Steven Kolb


“Success does not come overnight. Spend time working with experienced people and learn from them. Take small steps, and have fun working.”

That is the advice given to emerging designers by Steven Kolb, Executive Director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and self-described “accidental fashion drone.” Kolb joined the CFDA in 2006 and under his guidance the annual Fashion Awards have been dubbed the “Oscars of Fashion.” He has also helped develop the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, an investment fund intended to revitalize the New York City’s garment industry. Does Kolb believe Fashion Manufacturing will ever return to the USA in a meaningful way?

“I don’t know if it will ever reach the levels it once was. What I do know is that the dialogue between design and production is important. With too much distance there can be miscommunication on the final product.”

Reflecting on his work in fashion, the stylish Mister Kolb has a significant shoe collection: “I probably have twenty pairs right now. Most of them are George Esquivel.” He has also amassed an even more impressive collection of ornamental owls. However his obsession with this wise bird began with the real thing:

“The very first owl was a living owl. Eight years ago my partner Jay and I were in Gainesville, hiking in the woods with my brother, and an owl was overhead. I had never seen one before and I was struck by his elegance. Driving back to New York City, we stopped at a lot of flea markets, junk sales, garage sales and I kept seeing owl figurines so it was like I was meant to buy them.”

Prior to joining the CFDA, Steven Kolb was the Senior Associate Director of DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids). Kolb relates the missions of the nonprofit world and the CFDA:
“At first I thought both were different but they really are similar. DIFFA is an organization that raises funds for HIV and AIDS and CFDA is a trade organization representing American fashion. In both jobs it is about facilitating change and helping others. I never wanted to work in corporate America.”

Counterfeiting is one of the biggest problems for global fashion brands and Steven explains how the CFDA discourages the counterfeiters:
“Originality and creativity in design are two tenets that the CFDA emphatically maintains. To show support for the eradication of design piracy and as a reminder to design with integrity, every year, the CFDA commissions a Design Manifesto poster and industry awareness campaign which embodies these values.”

Outside of the workplace Steven is a keen, self taught photographer and says that the advent of digital definitely raised his interest:
“I don’t like to think too much about the process or the shot. I took a photography class once and I really sucked at remembering which shutter speed, aperture and all the numbers. I was a disaster in the dark room; too impatient and lots of finger prints. I take photos on my Blackberry and post within seconds to Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter. It is like a visual diary of sorts. I also have a Cannon G10 that Diane von Furstenberg gave me. It is the same one she uses. It takes amazing photos.”

Finally, if the present Mr. Kolb could give the young Steven a word of advice, what would it be?

“Not to worry so much about what other people think of me and to just be myself. I’ve learned people for the most part are really accepting of other people.”

1. Highly self-directed and stubborn. Steadfast in the pursuit of goals.

2. A reader of quite varied sources. Sucks in random information, collates, and interconnects it subconsciously.

3. This is the hand of a refugee, someone who will flee their homeland – and their adopted homeland – and the one after that as well. There is both a tight bond to place and a dissatisfaction with place. The conflict of the two of these causes movement from place to place.

4. An extremely tight bond to family and kinship. Also to the culture and customs of their birth. They are deeply fond of their birth culture, family and kin, but can’t stand to live in or with them. The fondness is furthered most by distance between.

5. This is a person of great passions and deep ability to love. The intensity of breakups however and the pain of that is equally passionate and will cause them to leave the area where passions were shared.

6. A very fine lover, much better as a lover than as a husband, as they have a tendency to expect things to be their way in domestic arrangements which doesn’t always make for easy pairings.

7. Dominant and self-directed. Generally needs to be in charge of whatever is going on. NOT a follower. Will make his own way rather than follow, even if he isn’t leading.

8. This is not someone who sees their own part in the difficulties in their life. They grieve when things are lost – and very much grieve when they lose someone. They would like “to have and to hold” a stable life, a stable family. However, they periodically blow it all up because it doesn’t do what they want and they don’t compromise well. Then there is grief that it didn’t work out, but not particular insight into how this occurs to them.

9. Extremely passionate, highly emotional, very generous and giving. They really want everyone to be happy.

10. An intense temper that sets off easily. Will tend to swing when startled.

11. Notably high intelligence in an extremely practical way. Yes, they want things done their way but that’s frequently because their way IS better due to their practical intelligence. What
they don’t get is that other people just won’t see it that way!

12. A great writer or story teller. More interesting or riveting than simply good. The act of communication for them will guide things in the directions they choose. This is someone who has the potential to be remembered long past his own time, but not an easy person during his own time. Whether he writes them down or just lives them, his adventure will be bigger than life and memorable. Who he is doesn’t fit inside a normal life.

This is a reading by Lena, who has no idea this palm belongs to Steven Kolb.

Text by Keanan Duffty
Photography by Dario Calmese
Palm reading by Lena