Women In Business Blog Series: Fashion Industry

Kim Coltman, owner at Fashion Speaks International

Kim Coltman is the owner of Fashion Speaks International, based out of Kamloops, BC.  She took her years of experience in the fashion and film industries and combined this with her experience and education in social work to create this truly unique and life enriching company.

Kim started working as a fashion model in 1972 in Vancouver. She has been involved with the fashion and film industries for the majority of her career:

“I have travelled extensively through modelling and film, including Paris International Indigenous Fashion Week 2019 and 2020.  My first Paris Fashion Week was in 1977.  I walked the runway at New York Fashion Week in 1985 and 1987 as well. I worked as a runway, print and commercial model.”  

When Kim wasn’t dazzling the runway, she was working with at risk youth and developmentally delayed adults in group home settings. She earned diplomas in social services and youth work as well as certificates in suicide prevention and intervention, alcohol and drug abuse counselling and rape relief counselling:

“I developed Improve Therapy when working for Catholic Social Services in Edmonton, Alberta. I developed and delivered modelling courses for both at risk youth and developmentally delayed adults in Edmonton, under the name One Step Ahead in the 1980s.  By merging my skill sets, I was able to create a unique learning and counselling method that was successful in building confidence and self-esteem in my students.” 

In 2015, Kim started Fashion Speaks International to raise funds and awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, an issue that is overly represented by Indigenous women and girls worldwide. She began teaching modelling again to see if she could prevent anymore people from going missing by making them more confident, more visible and less of a target:

“Traditionally, First Nations people do not make eye contact unless they are being challenged or are in an intimate relationship. Because of this, many walk with their heads down and looking at their feet. This is also something that they were taught to do in residential schools. I have been teaching my students to walk with their heads up and to make eye contact. To make themselves visible. The more people notice you in a good way, the less likely it is that a predator can isolate you; this is the theory that I am basing the training on.”  

Stock Photos

Kim has owned three businesses to date and knows she has finally landed on the one that she is meant to build on. Fashion Speaks International started out as a modelling agency and school but has morphed into something much bigger due to the pandemic:

“Models are not being hired right now so it has affected the industry in a negative way. That is always a challenge in a small city, but it has been doubly impacted by Covid-19. It is either grow with the times or get left behind.  

We are currently branching off into television and film productions. My day starts with building databases of fashion designers, models, hair and makeup artists, photographers, influencers and anyone else involved in the fashion industry. In the afternoon I usually start adding to my database of television networks, casting agents, sponsors and promoters. Once the additions have been made I start making phone calls, networking with others in the industry and sending out proposals, contracts, NDAs and other legal documents.

The challenge right now is that many people are not at work right now, so it takes longer than usual to get replies. Patience is required at this time. I am currently working on a joint project to develop and produce a fashion series that will introduce people to each Canadian province and territory and the people who live there. We will work with tourism boards in each province and territory and well as with local fashion designers, models and Elders. We expect to be able to film in 2021.

My other project is also a joint effort with International Indigenous Fashion Week (IIFW) to produce an International Indigenous Fashion Industry Awards show. Once again, at this time, we don’t foresee being able to film this year, so we will be holding an online competition and then film the awards ceremony for television and other media. It typically takes six months to a year to produce a fashion show and it will take longer now.” 

Kim typically works with new models to help them build their portfolios. As a fashion/film stills photographer, she offers new models an opportunity to get experience working in front of a camera. She is also able to help them learn to pose. She is unable to do group events now, which means that models have to do their own hair, makeup and wardrobe for shoots:

“For new models this is a challenge. Their portfolios are their tools of the trade and are vital to the success of their careers. I also offer runway workshops and seminars on industry standards and etiquette, which I am unable to do at the moment. I am looking forward to being able to do this again in the near future.

Fashion Speaks International will be growing and expanding, even during this pandemic, due to the networking and preparations that we are doing now. Now is not the time to sit back, now is the time to plan for the future…. and the future looks bright!”

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