Interview with Adam Selman

Annually, the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards a few lucky designers the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. These designers are provided monetary prizes as well as mentorships with notable industry professionals. Adam Selman, a 2016 runner-up, was paired with Calvin Klein’s reputable CEO, Steve Shiffman. You might recall Adam as a result of the killer, Swarovski-covered sheer dress he designed for Rihanna for the 2014 CFDA Fashion Icon Awards.

I had the opportunity to interview Adam on his mentorship with Steve as part of the CFDA’s mentorship report.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

In the fashion world, having the capital to fund your business forges an accelerated path to success. Though the true grit of any designer is one who is creative but, above all else, an able business person. Steve ensured that Adam received strategic insights on how to successfully run his company. One of the most important pieces of advice that Steve imparted, was that solid business acumen is paramount. 

Over the duration of his mentorship, Adam believes that he developed a much keener insight into making tough decisions and discerning the outcomes for each.

What were your quarterly goals for your mentorship program?

I didn’t necessarily have specific goals in mind. I wanted to address real-time problems with Steve and come to him with concrete problems for him to help me with as opposed to an overview of advice or mentorship.

Tell me about the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how your mentor helped you overcome it.

The biggest hurdle I’ve had this year is deciding whether or not to take a job in Los Angeles. Weighing the options and how to manage the time and who to hire next to keep my own company going with the influx of money and the absence of myself. I didn’t end up taking the job, but the advice Steve gave me was invaluable as my business grows and I will take the advice into account for the next person I hire and the jobs that I take on.

How has your business acumen evolved over the past year?

It has just been quicker to make more solid judgments, weighing different options and the consequences of those options. 

What are some things you wished you addressed in the earlier stages with your mentor?

Maybe just overall advice on running a successful company and what it takes to maintain and continue to build it. We grazed over it at the beginning but could have been more helpful on my part. 

What is the most valuable lesson learned?

I was dealing with a licensee deal and Steve mentored me through the contract and asked for things to be included that I never would have thought of. It helped me get more money short term and long term within the contract and make an overall deal better for my company.

Learn more about Adam Selman.


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