One of my New Year’s resolutions is to become more active in the fashion and social media community and what better way to do so than to attend great conferences like the State of Style Summit, sponsored by Ford, StyleCaster, and 91Y.

The fashionable Summit was a day long event consisting of multiple panels of industry luminaries like Stacy London, Rebecca Minkoff and her brother/business partner Uri Minkoff, the Dean of Parsons Fashion School Simon Collins, Creative Director at MILK Studios Mazdack Rassi, Former IMG executive and Publishing Director at Vogue, Teen Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler & Bon Appetit Tom Florio, and Senior Interior Designer at Ford Motor Company Anthony Prozzi (just to name a few). During the Summit,  I learned about some of the great business practices that go into running a successful business, the importance of building an online community, and why Stacy London is not just fashionable, but sassy with her sharp wit and ‘judgmental’ humor! She joked with the audience about owning a shirt that says “I get paid to be a bitch, what’s your excuse?”. She followed up with “I’m kidding…not really”, which of course had most of the audience laughing at her cutting honesty. Plus, after the event was over, I had the chance to sit down and talk with Ford’s Senior Interior Designer Anthoni Prozzi, who spoke about some of the great fashion icons and design elements that influence him in the interior designs of Ford’s automobiles. Trust me, it’s not what you think – unless you think of nose rings and metal piercings when you think of Ford in which case it’s exactly what you think. You can read my interview with Anthony Prozzi here. Post continues after the jump…

The day started off with a panel that discussed the ‘trickle down’ and the ‘trickle up effect’, a lesson I remember clearly from my fashion classes at the International Academy of Design in Orlando. This is a pretty basic concept that has a huge impact on the fashion industry. Basically, the trickle up effect is when a trend originates from the ground up – either a fashion statement that is started by the general public then is adapted by celebrities and big name designers or when a niche group becomes mainstream. The trickle down effect is just the opposite. We see it for the first time on major runways or on the celebrity circuit and then it ‘trickles down’ to the general public. In either direction, it is a trend driver and important for trend analysis. For this discussion, Aliza Licht the SVP Comm of Donna Karan International, Steve Davis President of Rue La La, Oliver Laubscher Global Director of WPP Group M Initiative, and Sheryl Connelly, Mgr. of Global Trends & Futuring at Ford Motor Company addressed “What came first, the Tweet or the Trend?, Who would be front row at fashion week if we went by Klout score, and how in their opinion, today’s influence doesn’t trickle up or down , but comes at us from all directions. (Would you agree?).

Fast forward a few panels and we come to ‘The Anatomy of Fashion’, where Mazdack Rassi (creative Director of MILK Studios), Tom Florio (former IMG executive and SVP and publishing Director at Vogue, Teen Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler & Bon Appetit), and Anthony Prozzi discussed the ways social media and e-commerce have changed the infrastructure of the fashion industry by allowing designers to market directly to consumers. Today, fashion is more accessible to consumers than ever before. Take for example, Moda Operandi, an online company that brings high end designs to the consumer just days after they are seen on the runway! While both of these panels were great (as were the others that took place in between) the most inspiring panel, for me, was the designer spolight, which was that of Rebecca Minkoff and her business partner/brother Uri Minkoff.

Rebecca and Uri spoke about the importance of passion and trust, while sharing some of the things they find valuable in running a successful business, like the importance of Social media and really listening to the consumer. Rebecca shared a story of her first online interaction with customers/fans who at first thought she was a fake, pretending to be Rebecca Minkoff when she would respond with comments on fashion blogs and websites. Uri then shared a story about a soldier in Afghanistan who had written an inquiry about a handbag he was looking to purchase for his wife;  Uri was so touched by the soldier’s gesture and service, that he actually gifted the soldier the handbag – I choked up hearing this story as my own sister is currently serving in Afghanistan and I am always gratfeul when support is shown for the men and women overseas. Rebecaa and Uri (often personally) respond to hundreds of e-mails a day, making sure to connect with their audience in a big way.  The fact that Rebecca and Uri started their company by Rebecca making T-shirts on her living room floor and Uri expertly marketing their fashionable products like “The Morning After Bag”,  on a very limited budget makes their success story one that is truly inspirational for all aspiring fashion designers and entrepeneurs.