NEW YORK -- Designing Miss Piggy toaster covers was not how Steven Stolman planned to use his degree from Parsons School of Design, but that's how his career almost began.
Stolman was one of seven designers and executives who discussed starts and setbacks last Wednesday at the Fashion Roundtable. Nearly 200 people listened in at the National Arts Club here.
Stolman said that in 1980 he accepted a position with Omniform, a New York-based corporate apparel manufacturer, not knowing the firm had been licensed by Jim Henson to design Muppet kitchen accessories.
"My ambition of becoming the next Norman Norell flew out the window on Big Bird's back," Stolman said.
Fortunately, he continued, he found a job offer from Pearl Nipon, of Albert Nipon, in his mailbox when he came home from his first day of work.
Stolman offered this advice: "The important thing to do is leave your ego at home, pack your armor in your lunch box. And if you have a great idea, retool it so it sounds as though it came from the corporate mind."
Bud Konheim, president of Nicole Miller, emphasized the importance of learning from failure. He said he had seen his father and mother face bankruptcy: "As a result, I did everything I could not to go bankrupt. I learned from their mistakes."
Konheim, whose firm scored a major success in the men's tie business, also underlined the importance of being an opportunist, noting how the fabric for Nicole Miller's first ties was originally bought for dresses. The designer's first tie was made because Konheim wanted one. The company easily could have rejected the idea of doing a man's product since Nicole Miller is recognized as a women's designer, he said.
Designing clothes was elementary for designer Bettina Riedel, she said, but business administration was far from routine. Advising her listeners to act fast whenever they suspect that their firm's funds are being misspent, she said her first accountant reaped most of her profits.
"If I hadn't had another accountant look at the books, I never would have known," she said. "I was making tons of money, and my accountant was keeping most of it."Eric Smith, president and designer of World Love Productions, said relinquishing responsibilities can be difficult. Smith, who entered into a partnership with Hanes Hosiery in January, said having a partner would have helped him earlier.
But partnership has its drawbacks, according to apparel designer Michael Leva, whose partner pulled out without warning about 2 1/2 years ago. "She was having financial problems and a difficult pregnancy. She called me and said, 'I don't want to do this anymore, as of today."'
Leva said he paid his bills, closed his doors and two years later acquired a license to design bridge sportswear for a Japanese manufacturer and retailer. Those royalties enabled him to design in the U.S., he said.
Assouline is paying homage to the late Azzedine Alaïa with a reprint of "Alaïa Livre de Collection.” The book is comprised of photographs of the designer's summer 1992 runway show with models Christy Turlington Burns, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks, pictured here at right. #wwdfashion #alaia #tyrabanks
Fall 2018 accessories take on a painterly hue, with Nebulas Blue among Pantone’s top 10 colors of the season. (📸: @jonghyupstudio ; editor: @twallz21 ; stylist and set designer: @haideefindlaylevin ) #wwdaccessories
@americanapparelusa is relaunching the brand outside of the U.S. today, opening its online store to more than 200 countries. The company is also contemplating a return to brick-and-mortar, though details have not been confirmed. In tandem with the expanded distribution is a recasting of a social media ad campagn, called “Back to Basics,” pictured here, with a focus on diversity and a cast of models above the age of 21. Read more on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Exclusive: @britneyspears is continuing to expand her brand. The pop icon, who appears in @kenzo ’s latest campaign, is partnering with Epic Rights to launch a line of branded merchandise. Read @hernameislex ‘s story, link in bio. #wwdnews #britneyspears
The Duchess of Cambridge channeled Princess Diana’s look upon giving birth to Prince Harry, when she and the Duke of Cambridge departed the hospital with the new baby Prince this afternoon in London. #wwdeye #princeofcambridge
The new Prince of Cambridge has arrived! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge posed with the 8-pound newborn. She wore a look from one of her go-to designers, @jennypackham. Tap link in bio for more. #wwdeye #princeofcambridge
Jewelry label @alisonlou has made a name for itself with fine jewelry that speaks to the Millennial market. Now @twallz21 reports that the label is bringing those playful ideas to a new affordable line of lucite hoops with the launch of Loucite by Alison Lou. Here’s a look from the line modeled by @emrata. #wwdaccessories
@sarahjessicaparker and @gilt are teaming up on a bridal ready-to-wear line. Tomorrow, Parker will launch SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker Bridal — and as part of the launch, Gilt will offer 15 exclusive styles from the SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker footwear collection that were designed to complement the new line. Made out of 10 styles, the line is designed for a variety of occasions, from bridal showers to receptions. Get more details on WWD.com #wwdfashion