Story by Stefhan Gordon, Special Correspondent
Before the kick off for LA Fashion Week, LAfashionWEEK.com got some time to talk with John Arguelles, President of Lloyd Klein Couture and recent Fashion Group International of Los Angeles (FGILA) Regional Director about FGILA's kick off "MEET The Designer & The Muse THAT INSPIRES THEM" event, the FGILA in general, their events and John's participation in this organization.What follows is our Q & A with John Arguelles.
LAFW: FGILA has a designer and muse event to kick off fashion week, can you tell me more about that? When did it start? Who are some of the designers who've participated in the past? Who are some participating this year? Where can readers find out more about this event?
JA: Last October, Fashion Group International of Los Angeles (FGILA) kicked off LA Fashion Week with a spectacular event called... MEET The Designer & The Muse THAT INSPIRES THEM
We gathered and honored L.A.'s celebrated Fashion Designers with a world class media platform, followed by an evening of great music and a energetic party attended by the top executives and journalists in the fashion industry. It was historic ... as it was the first time ever, to have so many fashion artists in the same room or in this case roof-top! The overwhelming positive media coverage and response from everyone involved and ultimately the success in raising integral funds for the Scholarship Program for the FGILA Foundation has prompted our organization to present this event bi-annually, to coincide with the launch of the LA Fashion Week Programs across our city.
There is a unique relationship and creative inspiration that exists between a designer and their muse ... whether it's a certain celebrity, socialite or a particular runway model, it’s ... intriguing. Last season, we referenced the iconic relationship between Couturier Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn. This season it's, Monsieur Yves St. Laurent and LouLou de la Falaise. In fact, this kind of fascinating affiliation has become significant for the presentation, history and promotion of a designer's brand or company's label.
Last season, a chic red-carpeted parade of more than 40 designers, led by the legendary Mr. James Galanos, captured the positive attention and the interest of the media. It resulted in extensive print, television and web coverage which is invaluable for a non-profit organization like FGILA.
We have created a dedicated blog for the event found at designerandmuse.com where images and videos and clippings from last year’s event can be found as well as up-to-date information about the March 17th event.
LAFW: Please tell me a little bit more about FGILA?
JA: Fashion Group International (FGI) is a thriving non-profit "members only" network made up of more than 7000 industry executives across the globe, with chapters from Paris to Sydney and Toronto to Seoul. Headquartered in New York, FGI was founded in 1928 by such iconic founding members as Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Arden & Edith Head originally as a way for women in the fashion business to network. At that time, the fashion industry was predominately male. In 1930 it became an official organization. The HQ is still in NYC, but today the organization is for both men and women. FGI now also has 26 different regional locations in the US and across the world. FGI’s Los Angeles region is the second largest branch of the organization and 2010 marks our region's 75th Anniversary, and we aim to celebrate!
LAFW: Please tell us more about some of FGILA's other events? How are they structured?
JA: The group is orchestrated and managed entirely by volunteers. Our board consist of an average of twelve professionals ranging from entrepreneurs, designers, lawyers, accountants, editors, PR specialists who each have accomplished careers and each bring a different perspective to the organization. Our goal is to provide quality networking opportunities, business programs that address the needs of our constituents, and fun gatherings that can also raise funds for our secondary goal, the scholarship program for the FGILA Foundation. Typically the FGILA has one to two events a month dealing with different aspects of the industry.
LAFW: Is there time set aside to meet people and networked?
JA: Although some of our monthly and often bi-monthly events are 100% networking, there is always an hour set aside to meet and network with the attendees at our business panels as well. How many people typically attend your events? Depending on the type of gathering it can range from intimate groups of 30 to larger groups of 300. Personally, my favorites are often the smaller programs.
LAFW: Plus from what areas of the fashion industry do they come?
JA: Really from all areas of the business. The membership which averages 250-300 annual members includes executives that span the gamut from the front to the back of the house. Presidents of companies, designers, retailers, merchandisers, stylists and even new fashion school graduates.
LAFW: Tell us about your day job and how you became affiliated with FGILA?
JA: As President of Lloyd Klein Couture, I'm obviously directly involved in the world of fashion. I joined FGILA in December of 2006 to reach out and network with colleagues, vendors and potential business associates
LAFW: How have you benefited from being a FGILA member?
JA: I have been involved with non-profit organizations my entire adult life, either as a committee member or board member but always an active participant. I joined FGILA to support my business networking but the results have extended beyond work. I’ve made some life-long friends with some people who I may never have met and for me this is the biggest benefit of my involvement. People who are active in organizations such as FGILA have certain selfless qualities that I admire. To be on the board for example requires an average of 12-40 hours a month of work and commitment. Since my “day job” absorbs an average of 60 hours a week, it’s almost like having a part time job.
LAFW: Can you tell me about 2 or 3 people that you've met that were especially interesting to you and maybe one or two who have directly become new business relationships?
JA: 80% of my current business support network including my lawyer, my insurance broker, my accountant, many of my interns, several current and previous employees and even a few customers have all grown out of my involvement with the group. In addition to that, I have met and benefited hearing from executives and panelists from all aspects of the fashion industries top executives from the various business programs offered by FGILA. Having the opportunity to get specific answers to issues that are of importance to my business from branding consultants, import experts, contractual issues, manufacturing dilemmas, social networking tips…its priceless!
LAFW: What has you role been in FGILA?
JA: As I mentioned, I joined in December of 2006. The next month, January 2007, I joined the programming committee.In 2008 I joined the Board f Directors and then became the Chapter's Regional Director as selected by the Board and ratified by members.
LAFW: Your tenure as Regional Director was recently recognized, please may you tell us about this recognition and the award you received?
JA: Each year, the New York Headquarters gives out the PRESIDENT'S AWARD. I am told this is the first time in history that it has been given to an individual outside of NYC. The award is given to an individual who has provided outstanding volunteer support to the organization. I am told it is because my two term as Regional Director for Los Angeles was turnkey in vitalizing our region. While it is true that our programing efforts, membership and media presence in LA rose substantially in the last two years, I also have an amazing and group of dedicated and motivated Board Members. My (maximum 2 year) term as Regional Director ended on Dec. 31st this past year and my involvement is now focused on the FGILA Foundation.In Dec. of 2008 Apparel News named me as one of the most influential executives in the LA Apparel Industry for the year, referencing my work with FGILA as well as my work at Lloyd Klein Couture.
LAFW: Finally FGI Los Angeles (FGILA), if I'm not mistaken, is only one of two with a foundation for scholarships? Is that correct? If yes, please tell us more about this Foundation you just mentioned? Does any of the money from events get donated to the Foundation? Are there other ways that you raise money for these scholarships?
JA: The Foundation, which is a part of FGILA, has an aim of raising money to give out annual scholarships to students that participate in an annual competition to demonstrate their potential. Currently we have an annual sketch competition however we are exploring the possibility of adding in a finished garment competition as well. We raise scholarship dollars throughout the year through several fund raising events like the “the Designer and the Muse” but we also have smaller grass roots efforts like silent auctions and raffles.
LAFW: Great! We'd love to provide coverage for your garment competition if it occurs. Thanks a ton for your time, and detailed responses to all of our questions.
JA: You're welcome.