Laura Jaquinto's career has spanned more years than most of our aspiring fashionista readers have been alive. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design Laura became the Director of Merchandising for Bernard Chaus where she learned the ropes for 5 years starting in 1979. Since then she has held high-level positions at Bonaventure Textiles, Ralph Lauren, Adrienne Vittadini, Crown Productions and Shamash and Sons.
Since 2008 Laura has been at Windham Fabrics (and their sibling companies Baum Textiles and Windham Home) as their Merchandise Director/ Director of Marketing and Advertising where she works closely with her team to develop design, marketing and advertising strategies for the 55-year old textile company. Windham Fabrics/Baum Textile is a family-run, high-quality textile company with trademarked fabrics that include WinterFleece™ and Weathblock™, amongst 66 other unique textile collections.
Laura recently offered advice, from her three decades in the fashion industry, to help Fashion-Schools.org readers:
What inspired you to get into the fashion industry?
I could never afford to buy what I liked to wear growing up so I learned to sew at a very early age and created the things I wanted. I loved the idea of having something that was different than everyone else.
What is your focus within the industry?
Now I am in textile merchandising although I have worn many hats over the years.
What type of education did it take to get you where you are today?
I have a BFA in apparel design from Rhode Island School of Design.
How has your career path progressed over the years?
Definitely it did a zigzag. I was constantly being challenged and refocused my energies where I saw the best opportunities for growth. I also learned to adapt to changing economic environments. I designed and merchandised. I did production and private label. I learned to work well with all kinds of designers and loved the travel overseas to shop and work with factories.
What is your favorite part of working in the fashion/design business?
The creation of a new collection.
What advice would you give to aspiring fashionistas?
Learn to draw, learn patternmaking or construction as they only add to your ability to make great designs. Don’t be afraid to try anything. When people say you can’t that should be marching to go forward as you planned. And by all means do not get discouraged.
What schools does your company generally recruit new hires from?
FIT and University of Syracuse
Do you think there is an overall increasing or decreasing need for people in the fashion industry?
I think it is decreasing. With so much of the technical going overseas we are losing our technical designers and patternmakers.
What designer(s) or brand(s) influenced you the most as a creative professional?
I loved Ralph Lauren and still do. I am all American in my styling so I love sportswear and he was always the master of that. I do however have a list of designers that I love that is too long to mention.
Do you think today's jobs in the fashion industry require more of an artist's touch or business-like ruthlessness?
Business savvy is always a help but talent and artistry is something that should be valued the most. You can always hire someone to do the business but you cannot be artistic unless it is in the blood.
Which skills do you consider to be most critical for a career in fashion?
Ability to recognize fabric and good quality, ability to design apparel and as I said earlier an ability to understand construction. Alexander McQueen was a talented tailor and what amazing fashion he could produce when adapting that skill to other fabrications and styling!
What do you think the future of fashion and design holds?
The good news – in either a good or bad economy people will always want to buy clothes. The difference is what they can afford to pay. So fashion design will always be needed to transport you to another place, instill beauty and explore new and better ways to get ourselves dressed each day. All you will need to do is be able to adapt to a changing environment, new fabrications and different needs. So I don’t see a down side.
Check out more interviews at The Fashion-Schools.org Interview Series.