At 26, Jennifer Egan thought she was on her way to the proverbial big time. She had her own huge office downtown and jet-setted to New York and to Rome on a monthly basis for the corporate telecommunications job she got right out of college. But when the company folded here in the U.S., she went on a professional soul search. She had always loved music, fashion and art, so when a friend suggested they start a PR company, Egan jumped at the chance. Not only did they go on to represent musicians and filmmakers, but it was also important to Egan to promote philanthropical organizations, so they took on promoting charity events, like Fashion for the Cure, and fund-raisers for the LA Fire Department.
After a year, her business partner’s vision began to change; she wanted to move their core business into a more urban New York office, while Egan wanted to stay in Los Angeles. Lucky for the California native, she got wind that Ian Gerard, CEO of the nonprofit Gen Art, had an opening here in town. “It was such an easy transition,” Egan says during some brief downtime between appointments. “Gen Art was created to promote, showcase and support, artists, musicians, fashion designers and filmmakers. It was a perfect fit.”
It was Egan’s dream job. Four years ago she became the director of the L.A. office. Since then, Egan has dashed up the ladder; today she’s Gen Art’s VP of national business development.
For the last 13 years, Gen Art has produced its fall Fresh Faces in Fashion, and more recently its spring New Garde events, which are a kind of coming-out party for fashion’s debutantes, and which give emerging designers a chance to debut their collections to media and buyers. Showing at Gen Art can launch careers.
Egan has been in charge of overseeing these elaborate runway programs, from the final designer fittings, working with lighting and sound technicians, to hiring hair and makeup. And before all of that can happen, there’s the curating of the designers themselves. Egan organizes a committee of fashion editors, buyers, other designers and experts to suggest and vote on local talent. “We look for someone who strikes a balance between ingenuity, innovation and commercial viability,” she says. Gen Art is the platform, but it’s up to the designers to have their shit together. “Commerical viability has become important,” she explains, “because in the past we’ve shown incredible designers, but when Maxfield called, they couldn’t ship their order.”
Egan is really proud of her work and her hometown. “Think of any significant designer to come out of L.A. and they debuted at Gen Art … Louis Verdad, Zac Posen, Philip Lim …,” she says, rattling off names.
Her experience landed her a gig as casting judge for Bravo’s Emmy-nominated show Project Runway. For the last three seasons, she’s helped select which designers make it on the show. “It’s very democratic,” she says, “anyone is welcome to come down, but we want to make sure every season has credibility. No more Wendy Peppers, thank you,” she laughs referencing the reality show’s very first villain.
“I make sure L.A. designers get mixed in there,” she says. Thanks to Egan’s nudge, local contestants have included past winner Jeffery Sebelia, and this season’s Kit Pistol and finalist Rami Kashou. All are Gen Art alum.
“So often people think of L.A. fashion as cotton and denim and Juicy Couture,” she says, “but the truth is, this city is aesthetically disparate. In Milan and Paris there’s always some overarching theme or trend that runs through all of the shows, but the beauty here in L.A., is that there are so many different subcultures; each show is really unique. I’m really invested in this city, and it continuously inspires me. L.A. fashion is really coming into its own.”
Photo by Kevin Scanlon