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Joe Zee on Cesar Galindo


His Challenge: I have known Cesar in and around the fashion industry for years. He’s a veteran designer and we have many mutual friends in common and you can’t be in this industry as long as we have and not be acquainted. However, I don’t know Cesar well at all, so going up to see him for the first time in this aspect was exciting – and daunting. I was aware of his signature collection of eveningwear and gowns and I knew his skill at making detailed clothes quickly and with precision. What I didn’t know was his plan in trying to launch a contemporary collection, which in today’s market space, is a whole other crowded arena. Designs in that world needs to be fun, modern, youthful, fresh, exuberant and new. What it can’t be was the sensibility of his grown-up gowns. Good thing when I arrived at his showroom to see his contemporary collection for the first time, it was nothing similar to his special occasion clothes. In fact, it was so different, it made no sense. It was dark, heavy, lifeless and at times, over-designed. It made no sense. And of course, after speaking with Cesar, I understood the collection better. He was still in his own dark place of grieving his life and business partner and getting the business up and running wasn’t a priority. Until now.

Lesson Learned: This was such a great experience for both Cesar and I. It was great to connect with a designer from my generation but also to see someone who’s own passions and dreams which were once vivid but have gone foggy the past few years, but yet wasn’t completely dimmed out. I knew that together we could push through and find inspiration for a new contemporary collection. He knew exactly what he needed to do – even though at times he may have been too stubborn to see it through – but I also knew he needed the time to properly move into the future from his grieving past. I didn’t know his deceased partner, Seth, but I did know Cesar’s ambition and I was sure that if we could just get past his own turmoil, the company had a chance of launching and surviving.

Next Steps: Embrace the future. Sometimes being a veteran in an industry can leave you jaded and defeated and while Cesar certainly didn’t give off those qualities, he very well could have been headed in that direction. Letting go of your past is probably easier said than done but ultimately, embracing what’s next is the only way to keep moving – and growing. Someone very wise once told me, when giving me career advice, was that if someone happens, just move on. Don’t try and hang on to it, just let it go. Seemed like vague advice at the time, but over the years it has really been more and more the lightbulb I needed during times of darkness. Hopefully, I was a lightbulb for Cesar during our time together.