Founder’s Letter: Giving Thanks as We Head Back to NY

It’s time for Kingpins New York. It’s been 30 months since the last one and our team is as excited as I have ever seen them. One of the joys of leading is when the people you lead love what they do. That is certainly true of the Kingpins crew. The engine inside them drives them not only to exceed expectations, break through barriers, satisfy customers and stakeholders, but perhaps most of all, find pride in what they accomplished. Our toughest critic is ourselves. 

Our team did that in Amsterdam and I believe they will have the same proud feeling on July 21, when we wrap the New York show and head for a company dinner to celebrate.

Vivian Wang is the Kingpins Show Managing Director and a true leader. She’s been at it for 18 years and her love for the show and desire to excel drives her.  A good leader – or let’s say a fantastic leader – not only propels financial success but provides many ancillary benefits to the company and team.

Firstly, the best leaders allow their team to grow and encourages them to enjoy their work. In Vivian’s case, her team loves to work for her. If I were to call anyone at Kingpins to ask a question about our show, I would almost always be referred back to Vivian because they respect her enormously. She is loyal as loyal can be. Exhibitors appreciate that and they appreciate her ability to respond to their needs with empathy. 

William Shuler has been with the Kingpins for about 12 years (including Covid’s 30-day, “hang on… we’ll be back soon” period).  While he worked part-time for us all those years, he joined us full time at the start of 2022 and we are thrilled he chose to work with us.

William is in charge of all communications to customers regarding entry into our show.  He is the person who greets attendees at the front door and runs the process of getting people into the show. Sometimes it may seem like everyone arrived at the same time, leading to a bit of a traffic jam, but there is no one kinder, more thoughtful and patient than William helping clear the way and get everyone into the show. 

Long ago we took an attitude that a successful Kingpins Show means ensuring many little things go right – meaning things like flowers or scent or our espresso or a green salad. One of the things we talk about the most is how we deal with other human beings and the importance of treating each other with respect. No one expresses that sentiment better than William. He is a true Kingpins Ambassador and the kind of person you are proud to work with.

I first met Joanne Schouten –  I think –  in early 2015 when she produced the first Global Denim Award runway show for our partner, House of Denim. At that time, Mariette Hoitink, one of the founders of House of Denim, ran the event and promised me I’d love the runway show. I had not attended many runway shows before, but Mariette was correct and I was enthralled for many reasons, including the incredible atmosphere of people packed into the room before the show. But, as we all know, it’s one thing to get people to come to an event. It’s quite another to make sure they leave thrilled and that was what Joanne produced – a thrill. A production masterpiece

Joanne started to produce our Kingpins Transformers Events, which were always incredibly well done, and we worked together on Denim Days for years. She was part of the first, and most-memorable, Kingpins24 Digital event, which we all put together in a month — in hindsight, an incredible achievement. 

Now Joanne is head of production for all Kingpins Shows and her stamp of excellence is everywhere.

Gordon Heffner came to us just before the pandemic. I had known him previously as the owner of Blue in Green, which was, at one time, perhaps the preeminent jean store in Manhattan. Gordon has long experience in retail and garment manufacturing. With his ability to speak Japanese and years of experience dealing in Japan, he understands the entire production of blue jeans and all its details. People like Gordon are rare. We are blessed that Gordon is a part of our team and brings his love and skill — both technical and creative — every day.

Gordon organized and curated our Kingpins Shop and now works on our newsletter and helps Vivian keep Kingpins vibrant. 

I met Miguel Sanchez a few times when he worked at Archroma, but we really connected in 2013 when I was a keynote speaker at AATCC’s annual meeting. It was there that I first mentioned that were indigo invented today, it would never get to market because as a dye, its negative environmental impact is much worse than any other dye.  He and I talked a lot after that and when he no longer worked for Archroma, I asked him to come to Kingpins, where he makes a huge contribution.

Years ago, a customer of ours asked me what seemed like a simple question: “Why can’t Kingpins just have a wall of jeans with the most sustainable fabrics and washes and just tell everyone what’s the best thing at your show?”

To do that, we needed expertise, knowledge, experience and time. Miguel joined us to bring this vision to life, creating the Most Sustainable Product group (which we call MSP). Miguel started this project just before Covid and now it’s coming back to life. Miguel is always ready to share his knowledge and let anyone know what is the best possible environmental decision to make in their jeans production. Miguel is a very special person with a huge inventory of knowledge. The best people — like Miguel — know that anything you own in excess you must share with those that don’t.

Over the years there have been many special people who contributed to Kingpins. Emily Olah worked for many years producing both the New York and Amsterdam Shows. She ran the shows with a sincere desire to provide a great experience to stakeholders and her outstanding contributions are part of Kingpins’ proud memory.  Emily, like Gordon, has many skills, and over the years, she helped our company in so many ways, undertaking any and every job that needed attention.  She led our charge to digitalize and now works, with joy, for Material Exchange and the Transformers Foundation.

Working for Emily was someone who we also can’t forget: Josephina Giglioti, who I met at FIT. She came out of school a textile development graduate but flipped for us to be an event producer – a good one.

And there is Erin Barajas, who ran our media for many years. In fact, Erin worked for Kingpins for 10 years in production and communications. So many things that exist at the Kingpins Show come from her. Her contributions live on.

Lastly, I must mention Rosana Rosales, my wife and life partner. For years, I used to joke that Kingpins was an “unintentional” non-profit organization. Vivian and Emily and I always found that funny because our core desire was to make our shows inspiring first and foremost, and worry about profits later. Since 2019, Rosana helped all of us be financially sustainable so that our show will last.

We are a lucky and blessed crew to do something fun, creative and satisfying for our stakeholders. We appreciate this opportunity and look forward to many years to come… but first, we hope you will all love our July 20-21 show in NYC.

-Andrew Olah

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