All Posts in People Who Inspire

December 2, 2015

Industry Insights with Francis Bitonti of Francis Bitonti Studio

Francis_BitontiFrancis Bitonti with the first functional 3D printed shoe created in partnership with Adobe

The future of fashion shows up everywhere—in movies, advertisements, and editorial photo shoots. Most of what is dreamed up is some sort of high-functioning, hard-lined design that promises all the technology we have yet to think up. Francis Bitonti is one of the people doing the actual thinking—not only for the fashion industry, but the entire industry of manufacturing. Bitonti is the name behind Francis Bitonti Studio, a design studio focused on "emerging models of mass production and processes for material formation." Of the many things the studio focuses on, 3D printing has proven a newsworthy endeavor. Something you might remember: His 3D-printed gown for Dita von Teese.

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Francis Bitonti Studio Collaborated with Michael Schmidt Studios and Shapeways to create a fully articulated 3D printed gown designed specifically for Dita Von Teese. The gown has nearly 3000 unique articulated joints and is adorned with over 12,000 Swarovski crystals. Photo by Albert Sanchez

In talking to Bitonti, you can tell he's an educator above all else—which makes sense, given most of his early career was spent as a design professor. But that didn't stop once he solidified his own studio. Bitonti still holds workshops for students looking to learn about the future of emerging manufacturing models and how to utilize them. Ahead: We chat with Bitonti on the state of the fashion industry, where design schools fall short, and more.

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November 9, 2015

Industry Insights with QCut’s Crystal Beasley

Crystal Beasley is taking on quite the task: to provide custom-fit denim to people around the world without having a physical retail space—for now. By taking five measurements and putting customers through two fittings, Crystal says QCut will get your fit 95 percent right. Considering most store-bought jeans are tried on and still don't see the light of day, it's quite the promise—not to mention a great lesson in efficient production. Each pair is made on-demand in the USA, meaning there's no pulling from the stock room when it comes to QCut.

Recently, Beasley made the decision to forgo a business partner and take the project on herself, with lots of support from her personal network. We grabbed some time to chat the important of outside support, the state of innovation in the fashion industry, and more. Meet Crystal.

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October 9, 2015

Industry Insights with Wabi Sabi CEO Michele Cohen

Originally posted on the Pioneer Mode blog, where we dig into the core of the fashion industry by collecting perspectives, identifying the key issues, and uncovering potential solutions. In our Industry Insights series, we interview key stakeholders to consider their day-to-day challenges, and reveal their contributions towards a stronger, healthier community of fashion enterprise.

Michele Cohen has a word for how she runs her business, Wabi Sabi Ecofashion Concept: "Octopus" (more on that later). Michele, who started out in finance and business strategy, has found herself leading a team for a burgeoning fashion brand—somewhere she never expected to end up. Talking to Michele, you can tell she lives the lifestyle her brand promotes: eco-friendly, sustainable education focused, versatile, completely centered on personal values. Wabi Sabi is gearing up to launch its second collection, but we caught some time with Michele to talk industry pain points, meeting your consumer on every available platform, and her lack of fashion business role models (it's not as negative as it sounds—we promise).

The Daily Pain Points: Tradition and Breaking Stereotypes

Michele: "There are many pain points around being an entrepreneur, specifically with a small company. There are pain points focused around fashion in many aspects—both the idea that it’s difficult to present to the consumer, and that brands are very competitive. Another part that is challenging is the supply chain. The whole manufacturing / production / supply side is very traditional in our industry. Yet we’re in a very consumer-focused, innovative, fast-paced industry. It’s just two different worlds, manufacturing and marketing. They often collide more than they combine. That’s my personal day-to-day pain point: looking at that divide between what’s behind the company and what we do moving forward in terms of commercial strategy.

I always say I’m not sure if I’m an entrepreneur in the fashion industry or if I’m an educator and communicator.

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August 29, 2015

Industry Insights with Bag the Habit’s Liz Long

Originally posted on the Pioneer Mode blog, where we dig into the core of the fashion industry by collecting perspectives, identifying the key issues, and uncovering potential solutions. In our Industry Insights series, we interview key stakeholders to consider their day-to-day challenges, and reveal their contributions towards a stronger, healthier community of fashion enterprise.

We’re continuing the fashion industry conversation with Liz Long—Bag the Habit founder and consultant to Maker’s Row. Last time around, we caught up with Kaight’s Kate McGregor to chat what it’s like as a retailer to work with small brands (spoiler: so much more flexible) and the lack of environmental impact-focused discussion within the design industry. Given that Pioneer Mode is aimed at bringing industry pain points to light, we asked Liz to add a few to the list.

Liz is constantly in contact with fellow entrepreneurs of all levels as they make their way through Maker’s Row—a website dedicated to matching designers with factories. Her own business, Bag the Habit, is focused on creating reusable totes made of 100 percent eco-textiles. Through her own business experience with Bag the Habit, Maker’s Row, and teaching virtual courses through sites like Skillshare, Liz has constantly found ways to grow and share insight through global sharing (something she wishes there were more of—more on that later). Read on to hear Liz’s thoughts on the state of the sharing economy, growing the education-tech space, and whether or not “American made” is here to stay.

What I’ve seen from teaching on these [educational] sites is not just me teaching the students—it’s them connecting with each other. I’m watching this organic connection happen and it’s just awesome.

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August 13, 2015

Industry Insights with Kaight’s Kate McGregor

Originally posted on the Pioneer Mode blog, where we dig into the core of the fashion industry by collecting perspectives, identifying the key issues, and uncovering potential solutions. In our Industry Insights series, we interview key stakeholders to consider their day-to-day challenges, and reveal their contributions towards a stronger, healthier community of fashion enterprise.

To kick off our industry insights series, we chatted with Kate McGregor—the owner and founder of Kaight, a specialty boutique in Brooklyn focusing on sustainable fashion and educating shoppers on the importance of knowing about their clothes' backstory, by putting the idea of discovery at the front of the shopping experience. Kate—who launched her brick and mortar store in August 2006 and the online shop within the following year—has always put the idea of “slow fashion” above all when it comes to the merchandise she carries. The store, which has become a neighborhood favorite, has garnered a multitude of press on its message. In Kate’s words: “We’re all about helping customers style themselves and get the most wear out of their purchases. I’ve had people comment that this philosophy and type of selling is counterintuitive for a retail store: We’re not trying to push products on people. We want customers to really think about what they’re buying and be thoughtful consumers.”

“We’re all about helping customers style themselves and get the most wear out of their purchases. We’re not trying to push products on people.”

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August 9, 2015

The Path’s Dina Kaplan on How a Two-and-a-Half Year Trip Around the World Changed Her Life

Dina Kaplan was the co-founder of multiple companies when she realized it was time for a change. Specifically, it took breaking down across the street from her office for her to realize that something wasn't quite right. Up until that point, she had been very successfully running Blip.tv, the New York City-based Founders Club (which is exactly what it sounds like), and Calliope Group—an organization of women founders looking to connect with one another. All of these organizations were healthily adding to her growing network and resume, but also slowly taking over every minute of her life. Her answer: a two-and-a-half-year trip around the world to fight a few fears and make some friends along the way.

While we're going to dig into her story in a minute, it's important to recognize the outcome: The Path—a new business that integrates some of Dina's newfound practices (mainly meditation) into daily life. With a newly opened location for The Path, we took a few minutes to chat with Dina about her story and how she got to where she is today. Take it in:

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March 30, 2015

Q&A: The Art of Tailoring, Passion, & The Importance of Quality with Joseph Genuardi

Looking at Joseph Genuardi, you’d never expect the old soul that lurks within. He’s well-dressed with slicked-back hair, polite, and soft-spoken. What you won’t get at first glance is that he’s a trained master tailor with educators who had more than 75 years of experience, a five-month-old son who is well on his way to becoming a tailor himself, and the ability to make a mean suit. Joe is currently Head Tailor at Martin Greenfield Clothiers—a name well-known for hand-tailored mens clothing—amongst the best of the dressed.

Custom tailoring has quite the history, as do the most accomplished of tailors. But those accomplishments are more readily measured by the smiles of those fitted in a brand new custom suit than public recognition—and because of that, it may seem like the title of Master Tailor is slowly meeting its end. Joseph is living proof that the craft is alive and strong—and that everyone should get to know their local tailor (not only for their craft, but also the great stories they’re bound to have). We were first turned on to Joseph and his story at a viewing of “Men of the Cloth,” a documentary following a number of master tailors and their stories—Joseph’s weaving its way in, as well.

Nicole spent some time getting to know Joseph and the art of becoming a tailor. Get ready to be inspired!

Making a Career Change

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Basting, one of the many stages in constructing a tailored suit

Joseph Genuardi: My undergraduate was in industrial design at Carnegie Mellon. I loved it, but late into my college term and early into my working career this idea popped into my head that it would be awesome to make suits.  I started doing some art direction—product design and graphic design—and I saw myself move toward clothing. I launched a graphic T-shirt line where I was designing the shirts and having them printed in Philly by a local silk screener. I would sell them in boutiques in the area and at art fairs. The tailoring idea came back to me, but much stronger than the first time around.

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January 20, 2015

Stories & Style: Comedian Mad Libs

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Our Stories & Style event is coming up quick—have you RSVP'd yet? (Better get on that—the list is filling up!) We've told you all about the night's storytellers: Ophira Eisenberg, Elna Baker, and Sara Benincasa. While a bit of background information is always a good thing to have in tow when you're off to meet someone new, we wanted to give you a deeper look into the personalities and humor of these fine ladies, including our very own Nicole Lenzen. We gave them a throwback assignment of sorts, one that will look very familiar if you grew up with those handy-dandy packets called Mad Libs.

Sit back, read on, and get to know these four empowering ladies:

Ophira Eisenberg, Writer/Host of NPR's Ask Me Another

Ophira 1

I  can’t leave home without red lipstick.

My go-to clothing item is a sequin top. Unless it's dirty, then I wear a dirty sequin top.

When I feel most confident I look in the mirror and say, it's better than I thought.

My best beauty tip is to smile, but never ever fake laugh.

When I wanna dance I listen to Prince. When I need to cry I listen to Joni Mitchell.

Ray LaMontagne keeps me sane.

The strangest/best compliment I’ve ever gotten was, "I've masturbated to your voice on public radio. If you're looking for something less dirty: "I can tell by looking at you that you live in a fifth floor walk up. Keep it up."

My favorite thing to do for myself is cancel everything on my schedule.

Rachel Maddow is the most empowering woman I know.

Fedora, Beret, Beanie, or Top Hat?  In this order: Beret, Top Hat, Fedora, Beanie.

When I’m looking for a pick-me-up, strong espresso, little milk (or icy vodka) is just what I need.

Purse, Backpack, Fannypack, or Pockets? Purse, Pockets—If I never see another backpack or fannypack again, that would be great.

At parties I try to stand right next to the cheese cubes.

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January 15, 2015

Women Who Inspire: Smita’s Take on Indian Culture, Women in Information Technology, and Must-Sees in Bangalore

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Meet Smita, Technology Consultant and Outdoor Adventurer

Nicole and Smita met while working together on a project for Brooks Brothers. While they successfully designed and implemented a PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) system, they also became quick friends in the process. Smita works and lives in Bangalore, India as a consultant for a company called ITC Infotech, helping clients better understand the technology they use for their manufacturing processes and order tracking. While that might come off as Latin to anyone not involved in the industry—hey, that's why Smita's there!—you're sure to recognize some of the names she's worked with: Charming Shoppes, Levi's, QVC.

We were lucky to catch Smita on a wintry Sunday in NYC on her most recent consulting trip to the States. We had a great time catching up over many pots of tea, going shopping at Young & Able, and grabbing a yummy vegetarian meal at Le Verdure at Eataly. Smita wouldn't usually gravitate to a bold, red outfit, but we managed to get her to try on the scarlet Elena dress. As you can see, she's totally rocking it. Read on to hear what Smita has to share on being a woman in an Indian tech company, the chaos that is her daily commute, and must-see spots in Bangalore:

A Day in the Life

Let's start with the weekdays. When I'm in India and working from ITC headquarters I wake up around 6:00am and go for a jog, then get ready for work, and put together a lunchbox to take to the office—I don't like my office food anymore. It's not healthy or tasty. My day at the office starts around 9-9:30 am and goes until 8 or 9pm, depending on which customer I am working for. I go back home and I try not to work after that, but I haven't succeeded in that yet! I have something for dinner and watch TV or read a book—something to soothe my mind after I leave work. I sometimes stay up late, but I try to at least get six hours of sleep.

Dressing for Work: It used to be all typical Indian dress, whether you wear Salwar Kameez or a kurti—which is a long top with leggings. I don't wear a lot of Indian clothes to work. I do wear jeans, but normally I'll dress up in trousers and a comfortable top. Apart from that, we do have our ethnic dress, like saris. On special days the whole office is festive. I prefer clothes that I can move easily in—I don't want to worry about wrinkles.

You have a lot of Indian companies and manufacturers who are making western clothes. But you also have brands like Marks & Spencer, Zara, Mango—mostly European companies. The style is definitely evolving and leaning toward more trendy nowadays. In India, we don't have a seasonal concept because you can wear jeans and a T-shirt almost 365 days out of the year—the temperature is not extreme. Things tend to be colorful and bright. I try not to look overly professional or nerdy! I don't prefer skirts because I think they make me look even shorter.

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January 12, 2015

Stories & Style: Get to Know Writer/Comedian Sara Benincasa

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If you haven’t already heard, we’re hosting an exclusive event at Bene Rialto in Manhattan on Thursday, January 29th from 6:30pm-9pm. Aside from meeting Nicole and having the chance to try on pieces from the Eva and Candy Collections, we’ll have delicious hors d’oeuvres and wine for you to enjoy while taking in fashion-focused, personal, storytelling performances from three amazing women—NPR’s Ophira Eisenberg, Writer/Comedian Elna Baker, and Author/Comedian Sara BenincasaWe’re going to be sharing a little background on each of our guests over the next couple of days.

Sara Benincasa: Author, comedian, proud father, and grandfather—in her own words. Let's start by describing her as the author of this empowering body image story on Playboy.com. Whether she's sharing the power that is a boudoir photo shoot or working on her podcast In the Casa, there's one thing you can't deny: She is one refreshingly honest woman. Take this story she penned on Jezebel, for example:

I'm sorry my vagina is so sensitive.

There's a moment at which every junkie hits rock bottom. I think that was mine. I'm an apology addict. Most women I know are similarly afflicted. We think our value as females is dependent on being literally and figuratively pliable to the point of contortions that would make a pretzel or a porn star jealous. And in so doing, we not only devalue our actual important and genuine apologies ("I'm sorry I slept with your brother.") but posit ourselves as being ever in error, constantly over-speaking, overspending, over-laughing, over-crying, overeating, over-existing.

Men fear not being enough. Women fear being too much.

Sara is the best of both worlds. She can take on a powerful topic (see above), but she also knows when to keep it light. Here's proof:

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