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The Joy of Collaboration

Mary explains why she loved and struggled while collaborating with Monika Chiang.

This episode we see one of my NYC city projects unfold with the usual client designer interactive drama. I say usual because all design jobs involve either in front-of-the-scene drama or behind-the-scenes drama that no one but the office knows about. Of course having a camera there for TV you get to catch the problems clients rarely even know about. We can't let them because it is not their problem. It is ours. Now it is all of ours, so I wish some of you out there would dive in and help!

So basically for this episode I have been hired by infamous Venture capitalist Chris Burch to help redesign the SoHo store of his latest clothing brand Monika Chiang. Of course I am honored, considering he was the business man behind Tory Burch and am feeling the pressure of doing a good job -- perhaps more than normal -- which is high to begin with!

Well first of all Monika is basically a supermodel that is eight feet tall and about 16 ounces in total, so that is enough to not want to show up for work without design strife! She is actually funny and friendly in person but seems icy when dealing in our design meetings. In reality, I get her vibe because after all Monika has her own brand to consider and has a strong idea of what she wants to say through her store -- even if it is filtered through my vision. It is probably the most fun and simultaneously the most challenging collaborating with another designer even in another field because they are open to being more outside the box but also have very definite ideas what is in their own head. My goal as a professional is to come up with good design with a complete visionary point of view that is also pleasing to the client. This does not mean the road is not bumpy getting there. I really had a hard time getting Monika on board with some ideas and yet not at all with others. Marco, Kenna, and I actually had a little joke where we kept bringing the same few mid century pieces around on boards in different colors hoping she thought they were new...It didn't really work since she kept saying "Didn't I see that?" Of course, we played dumb but the furniture just kept showing up on the boards in different colors and configurations. We were cracking up and then just tried it again. Obviously it didn't work and we finally had to buckle with some new stuff but we had a good laugh forcing our vision...

I think we see one of those attempts on the show but she wasn't finding it so funny. . .Sometimes you show a client the same thing twice and they truly see it in a different light after a week or two and kind of come around and get it. Not so much here. . .Monika wasn't interested! She laughed about it in the end though..

Monika has a real poker face attached to that supermodel body, so I am basically spending half my time trying to figure out if she actually likes something.. Her reaction is generally pretty cool even when she does. But when she does not like something it becomes clear in a heartbeat. NO comes out of her mouth pretty quickly!

The other major stress was having had a MAJOR time frame with which to deal. A store opening had been planned on the books needing to tie in with parties and seasonal product launches but nothing was finished. And the lavender grasscloth that the entire job was based on was not set to come in from Indonesia. It was almost a disaster. . .and perhaps you can tell by how old and tired I look in every other scene between my glammed up interviews. You see we all get tired and haggy when we are down to the wire. it was all just kind of a miracle in the end. Hope you like it!

Of course, we love seeing Martyn and his adorable boyfriend whom we ALL love Michael Green. It is hilarious to watch him sneak a redesign on his home beneath Michael's nose. Don't do it again Martyn as we all want to keep Michael in the family.

Of course, I LOVED seeing Jeffrey and Ross' client bring my book in as a room inspiration. . .and I thank Jeffrey and Ross for being gentlemanly and polite about it. We have all been there whether we tell that little secret or not of other designers' tear sheets being brought to initial meetings. I am a "the more info the better" type, even if it is someone else's as it gives better direction and acts as a compass but not necessarily the actual design. Anything visual is a language for us to converse.

Of course, Kathryn is entertaining as usual as she tests the food and attempts a few others on her culinary jaunt!

I hope you all come to see the Monika Chinag store in person in Soho NYC!

See you there!

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