The Impression is all about innovation so when SIMON COLLINS first shared with us the idea behind his new conference FASHION. CULTURE. DESIGN, we knew a good idea when we heard it. With the conference just two weeks away on June 9th at NYC’s Parsons School of Design, we thought we would check in with the ringmaster to hear how it is coming together.
BY KENNETH RICHARD
Simon, looking forward to the first Fashion Culture Design conference in two weeks and wanted to check in. Know we spoke about the conference approaching hot topics from a different angle, how is it coming together?
Really well. The topics all feel intuitive in our current social, creative, and cultural climate. I see them as questions that I want to know the answers to. I’m not sure how much we gain from conventional conference speeches where a CEO delivers a carefully scripted pitch for their new product. This also isn’t an event where you sit at the back and stare at your phone composing social media updates. The audience will be part of the conversation with a Q&A as part of every topic. I mean, I have my own opinions on the tectonic shift in the fashion system that’s underway, but I’m really keen to hear from experts who have vested interests in a solution. That’s why we asked Rachna Shah, vice-president of public relations and production agency KCD, which handles a large number of the biggest shows during fashion month, and Sarah Rutson of Net-A-Porter who buys for a web-savvy, global audience, Gary Wassner whose company Hilldun finances a great many shows and brands, and Andrew Rosen who has interests in leading brands including Rag & Bone, Proenza Schouler, Theory, and Helmut Lang. These people are making the global fashion weeks work for their differing needs and I want to know how they’re doing it. A hot topic right now of course is what’s effective in advertising. We’re asking what’s worth more, a good Instagram post or a double-page advert in the all-important September issue of a glossy magazine? We have Dirk Standen, the man who built Style.com and currently heads up Condé Nast’s branded content studio 23 Stories, moderating Margaret Zhang (a stylist, photographer, creative director, branding consultant and Instagrammer with 750k followers) and Kevin Kollenda from the agency Two Hustlers, who worked with Nick Knight, Inez and Vinoodh and others. I can’t wait to hear them debating.
Sounds pretty conversational. So outside of sparking conversation, what do you hope people walk away with?
It’s very important to me that this unconference delivers tangible outcomes that attendees and panelists can use in their lives. We will be discussing what can be done and what should be done about many challenging issues and our moderators will be driving the panelists to offer their expertise to inspire each other and the crowd. That’s why we turned to respected commentators like Simon Frantz at the BBC and Dominic Rushe of The Guardian, for their inscrutability and determination to get answers. I want everyone present to walk away with a real sense of inspiration for the future and pride that they were present for the first FCD. I’m already detecting a strong sense of FOMO from the creative community, they don’t want to miss out on this.
Well no one wants to miss a good thing. So beyond the panelists and speakers you have a few interesting brands involved. What can you share with us?
Sure, I knew from the start that this event had to take place at Parsons. The New School and Parsons have always been places for creative thinking and new ideas. It was during my 7-year tenure as dean of the School of Fashion where my curiosity reached fever pitch. There were also brands who shared my determination to get this conversation happening so I was delighted when WGSN, Marvin Traub Associates, King & Partners, Fashion GPS, and my friends like you at The Impression immediately said yes to supporting this event. As word spread we brought in friends like BMW, Moet Chandon, Belvedere, The Americano, Fashion Unfiltered and The Wall Street Journal. It’s the first edition of a brand new concept and I am blown away by the support I’ve had from brands, speakers, media, and attendees alike. It’s like this event was always meant to happen, someone just had to start it.
On that note, you’ve been to a number of conferences and know the challenges of how topics are presented and discussed, but we also both know the challenges of maximizing that networking opportunity. So have to ask, how good is the conference coffee and what will you be doing to help people connect while drinking it?
I’m encouraging shots of espresso rather than gallons of filter coffee; I want to keep people on their toes.
A crucial part of this event is the open dialogue between panelists and the audience. It drives me crazy when people say of events “The real work gets done over lunch.” If that’s the case, then go out for lunch. Don’t waste the admission fee. We will be provoking people with new thinking and ideas, winding them up, then setting them loose to talk to each other with a glass of champagne in one hand and an espresso in the other. Turn off your phone. Look up. I expect fireworks.
Looking forward to the fireworks and see you in a few weeks at the conference.
** The Impression is in no way associated with the conference, we just like the idea and wish to share with our readers.