Customer Product Development Manager, U.S. East
What I do:
As a product development manager for our customers, my responsibility is to develop their brands utilizing the wide range of materials we offer. In my previous role as Creative manager, the focus was design. Now, using the right material is just as important as the design of the brand. The materials help pull the brand together to maintain a consistent story and can often be the element that conveys the quality or value of the garment to the consumer that sparks an impulse to buy.
Another element of my role related to our efforts in the market is speed. I’m part of a great team that has been working hard to improve our development process, which will in turn help to increase speed so our customers get what they need, when they need it.
The most common request from a customer:
Speed seems to be the focus, at the moment. The turnaround time is getting shorter every day. We are currently in a world of instant gratification and fast-paced change. If our customers are late hitting a current trend in today’s world, it could be costly. That’s why we need to react accordingly to support their needs.
What inspires me:
I’m interested in all forms of art and design, so I’m constantly taking it in. Design is all around us in New York City. A simple street sign was designed by somebody.
My leadership style:
I’m not a micro-manager. When we receive a customer brief, we review it together as a team. I usually have a few ideas that I share with the designer assigned to the project. In the end I leave it up to them to interpret those ideas. We have a really great team here, who often exceed my expectations. From there, it’s really just a matter of working out some of the details and that is always a collaborative process.
How I encourage creative thinking in my team:
We are always looking at how we can take a design to the next level, whether we are introducing sustainability in our designs or looking at the best way to communicate information to the consumer and still optimize tag sizes. There is always a technical aspect that needs to be addressed, and that’s why I encourage the team to make this kind of problem-solving a part of their creative process.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced at RBIS:
Every project comes with its own unique challenges, but our largest challenge has been trying to convert brands to sustainable solutions. Many brands have been quick to dismiss it for different reasons (cost, worried about quality, or just not interested). We are finally starting to move the needle. Sustainable materials are getting closer to cost neutral because we have ways to tweak designs to optimize and bring cost down. Quality is so good now that you can’t tell the difference. There really isn’t a reason not to do it and I think brands are starting to come around because of that. We are in a good position to drive change.
The biggest challenge facing brands:
Apparel is in a transitional phase right now. The world today is about instant gratification and convenience. More and more shopping is being done on cell phones or tablets. The customer can do it any time of the day or night, anywhere. It takes minutes versus hours and we don’t have to leave our homes. So I think that is the challenge brands are facing right now. How do they bring the shoppers back into the stores? I think it will come down to consumer experiences. Stores will need to become more interactive. They will need to become more like showrooms than just a place to purchase something.
Balancing creativity and sustainability:
There are more and more materials being introduced to us and I don’t think brands need to make compromises simply because they want a green option. We have a solution for just about everything. Green has gone mainstream.
Best career advice I’ve received:
Approach design as a form of storytelling.