StylePortfolios – Marianne Kuhn-Huntington
What is your employment status?
MKH: Freelance Design
What is your official job title?
MKH: Head Designer/Merchandiser
Please summarize your professional career in 1 to 3 sentences; what should everyone know about you?
MKH: I have been designing women’s updated sportswear for 25 years including knits, sweaters and wovens. My design & merchandising expertise includes prints, embroideries, appliques, fine gg and course gg sweaters: solid, stripe, jacquards, intarsias, stripes and more. My “win-win” approach when leading a design team is to increase sales with updated product and streamline the process to ensure higher rate of return from previous seasons.
Describe what you do?
MKH: My overall responsibility is to research, plan and produce updated, profitable product. I create a line plan, trend reports, merchandise a collection before during and after line completion, manage the design team to create product, select prints, silhouettes, design details, choose colors. I shop the stores and other sources for inspiration and manage the work flow. I calculate the trajectory of sales based on previous sell throughs.
Why did you choose to be a designer?
MKH: Early in my life, around, high school years, I saw a need for high quality design at a reasonable price and I wanted to make a difference and I have an artistic talent. Now affordable fashion is everywhere, therefore, I’m still a designer because I love the challenge and craft of creating affordable, trendy, interesting and very wearable product while making a profit.
What steps did you take to become a designer?
MKH: I observed, learned and applied myself constantly, and I still do. As a teenager I started sketching from magazines, I submitted original designs to competitions, I shopped the stores to see what was trending, I took design and sewing classes at FIT during the summer and on Saturdays. I learned how to sew and create a portfolio. I maintained a high GPA in academics and was accepted into the Fashion Design Program at FIT. After graduation, I applied for an assistant design position in a junior knitwear company and learned as much as I could about manufacturing on a large scale. There is a lot to learn and one can never know enough as systems change often.
What is the best/most challenging part of your job?
MKH: The best part of my job is seeing new product being created especially when it comes out well. I also enjoy the research: shopping in stores and online, magazines and other sources. I enjoy selecting items that go into the collection, editing the line, seeing it through to completion. I enjoy working with prints and color.
If you weren’t a designer what would you be?
MKH: I love science and humanities so I would be either a medical doctor or a teacher of literature.
How did you get started in design?
MKH: I practiced sketching and sewing, making my own clothes, took classes at FIT, after graduation I worked as an assistant designer and kept up my tenacity. I was open to opportunities.
What do you like about what you do?
MKH: I love the challenge, I love creating, I love working with people and collaborating on ideas, I love solving problems. I love the juxtaposition of taking two different trends and making something new.
What’s a common misconception people have about what you do?
MKH: That fashion design is glamorous, it’s not serious, it’s frivolous, it’s unessential.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
MKH: I see myself as a business owner managing the design and production of a line, it may or may not be eponymous.
What sparked your interest in design?
MKH: I was always interested in what people were wearing and wondered how it was made. I grew up in the 80’s so there was a lot of experimenting with fashion, so I experimented at home and really enjoyed the outcome of my work.
How has your work evolved since you began your career?
MKH: My work has evolved in the sense of mastering technology as a tool to communicate and mastering the art of merchandising. I still consider myself an artisan at heart.
Are there any types of clothing/footwear/accessories that you avoid wearing?
MKH: I don’t often wear tight dresses, high heels or suits unless it’s a special occasion.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
MKH: I’m fascinated by appliques such as heat transfers, abstract patterns, painted on stripes, anything appears to be or is actually hand crafted. I’m also fascinated by sustainability in apparel whether it is environmental or fair trade.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your career?
MKH: Integrity and tenacity are the most important qualities one can have along with the ability to make friends. Talent, skills, experience are variables that come and go with situations. But the constant elements are who you are and what you stand for, integrity.
What advice would you give to young designers?
MKH: Run! Just kidding. My advice is be very open minded, listen and surround yourself with the kind of product you are most interested in. Do not pass up opportunities to succeed. You will be faced with critical choices often, stay grounded and visualize the best outcome for all in any situation and don’t lose that vision, regardless of what is happening at the present moment.
What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
MKH: I would like to have a business partner by the end of the year.
Are you superstitious or do you have any rules you live by?
MKH: When I am not sure what to choose, I let the situation chose me. When I can’t find something I pause for a moment and visualize where it might be or what the solution is.
What’s your motto?
MKH: I have a few: visualize the best outcome, don’t choose it, let it choose you, don’t design anything within an inch of its life (borrowed from Albert Hadley), push the envelope
Other (feel free to tell the readers anything about you that we didn’t ask)
MKH: It’s very important to use the talents that you are given. I was born with a talent to draw, paint, create. If my job requires none of those things, I do it on the side in my spare time and share with others. I also love literature and poetry, the art of the written word. It is good to have side interests that have nothing to do with your day job and be proud of it but don’t flaunt it.
As a creative designer director of contemporary sportswear and dresses I manage and lead a design team to success by creating a line of trend right product with a unique twist. My extensive experience designing cut & sew knits, wovens and sweaters enables my team to increase brand awareness, sales and profits.