Part 1 of 2
As you may recall, earlier this month, Gen Art, the national incubator and launchpad for emerging talent in fashion, film, and music, became another victim of our lengthy recession. Jennifer Egan, Gen Art’s former Vice President of National Marketing & Business Development and their Los Angeles Director is nevertheless… very busy… an understatement if there ever was one. Being busy, of course, is one thing. I’m busy. Sometimes I look back on a day of being busy and wonder if the productivity measured up. Being busy and productive is the key combination. Egan is fueled by, if you’ll pardon the over-used adage, a ‘passion for fashion’ that realizes and exceeds the cliché. By marrying passion to a deep understanding, not only of the larger industry and how it functions, but of what fashion really means to people, those who design it, and those who wear it, Egan is productive in a way that has touched many lives, and is someone who literally characterizes her life’s work as helping “cultivate the careers of those I believe in deeply.” There’s a particular kind of fashion-inspired lifestyle that Jennifer Egan lives and communicates that is inherently appealing, a vision that is at once fun & glamorous, but also socially conscious, hard- working, …and demonstrably in Egan’s case, deeply caring for the success of others as well as one’s self. I caught up with Egan, in between pre-production marathons in New York, LA, and Chicago, auditioning designers for Bravo TV’s Season Two of “The Fashion Show.”
cakechow.com: I know after 8 years, there must be many feelings and thoughts about Gen Art’s closure, but can you share any that are especially meaningful to you today?
Jennifer Egan (right) poses with colleague Elizabeth Shaffer (left) and
Gen Art Co-Founder Ian Gerard. Photo: Howard Wise
Jennifer Egan: Gen Art has been my family for eight years (although it feels like I helped with its inception long after it was started). It is crushing both on a personal and professional level. The team I counted amongst my friends and family are reeling as well. They are all such talented people I have no doubt they will end up in the right place. But there is no place quite like Gen Art and as our President once said “the equity of this organization walks in the door in the morning and leaves at night.” We collectively were Gen Art and Gen Art was us. We defined ourselves partially through the professional mission to help promote, showcase and support emerging talent. I am happy to say that we were successful in doing this and more. Many designers that are of any import and significance have the Gen Art imprint on it.
Jen Egan (left) with colleague Elizabeth Shaffer (center) and Michael
Rucker right) Photo: Howard Wise
cakechow.com: When did you know for sure the closure was coming?
Jennifer Egan: I actually found out a bit before it happened. The principals of the organization of course wanted to make sure we were all apprised of what was happening and that we were protected and prepared. For the past two years I went from a full time job to being a consultant for Gen Art (they were very supportive of me wanting me to spread my proverbial wings) so they are one of my many clients but one that I hold near and dear.
cakechow.com: Designers and other partners of Gen Art I spoke to after the closure announcement said they thought this would unquestionably leave a void as far as organizations dedicated to nurturing emerging fashion talent in the way that Gen Art did, at least for a while. Do you think economic recovery could give birth to a new organization like Gen Art, or is there a new model for doing this kind of work?
Jennifer Egan: That is a great question. There will undeniably be a void in the industry while Gen Art regroups but we are all optimistic that Gen Art 2.0 is on its way. And the model will be more than experiential marketing – it will integrate all aspects of social networking and content. It will be a very modern version of what we were doing and a turnkey 360 degree strategic marketing platform for both corporate partners and designers.
Egan poses with author and performer Clint Catalyst at the Gen Art LA
Alumni Celebration in March 2010. Photo: Shar ToMara
cakechow.com: Comments on Gen Art’s Facebook page on the day of the announcement included hopeful designers expressing some dismay at the loss. What’s your advice to aspiring designers in Gen Art’s service areas?
Jennifer Egan: I always joked that they should change the spelling of the organization to “Jen Art”. And while that was in jest, I do continue to showcase, support and promote emerging talents in the arts and fashion areas through different platforms. For example I am currently curating Bravo’s newest season of “The Fashion Show” with Isaac Mizrahi and IMAN. It is a whole new casting and production team and will be a different platform for designers (who are at a point in their career) that can utilize this show to get their vision across in a mass mediated way. Through this process I continue to uncover new talent and advise them on their collections and act as not only casting judge but as a mentor. I have many similar clients that allow me to utilize my expertise to help shape and nurture careers. Another example is licensing deals. My partner and I are strong believers in the democratization of fashion and style across all pillars of life. We take the more established designers and broker deals with multinational multibillion dollar companies so they can do capsule collection in a mass way, which allows for smaller price points, which then give accessibility to more people. We are also working with these designers who are traditionally women’s high fashion wear on doing maternity, plus size, kids, puppies and babies collections- all which are of interest and relevance in the fashion community from a consumer perspective. It allows for a wider net to be cast and is cross generational, socio-economic, size, culture, gender, …even cross-species.[laughs]
Photo: Howard Wise
cakechow.com: Are you taking some time off to breathe, or staying in motion? What lies ahead for you? In your Facebook announcement you referred to Gen Art as a client. Do you see yourself continuing the type of work you were doing with Gen Art under your own umbrella? Any scoop you can offer us yet on what Jennifer Egan has in store?
Jennifer Egan: It is really my life’s work to help cultivate the careers of those I believe in deeply. I will continue that and follow my passion for all things style as I feel there is a deeper mission there. I know that fashion doesn’t cure cancer. However, when you are wearing something that you feel good in it affects how you feel on the inside. Fashion is a visual representation of who you are and it is something that can give joy to people’s lives. There is also a big intersection between fashion and art and all of that lends itself to a wonderful lifestyle. I am blessed to work with very amazing and strong partners on many different pursuits who have complementary skill sets. I have never thought of work as a sacrifice or had to find a balance. I love what I do and having my own company allows me to spend time with my family and friends as well as do all the things on my bucket list even though I am not even in my late thirties. [laughs]
I suppose if you think about it, having a thirty-something “bucket list” is probably a good way to respect the brevity of life, and live it every day, …well, like Jennifer Egan. Gen Art will be sorely missed, and many including this Examiner will keep their fingers crossed for a Gen Art 2.0, but Egan’s work goes on regardless. Whether it’s as an on-air expert, executive producer, consultant, casting curator, or all-around arbiter of style, Jennifer Egan has a trail of successes behind her that resembles the proverbial rising tide, lifting the “ships” of so many designers & brands along with her that one is tempted to recall the tale of Midas’ touch. Having design talent is one thing, but in an industry as competitive and image-focused as fashion, turning designers into stars is an art form with its own very unique challenges. If there’s a silver lining in Gen Art’s closure, it’s simply that the “equity” we spoke of before will be carried on by Gen Art’s family into a wide array of continuing endeavors.
Don’t miss Part 2, tomorrow Friday, May 21, when we’ll check in with designers, artists, and former Gen Art New York Fashion Director Lee Trimble.
For more info: Bravo TV’s The Fashion Show
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