewing on the old treadle sewing machine and by 14 or so I started making my own patterns.
Which do you like more? Designing or retailing?
Designing is my first love. I like the idea of finding new fabrics and trims and buttons. All the parts of the design are important to give the design an original look.
Retail is different. It is the BUZZ of getting a look and the feeling of the excitement of getting many things together that then makes the $$$ flow.
Retailing is a lot like show business. Each time you enter the store and if it has that ZING and a great BUZZ, it makes you feel good. Also, the way you treat the customer is so important, when they leave they remember the experience and want to come back to shop and feel that BUZZ again.
Did you find the industry very competitive?
Yes, it can be competitive, but in retail, if you are in an area with other stores of like minds, then you can start working together and that is called a movement . In the right town it can be your BIA. Working together brings dollars to the area and retailing as a designer, with your OWN store, is money in YOUR bank each night when you close the store.
For designers, yes, it can be competitive but designers that work together can help each other and that is why in 1978 I started the movement with fifteen Toronto designers and founded Toronto Ontario Designers (TOD) – the ground breaking association formed to promote Toronto fashion designers. We ended up being together and helping each other for many years. TOD then later evolved into Designers Ontario (DO), then Fashion Designers Council of Canada (FDCC), and finally Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC).
What advice do you have for a young fashion student starting out?
You have to be talented, but that is not enough, you must believe in yourself, work harder than anyone else in the room, and never give up.
But also, treat people like YOU want to be treated. Respect and consideration go a long way.
Was it difficult to always find new and exciting fabrics and notions?
Fabric is the backbone, the canvas of the design. Fabric for me is the base, original prints were my signature – they were not always easy to do but can be worked in for some seasons. Otherwise, going to Première Vision in Paris at least once a year is a must. With good fabrics being the canvas of your design, the buttons and trims are your accent which says you are the designer with a soul …detail and quality is your signature.
How did you get inspired when you hit a slump?
There are moments when your bucket is empty. You can do three things to get youself out of the slump:
- Go to a movie, preferable a musical.
- Go to an ice-cream parlor and have a big double dipper of your favorite flavor.
- Be a princess for a day and have everything done – from body to hair & makeup – to make you feel like the special person you really are.
How do you achieve fulfillment during your retirement?
- DO keep active … use your Day Timer but don’t think you have to fill up every day … take the time to linger.
- Enjoy the company of young people … think about becoming a Mentor and learn about what they want to do and give them a gentle hand
- Do a few crazy things you have always wanted to do … like buy a bright red coat … go to your hair stylist and ask for a new look … take all your diamond rings to a Jeweller and create one magnificent cocktail ring … then wear it to your next Bridge game!
- Think of a wonderful memory and savour it!
- Dream of something you want to do in the near future and work towards making it come true.
- Do exercise …. start by putting one foot in front of the other, your heart, soul and body will thank you for it!
- Think about wearing colour … accessorize … it is the fun part of dressing.
- Don’t forget to take your pills or vitamins, and 5-10 veggies and fruit each day!
- Write it down! Put it on a list! Don’t think you can remember everything … most people can’t, why should you be different.
- REMEMBER 90 IS THE NEW 70! So if you are 70 … you really are perhaps 50.