“It makes me crazy when people tell me that they don’t have a job. You have been given so much in this new way of life to create your own lane. Network. Go to events. and going online to find out what’s happening in your city where you could go meet people and ask them for their business cards. Just put yourself out there.”
A word to describe Abby-Z, would be: ASSERTIVE! Twenty-five years ago, Abby made a bold move to New York City, to pursue her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Upon arriving from Los Angeles, California, Abby knew no one and had to pave her way (from scratch) in the Big Apple.
By diligently working hard and NETWORKING her tail off, Abby was able to make a name for herself. As she set out to accomplish what she envisioned, Abby was able to rub elbows with prominent business moguls while establishing her brand. What set Abby apart from most fashion designers was the fact that she redefined style for the “curvy girl” by designing clothing that both curvy and skinny women could appreciate and look great in without feeling excluded by their size.
I was able to chat with Abby-Z about her take on networking within the fashion industry, while also learning some valuable jewels on excelling as a woman in business.
BRANDMAKERS is a series highlighting individuals who are SHINING (aka killing it and raising the bar) in their respective industries. Know someone who should be featured? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Bryhana Moore (BM): How did you get started in the world of fashion? Is it something that you always wanted to do?
Abby-Z (A): I moved to New York in November 89’, almost twenty-five years ago and I always loved making people feel good in their clothing. I loved designing and styling, so that’s why I got into it. When I came to New York, I started with a company called Palmettos in the children’s division and then after I went into volleyball clothing with a company called Sideout Sport. There, I created the woman’s board shorts- along with the men’s volleyball line. That’s around the time when beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in 96’ so that was one of my favorite jobs I ever had.
It was really fun to be apart of that time. Victoria’s Secret catalogue and Lady Foot Locker were two of my very big clients and it just exploded. The owners of Sideout sold the name, and today it still exists as a licensed label at Target. It’s nice that all the labels and branding that I was apart of are still existing.
“ Fire in the belly is something you can’t teach- but you just have to have the ‘fire’ for whatever is passionate to you.”
BM: What advice would you give to those coming up on excelling in the Fashion Industry?
A: I love interviewing new talent all the time, and I love people with “fire in the belly”.
There are two things: If you’re getting in the fashion business it’s really important to be able to sketch. Sketching as a designer makes you a commodity. The second thing I would say is having a great portfolio of ideas, including the sketches. I love when people story board. At any age no matter what you’re doing, story boarding is an amazing part of life. In fashion when you’re laying out a storyboard it shows everybody what’s in your mind as a creative person.
Even twenty-five years later, I’m always storyboarding my next ideas. Right now, I have six projects going on whether it’s my book, or the radio show, it’s how you see the vision. If I have other people that need to get into my brain or interview me, its good for them to see a visual.
BM: Are you affiliated with any colleges? Have you gone back to talk to the students?
A: I’ve been asked for many years to speak. Right before I had my little one 4 years ago, I used to speak at NYU, I’ve spoken at Parsons, and marketing clubs for a lot of high schools. So yes, I do a lot of those give back talks. I did go and speak with F.I.T about doing some fashion tours and they said they’d love to be part of it… so that’s in the works.
BM: As a successful woman in business I’m sure you’ve experienced ups and down. What advice would you give on forging ahead after a major setback?
A: You just have to truly believe and know that when one door closes, another one opens. Stay busy, you cannot get stagnant and you have to keep talking to friends. You must continue to put yourself out there double hard, actually. You might be in such a down cycle where you can’t believe what’s happening… which I couldn’t.
When I closed down my retail store due to the economy, investors, the ponzi scheme, money, and just being told “No, sorry, even though we’re legally bound we have a contract with you Abby, sorry we’re not going to give it to you…” I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me, I’ve been working my entire life and I have money in the bank… plus my name was tied into it.”
When life threw me in the fire as my stores closed down in Soho and Roosevelt Field, I still got a home shopping network contract to go on TV and have my own clothing line for all sized women. There was nothing worse in my career than the moment of closing my doors. You have to keep plugging ahead… if you want to be at the top of your game you must put in your networking.
BM: How did you get people to take you seriously as a woman in business ?
A: People think I’m like this super A personality and I think sometimes what makes my strengths stronger is being a good listener. If you have the skill (and I call it a skill) of listening, your much more respected. I respect you the individual, if you heard what I said and came back with a strong answer. Listen to what the person’s asking because sometimes they already know the answer. If you know something that they haven’t said you will be respected. Man or a woman. The skill of listening equals a respect for you.
BM: You also have your own podcast at Sirius XM, tell me about it…
A: Yes, every Sunday, I call it “Abby Z +1” because everybody always wants to be my plus one. Again, I’m always very humbled that I moved here knowing no one, and now I’m invited into nightclubs, social events, and parties. Being a curvy girl, there’s a whole psychology of that especially being in the fashion business. When you’re from cities such as, N.Y.C and L.A it feels as though the world is telling you that you have to be skinny, you know. I lived my life as a size 16, and I live it because I live it. I never lived it as a size.
Until this day, I’m amazed with the amount of friendships that I have from super models to writers like you. I network, I’m kind, and I give back.
I network, I’m kind, and I give back.
When I have a friend, I love my friends, I collect friends, and I’m interested in learning about people, which is a gift many people say that I have.
BM: Did becoming a mom slow you down in any way within your career?
A: What’s important in my life is my baby girl, so, yes I have made a shift in what I do. For the first four years I gave up my career to be with her because I gave my whole life to my career, which I loved.
I love fashion and everything that I got to do such as: the nightlife, being single and selfish, and all the things that come with it. You don’t think you’re selfish when you’re in it because it’s just apart of life (at that time). You get to be with yourself and that’s the only thing your accountable for. Now that I am accountable to this little person who needs me, she comes first.
I always make time for me because another mom said to me “a happy mommy is a good mommy.” So if it makes me happy to go out at night, I always make sure to read her books, tuck her in, and then my night could start at 8:30. Being a single mom I would not stay home and I will pay the babysitter as it is double expensive to go out because I don’t have family here. Overall, It’s a beautiful relationship. She’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
BM: What are some words of wisdom that you’ll give to a young entrepreneur on the rise?
A: Be on time, and always, always, ask questions.
What are some of your personal pillars for success? Share in the COMMENTS section.
To keep up with Abby-Z please visit her website www.abbyz.com, also check out an episode from her podcast here.