Last week, fashion designer Daniel Corrigan (Art BFA 11) and business partner Jake Sargent were nominated as top 10 finalists for the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund. LA-based Corrigan, who is co-creative director for the denim clothing brand Simon Miller USA, made the short list for the award, which has granted $3.8 million to 30 design companies since 2003. 24700 asked Corrigan via email about the design challenge, his work and how CalArts has influenced his career.
24700: How were you nominated?
Daniel Corrigan: It was a long and pretty labor-intensive process. Around 300 designers submit an initial application for the CFDA to review. Those judges include Steven Kolb [CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America], Diane von Furstenberg [designer] and Anna Wintour [Vogue editor]. From those applications the judges ask 50 designers to submit an in-depth portfolio outlining the brand aesthetic, collection and future plans. We spent over a month designing this portfolio to properly present the brand. From there, 10 designers are chosen to compete in the program.
24700: Do you have any details about what you will be asked to make for the design challenge?
DC: There will be a handful of challenges throughout the next few months. Later this month, we'll present five different looks to the judges that represent the past, present and future of Simon Miller. Seeing how we just found out about this last week, we have a ton of stuff to design and manufacture in a very short period of time! We then go on to design a single look that incorporates this season's sponsor, which we will present to Anna Wintour at her home in NYC. Finally, we'll put on a runway show in LA at Chateau Marmont. This all takes place while we design our new collection for both men's and women's FW15. Just typing it all out reminds me of my CalArts days when we had to pull all-nighters for our critiques the following day!
24700: Could you describe your work in general?
DC: We create everything in Los Angeles so a good chunk of my day is spent driving around town visiting all of our different manufacturers. Whether it's production or developing a new collection, we as a brand take great pride in our quality of work. This requires a lot of time spent with those constructing the product. When not with a manufacturer, I'm usually sourcing fabrics. We use only Japanese fabrics and mostly from small family-owned mills, so it takes time sourcing exactly what we want. Since neither myself or my business partner, Jake, have design backgrounds we tend to source the material and let it become the driving force of the design.
24700: How did you become a partner for Simon Miller?
DC: I started working with the brand when I was still a student at CalArts. It made my 4th year pretty difficult but, fortunately, I had professors that were beyond supportive. I started out doing graphic design for the brand (labels, posters, web, etc.) but I really fell in love with the manufacturing aspect. I slowly started spending more time developing product and in 2011 took over as a partner and co-creative director with Jake Sargent. The CalArts Graphic Design Program was a huge confidence builder for me, so I didn't really have any doubts of my ability to learn the business. If you can get through a year of Mr. Keedy's critique you can pretty much get through anything!
24700: You graduated from the Graphic Design Program at CalArts. How has that influenced your career?
DC: CalArts' Graphic Design program in general has had a huge impact not only on my work but my life. As I mentioned earlier, it is a very difficult program to go through and your professors won't go easy on you. Those students that make it through would probably all say it's the hardest four years of their lives. The program puts a huge emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving, which can be applied to whichever field you eventually pursue. The design school uses a critique base classroom setting which is something I'd never experienced. It forced me to learn to be able to articulate and express my thoughts in a constructive way. I gained so much from those experiences that I still use in my career everyday. Lastly, if you're able to take Scott Zukowski's imaging-making course do it. I still look back at the book I made to see how I was able to convey an idea through image making.
Read Corrigan and Sargent's list of fashion tips in a 2013 edition of Details Magazine.