I had another speaking engagement on Monday during the one-week-long design event hosted by Design Portland. Well, I kind of put on the show to be honest and spoke about a topic that had occupied a lot of my thinking for the last 6 months: How to stay relevant in the age of Acceleration and the 4 Macro Trends I see emerging for the apparel industry (mostly) but also pretty much every single industry from manufacturing to healthcare or education. And while it’s scary - It’s a good thing too.
After wrapping up the presentation, I was asked about my background, my career. Which made me realize something that should be blatantly obvious: While I’m intimately familiar with my career path (really?!), nobody else is! And while it feels weird to talk about myself - one participant said it best - it would be helpful to know why I should listen to you.
Yeah, right!? So the next session I started off with a quick recap of my career that brought me to today and why I presented what I presented: Which is in effect about Macro Trends which have always been fascinating to me.
So here we go!
I‘m Daniela. I’m honored you are here, thank you for taking the time to read this - and I truly mean it.
So, who am I - or maybe the better question is:
What have I done so far and what brought me here?
I have been working as an apparel designer in the athletic, sportswear, outdoor and finally fashion industry for my whole career.
I started my career working at a small skate and snowboard company at the outskirts of Munich, Germany, in the village just past the airport, before managing to score a job at the adidas head quarter (HQ) in Herzogenaurach. I was there for about 5 years, working my way up from a graphic and apparel design position to Senior Designer and finally Design Director managing the biggest financial volume categories for men, women and kids as well as the SMU department. It was the best time! We were all young and hungry, right out of school with big plans and aspirations. We were the most diverse bunch made up of designers from all over the world. The industry was still in its infancy - dri-fit and clima-cool had just been implemented and the goal was to get folks out of their cotton shirts and start training in technical tops.
After getting married, my husband (who is an amazing designer and we met at work) and I were looking for adventure and maybe a simpler life, a life in which we could raise a child. We were lucky enough to both land a job at Nike here in Portland, Oregon and moved here in ‘04. I made it a whopping 1.5 years before moving on and started working at Columbia Sportswear, directing the women’s Outerwear category. Three years later, our daughter was born in 2007.
A year after returning to work, I was laid off end of 2008. What can I say? That was an immense blow to my ego (What? They don’t need me anymore?), but it was also a blessing in disguise as having a toddler while also trying to be a good leader and manager I was worn out and exhausted.
But I had to be very patient for the next 2.5 years. That’s how long it took for us to get the desired green-card and with that the permission to work again. But this time I wanted to remain as independent as possible and use my time so I could be a mom and a designer.
I started freelancing for multiple companies and at one of my clients, I met my future business partner. When the start-up moved to Vancouver, BC, we decided to re-start his sourcing business, with me being the principal designer. We got cracking and worked on some challenging and cool things like launching Backcountry.com’s private label Basin+Range in 8 months from brief to in-warehouse, smaller boutique niche brands like Alps&Meters, Handful, Sorel apparel.
It was fast and furious and it was launch pad for an idea I had and then executed upon: A development platform that’s designed to function the way developers and factories work and exchange information but much smarter and so intuitive, you can get working in it within an hour.
But after doing this for 3 years, I was ready to take a step back, go to my roots and focus on creative endeavors again and focus on design.
That decision allowed me to fulfill a dream I had been harboring since the being a stay-at-home mom sewing everything and anything that crossed my way: work for Pendleton Woolen Mills.
For two years I was working extensively and pretty much exclusively for this Portland brand, helping to shift the women’s apparel assortment to an offering geared towards a much younger demographic. It was heavy lifting, it was challenging, it was exhilarating, it was infuriating but we did it.
I truly believed I had finally found ‘my place’, the company I can contribute in a meaningful way and make an impact, but it only lasted a few more months: My daughter was inexplicably struggling with health issues which made her miss 6 months of school as she was lying debilitated in bed until a blood test confirmed what we had assumed by then - she was a celiac or highly gluten insensitive. It took a really long time to get gluten out of her system and I suspect it’s still impacting her still, over a year later. Thankfully we live in Portland, OR, which is the dream town for celiacs, and thankfully she’s much better now. But while going through the experience it became more and more obvious that I had to change. And that her sickness was just the Universe grabbing me, slapping me in the face repeatedly until I just threw up my hands and said: "Well then! I give up. You win!" And I finished the last season the best I could to get on a path to figure out what I am supposed to do next.
I still love designing and creating things with my hands, I realized that I didn't want to start my own line. I had witnessed so many of my clients start an apparel business because they loved it but quickly where shackled to it, spending the majority of their time raising funds for the next production cycle or marketing push.
So I got to start drafting my new path, one that allows me to share all I have learned, read, seen, to pass on and empower others. Help them find fulfillment in their careers and lives.
I’m reinventing myself again, just this time it’s truly different and while it fills me with some fear (I'm not gonna lie), there’s even more excitement!
It’ll allow me to connect with amazing people like you.
So yes, I will have get out from behind that curtain, show up, tell my story and share my insights and aspirations. And work with my coaches to keep me accountable and pushing forward. And share my path with a sense of pride, because it’s uniquely my path.
How about you?
Are you happy with where you're at right now?
Where could you be in your career if you had a coach?