For designer Jay Godfrey, the passion to design turned into a dream that was fulfilled in an unconventional way. Throughout his childhood, his vision was set, but as with many situations in life – working towards a goal doesn't always consist of a straight and direct path.
As a teenager, Jay had been introduced to the design world as a gofer in a designer’s showroom. But even though he was excited to be around such glitz and glam, he chose a different direction when it was time to head off to college. The Canadian-born designer opted to pursue an education in Finance, in effort to learn the fundamentals of business and accounting. Upon graduating from college, Jay was offered a job on Wall Street, where he worked until he decided to make the goal of becoming a designer a reality. He enrolled as a student at Parson’s School of Design. As a student he interned with Oscar de la Renta and from there set out to design and make his own mark with the Jay Godfrey collection.
Today, the Jay Godfrey collection is loved by women from every day walks of life, to celebrities whom all love his sleek designs that embody modern sophistication. His celebrity fans include Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Gabrielle Union, Eva Longoria, Angie Harmon and many others. In addition, Jay has received well-deserved kudos from top glossies and even made an appearance on America’s Next Top model.
Overall, it’s remarkable how much success Jay Godfrey has had in just a few short years, and his story is one of enlightenment and inspiration.
Naima Turner: Jay, it’s really inspirational to know that you decided to enter the world of fashion design as your second career, by way of Wall Street. With a fabulous collection, it’s clear to see that you are a natural. Out of curiosity, I would love to know why you didn't go straight into the design world, as opposed to working with numbers first?
Jay Godfrey: Growing up I was your typical hockey playing Canadian boy and really fell in love with fashion at the age of 15. That love grew with the amazing opportunity I had when I interned at the Hugo boss showroom, and even though that meant fetching coffee most days, being able to spend my time surrounded by beautiful creations and some of the most talented people was so inspiring. The overall experience reiterated that ultimate feeling I felt inside that I wanted to spend the rest of my life working in this industry.
With my passion in focus, I moved to New York after graduating from Montreal’s McGill University with a finance degree and followed the “safe path” straight to Wall Street. Of course, it didn't take me long to realize that was not where I belonged. As I was still young in my career and hadn't built my loving family yet that now includes my wife and two daughters, I was fortunate enough to be able to leave the investment world and follow my dream of going to design school to course correct my career on the right path.
When it’s all said and done, I wouldn't change a thing. I gained a solid grounding in what it takes to run a successful business and I think that is what has gotten the Jay Godfrey brand to where it is today.
Naima Turner: When it comes to the fashion world, it’s like no other. Yet, many industries are in a category of its own. But, are there ways that you can draw a comparison between the fashion industry and Wall Street in a way many wouldn't expect?
Jay Godfrey: They are very similar in the fact that no matter what, you have to pay your dues! That means late nights, early mornings and lots of caffeine in-between. Something I learned early on in investment and fashion is learning the foundations is critical. Without the basic knowledge, everything else will crumble. There’s no express train to success in life.
Naima Turner: Where do you draw inspiration from for fashion collection? What type of woman best describes the Jay Godfrey woman?
Jay Godfrey: I am inspired by everything that surrounds me, but most importantly— my wife, who is an incredibly big influence on my designs; she’s my ultimate muse. My two little girls and my passion for art and music have also influenced my design process over the years. Some of those artists, be it in music, fashion or art that have inspired me include: Elsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford, Halston and The Rolling Stones.
When I think of the Jay Godfrey woman, she is an uptown girl with that ultimate downtown spirit. She really loves clean lines, in modern silhouettes and is definitely not afraid to embrace color.
Naima Turner: As a designer of both fashion and luxury international hotels, will you ever blend the two in the future to develop a Jay Godfrey lifestyle complete with fashion for the body, as well as the home?
Jay Godfrey: My design style is grounded in the main philosophies of keeping everything clean, modern, with an embrace of color throughout. All of this is done with a goal to create something that will ultimately communicate sensuality. My first foray into interior design was when I took on the challenge of decorating my NYC apartment. Throughout the space, you can sense that everything was filtered through the same creative lens as my collections and, without saying too much, extending my passion for interior decorating with the rest of the world is very high up on my to-do list.
Naima Turner: Are there plans to build a boutique in your native home of Canada?
Jay Godfrey: I have always wanted and would be honored to one day open a Jay Godfrey boutique in Canada. Due to demand though, our next stops are an expansion within the New York market on the Upper East Side to complement our current Meatpacking District location and a location in Miami, FL.
Naima Turner: For the recent fashion design graduates of 2014, what words of encouragement would you want to share?
Jay Godfrey: Hone your craft to become a trained specialist in something you can build your name on. For me, it was originally the dress and from there I've been able to expand the collections to include more sportswear offerings while remaining true to my brand and the image we've created. It’s always important to know what you want to say to the world in the beginning and while the tone and style may change as you grow and evolve, the message will always be the same.