Joe Zee & Designer Angelo Lambrou
His Challenge: Angelo was an interesting designer. He had earned his fame, almost overnight, designing the pageant gowns for Miss Universe. And then Angelo was smart to quickly translate that notoriety into a custom eveningwear and bridal business where he eventually, opened a small shop in the East Village area of Manhattan, gaining success in that world. But when he tried his hand at doing a contemporary ready-to-wear collection, it was a different story. The immaculate technique and couture details he applied to his bridal/eveningwear business were gone and in its place was a desperate attempt to be “trendy”, or as most people would like to say (and this is one of my least favorite words) “edgy”. The stores didn’t respond and I’m not surprised.
How does someone who designs an intricately beautifully designed bridal gown produce a pair of scratchy wool leggings with leather insets below the knee and down the side and then try and sell it for $350? In the end, he invested over $20,000 of his money into this business and sold nothing. On top of all that, Angelo lacked any real organized leadership skills in running his company or guiding the few, non-paid employees he had. Lesson Learned: To me it was obvious what Angelo needed to do. Clearly his skills laid in his craftsmanship and design technique and he needed to translate that to a broader, more mass collection. Designing custom bridal gowns require a certain skill set, but one that should have set him up for an easy transition.
In the end, it would often be a difficult and frustrating experience for me when I could see the final execution in my head but it failed in his execution in reality. Ironically though, I did definitely admire the loyalty with which Laura and Kendall (his assistants) had with Angelo in the end. I walked away from this experience with a different perspective – and respect – for Angelo despite the outcome and despite his lack of leadership skills. It may not have ended the way I had expected, but it was clear that there were still people who believed deeply in him. And sometimes that’s an equally as big a payoff.
Next Steps: Focus. This is key for Angelo if he wants to grow his business. I think Laura said it best after the buyer’s presentation, that maybe instead of losing focus trying so many different attempts at doing different collections, maybe its time to focus on what they do best: Wedding gowns. And I have to say I agree. A jack of all trades but a master of none is not the recipe for fashion success.