10 Minutes with Mr. Joe Zee

I have huge love for Joe Zee and his show All on the Line. Finally, a design show that’s not just about fabric choices and bias cuts. Now this is a reality show, fashion lovers. All on the Line, premiering soon on CosmoTV (Monday, January 2; 8:00pm ET) gives designers with fashion lines on the verge of failure a second chance with the help of this fashion powerhouse.
Mr. Joe Zee comes home
The show, currently in its second season on Sundance Channel Canada, follows the Creative Director of ELLE Magazine as he plays mentor to struggling designers. His friendly, big brother approach is comforting, but Joe keeps it straight up and honest. He’s not afraid to point out their weaknesses in an effort to to prepare them for the real business opportunities he creates for them. 
Get your line ready, kids, Barney’s buyers are coming!
 
I got the chance to briefly chat with Joe on a recent visit to his hometown of Toronto. When I complimented the show’s concept of highlighting fashion’s struggles beyond the design phase, Joe was quick to agree that designing is just the beginning. What follows are excerpts from our conversation that underscore the message in All on the Line.
“Designing is only 10% of it. Even if you drape and sew, what are you sewing? And then what are you going to do with it?”

“[Fashion] schools don’t want to address business too deeply in their curriculum. My guess is that they think it will compromise creativity. I don’t know what they really think. But I do think understanding the business of the industry allows [designers] to be more successful.”

“My advice for fashion students is to have a point of view. The minute you start chasing something or imitating, you will not be successful. Do something that’s genuinely who you are. You have to design for yourself.”

“Retail is tough. It’s getting harder and harder for retailers to take a risk. They want proven entities. You have to prove to them that you have some level of following. Designers have so many more avenues, now more than ever, to create a buzz. Social media can help be a big part of that.”

“It would be smart for a designer to have that broader business person as a partner. I look at someone like Marc Jacobs who is incredibly creative and so smart, but he has Robert Duffy who is a very astute, smart, innovative businessman. Robert can take care of all the business while Marc can be creative. You’ll see in the show that a lot of it is finding that right person.”

Me & Joe Zee