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Q&A | A Conversation with Laina Faber, Founder of the Startup DebutMagazine.com
Laina Faber is the founder of DebutMagazine.com, a start-up digital publication that publishes shoppable fashion and beauty content, and lifestyle articles for women. Laina is a Columbia native. She grew up in Forest Acres and attended A.C. Flora High School. She graduated in 2000 with a degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.
After living in Charleston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Charlotte, she firmly settled back in Columbia around 2010. She has worked with Faber Enterprises, LLC, a family owned General Construction firm, where she handles business development and operations. However, she says that time has not diminished her passion for fashion and media, so she decided to start Dèbut Magazine.
Q: When did you realize your passion for fashion design?
Actually, I was a late bloomer in the fashion design area. My initial passion began with modeling and devouring every fashion magazine that my mother would buy for me. After dabbling in modeling and staying current on all the designers and trends, unconsciously, I started to gain an eye for design. Not until my senior year of high school did I discover there were actual schools with fashion design and merchandising curriculums. When I started FIT, I was surrounded by kids who had been drawing, designing and sewing all their lives. Only then did I wish I had taken my grandmother seriously when she tried to teach me how to sew and design. It was intimidating, but I stuck with it and ultimately worked my way through.
Q: Did your career take off immediately after college?
I wouldn’t say it “took off.” My whole work career has been a trajectory of ups and downs, coupled with personal and professional learning experiences. Immediately after college, I started working with top design firms sourcing fabrics and assistant designing. But I didn’t feel the thrill. My focus turned to fashion journalism and working in the fashion publishing industry. Working with photographers, stylists, make-up artists, and models to create a stunning fashion editorial was where I wanted to be. So I took off in that direction. And from there, I have followed a very unorthodox career pattern.
Q: In what moment of your life did you get the entrepreneurial bug and why?
Very early on. Right out of college when I started to work for firms, I realized something about myself. I liked my freedom. Plus the idea of working to the bone for someone else’s dream with little to no personal rewards was not attractive to me. But there are pros and cons to self-employment and being an entrepreneur - and I can say I have learned both the pros and the cons.
Q: What’s the biggest thing you struggled with as an entrepreneur?
The biggest thing I have struggled with has been acquiring the necessary funding to fully enact the business strategies needed to propel my business to the next level. I have had “offers’ but they were totally one-sided to the investor. Traditional banks have never worked for me. My business was always been deemed too risky and outside of the norm for them to stomach. But there’s a saying that sometimes having less is not always a curse. It makes you more inventive in how to get something done on a shoestring budget. So you become more nimble because you get used to making things happen with less. In a sense, I feel it makes you a better entrepreneur than those who have loads of cash and blow through it, only in the end, to have a failed product or business. But also, it can be very tiring and forces you to constantly examine why you’re even doing it in the first place. If you lack the passion, you will surely move on, real quick.
Q: What brought you back to Columbia?
I would like to say family. But the truth is, I was a little worn out from the rat race of New York City. I say ‘rat race’ in a good way. Because I adore NYC and it's vital for all sorts of reasons - economically, culturally, and as an epicenter of global business. But after almost 10 years, I had a high level of anxiety and needed to center myself and bring some level of zen back to my life. It was a good decision.
Q: After your experience with fashion design, you said you are now working with business development and operations with Faber Enterprises. What made you choose this route?
Well, working with Faber Enterprises kind of chose me in a sense. My father, Lee Faber and his brother, James Faber, have been in construction, in some way, since I can remember. When I returned, I started to assist him on projects with clients. From payroll to working on the ground, learning first-hand to manage a job from start to completion. So I effectively traded in my stilettos for construction boots. Along the way, I saw certain gaps in the company structure that needed more attention, to position itself to reach further heights.
Q: How did Debut Magazine officially begin?
Debut has had a few beginnings. It initially started in 2004 with the publishing of our preview issue. From there, it went on hiatus for few years and came back in a blog format in 2010, to its current revamp this year.
Q: Where do you get your writers and editors?
I find writers from industry contacts, direct employment inquires, and believe it or not, Craigslist. I put an ad on there and received so many qualified responses.
Q: Whose style do you admire the most now?
You know, this may be weird, but I am not really into fashion in that way. There’s noone’s style I really follow. Plus, the majority of celebrities today are merely styled. There’s tremendous effort behind the scenes from agents and stylists to develop a look. It’s manufactured and not one’s natural sense of style coming through. So I am more inclined to like the creative style of fashion professionals behind the scenes. For instance, I like the creative eye and styling flair of Samir Nasar. She’s the Fashion Director of Elle Magazine. I’m inspired by her fashion editorials from the story line - how she assembles an outfit to the models. I also like Pat McGrath, legendary make-up artist whose work is all over the international fashion runways and top fashion magazines.
Q: As you said yourself, “Columbia is not known as a hotspot for international fashion.” How can Debut Magazine contribute to the innovation of this community, and in what ways - how do you plan on doing that?
That’s a great question and one I have been trying to find the answer to, since I have been here. So far, I publish Dèbut from an international perspective. I just happen to reside and work in Columbia, South Carolina at the moment. I don’t see that changing. But I have tried several times to develop a local creative team of photographers, stylists, make-up artists and models. Unfortunately, I haven’t had success in assembling a team here, which sucks. Basically if you have a strong team, it resonates, whether you’re in New York, Los Angeles or Paris. I’ve reached out to others, but I can only do so much. There has to be a reciprocation from talent that wants to create something that has more than a local appeal.
Q: What keeps you motivated?
My dreams and family keep me motivated.
Q: What is your favorite quote or music?
My favorite quote is, “with faith all things are possible.”