September 7, 2017
Students in the Premier Merchandise Product Development Group were treated to a special guest speaker today, the VP of Licensing at Guess, Isaiah Kincaid. He shared the story of his path to success in the fashion industry and offered candid interview and career advice to the students.
Isaiah Kincaid grew up in a small town in Southern Illinois and always loved fashion, but actually didn’t start out with that career trajectory in mind. In fact, he went to school at St. Louis University to become a weatherman. After graduation, he decided to work for the family business, a farm and home goods store, where he learned everything about retail.
In 1993, he started a line of belts and bags, made by hand using hardware from the store such as horse bits and leather. With his 24-piece belt collection and handcrafted cedar display, he travelled to New York to gauge interest. After appointments with Anna Sui and Bergdorf Goodman, his belts were soon on the runway during New York Fashion Week and on the pages of Harper’s Bazaar.
He moved to St. Louis, started a small factory and went into production. It wasn’t long before his belts were in J. Crew and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Then he was offered a job as the Design Director of Leather Goods at Ralph Lauren, and he moved to New York. From there, he went to Abercrombie & Fitch, John Varvatos, and GAP, and rose to VP level when he was hired at Tommy Hilfiger. Next he launched Victoria’s Secret PINK where he remained for seven years. He had a short stint as the Creative Director for Hunter Boots in London, before he was recruited to work for Guess in licensing and branding.
“Decide what you like and go for it,” he advised the students. “I started out using authentic horse bits in my belts and it resonated with the industry. Right place, right time.”
When asked about today’s retail industry, he said, “It’s tough. It’s a competitive landscape.”
But, Guess is going strong. They are in 102 countries, have 1700 stores, and are growing in China, the Netherlands, and Russia.
The students asked how they could make their resumes stand out in the current fashion climate. The answer? Create a strong portfolio, then pick up the phone and call people you’ve met. Good old-fashioned phone calls still work when it comes to job searching. “Your friendships can last your entire career,” he said.
Categories: Guest Lecturers, Merchandise Product Development