Five Lessons from a Life in Design: Nicole Wiesmann, VP of Men’s Design, Banana Republic

Banana Republic

Nicole Wiesmann fell in love with fashion as a Midwestern kid obsessed with ELLE magazine. After earning a degree in fashion design at the University of Cincinnati, she built her skills on the design teams of some of the nation’s top brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, Structure and Nautica. Nicole worked at Banana Republic for several years before leaving for a stint at luxury brand Vince … but she couldn’t stay away, returning to the Gap Inc. team in 2016. We asked her to share a few of her top tips for creating a satisfying design career.

  1. Work for a brand that’s not afraid to evolve. Banana Republic is a brand of style, not fashion. We’re about covetable great pieces you can wear forever. That said, staying relevant with the customer is key, so we’re always innovating new ways to do that. Right now, we’re bringing technology into sportswear, with pieces like the 37.5 Celsius chino that uses temperature-regulating fabric to help keep the body at the temperature where it’s most comfortable. We love that chino so much that we’re cutting in shorts and pants and cargo. 
  1. Join an organization where you can collaborate with smart people. All of us at Gap Inc. brands talk to each other. For example, as performance technology becomes super-important at Banana Republic, if I need anything I can call a colleague at Old Navy and we’ll work through it together. The technology and innovation that are happening now are amazing — I’ve learned more in the last two years than in the previous 10!
  1. Grab opportunities that help you learn, grow and lead. When I was starting out, I was hungry for growth and learning. Every time I made a move, I did it to learn something new. I started out working on prints for men’s boxer shorts. At Tommy Hilfiger, I learned swimwear. Nautica was outerwear and knits. Banana Republic taught me men’s woven and tailoring. Only you can own your career path: Your leaders can help, but it’s up to you to talk with them about what you want to learn and do.
  1. Keep your old-school skills sharp. Even while you’re learning the latest design technology, always sketch by hand. Always touch fabric; that’s how you stay focused on quality. Have one foot in the old and one foot in the new.
  1. Have a point of view. As a leader, I want to know what the new kids are vibing on. My ideas might not be as fresh as theirs, but it’s my job to take their ideas and make them bigger ideas. It’s important that the people we work with have a vision for Banana Republic.

Interested in joining the design team at one of our brands? Check out our open design jobs in San Francisco and New York.

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