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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

DC DESIGN EVENT: DC Teen Design Fair Recap

Last Tuesday I attended the Teen Design Event hosted by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum over at the Renwick Museum. All of the designers worked in various fields ranging from architecture, fashion, product and graphic design. In all, there were about 43 designers and Tim Gunn was the Keynote speaker. I must say, each of the designers I came in contact with were all very sincere and more than willing to share their career experiences.The room was set up to where each designer had his/her own table with 5 empty seats at it so that students may rotate from table to table asking questions or sitting in on conversations. What I appreciated most is that the designers where very candid in their approach with the students. Many of their background stories to how they started in the industry are fascinating

Most of all I was excited that I even managed to grab a quick interview with Jenna Lyons the Creative Director and now President of J. Crew.

What do you think has been the key to your success and longevity at J. Crew?

Team work has definitely played a role. I think learning how to cooperate successfully and being able to work with others in this type environment has laid the groundwork for where I am at now. It takes way more than me to make this happen. It’s not about me it’s about the people you work with. And I work with some amazing people.

Who is J. Crew’s target audience and how does the brand continue to have such a strong appeal to the mid market consumer?

Everyone! That’s the great thing about J. Crew. There is no one select person that we market to. My friend wears J. Crew, college students wear J. Crew, and my mother, a piano teacher wears J. Crew. And that’s what I think makes it different- is that it makes fashion approachable for everyone. Everyone feels like they can be a part of it.

I worked for Donna Karen the first 8 months of my career and one of the things I felt that was most difficult about it was that none of my friends or family could afford the clothes. And that was hard for me- I didn’t feel connected. People like to open up a catalog and feel like they can actually buy something; that’s part of the experience.

Where do you see J. Crew headed in the future?

We are looking for elevated progress. To do things that really nurtures and cultivates the brand. That will create great longevity if we continue doing that.

Both of the founders of Smart Design Tom Dair and Dan Formosa were in attendance. They spoke on the early beginnings of their company and why they decided to go the entrepreneurial route and found their own company straight out of undergrad. They focused on the importance of how important it is to always creatively sell your ideas to your market to influence them to buy what you are selling.

Cooper- Hewitt company was represented by Bill Moggeridge; the first man to create and design a laptop in 1980. He is also the co-found of IDEO. Mr. Moggeridge described his main passion being to help raise money to create more funds for schools t invest in technology innovation programs and training for children.

World renowned interior decorator William Sofield showed off his designs from the first Gucci and Ralph Lauren stores he designed. He recalled when he first started working with Gucci and they were known more as “the sexy brand” they were young and didn’t take themselves quite as serious as they do now. However, it was always fun when he go to work on one of their stores because it allowed his creativity full reign. While his specialty are retail boutiques he is also known to use his modernism approach on state-of-the-art gyms and investment firm that he has designed all over the world.

The last 30 minutes of the event were reserved for Q&A time with Tim Gunn. Tim stressed the important of going to a school dedicated to fashion and design because there you will make the contacts you need to network your way into more opportunities. He emphasized that if a student has any doubt between majoring in fashion/ design or [insert another major] then do the other major! He made sure to repeat the point that “There should be no hesitation when one chooses fashion as a major. Either you love it or you don’t.” One of the students asked about the lack of financial aid and scholarships at design schools. Tim replied “Fashion is one of those industries that you really have to love what you do and you must sacrifice to pay your dues. And that’s why I stress the point of having no hesitation when you decide for it to be your career.”

The event was absolutely fabulous! Most importantly different teens from different background were exposed to seasoned people from all areas of the design industry. I believe the event served its purpose possibly above and beyond what the First Lady sought out for it to do!