Simon Collins has been happily busy since leaving his post as the dean of Parsons School of Fashion in December. A sought-after consultant, Collins now advises a number of fashion brands around the world, as well as IMG, trend forecaster WGSN, software company Fashion GPS and even the governments of the UK, Korea, Dubai and China, among others. Given his experience and connections, his expertise probably doesn't come cheap. But come next Monday, he'll be giving it away for free.
Collins is teaming up with Julie Gilhart — formerly a senior VP, fashion director at Barneys and now, too, an in-demand fashion consultant with clients like Mulberry, LVMH and Amazon — on Fashion Garage, an informal, recurring event to which all are welcome to come and ask any questions they like about the industry. Admission is free (with an RSVP, as space is limited), and Collins hopes to host one event every two months or so, with the first taking place Aug. 3 at Neuehouse in New York City.
The idea for Fashion Garage stemmed from the informal sessions — called "Tiffin Time" — he held with small groups of students while at Parsons. "Any student could come and spend a couple of hours in my office and drink tea and talk about anything they wanted," he explained. Now that he is an advisor by trade, he says, "a lot of young designers ring me and say, 'I don’t want to hire you, but can I have an hour of your time to ask you some questions and get some guidance?'" Since he can't spend an hour with every young designer that wants his advice, a recurring event felt like the next best thing.
As for the exact format of these sessions, Collins and Gilhart plan to "let it evolve organically." It could start with a question that turns into an ongoing conversation between Collins, Gilhart and members of the audience. "I’m fine if a kid who wants to get in the fashion business wants to come and sit there," he said. "And if they have a question, that’s fine too. We have no expectation about what we want to talk about." He says in the future he might also invite industry friends to come and chime in on topics in which they have expertise. After the first event, Collins plans to record the sessions and post them to YouTube afterwards.
The events could become invaluable networking opportunities as well. "I just had someone who is a very, very well-known financier in the fashion world ring me up and say, can I come too ‘cause I want to see what’s going on. So, I think it’s a useful information session and a way for people to find new talent."