A Conversation With Brian Kaminer, Design Director for U.S. Polo Assn.

Kaminer-Post.jpgAs the global design director for the U.S. Polo Assn. brand, Brian Kaminer is responsible for both the design and brand direction at all of the company's international licensees. During his 38-year career, Kaminer has held product development and senior merchandising roles for a number of internationally-recognized apparel brands, including Land's End, Nautica, Williams Sonoma, and Tommy Hilfiger. Here, Kaminer discusses how his stores are stocked with real polo equipment, memorabilia, and images from actual polo matches; how the globalization of the apparel industry will continue to challenge the design world; and why he gets so excited about social media that he has to set limits for himself.

What do you say when people ask you, "What do you do?"

I create and develop unique experiences for consumers around the world. From product design to material selection to advertising to the scent of the retail store, my job is to make sure that the consumer connects with the brand through everything they come into contact with.

As global design director for the U.S. Polo Assn. brand, I'm constantly thinking through how to share the experience of a polo match with my consumer. The sport of polo has been around for thousands of years and the U.S. Polo Assn. brand is -- I hope -- an embodiment of that heritage, not just a fashion brand. Our stores feature real polo equipment, memorabilia, and images from actual polo matches; the people that appear on our website and in our campaigns are actual polo players. Everything we do and say must reflect the core values of the sport. I also see our brand an ambassador of the American lifestyle and based on the growth of our brand I think that's been embraced around the world -- we've seen tremendous growth in China and other markets outside the U.S.

I've had the privilege of working with global brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Williams-Sonoma, Inc., Land's End, Nautica, and now with U.S. Polo Assn. The one thing I've found in common is that it's all about having a vision. With some imagination and some time I can create anything.

What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on the design world?

The computer has had a tremendous impact on what I do. It used to be everything had to be done by hand and I often found myself constantly traveling around the world to oversee production. Using a computer I'm better able to communicate my designs and ensure that the final product is exactly as I envisioned. Not that I don't love seeing my international colleagues, but now I'm actually troubleshooting design problems in real time. I often use a webcam to talk with colleagues on the other side of the world about our products. We can actually hold designs up to the camera, look at new fabrics and designs together, and brainstorm solutions to any problems we encounter. Computers and technology have really revolutionized the development of products.

What's something that most people just don't understand about your field?

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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