It all started with him.
It happened on a quintessential Southern California Saturday morning. In front of me in line at a bank, was a tall, slender man in his late ‘50’s, with piercing green eyes punctuated by his rich olive skin. He wore a monochromatic grey casual fitness attire accessorized with eyeglasses on a cord and sterling silver ear cuffs and thumb rings. He definitely had an eccentric, magnetic presence that filled the room. While I was in line behind him, he kept turning around to stare at me. Well, as you can probably imagine, I began to become a little self-conscious – you know that feeling when you start to question rather something is on your face or your hair is sticking up. Then, that feeling turned into a level of irritated discomfort..
I was relieved when he was done at the teller window and left. When I walked out to the parking lot, lo and behold, guess who was there? Yep, HIM! He was waiting for me which was slightly flattering, but did spark a thought of stranger danger. He was obviously aware and respectful of my apprehension when he introduced himself in a deep baritone voice in the tone that matched is olive skin and said, “Hi, I’m Giorgio.” He meant no harm and was intrigued by my presence and energy so we started chatting it up.
His real name was Alan Meadoff. He was born and raised in Brooklyn. In fact, he and Ralph Lauren grew up in the same neighborhood. He started out as an interior designer and eventually developed his own collection. And, he lived right up the street from me. I lived at the bottom of the hill and he lived at the top to the left of a Y-fork in the road. Funny, all of the time that I walked the hill, my choice was always to veer right, not left. Life is full of fateful ironies.
We quickly became friends and more. He became my mentor, eventually my boss and forever my guiding creative influence who remains with me to this day.
Giorgio was an incredibly talented and innovative designer of contemporary, luxury home furnishings. He manufactured his collections outside of Milan, Italy with a showroom in High Point, North Carolina. That is where the international home furnishings association holds two markets per year and the world literally descends on this small town to buy the latest furniture. Think of it as fashion week for furniture.
He was an independent entrepreneur in a sea of big money, global brands that manufacture mass merchandise at accessible price points. Giorgio was anything but mass market. He had a slogan, “There are those who buy furniture for their homes. Then there are those who buy homes for their furniture.” Yes, his customers were in the latter group. Giorgio’s design aesthetic was sophisticated, elegant, edgy and exotic. He created a collection with the legendary Vladimir Kagan. He truly was a master down to the most intricate details.
He presented his designs in lifestyle collections – a full suite of living and bedroom furniture – and named them accordingly. One of my favorite was Old World Opulence that featured mahogany wood with large scale pieces sculpted with curved lines. He did that because his intuition and business data showed him that consumers purchased more when they were presented with a clear vision on how to put things together. He had mannequins in each gallery dressed to represent the type of consumer who would buy that collection. He paid attention to scent, sound – everything. His display or exhibition style included appealing to all human senses. For him, everything connected. He went the extra mile, saw beyond the visible and created an approach no one else took.
Before becoming his Director of Marketing, my first job was to design clothes to fit the mannequins. I had a shopping list and my favorite designers and looks ready. The kicker was I had to use scrap fabric and other random materials he had available and lobbied for any money to make this happen. At first I thought, are you kidding me? He wasn’t. I decided to champion the challenge with a positive attitude and belief in my abilities.
These assignments yielded some of my greatest, personal proud work. You know why? He forced me to use my imagination. To find my creative voice for each gallery. And to act with conviction and have the confidence to believe that despite my meager array of random materials, and pathetic sewing skills, I had the creative strength to accomplish the job. It also reinforced that despite having little to no material possessions, you always have your richest asset with is imagination. Combine that with an attitude of determination and anything, anything is possible.
Now, in this chapter of my life, my passion is fueled with the infinite possibilities of creating beauty and harmony in people’s lives with inherent knowledge and learned principles including the fine details giorgio taught me. In that process, it gives me great joy to help people find and express their individuality.