This is men's shibori-dyed T-shirt, created by textile artist and clothing maker Mary Jaeger. No one does what Mary is doing with shibori dyeing. Her modern approach to a dyeing technique that dates back to the 8th century is proof that she is a trailblazer.

This is men’s shibori-dyed T-shirt, created by textile artist and clothing maker Mary Jaeger. No one does what Mary is doing with shibori dyeing. Her modern approach to a dyeing technique that dates back to the 8th century is proof that she is a trailblazer.

This past weekend, I was in New York attending the Annual New York Fashion Conference.  This conference focused on trailblazing.  So, naturally, it got me thinking about being a trailblazer.  In the fashion scene, there are many examples of trailblazers from the past.  There are still new trailblazers on the scene.  But, it seems that maybe one person’s good example of trailblazing is another’s nemesis.

After the conference, I had a really great meeting with three very interesting people involved in crafting fine commercially viable clothing collections.  My dear friend, textile designer Mary Jaeger hosted us at her SoHo loft atelier.  Mary introduced me to her friend, Jeff, a recent transplant to New York from San Francisco.  He was an architect with mass retailer Gap for many years.  I introduced them to Vincent Nasserbakht.  He is a custom shirt maker and owns The Hop, located in NoLIta. You’ll hear more about him because Vincent will come to Silicon Valley to do a trunk show with me at my studio in March.

When it comes to their creative and precision processes, I am very aware of how Mary and Vincent work.  So, I thought it would be interesting to ask them if and how they envision whether they are trailblazers.  I see them in that light.  But, I wanted to challenge them into thinking about being a trailblazer and how they are.

I think this is a great conversation for all of us to have.  By extension of writing this post, I would love to engage you in the conversation that Jeff, Mary, Vincent, and I began.  An excellent personal branding exercise is to identify how you lead, innovate, create, initiate, or are an entrepreneur, catalyst, or torchbearer.  When people compliment you for your trailblazing ways, what do people say about you?

Vincent, with his twin younger brothers who flank their dad, has developed a great concept for creating and delivering a true custom shirt. It's the way that he and his family members are going about it that make him a trailblazer.

Vincent, with his twin younger brothers who flank their dad, has developed a great concept for creating and delivering a true custom shirt. It’s the way that he and his family members are going about it that make him a trailblazer.

It was harder for Mary and Vincent to answer this question because I didn’t ask them to see themselves through the eyes of others.  At the end of it all, we decided that slow, steady growth, and even surviving the rigors of making a viable small apparel business in New York City is the platform for whatever success and trailblazing could happen.  We also talked about something very crucial when it comes to making clothes: is it wearable?

There is so much talk in fashion about “trailblazing innovators.” They create 3-D printed clothing, or are the retail and manufacturing owners that fuel the “fast fashion” craze. Paris’ newest haute couturier, a Belgian 32-year old, creates art that can only be “worn” by a performance artist, and is not commercially viable for the general public.  On the flip side, “fast fashion” behemoths can clothe the masses.  But, they only innovate the speed of the manufacturing process, not the clothing itself.  In fact, they copy designs made by other well-respected and accomplished designers.

Mary and Vincent make for a different breed of clothing maker.  They make clothes that you and I can actually wear.  Sounds almost like the antithesis of trailblazing, except that being viable in the age of Instagram is a big win for them.  There are so many fast fashion fads that people create for social media consumption which are intended to make a quick buck for their creators.  To be sure, this is also trailblazing, but it feels more like the dark side of innovating..

People like Mary, who has been designing for decades [sorry Mary, the world needs to know that you have this rich experience], and Vincent, who is 32, want to have businesses and brands that go on.  They love what they do, and they want to do it for as long as they are able.  They love interacting and having relationships with their clients.  Thinking about being a trailblazer didn’t necessarily force Mary and Vincent to acknowledge their design talents, or to talk about the unique point of view that each of them brings to their design work.  But, let me brag about each of them and tell you that they each have very strong design principles that make them unique in the marketplace.  It’s why I love having professional relationships with them.  If I were a clothing maker like them, I’d want to be just like them.

If you want to know how I’ve been thinking about being a trailblazer, it’s pretty simple.  I love geeking out with my clients about how to best emanate their strengths and personalities by developing a personal style.  It’s so obvious and natural to me.  But to everyone else, the concept is totally out of the box, and the results surprise every single client.  The results prove to me that I am trailblazing in many ways.

To Vincent, he makes custom shirts.  Mary makes all kinds of fabulous clothes using a special shibori dyeing technique that she has made her own signature.  They can’t easily see how truly trailblazing they are because they are so close to their work, their processes, and the day-to-day activities that it takes to remain viable.

Maybe my friend Ellie Pyle, quite an accomplished artist, and who also works part-time at Issey Miyke in TriBeCa, sums up trailblazing best.  When it comes to her art, she says that she was born to be an artist.  It’s a track she’d only recommend to someone who is called to it.  Her art, like Vincent’s shirts, Mary’s clothing, or even my type of consulting and

coaching, is trailblazing in its simplicity.  The four of us have a calling, and through it we innovate, create, and bear the torch for some sort of change for the better in the world.

Please add to the conversation by thinking about being a trailblazer and share your thoughts with us.  We hope that we could inspire you, and we’d love to be inspired by you.

Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and executives discover their personal brands and design their personal styles.  Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know “6 Secrets to Success in Silicon Valley”.  Need immediate and fast help? Learn about 1:1 private, intensive, and comprehensive 2 day VIP program designed to transform your personal brand and style in record time.