LRG

FIDM Fashion Design Graduate Robert Wright '94 has been the CEO of LRG, the lifestyle apparel and accessory company for women, men, and kids, since 1999. We recently caught up with the Orange County resident to chat about his start in the industry, time at FIDM, and why LRG has continued to be one of the biggest labels around. 

Do you remember how you first heard about FIDM? I had a friend who was attending FIDM and I happened to be with them when they stopped by the school to grab something that they had accidentally left at the school. I was wearing a pair of jeans of my own design and one of the counselors stopped me in the hall and asked about the jeans. I told her I made them and she said something like "Oh, you're a student here." I said "no" and then she asked me, "Why not?" I ended up enrolling at FIDM about a week later.

How did your interest in fashion and design begin? I have early memories of my mother making clothing and customizing existing clothing. I started customizing and designing some of my own clothing when I was 14 or 15 years old, as a way to individualize my clothing or to create something that I couldn't find in the marketplace. Truthfully though, I had never connected the dots and thought of fashion design as a career option until the day I was approached at the FIDM campus.

Which campus(es) did you attend? I attended the OC campus for my first year and the Los Angeles campus for my second year.

What did you do between graduating from FIDM and co-founding LRG? After graduating, I got a job as a design assistant at Ray's Apparel Group and was promoted to designer within my first couple months at the company. We designed clothing for mass retailers for their individual private label brands. In 1996, I got a job at Quiksilver Inc as a designer for their private label division which entailed designing men's and women's clothing in all categories for mass retail private label programs for accounts like Target.

When they closed down the division, I was hired by the La Jolla Group as a designer for the O'Neill brand. I designed the entire board short and knit categories until 1998. After that I designed for Planet Earth Inc overseeing design of the Katin brand. During this time I also freelance designed for a variety of companies in all categories from technical snowboarding outerwear to denim to woven and knit tops. In 1998, I started working towards starting LRG and by early 1999 we had our first offices and were producing our first collection.

Why do you think LRG took off so quickly and has maintained such a high level of success and brand awareness? I think that there are a lot of different things that have to line up for any brand to be successful. In the case of LRG, we bought a fresh and unique perspective to the market. Up until that time brands were mostly just a name on a shirt, LRG brought a mission statement and thought provoking messages throughout our product and advertisements which really seemed to resonate with people.

In 1999, the market was very separate between so-called "urban" apparel and action sports apparel. LRG was the first company to really successfully bridge those two different youth markets. That crossover market and various distribution channels in many ways created the foundation for what brands call "streetwear" today. I also believe that customers could sense the honesty and truth in the product in that, we were making products that we loved and wanted to wear ourselves. We were not designed for a market, it was just a product that represented who we were and what we were into.

What or who are some of your design influences? My biggest design influence is my mother, whose love of creativity and art set the foundation for me to become a clothing designer. My other biggest influence is my partner Jonas with whom I elevated my design game as a result of our competitive nature and passion for the LRG brand.

How did FIDM help prepare you for the industry and running your own company? FIDM gave me the skill set to be able to achieve my goals of being a fashion designer. Through the Career Center, FIDM helped me land my first design position in the industry. The rigorous schedule at FIDM gave me an appreciation of the importance of hitting deadlines which is something I have carried throughout my career.

Featured Story

A Chat With LRG CEO and FIDM Graduate Robert Wright

FIDM Fashion Design Graduate Robert Wright '94 has been the CEO of LRG, the lifestyle apparel and accessory company for women, men, and kids, since 1999. We recently caught up...

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Pitch

Retailer EXPRESS, Inc. just announced their partnership with Universal Pictures and Gold Circle Entertainment's Pitch Perfect 2, in theaters May 15, 2015. Beginning this month, EXPRESS will debut a dual-gender collection based on looks from the film and handpicked by the movie's costume designer, Salvador Perez. Expect tropical florals, vibrant summer dresses, and statement accessories for women. The men's collection features denim, crisp suiting, and the brand's bestselling 1MX dress shirt in a limited-edition ombre design.

The collection is available exclusively online

Featured Story

EXPRESS Partners With Universal Pictures and Pitch Perfect 2 For Dual-Gender Collection

Retailer EXPRESS, Inc. just announced their partnership with Universal Pictures and Gold Circle Entertainment's Pitch Perfect 2, in theaters May 15, 2015. Beginning this month, EXPRESS will debut a dual-gender...

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Leanne

FIDM Graduate and Project Runway Season 5 winner Leanne Marshall has seen her business explode in recent years. The in-demand designer's line is now in over 40 global locations and she just launched two collections. We caught up with the Advanced Fashion Design Graduate to learn more. 

Tell us what you've been up to lately. Life is an incredible whirlwind for me right now. I just launched two collections: my New York Fashion Week collection, 42 looks which were inspired by the tragic life of Adele H., the daughter of author Victor Hugo, and my new bridal collection. I've also had some pretty remarkable women wearing my designs recently, including Carrie Underwood, Julianne Hough, Andie MacDowell, and Mena Suvari. It is so exciting to see this but I am actually so busy that I only have time for a short pause to enjoy it.

Celebs

What continues to excite and invigorate you about design, particularly bridal? The only limits to design are the limits of the imagination. I find that invigorating. Nothing is more exciting than some new bolts of fabric, a clean, sun-lit room, my dress form and some peaceful quiet. I am always inspired by fabrics and the architecture that can be created, but my main goal, with weddings and design in general, is to make women look and feel incredible.

Leanne2

What are some of your fond memories of studying at FIDM? I was awarded a Levi's Dockers scholarship and was able to attend my first year free. That was such a huge help. There was a lot of homework! So much homework that I don't really remember anything else. 

How do you feel that the college helped prepare you for working as a designer? I learned a variety of skills, particularly pattern making and draping, which have allowed me to be a very self-reliant designer. I do every step of my design process now; I sketch, I sew, I drape, I create all the patterns and technical packages. FIDM taught me the basics and I was able to take those skills to the next level myself.

What are your future goals for your company? Right now, bridal is the primary focus, but I am making the turn toward ready to wear. With the attention my collections are getting from celebrities and editorial, I think a full launch will be in the near future.

Featured Story

Catching Up With Designer Leanne Marshall (Interview)

FIDM Graduate and Project Runway Season 5 winner Leanne Marshall has seen her business explode in recent years. The in-demand designer's line is now in over 40 global locations and...

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15058j Product Development Panel_DSC_2528

Photo | L to R: Robyn Turner, Elyse Piwonka, Caitlin Woo, Kia Ragland

Students in the Beauty Industry Merchandising & Marketing program were recently treated to a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear it straight from the mouths of experts in beauty product development, what it's actually like to be a product developer for beauty giants including Orly, Stila, Smashbox, and Arbonne—all companies headquartered in Southern California.

It was an all-star cast serving on the beauty panel. All FIDM Grads and all experts in beauty product development. First there was Stila Director of Product Development Caitlin Woo. Next up was Orly & Spa Ritual Sr. Product Development Manager Elyse Piwonka. Third was Smashbox Global Product Development Assistant Manager Kia Ragland. And rounding out this impressive lineup was Arbonne Sr. Product Development Manager Robyn Turner.

When asked if product development is part of marketing or research and development, the panel answered, "Both." They said that product developing is usually an arm of marketing.

"You need to know your consumer. You need to know your brand," said Caitlin Woo who originally came to FIDM to study fashion. After she started at FIDM she realized that fashion didn't peek her interest as much as the beauty industry, so she interned at Stila and never looked back. She advised the students to take their internships seriously.

Elyse Piwonka added that product development is still part of sales, really. "You have to be able to sell to marketing, the sales teams, and the customer," she said. She told the students that she recently gave a presentation to Target about polymer nail polish. She works directly with the chemists at ORLY, and she knows the product well.

Always having been passionate about beauty, Elyse Piwonka said she fell in love with product development during her time at LORAC Cosmetics. "The idea of creating something is such a beautiful thing." After five years at LORAC, Elyse went to ORLY where she is now the Sr. Product Development Manager. "It's a small industry and it's a beautiful thing to be part of."

Kia Ragland interned at Smashbox when she first started at FIDM. Then she interned at Stila, and once she graduated she was hired. Two years later, she moved over to Jouer Cosmetics doing product and package development, and it wasn't long before she landed back at Smashbox. She's now the Assistant Manager of Global Product Development.

Robyn-Melissa Turner started off saying that the one thing everyone on the panel has in common is "the passion and the ability to network." Robyn knew at a young age that she wanted to work behind the scenes in the beauty industry. She remembers her mother working for Avon, and Robyn used to help her send out orders. She could tell when a formula had changed or the packaging had been redesigned. But, it wasn't until she participated in the NY Study Tour at FIDM that she learned about product development, and she fell in love with the fragrance process.

Turner wanted to do luxury fragrances, and she went to work at DayNa Decker. She went on to work for ORLY, Markwins International (Wet n Wild), and now Arbonne where she has been for almost three years as a Senior Product Development Manager of color cosmetics at their Irvine headquarters. She is what in known in the industry as a cross category developer.

"You have fabulous instructors at FIDM," Turner said as she looked directly in to the audience of students. "You have an amazing opportunity at this college. It's about showing up and being professional." She also added that it's helpful to find yourself a mentor as you grow in your career. "Surround yourself with people who are experts."

Business cards were exchanged as well as information about upcoming internship opportunities.

Featured Story

Get the Inside Story on Beauty Product Development at Orly, Stila, Smashbox, and Arbonne

Photo | L to R: Robyn Turner, Elyse Piwonka, Caitlin Woo, Kia Ragland Students in the Beauty Industry Merchandising & Marketing program were recently treated to a once in a...

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BCBGeneration Creative Director Joyce Azria visited FIDM today, specifically as a guest speaker in a meeting of the Premiere Merchandise Product Development Group—an elite group of FIDM Students who because of their outstanding scholastic achievements, qualify to attend special networking events. The first thing she made clear to the students is that she hires graduates from FIDM. In fact, her executive assistant is an alumna.

Joyce Azria is the daughter of Max Azria—designer, chairman, and CEO of the BCBG Max Azria Group. Max Azria started the company 26 years ago. One of six children and the eldest female, Joyce is the only one who entered the family business.

She always had a particular flare for the business of fashion. At the age of nine, her father was consulting her opinion on BCBG store interiors. She grew up in a fashion family, but she said she was the only one who "showed up." She expressed interest. At 19 years old, she was hired as the creative director of BCBG's swimwear line. Having been raised in the business, she knew all things fashion, including how to make a pattern, sew, and put together a runway show.

She was married at 20 years old and started her own fashion company, JOYANN, which she ran for three years. She then started a family and left the fashion industry for a time, before coming back to run BCBGeneration as the creative director—where she has been now for five years.

As a person with a lot of experience in the fashion business, she offered some excellent advice to the students that they can start using now.

"Stick through the discomfort," she said. The fashion business is hard; you have to stick it out and follow things through. Just because things get difficult, it doesn't mean you stop trying. You will be a better employee if you can survive a bad boss, for example. You will learn how to be a good leader. It's all about a strong work ethic and consistency. She said she does not look fondly on a job candidate whose resume clearly shows they've had four different jobs in two years, for example. Longevity shows loyalty, which is something she holds in high regard.

The second piece of advice Azria gave is to keep perspective of the market to know where you're situated. Max Azria essentially launched the Contemporary clothing market because he noticed there was a need for it. Contemporary was born in the late '80s because of perspective. 

Thirdly, Azria said humility and being of service is key. "Be humble all the way to the top. When you're humble, you're heard."

Lastly, she told the students that they must have passion for what they do. "Fashion is a business of love. It's a business of heart." As a young man, her father moved from Tunisia to Paris and started off selling peanuts. He then moved to selling pens, and finally into denim and clothing. His commitment, dedication, vision, and passion have gotten him to where he is today.

She said she loves to give back. Each student was given a gift bag with a cute BCBGeneration tee and dollar in an envelope that said, "Let kindness be your superpower today." Azria said the students should pay it forward and give the dollar to someone in need.

15098j PD Guest Speaker Joyce Azria_DSC_3377

Student Life

BCBGeneration Creative Director Joyce Azria Offers Expert Advice to Product Development Students

BCBGeneration Creative Director Joyce Azria visited FIDM today, specifically as a guest speaker in a meeting of the Premiere Merchandise Product Development Group—an elite group of FIDM Students who because...

read more

Jamie

Name: Jaime Peck

Company: trnd

Degree: Fashion Design

Grad Year: 2008

What was your industry experience prior to launching trnd? I worked on both the merchandising and design sides of the fashion industry. At Tilly’s HQ I was responsible for putting together seasonal forecasts for all departments including Junior, Mens, Girls, and Boys. Following my experience at Tilly's, I worked (work) as a Trend Analyst/Designer for add-black, a creative design agency. There, I contract as a designer and work on swimwear for Target and other brands and lines.

What made you start the business? The launch of trnd was due to my acknowledgment that there wasn’t any other trend service offering customized reports for specific markets. Businesses were needing to hire me in-house to interpret the reports other services were publishing. trnd now offers Junior market reports as well as a Contemporary-level analysis of runway shows.

What separates trnd from other forecasting services? trnd strives to focus on key seasonal trends by category and creates mood boards using imagery that inspires and gives clear direction. While other services tend to offer vague or conceptual forecasts, our reports are specific to certain markets so we analyze past, present, and current trends to be as specific as possible when formulating our predictions.

We hear that you employ another FIDM Grad. Yes. Lauren Pettigrew is currently our Trend Representative.

The Latest Trends

Fashion Design Grad Launches Trend Fashion Forecasting Service (Interview)

Name: Jaime Peck Company: trnd Degree: Fashion Design Grad Year: 2008 What was your industry experience prior to launching trnd? I worked on both the merchandising and design sides of...

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