Fashion Designer Profile
Director of Product Development,
Michael graduated with an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Menswear from the Fashion Institute of Technology. He continued to Cornell and left with a B.S. in Business Management. At the time, he decided that he would not be happy crunching numbers or managing people. Instead, Michael had a burning desire to create something. He began as a freelance designer at Polo Ralph Lauren and stayed for two years full-time as an assistant designer. His philosophy was that if you are going to be good, then you should focus on one area. He chose outerwear (includes jackets, hats, gloves, etc.), which is one of the most complicated.
He moved on to Andrew Marc, an outerwear company known for the quality and fashion of its leather. Michael spent five years at Andrew Marc, where he dealt with leather quality, silhouette, lining and aesthetic details. He traveled to Korea often to source new leather. "Korea used to be very well known for its leather," says Michael, "but most leather production has now shifted to China, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Samples are still made in Korea, but the product is made in China." Most companies never deal directly with the factories. Instead, they use agents who represent many different factories. Says Michael, "Until we place an order, we don't know what factory we're using."
In 2000, Michael became the Director of Product Development of Men's Outerwear at Kenneth Cole. Most mornings, he begins his day with vendor appointments to look at leather and fabric. He's in charge, so he oversees the designers and keeps them headed toward the same goals. His job is to delegate, coordinate, and keep the design team inspired. The team is designing for a full year ahead. Outerwear has a longer timeline than most clothing. In addition to his creative responsibilities, Michael oversees the technical issues as well. Before a jacket can go into production, he must approve the fit, color and fabric. Twice a year, Michael goes to shop in Europe and look for inspiration. "Europe is about a year or two ahead of the styles in the United States," he says. "America is very mainstream, so we go to see something new. This year we hit London, Paris, Milan and Berlin."
Michael says the best part about being a designer is "when you feel in control of your creative and aesthetic talent and can see monetary gains as a result. You know that you've made money for the company. What is perceived as good to you also makes money for the company." On the flip side, Michael says the worst part of his job is "working with untalented people who perceive themselves to be talented. And they are so insecure of their own talent that they try to undermine other people's work. It's all 'very Dynasty.'" His other dislike of the industry is "when people are nasty to other people. It's difficult to meet those people and work with them. These people are control freaks. We're not saving lives but they act like they are. Their intensity level is that of 'someone may die because the button is too shiny!' I can't deal with that." He agrees that designing is extremely subjective. There is never one ultimate right answer. Michael continues, "We're working with a target market that's moving. It becomes guesswork. To stay current, I listen to a lot of music. What's current is what the music industry is doing. It's always been and it always will be."