Haute Speaker Recap: Jay Calderin, Founder of Boston Fashion Week

By Kristen McCleary
Photos: Siobhán Duncan

Haute Fashion had the pleasure of hosting Jay Calderin, author, professor, and founder of Boston’s Fashion Week (BFW), last Thursday, April 5. Expertly dressed, as one could have predicted, with a pleasantly surprising animate and down-to-earth personality, Calderin brought his slice of the fashion world influence into Haute’s little West Village nook.

A New York City native, Calderin shared the wisdom of a seasoned fashion industry insider, as he has had experience in almost every facet of the fashion industry from writing to photography, pattern making, constructing, designing, journalism, marketing and now directing shows–name it and he’s done it. With such a hefty resume (he entered the industry in his sophomore year of high school), Calderin was able to pass on some advice to industry aspirators, no matter their interest.

“A lot of schools have the creative part down–you know they can teach you skills, how to channel your creativity. They can teach you business and academics, but there’s this middle part, this very grey area which is all about strategy,” he said. “Not just marketing, but really thinking about the big picture. How it all works. Figuring out what you stand for as a designer, or in any business.”

Calderin, who is also a professor and the creative marketing director at The School of Fashion Design in Boston, also spoke to Haute about his experience in the fashion world and the inspiration he found here in Boston to create BFW.

“By the ripe old age, I think I was 24, 23, in ’89, I was burnt out on fashion.  I had been doing it for almost ten years at that point. And I moved to Boston, thinking that I would give up fashion completely, and not do anything fashion related and I’d have a nice quiet life in Boston and that would be it. That lasted about three months,” Calderin said. “I kept finding all of these really cool, local people who were doing fashion. Fashion design, fashion photography, and beauty, and it was amazing, they were doing this incredible work and it inspired me.”

Founded in 1995, BFW was Calderin’s project from the ground up. Serving as founder and executive director, Calderin has transformed Boston’s once unknown fashion scene into a force to be reckoned with. For 2012’s upcoming show, Calderin and the good people working on BFW have received around 80 applications from designers to show in the Tent, over a ten day span of many fashion related events. Aside from the many runway shows, one such event is the Boston Fashion Trail. During the week of BFW, a group of local restaurants, retailers, spas and the like host specials and offerings to honor fashion and the event.

“We’re very proud of the fact that Boston Fashion Week, although it has some of the elements of some of the fashion weeks you see on TV and in the news and on the web, we are very grassroots, and I work really, really hard to keep it that way,” Calderin said. “My goal from the beginning was to make it very accessible, for students to participate, for the public to discover these new designers, and become customers, and the designers to help them grow their customer base.”

Calderin has authored two books individually, Form, Fit, Fashion: All the Details Fashion Designers Need to Know But Can Never Find and Fashion Design Essentials: 100 Principles of Fashion Design. He also co-authored Fashion Design, Referenced: A Visual Guide to the History, Language, and Practice of Fashion with Alicia Kennedy, an assistant editor for New York Magazine online, and Emily Banis Stoehrer, a fashion design and merchandising professor at Fisher College. The book is due out on February 1, 2013.

“I was getting all of these students who had been watching Project Runway come into my class and really think that’s how it works, you know, Project Runway, that that’s really reality. And the fact is it’s not reality,” he said of Form, Fit, Fashion . “I wanted to have a book that if you read through it you would see the whole industry and try to have a better idea of where you think you fit. Everyone always thinks it’s a designer, a model, a photographer, and that’s it. But there are so many ways to get into the industry, and so many different career paths.”

Calderin was an illuminating speaker, a delightful guest, and a helpful source for what’s what in the fashion world, in Boston and beyond. This city is lucky to have its fashion reputation in his hands, and he is a perfect example of what all of us here at Haute aspire to.

Thanks for coming everyone! Did you attend this event? What did you think? Let us know about other types of events you’d like to see!

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