“If I could be reincarnated, I would come back as one of my handbags, for they have very adventurous lives," Lauren Cecchi said. Luxury, adventure, and decadence are just some of the things she embodies in her handbag line, Lauren Cecchi New York. With each one carefully crafted in the Garment District of New York City, her collections feature everything from totes to clutches and essential accessories for multifaceted women on-the-go.
Cecchi's window into fashion began at a young age when she learned to sew at just five years old and went on to obtain a degree in fashion merchandising. Cecchi made the move to New York and worked as an assistant buyer at Bloomingdales when she realized that American made luxury handbags was a market waiting to be filled. Her bold colors and refined silhouettes perfectly embody functionality and style. Read on as Lauren sheds some light on her career as a jewelry designer and gives us her best advice for Making it in Manhattan.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in fashion?
As far back as I can remember I wanted to do something with fashion. By the time I reached high school and had to really start thinking about what I would do with my life, I felt as though being involved in the fashion industry was my calling. It was something I immersed myself in; I thought about it, read about, and talked about it all day every day.
2. What college did you attend and what did you study?
For my undergraduate and Masters degrees I attended Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. I studied Business Administration there, with a specialization in Fashion Merchandising. I then got my MBA in International Business, with a concentration in Global Fashion. Lynn really expanded my horizons, allowing me to travel around the world to various fashion events. I think being able to study abroad in places such as Greece, Turkey, Italy, Uruguay, and Argentina gave me an understanding of new and old cultures, and it has allowed me to incorporate what I learned from those experiences into my collections.
3. When did you land your first internship and what was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience?
I earned my first internship at Bloomingdale’s as a Visual Stylist. Every day I would work with my mind, heart, and hands to create marketable looks on the floor. The other visual stylists and I did all the displays, mannequins, and perfume launches, and we even designed bedding arrangements in the home section.
The most valuable lesson of them all was learning how to showcase multiple looks on a single mannequin without it taking from the overall aesthetic of the ensemble. I was able to recognize how each brand has its own aesthetic: Free People is bohemian and looked different when compared to the clean and sophisticated BCBG section, for example. Elements of what I learned from that internship ultimately became the creative foundation of my future collections.
4. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone about to begin a summer internship?
Be ready to do anything. Saying “yes” opens doors, saying “no” closes them. Have an open mind and be ready do to anything. Stay late, show up early, and do whatever your boss says even if you really don’t want to do it. There is always a reason they are making you do those seemingly silly tasks: they are teaching you something that you will probably use for your entire career in fashion.
5. Who have been your biggest mentors in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you? (explain in detail if possible)
My biggest mentors are my parents. Both entrepreneurs themselves, they have taught me so much about business, initiative, ethics, and confidence. I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. We sit talk about ideas, the functionality of my bags, where I want my business to be in the future, etc. They both give me great advice from their years of experience, their unconditional love for me, and their support of my dreams. I ask their advice a lot because they’re not obsessed with fashion like I am, so it gives me candid, real-world feedback. After all, sometimes you just need that outside point-of-view to understand things because you are too close to the situation to realize or understand certain aspects that are otherwise right in front of your face.
6. What was your first job out of college, and how did you land that position?
My first job after earning my MBA was working for a buying office in New York City. It was one of my favorite jobs ever! When they scouted for people at my school and I went right up to the owner, told her I was the right girl for the position, and she hired me on the spot. Every day we got to look at and lay our hands on new collections that were created by talented designers all over the city.
I actually attended 30 shows during NYFW. At one point I thought I would be there forever, but then I started to realize how an increasing number of designers weren’t creating their collections in the United States. That’s when I thought to myself, “Why aren’t there more designers that try to produce their collections in NYC?” So, I went home one night, started sketching, and the rest is history.
7. What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out? (do you have a particular story?)
8. If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
Don’t take yourself too seriously because fashion has its rules yet there are no rules in fashion at all. It is simply a beautifully creative artistic experiment of the mind, body, and soul. It is not a life-or-death situation.
9. What is your favorite part about being an accessories designer?
I think designing my bags is the most fun. When I get to see my sketches come to life, especially when I meet someone who loves their LCNY handbag, I know I must be doing something right. I love picking out all the leathers too. There are so many colors and textures to choose from that I get lost in a dream world sometimes.
10. The fashion industry has changed so much in the past few years, what’s the best advice you would give for staying ahead of the curve?
I would share the best advice I was given: “Do what is true to you.” There are just so many trends and fads in fashion that, if you chase them all, your brand identity will get lost in the mix. Stick to your aesthetic and charge forward with your unique vision.
11. As a millennial, what role do you think social media plays in the fashion industry?
I think social media is definitely a key player in today’s fashion industry. We see a celebrity wearing or endorsing a product on Facebook or Twitter, and we buy it. We see a blogger promoting a brand on Snapchat, we discover a new brand. We tell our friends, they tell theirs, and everyone uses social media to do so.
In addition, we are constantly inspired by pictures of clothing or fashion events on sites like Instagram, which lends itself to making the buying experience more personal. Basically, social media connects everyone in the fashion world and beyond by making them a part of the fantasy.
12. What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line?
I think failure is always a fear people have when they start their own companies, but you just have to keep telling yourself that failure is not an option. Sometimes I am so wrapped up in micromanaging my brand that I don’t see all the milestones I’ve reached. For instance, when I say “Oh no, I didn’t get any sales today,” but my team will enthusiastically say “But you sold seven bags over the weekend, so calm down Lauren!”
I think it just comes down to me wanting so much more from my brand. I have to stop comparing myself to the big name brands that have been around for decades, so I gingerly tell myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that usually does the trick.
13. Where do you go for inspiration when trying to design a new collection?
I draw inspiration from pretty much everywhere I go - in the people, the streets, the food, the traditions, and the culture. My color stories come from things like visiting the deep blue grottos of Capri. New styles come from seeing people carrying a bag all the wrong on 6th Avenue. It beckons me to create a new style that’s more suitable for the everyday girl. Every aspect of life inspires me to create new silhouettes, styles, and colors.
14. Where do you hope to see your brand in the future?
In the very near future, I hope my brand gets picked up by every major department store around the world. I want every fashionista to have an LCNY handbag in the closet. I want to present at NYFW, have my own store, and become a lifestyle brand eventually. I’m a dreamer and I dream big, but I work hard and I’m confident, so I hope these big dreams come true for me one day.
15. There’s so much pressure for designers to come out with their greatest collection season after season. What advice would you give to young designers just starting out and hoping to make it in the industry?
I would say to young designers that what is more important than trumping your last season is being true to yourself and your brand. Don’t feel pressured to do what everyone else is doing, just stay at your own pace and do what you want (not what is trendy). Trends are born of fashion, not the other way around. Also, stick it out through the tough times. If you believe in yourself, do the hard work, and can face at least one fear each day that puts you ahead of the game - you will become someone in the industry when the world is ready.
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