Instructor is Design Director at ACI International
Hailing from Amsterdam, New York, Footwear Design & Development Instructor Ryan Gumienny always knew he wanted to pursue an artistic life. As a child, he’d often draw on the backs of restaurant placements and enjoyed taking things apart, fixing them, and putting them back together. After receiving a B.S. degree in Industrial Design from Rochester Institute of Technology, Ryan went on to hold positions such as Footwear Designer and Developer for Four Star Distribution, Men’s Product Line Manager for TOMS, and Senior Product Line Manager for Sanuk. Today, he’s the Design Director for ACI International, where accounts include Nordstrom, Joe’s Jeans, and Maui & Sons, among others. We caught up with Ryan, who is also a Board Member for the Los Angeles River Artists and Business Association (LARABA), to learn more about his industry career, teaching at FIDM, and LARABA’s Black Artists Matter initiative.
Tell us about your role and responsibilities as Design Director at ACI International: I lead the Men’s footwear business by developing unique product offerings and overseeing design direction and line building. I build recommended product assortment for clients that reflect the preference of a specific consumer segment, target pricing, quality, visual aesthetic, and lifestyle. Accounts include Perry Ellis, Amazon, Nordstrom, Joe Jeans, Maui & Sons, Payless, and private label brands. I develop and strengthen relationships with key supplier and supply chain partners, while understanding potential manufacturing capabilities, production outside of China, anticipating issues, problem-solving, and timely resolution. I also develop strategic initiatives and processes to ensure efficiency within the business from product creation to communication tools.
How and when did you become involved with LARABA? It's been three years now. I have always had interest in being involved with the local community that I lived in but didn't really know how. I originally was introduced to LARABA when I started my business COMUNITYmade that was located in the Arts District. I was voted in that year and have been on the board ever since. At the beginning of the year, I was elected Chair of the Arts Committee. I help lead the Arts Committee to promote the cultural and artistic enrichment in the community by developing new programs and events through partnerships with local businesses and artists.
Tell us about LARABA’s Black Artists Matter initiative: Black Lives Matter is not a moment; it's a movement, and a continuous fight for justice. That’s why it’s important now, more than ever, to raise our voices. Artistic expression is a powerful vehicle for promoting conversation, connection, and educating a community. We want to use art as an agent of change to transform the Arts District into one where Black artists living in or around it, feel welcome with full love and support. “Black Artists Matter” is an initiative meant to uplift and amplify Black artists, voices, and stories. This project will give a platform to local artists of color to create artworks with the overarching theme of Black Lives Matter and subjects adjacent to uplifting the dignity of Black Americans.
When did you start teaching at FIDM? Officially Fall 2019, but I have been actively involved in prior semesters helping critique students' projects.
What are your favorite things about teaching in the Footwear Design & Development program? All of my students come from different backgrounds, different skill sets, and are at different levels in their studies and careers. I truly care about connecting with my students, passing along my life experiences, and doing whatever I can to make a lasting impact.
Learn more at laraba.org/black-artists-matter.