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Formally educated at FIT, Marissa Webb worked her way up at J. Crew where she spent over a decade, eventually becoming the head of womenswear and accessories design before branching out with her namesake line in Spring 2013. Currently stocked at Barneys, we spoke with Webb about her feminine, impeccably designed pieces.
theFashionSpot: You went to FIT. How important is getting a fashion degree?
Marissa Webb: I learned a lot during my time at FIT. I think it is absolutely important to learn the fundamentals and technical aspects of design. However, actually working in the industry during my time at FIT helped me to better understand what I was being taught. So as much as I think an education focusing on fashion is important, using the skills outside of school is just as valuable.
tFS: Can you tell us about some of your work experience before launching your brand and how they helped you start your namesake line?
MW: During my last year at FIT, I started working at Polo Ralph Lauren as a freelance designer and after I graduated became full time there. After about two years, I had a few short stints at other companies until I followed a previous boss to J. Crew. I started out as a designer for cut and sew knits and gradually took over new divisions and eventually became VP of Women’s Apparel and Accessories Design. I was fortunate enough to have had many responsibilities and multiple areas of focus at my previous jobs. I was able to learn a lot about the industry and it certainly has been useful. I think one of the most important things I took away from my previous positions relates to the importance of multi-tasking and problem solving. Even if you’re the most fabulously creative person in the world, if you can’t manage your time or solve a problem successfully and quickly, having your own line can be very challenging.
tFS: What made you decide to start your line when you did? Can you tell us a little bit about the first steps?
MW: To have my own line has been a goal of mine for many years. Starting your own company from the ground up is a huge undertaking, much more so then I ever imagined. The first few months were spent setting up shop and building a strong team. One of our greatest challenges was finding the right vendors to work with. Finding people who would take a chance with us. It was a lot of pounding the pavement and honestly knocking on doors in the garment district. I have some really funny stories about how we met some of the people and companies we’re now working with.
tFS: Do tell!
MW: Let’s just say, we hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since!
tFS: What made you show during NYFW right when you launched? There are so many designers competing for attention!
MW: It just felt right for us at the time. Showing during NYFW is one of the best ways to get your name out there and a great way for retailers to see your clothes upfront. I took the launching of my company and label very seriously and showing during NYFW was a strong statement to that.
tFS: Now that you’ve done it, what’s your take on showing at Lincoln Center vs. off-site?
MW: I think each has pros and cons; it’s just about what feels right for the brand at the time.
tFS: How did you go about getting retailers’ attention?
MW: I was lucky enough to be able to show at NYFW and to grab the attention of strong retailers. I also worked with a sales showroom right from the beginning. That being said, in the end, the clothes have to speak for themselves. Retailers have to gravitate toward them and want to pick you up.
tFS: What are some of the biggest day-to-day challenges when it comes to running a growing luxury fashion business?
MW: Being able to multi-task efficiently and wear many hats. There are always so many things going at once, so you have to be able to prioritize and switch back and forth on to different projects.
tFS: How do you deal with the non-stop pace of the fashion industry?
MW: It’s definitely a fast-paced, relentless industry, but I am truly passionate and committed to the success of my line and company. I remind myself why I’m in it and that keeps me motivated. I try to keep focused and positive even when the mountain ahead seems daunting. I also have an amazing team that keeps me going and I would not have gotten this far without them.
tFS: Was there ever a time you thought of quitting and if so, what made you stick with it?
MW: I think it’s normal to have doubts once in a while, but you have to keep reminding yourself of what you are working for and that it is worth the time, dedication and hard work.
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