Deborah Cianciotta is no stranger to those in the footwear industry. A designer, consultant, marketing wiz and all-round footwear guru, she is co-founder of Modern Pulse Consulting Group a firm that guides local and international businesses to success. We caught up with the vivacious industry leader in today's Movers & Shakers. — ModernPulse.net
How did you get started in footwear? I had just quit a job working in the apparel industry, deciding it was not where I wanted to build my career. My friend owned an employment agency in NYC and he told me if anything looked interesting to go to the interviews. The rest, as they say, is history.
I went to an interview for a position as a receptionist for a company at 9 West 57th street called Fisher Camuto, which later became Nine West. I thought, easy summer job, 9-5, great neighborhood. What can I say I was twenty! Well, I was called back six times! Once they heard that my collage major had been fashion design and illustration, the questions kept coming and they had nothing to do with answering a phone.
After first meeting the office manager and sales team, I met with Vince Camuto, Jack Fisher and Wayne Weaver. These gentlemen were visionaries in the industry, and took footwear where no one before them had. It was a wonderful time and place. I learned from the bottom up sketching, last making, heel making, technical, leather development from some of the best. In those days, you sank or swam because you were responsible for it all, no excuses. I am still grateful and still to this day, consider them mentors and friends. I went from answering phones to the SVP of Design/Development for Enzo Angiolini.
What does an average day look like for you? If I have learned anything, it’s that there are no average days when your business is your own. Len and I try and speak each morning to discuss what's on our agendas. Each day is very different, depending on the projects we have taken on. While I will plan out weeks in advance, I wake up each day and plan accordingly because things can change on a dime. I can be in merchandising meetings, designing a line of shoes, mentoring new designers, sourcing footwear or on a plane to Italy for two days to correct a line.
What duties are you responsible for? I am a product specialist at heart. But I am a principal who likes being involved in many aspects of creative. I’m head of all product from trend through sourcing and production. When we do multiple lines which is something we do often, I have a team of people I trust to work with and I oversee every aspect of what is done. But I also am very involved with our creative director of marketing on what they are working on: email campaigns, e-commerce sites, visual presentations for our seminars and more. I also try and keep our SM going. Its one of the things that is so great about what we do. How many companies can design your product, produce your website and teach you how to run your business? You don’t have to try to explain to multiple people who and what your brand stands for. Because everyone here is involved from the beginning. It's a totally organic way to run and grow your business. Not to mention the other branches of Modern Pulse like SM, PR, back end operations,s tore display. It goes on, and on. If you're in footwear, we can help, period.
What do you love most about what you do? Having the freedom to meet and work with new people and projects all the time. After being in a business for many years or the same position, you loose sight of what is happening outside in the world. Everyday I learn something new from someone that I could not have learned, inside one company. I am always working with new designers, new companies, and hearing and seeing things that would not have been shared.
What qualifications do you need to be great at your job? I learned many things over the years and I can give you the general list. But to be honest, I feel that so much of what I do is instinct. I feel my best ability is being able to read a market and the direction to take a product line. I have always been interested in watching trends. Not just fashion, but street fashion, video, TV, film, art, technology. So much of what I do is taken from that as well.Y ou can learn a lot about a teenager when you read, watch or listen to what they are into. Same goes for luxe,j ust sit in the right restaurant. You need to pay attention to the world around you. Not just your own surrounding area. Too many designers want to sell what they like personally and don’t pay attention to the message from consumer markets. Be open minded about every experience and learn from it.
What have been some highlights so far in your career? I think I would have to say meeting and working with some of the best people. One in particular was Enzo Angolini. He was one of the most amazing characters I have ever met. Being his partner in crime for those
years was a life changing experience. He exposed me to sites, sounds and people this kid from Queens NY never knew existed! Vince Camuto was another, he did not care where you came from if you had a work ethic and talent he took you in and made you family. He exposed us to so much and got you involved in everything from designing shoes, to looking at plans for retail stores it was such fun. Then of course there is Modern Pulse. I started this almost eight years ago with my business partner and friend Len. This is most defiantly the highlight of my footwear career, so far...
What are some of the misconceptions of what you do? That design is easy! Everyone wants to be a designer, as long as they don’t have to do the work. The real designers put so much work into what they create. The research, planning, designing, making the pattern, picking materials, fitting, producing, selling it goes on and on. Even if you are not designing, but lets say interpreting what is out in the market at luxe for a broader audience. You still need to know out of the thousands of products out there, which to focus on. Again, I think it comes down to paying attention and instinct.
What advice would you give to those who want to work in the footwear industry? Well, that would depend on what kind of career they are looking for. I would give very different advice to someone who wants to be a designer vs. someone who wants to run a footwear company. But either way, footwear is a complicated business to run or design, you need to understand who you are selling at the wholesale and retail levels and consumer level. Without that, you're no where.