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R. Scott French

Fashion Designer

R. Scott French's website


Q. When did you know that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
A. I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer in my 2nd year of college.  I was a Chemistry Major, planning on studying Medicine.  I had all the grades needed to succeed in that field, but my heart wasn't in it & I knew it. 
 I had a chemistry lab partner whose roommate was in the fashion-merchandising  program at my school (a small Liberal Arts college in Pennsylvania).
Whenever I would go to her room to study, I would end up rushing through my Chemistry work in order to get to help April with her Fashion projects.  I knew I had an interest.  Then, an epiphany occurred towards the end of my sophomore year.  
 A friend brought me into New York City one night to go clubbing.  It was the mid Eighties & the nightclub scene in New York was at its zenith. 
I knew then & there, on the dance floors of Danceteria, Area, Palladium & the World, that I had to get to NY as soon as possible & that Fashion was my ticket.
 
Q. What are some of the sacrifices you have made for the sake of your career?
A. I would have to say time.  What I do takes a tremendous amount of time to accomplish.
 It's also a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week profession in that no matter where you are going, who you are seeing or what you are doing, you are bombarded with imagery & stimulation that may serve as inspirational fodder.  I'm always looking at what everybody is wearing.  What they aren't wearing.  How people are putting everything together, whether it be their wardrobe, home  or their social lives.  In that respect, I never stop working.  Even vacations are inspirational voyages rather than lazy relaxing times.
 
Q. Any advice for young fashion designers trying to get started in the industry?
A. Get a job with someone else for a few years & absorb everything there is to absorb BEFORE you strike out on your own.  I've watched literally 100's of young designers get out of school, put together a collection on borrowed money or their last few saved cents & then fall flat on their face come time to sell & produce the goods because they simply don't know how, can't find the resources or planned poorly.  Experience is the only antidote to this malady.  I like to say that you should always learn the mistakes of this business on someone else's dime. Also, and this is perhaps the most important part of my personal success, remain humble. 
 We are blessed with working in a business that is fun, fast-paced, perceived to be glamorous & can have great payoffs both personally & monetarily.  CONSIDER YOURSELVES BLESSED TO BE IN THIS BUSINESS & SUCCEEDING!  I wake up every day & enter the outside world knowing that I can learn something from the janitor of my building to the president of the company & every person in between.  If you approach anyone with an attitude of like you are doing them a favor to ask them a question, then expect to get a cold harsh shoulder turned towards you.  This is a business that doesn't forget & one that you need to rely on many people to get your job done.  It is impossible to do it 100% alone & be a sizeable success.

Q. How do you balance your professional life with your personal life?
A. As I said above, there is a very thin line between personal & professional life in this job.  In my case, the line is even thinner as I have my office at home from where I design,  make patterns, manage sales & coordinate production, & my wife is in the same profession.  As a result, we live & breathe fashion day in & day out.  It gets very tiresome at times & we simply have to turn off our professional heads & enter the real world.  It has become much easier to forget about the professional side of my life since the birth of our son.  He could care less about the fashion world & as a result, we are  more effectively distracted to focus on our personal life.

Q. What is a typical day at work for you?
I begin my day at about 9:30 AM.  I usually have my day prepared the night before & all my necessary paperwork, cut tickets, design sheets, patterns, etc. are in a pile w/ my master notebook (I keep my entire   business running very effectively with a 1" ring binder & a Palm Pilot).  I may have a fabric or trim appointment if I'm in the process of designing a new collection.  If not, I will usually make a visit to my factory to see what is going on & to check on the progress of my work in process.  I may also have a few appointments in my showroom.  Yesterday for instance, I met with a Public Relations agency to discuss show sponsorship opportunities & a concept for a runway presentation & then right after that, I worked with two costume designers from an independent film that is being shot here in NYCity in September.  I usually try to go back to the factory towards the end of the normal workday to clear up any issues that may have arisen during the day.
My factory works very late at night, so it is really sort of a mid-day visit to them.  I then return back to my home office around 6:30 PM to answer e-mails (I average 30 to 40 per day), address any faxes, listen to messages, etc.  I will then work on paperwork, process any orders my salesman may have sent in, write PO's for fabrics, trims, etc. & fax them to the vendors.  I often talk to a few of my more important stores around this time of the day, as they are winding down themselves & we can speak without interruption.  I find out how things are selling, what they need, what I can do better, etc. I believe my retailers are my business partners, not just a place I sell my clothes.  They are my eyes & ears on the front lines.  If my new collection is completely designed, I will then work from after dinner to usually 2:00 or 3:00 AM on patterns.  I find the late nights the time when my real creativity flows, as I am free from the distractions of day-to-day business matters.  After everyone else is closed, that's when I can create my collection unimpeded.  Before I go to bed, I look over the next day & plan my pile & pack my notebook & get ready to do it all over again.

Q. Where do you see the future of the fashion industry headed?
The future of fashion is in a very different place than it was 50 years or even 10 years ago.  I feel that the designers who are going to be around to do business in the next few years (& this applies to the smallest of designers all the way up to the huge fashion houses) are the ones who can adapt to fit the needs of their customers on the turn of a dime.  The days when a designer puts on a runway show of 50 or 60 garments & all the buyers show up to buy whatever it is the designer created are long gone.  In order to survive today as a retailer, it is essential to look different & offer unique merchandise than your competitors.  The designer who can offer "custom" merchandise to each of their accounts & then back their deliveries up with re-orderability will survive.  I've witnessed, over the last 6 years, stores willing to take less chances with their inventory.  Therefore, they place smaller than traditional initial orders & then re-order soon after the merchandise hits their selling floors if it was well received.  The traditional fashion business model (at least for the U.S. fashion companies) doesn't allow for this pattern of business.  As a result, I see tremendous opportunities for new, innovative, SMALL to mid-size companies in the "designer/young contemporary" categories.  Smaller, more personal companies like mine can react in short order to a customer's request & as a result, we become invaluable resources to our clients.

Q. What inspires you?
I am not inspired by any one thing.  I look around me, observe what is going on, look at what people are wearing, spot minute changes in people's dress habits & think about where they are going next.  I want to be where they are going next.  Sometimes I'm where they are going after "next", but that's another problem altogether!  I've found inspiration in the Skateboard kids in Union Square, NY, in the clothes that women & men wear home from the gym (half gym clothes & half professional attire), or even a diagonal line like for my Fall 2001.  Most of the time, I go shopping the fabric market, work
with my key suppliers & out of those meetings & shopping trips,  a theme develops.  My inspiration comes to me; I don't usually have to go find it. Usually I have more inspirations in a month than I need to design in a year.
I cannot understand it when I hear some of my fellow designers lamenting about their lack of inspiration.  How is that possible, I always ask myself!

R. Scott French is in the process of  expanding and re-designing his website. A new shopping cart will be added that will enable customers to buy certain items directly from R. Scott French. For more information visit:  www.rscottfrench.com