Above pic: Kerry Bannigan with Amanda Munz Founder/Ceo of The Fashion Foundation – www.thefashionfoundation.org
As it’s International Women’s Day I thought I’d kick off the morning celebrations by highlighting some fabulous and inspiring women I have had the pleasure of meeting or working with. First up is British born New York based #girlboss and superwoman Kerry Bannigan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I first met Kerry back in 2007 and throughout the years have had the pleasure of working with her on a number of exciting and successful fashion projects.
Kerry Bannigan is the Co – Founder and CEO of an award winning creative events agency based in New York City that produces events throughout the USA providing innovative strategies for fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands including Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Landrover, Paul Mitchell and Vitamin Water.
Driven to create cost effective options for fashion designers to enter the marketplace Bannigan co-founded Nolcha Fashion Week: New York in 2007. Today it is New York’s leading platform for independent fashion labels to showcase to a global audience of press, retailers, stylists and industry influencers through runway shows and exhibition during New York Fashion Week and has been featured in Glamour, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, WWD, MTV, NBC,NY Post amongst many others .
She managed to squeeze me into her busy schedule for an interview on her career journey, adjusting to motherhood and why social impact has become a big focus for her.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into fashion?
I am from Corby, Northamptonshire and studied English at Sheffield University. I always knew that I wanted to start my own business but understood the importance of university to achieve certain things at that time. Upon graduation I had the opportunity to go to the US and I still had the drive to start my own business. Once I arrived and started to meet people I became very open minded to the business that I could potentially start. With a keen interest in fashion and retail I networked with designers, models and aspiring industry professionals. I soon learnt that there was a gap in the fashion industry for independent fashion designers to showcase during New York Fashion Week at an affordable price point for professional production.
I researched more and soon enough became set on the idea of providing resources for independent fashion designers. I took a job as a part-time nanny so that I could have flexible hours and income whilst I sought out a business partner to bring this idea to life. This was when I met Arthur Mandel and we co-founded Nolcha.
It’s been amazing and so inspiring watching your evolution. What is it that keeps you motivated and just energized?
My motivation has changed throughout the chapters of my journey. At the start it was the excitement, adrenalin and new partnerships of making the vision a reality. From there it was about maintaining relationships, the results delivered to partners and clients as well as building a team. My team and the people I surround myself with are one of the biggest drivers for keeping me motivated.
Personally I also read a lot, enjoy spending time at a lake house or beach to rejuvenate and also brainstorm next plans and ideas. Good health and great sleep are keys components to my high energy levels.
What does a typical day for you look like?
As with any entrepreneur but even more so in the event and fashion game there is no typical day being the same. My days generally start with a hot lemon water, stretches and checking in on emails – uninterrupted and no calls. I schedule a few hours dedicated to calls. From there my meetings can range from venue views to collection previews to client consultations on their business goals or project progress. I check in with my team members each morning and end of day for recaps and what needs to happen the next day or anything required from me. As a mum of a 17 month year old boy I now block out time for us to have time in the morning and dinner, bath, reading and bed time each night, in between projects.
In the evenings I may host dinners, catch up with friends or do meetings/calls based on project timeline. I check my emails every evening and ensure everybody throughout a project has what they need.
Above pic: ARANYANI | Photo Credit Jeffrey Holmes Photography
Having worked with hundreds of independent brands, what would you say are some of the biggest obstacles facing emerging designers today?
Having been in the business for over ten years now I have definitely seen a roster of changes facing emerging brands. Today it is about standing out and owning your brand vision and mission in a world of fast fashion, ever changing social media technology and the biggest one I feel is retail. Retail spend on independent fashion designers is not the same anymore with less risks being taken on new brands and less volume purchase. This is where emerging designers need to get smart and creative with their sales strategy and take advantage of the apps and marketplaces out there today.
I know you’ve worked on some amazing government initiatives in various countries, can you tell us a bit more about that?
Supporting small business to drive economic change and spearhead social good play is a key role in my career decisions. Consulting with governments to garner support for the fashion industry is something I thoroughly enjoy and has included work with the UK, USA, Turkey, St Vincent’s and the Grenadines and Czech Republic. One collaboration included a partnership between Fashion Capital and ASOS supported by the UK Trade and Investment showcasing emerging British fashion designers during New York Fashion Week.
What would you consider some of your career highlights?
One of my main career highlights was fore-fronting the Fashion is GREAT Istanbul campaign in partnership with the British Embassy, Harvey Nichols and UK Trade and Investment where I curated independent fashion designers to showcase in Istanbul. The program was exciting and welcomed international business growth for emerging designers.
As my career continues to highlight social impact and sustainability I was honored to be tasked with creating and producing the SDG Media Zone in partnership with the PVBLIC Foundation and the United Nations for the United Nations General Assembly in 2016. Since its creation it has been at COP-22 (Marrakech), ECOSOC Youth Forum (United Nations), Oceans Conference (United Nations), G7 Environment Week (Bologna), UNGA 72 (United Nations) and COP-23 (Bonn).
Photo Credit: JULEIMAGES Harvey Nichols Runway Collaboration
What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the fashion or events industry?
Network as much as possible within your industry, ask questions and learn from industry peers. Definitely try to get work experience to see that you also enjoy it and maybe learn about the specific role you want to pursue. Be open to adapt and change along the way as you may discover new aspects of the industry that you enjoy. Be realistic about the long hours, the creative personalities you may meet along the way and be prepared for hard work – physically and mentally.
What would you consider to be some of the best perks of your job?
The people, their business dreams and bringing them life. Events are so powerful. From ideation to creation it is a privilege to work alongside a brand/company/organization towards that unique experience.
Now that you’re a mother, how do you continue to juggle everything, what’s your secret?
Firstly I set myself new expectations so that I did not beat myself up when work hours or project milestones would be different. I learnt to celebrate how much I can achieve on a daily basis. I spend dedicated time with my son in the morning as well as evenings and weekends. In between events I have him most days and it’s amazing what you can make happen. Supportive team members are essential for me as a mumtrepreneur to lead projects. I also take my son on the road with me a lot and am blessed to have supportive family and friends that help when they can. My survival is sleep, swimming and to do lists.
So what’s next for Kerry Bannigan?
Social impact is a big focus for me. I have always had a strong interest in giving back and sustainability whether it be fair trade fashion on the runway, leading giving back fashion collaborations such as working with The Fashion Foundation, hosting the Ethical Fashion Preview during New York Fashion Week or a variety of projects within the United Nations. Today’s society is demanding more surrounding this: more knowledge, more good and more sustainability. With this the time is now, more than ever, to integrate social impact into daily business across the globe. The fashion industry, events and creative entrepreneurs are very influential to play key roles in our socially responsible future.
To stay updated with this inspirational woman visit https://www.instagram.com/kerrybannigan/
Below pic: With Kerry Bannigan and my fabulous friend Tara