Students in the Premier Merchandising & Marketing Group were treated to a special guest speaker this week, a designer and new FIDM instructor. In a presentation and an informal Q&A session, Todd Magill shared his path to success with the elite group of students.
Most recently the Senior Design Director at Jack Spade in New York, Todd is now working on his own menswear label MAGILL, manufactured here in Los Angeles (Instagram @magill_la).
About to embark on their own careers, the students asked how he got his start in the fashion industry. After he graduated from FIT, his first job was an assistant at Harvé Bernard in New York, doing flat sketching, tech packs, trend research, and fittings.
Every day on his way home, he would pass by Morgane Le Fay in SoHo. He loved their designs and decided he wanted to work there. He put together a presentation. One of his favorite artists is Egon Schiele, so he recreated some of his work in watercolor with fashion illustrations. After he sent it to them, he received a call that the owner would like to meet him. He said he had three roommates at the time, and he still remembers receiving that call. At the meeting, they told him that his work was beautiful and they were meant to work together. He stayed at Morgan Le Fay for two years.
From there he designed a line of clothing with a friend. Todd had a connection at Tommy Hilfiger, so he asked if he would be willing to meet with them for advice. He did. Tommy Hilfiger took a meeting with them and looked over their collection. Two weeks later, Todd got a message from Tommy’s office that they wanted to see him about an opportunity. Tommy was launching a women’s line and he wanted to offer Todd a position. Todd stayed at Tommy Hilfiger for three years.
After that, his career took him to Ralph Lauren as a Senior Designer for Polo Jeans Company, then to Milan, Italy, as the Director of Design for Iceberg, then Los Angeles where he launched his womenswear brand, WYETH.
He then made the move to Anthropologie as the Executive Design Director for Apparel and Accessories. He told the students how important it is for designers to work closely with merchandisers.
“You become a partner with your designer,” he said. “At Anthropologie, I would sit with the merchandiser and hash it out. You discuss what performed well, what should be repeated, and what should be updated with new details.” The merchandiser must be versatile and able to wear many hats. Their job is to make sure that the designers deliver what the business needs.
From Anthropologie, he made the move back to New York to work as the Senior Design Director at Jack Spade, overseeing the design teams and responsible for all marketing and advertising campaigns—a “keeper of the brand’s DNA.”
He explained to the students that sometimes there are disagreements between designers and merchandisers, but if you believe in something you stand by it. As an example, Todd explained that he knew looser silhouettes were going to be a thing. He was met with resistance, but was able to get it into the line. Sure enough, pleated pants are now everywhere.
Todd is now back in Los Angeles with his new menswear brand Magill, described as classic styling and an updated fit. All materials and production are sourced locally in Los Angeles or within the U.S. to support small businesses and manufacturers. “Everything is at your fingertips here [in Los Angeles],” he said. “There is a buzz around LA.”
Todd Magill will be teaching Brand Management Strategy in the Merchandising & Marketing Program at FIDM Los Angeles next quarter.