As a fashion designer there are few things more important to me than seeing my designs come to life, consumer confidence, and industry recognition. The process of having a creative idea and turning it into an actual handbag provides me with my most personal sense of fulfillment. Having customers purchase my handbag line is also fulfilling as well as validating... but on a less personal level. Being nominated and selected as a finalist by my peers for this year's prestigious 2012 Fashion Group International Rising Star Award is both personally touching and incredibly validating to myself and my business. This important recognition is the perfect way for me to begin 2012 with a great sense of optimism and gratitude.
Since starting my handbag line in 2007, I have worked hard to create luxury handbags that are inspired and made in New York City's garment center. My belief in domestic manufacturing runs deep and has inspired my own blog and lead me to my involvement in producing a documentary (Make it in Manhattan). These beliefs were incidentally instilled in me as the early years of my company's growth were shadowed by a traumatized national economy that saw unemployment surpass 9%. But staying true to them was sometimes met with resistance or silence. An example of this is the steady stream of advice I receive from potential investors and business strategists who have tried to tempt me to outsource my production to China to increase my profit margins. These requests, are to me, similar to a request to partake in the consumption of a hard drug. The short term outcome of each respective action would be a boost to profits or a quick high. The long term consequences would be a loss of control and long term dependency. Furthermore, I would be required to turn my back on the exceptional manufacturing resources available to me here in New York. My resistance to this shortcut to profits has been fueled by my strong belief in New York's Garment Center as a first class fashion production center that rivals its Italian and French counterparts. As I attempt to read the tea leaves and draw fundamental parallels between this country's economic collapse and its reckless outsourcing of American jobs, I am certain that New York City will rise again and become a significant manufacturing center. I feel that as an American small business it is up to me to create jobs in my community as I seek personal success and fulfillment. There is lots of discussion about "job creators" these days as the GOP Presidential circus rolls through town. The reality is that there are fewer and fewer American "job creators" in existence today. I am up to the important challenge of producing something meaningful here. This challenge, on my worst days when compounded with all of the other challenges emerging designers face, seems insurmountable. But whatever the challenge or conviction of any emerging designer, we all must strive to stay true to our dreams as we continue to grow our business for greater success. The challenges can, at times, test our resolve and tempt us into surrendering these dreams. The Rising Star nomination acts as a lighthouse whose light shines through the fog of uncertainty we new designers sometimes hit and proves that we are moving in the right direction. One need only look at past Rising Star recipients, who include Jason Wu, Kara Ross, Joseph Altuzarra and Christian Cota, to gain a sense of the awards importance. And while being nominated or even winning this award does not guarantee continued success... it should provide each nominee with an important boost and erase any questions of whether to continue designing. This is so tremendously important as emerging designers can face years in the wilderness, trying to stay true to their convictions and vision sometimes to a silent audience. I am truly honored at being a nominee and am looking forward to an incredible afternoon on January 26th at Cipriani's here in New York. I can't wait to talk with my fellow nominees and FGI members, share stories and recognize those lucky enough to take home an award.