Jay Godfrey Visits The School of Fashion
Written by Tanya Grover – AAS Fashion Marketing Student
In the financial center of New York City, sitting in his cubicle trying to dig into the backbreaking work of spreadsheets, crunching numbers, and playing the customary investment banker, Jay Godfrey realized, something was definitely and terribly bizarre – when everybody was reading financial journals on Wall Street, he was reading Vogue. Chanel runway images during couture week gave him goose bumps. In that perfect high roller “glamorous” world of greys and blues, there stood the Canadian telling himself,
“Pink! I wanna be a creator of lifestyle”
And 10 years later, Jay Godfrey, New York Women’s Wear Designer, has not only created the lifestyle but also pushed it over the edge to a glamorous minimalist signature aesthetic. He has a unique recipe for fashion forward modernity and unexampled sensual color handling that finds its place to the ultimate Jay Godfrey woman’s wardrobe including loyal celebrities. He is proud to have dressed Eva Longoria, Emma Stone, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Mendes, Angie Harmon, Eve, Leighton Meester, Petra Nemcova, and Sarah Michelle Geller, just to name a few.
They say, the rest is fashion history, but the story isn’t over… The “Cinderella man” (he calls himself), paid a nostalgic visit to Parsons, his alma mater, to impart the challenging and amazing journey he has had thus far.
Mung Lar Lam, Associate Director of the AAS Programs at The School of Fashion, gracefully hosted the event and introduced Godfrey. Among the audience, there was a special guest; New York Designer, Parsons alumna and Chair of the Parsons Board of Governors- Kay Unger, whose presence was a testament to her long time association with Godfrey.
At the onset, Godfrey constituted a warm and intimate connection with the audience that consisted of students from Fashion Design and Marketing. As he narrated his story with amuse, he took us to the time when he joined Parsons with a promise to bring a different perspective to fashion, having taken a giant leap of faith. There were tough times when he said, “I will never be able to graduate, and I am so bad at this”. He declared that Parsons is the finest design school where he had the most incredible experience. When a student asked him to elaborate upon his experience at Parsons, he playfully said, “I am the un-teachable, and Parsons taught me well” and that he screamed the first time he had to thread a sewing machine.
Through his principle of right place and right time, his next milestone was an internship at Oscar de la Renta that fine- tuned his style and technique and gave him the opportunity to work with incredible fabrics. Networking is the key to entrepreneurship, something he couldn’t emphasize enough.
He painted the picture further when he met his wife who inspired him to discover an opening in the market for contemporary dresses. This discovery along with Godfrey’s marvelous marketing artistry led him to a booming retail market.
The students were curious to know if experience is required before starting your own business. To this, Godfrey was positive and said “Make mistakes on other people’s money. Work for someone who is going to champion you”.
Godfrey considers his big break through the power of Celebrity dressing which also led to features in Elle, Cosmopolitan, The New York Post and WWD. He delivered this fundamental-
“Everything to everybody? Wrong! Become known for one thing first, then branch out”
He also shared his experience of collaboration with the W Hotel in 2012. He redesigned the uniforms for the complete global staff. He also collaborated with URBN hotel, China’s first carbon-neutral hotel in Shanghai to design the guest suites and to curate Godfrey branded retail products such as robes, mattresses, cosmetic and decorative items.
While running his own brand, Godfrey plays dual roles of Designer and Marketer. Another student from AAS Fashion Marketing wanted to know who dominates in him – a designer or a marketer? Godfrey said he definitely juggles achieving marketing objectives while still keeping the creativity and novelty alive. Kay Unger added that achieving the right fit in the product is a bridge between a designer and a marketer and applauded Godfrey for that. To this Godfrey expressed that fit and quality are the two most important characteristics that he tries to achieve in every single design.
The audience was curious to know the progression of his brand, to which Godfrey replied with affirmation that he believes in a natural progression but life doesn’t always follow the book he says. Branching to designing hotel suites was not a natural progression but it felt right. He believes that one should stick to who you are and only do what you are good at.
To the question, “Are there any failures that you have encountered”? Godfrey replied optimistically that even if he is taking one step back and two steps forward, as long as he is going in the right direction that’s okay.
To summarize, Godfrey’s philosophy, and his last connection to banking was a quote he took from the Wolf of Wall St. –
“The only thing standing in between you and your dream is the bull shit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it”.
About the Author
Tanya Grover is a current AAS Fashion Marketing Student from India. She is an entrepreneur and a design enthusiast who is fond of projects that connect design and business. She is an experienced merchandiser in Home Fashion and currently freelancing in trend analysis and sourcing. She worships creativity and draws her inspiration from travel.
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