Catching Up With Patagonia Product Developer Kim Suarez (Interview)

October 5, 2016

Apparel Industry Management Graduate Kim Suarez is currently a Product Developer at Patagonia, based in Ventura, California. Prior to joining the famed outdoor apparel and gear company, Kim worked at Levi's, also in product development, in San Francisco. We recently caught up with the FIDM Alumna to learn more. 

What are your day-to-day responsibilities? My day-to-day responsibilities include working cross-functionally with design and merchandising internally, and with the factories and supplier externally to produce product which hits a certain aesthetic, price point, and functionality. This can vary depending on what company your work for, but most companies work in this way. My daily tasks include communicating with factories on sample make (passing comments, checking in on timing, receiving samples, solving any issues which come up), and then reviewing those samples internally to determine next steps for fit, costing, materials, etc. Each day is a bit different, but there is the overall cyclical seasonal calendar, which repeats itself every six months or so. Of course, there is a lot of fun in this industry too, which includes lots of travel and perks and access I would never have otherwise. In 2015, I was in Europe six times working on the Levi's Made & Crafted and Levi's Vintage Clothing collections.

What do you love about your job and why? I love making product more than anything. It's exciting to see the product you've worked on in stores and on people and celebrities, but I really do love the process. I love the nitty-gritty, which may include creative problem-solving, working with challenges in fit, costing, or communication, and seeing the product on the lines in the factories. I think to be a successful Product Developer you need to love the process just as much as the product because that is what you'll be working on most of the time. It's not the most glamorous part of the industry, but we are the ones who ultimately make the product what it is. As a Developer, you need strong people skills because you'll be on both sides of the table as the messenger between the internal team and the factories. Being able to speak both languages of negotiation and industry talk is essential to make sure everyone is working towards the same end goal in a positive way. 

How do you feel FIDM helped prepare you for your career? The most important thing I learned at FIDM was how to network. I think that is a hugely important. You are surrounded by industry people, including teachers and the companies in Los Angeles. Do as much as you can to intern for companies which interest you, attend industry events, and reach out to people. While I think this industry has had a reputation of being very "locked-door" and not welcoming, I think our millennial generation is changing this. You never know who around you may be your future co-workers. It's such a small industry. I recommend finding a mentor. I've had mentors in managers, teachers, and random industry connections who I owe a lot to.

What are your ultimate career goals? My career goals change all the time, but right now what gets me excited is working on innovation. I'd love to someday be able to work on that bridge between the gap of apparel and technology, so working on wearable tech and technology-infused textiles and garments. Kind of like what Levi's x Jacquard by Google are doing. 

Categories: Apparel Industry Management, Alumni News, Careers