I was fortunate enough to meet Fashion Designer George Zaharoff on Twitter. He is humble and down to earth. He found his passion (his life’s purpose) in fashion design. He understands that the source of all abundance in life is not something you search for. It’s a resource you tap into from inside yourself. I believe this is what makes him successful along with his love for life and his popular dog Piccolo.
George traveled extensively all over the world throughout his life. Traveling and living in other cultures bring balance, serenity and wisdom. George recognizes the beauty, the kindness and the goodness in all things. He gives every element of life his fullest attention. His enthusiasm is contagious. That is the “fuel” for a successful life. You can feel his passion in his writing.
George Zaharoff is inspiring. In his own words: “Zaharoff isn’t a just a label, it’s a lifestyle.”
George accepted my request to interview him. I am thrilled to share my interview with all of you.
SHIRE: Dear George, Thank you for allowing me to interview you.
Was fashion your first business idea? Have you considered others?
GEORGE: The fashion house was my very first business idea, I was 18 years old and a sophomore at DePaul. What I am doing now is what I wanted to do when I was a child. Every time I have tried to do something else, the Universe would throw me back on this track. After failing miserably in Milan at age 20 (twenty!), I remember being in my third interview with Anderson Consulting and being told when I meet the big managers to dress a little bit more conservative. Now remember, this is 1994-ish. I said, “but Valentino Couture is conservative.” While that was happening, I thought of going to YALE to do my MBA. And I remember I was wearing this beautiful Rene Lezard white and black checkered double-breasted sport jacket with a pair of black pants, a shirt and a floral Chanel Tie – gorgeous. I walked into this room and everyone was wearing these boring BORING black pin-striped suits. I was the only one, in the entire room, wearing a sport jacket. There are so many other stories like that – but for some reason, I was always “pushed” back on this track.
SHIRE: If fashion design hadn’t been your “calling”, can you imagine doing anything else?
GEORGE: I don’t know what else I would be doing. If I can tell you how much I love LOVE what I do – words can’t describe. When I am creating, I feel like I am one with the Universe. I feel like I am in flow.
SHIRE: I believe we can become better, wiser even stronger through hardships. Have you gone through some hardships?
GEORGE: I don’t think words can say the hardships I have been through. BUT I’ve never felt alone, I never once thought, Dear God, where are you? And my immediate family, my parents and my brothers and sisters, were also always there for me. I do feel like I am Dante from Dante’s Inferno – I have come from the depths of hell and I am back to talk about it. As long as you have your health, including your mental health, everything else can be dealt with…and never give up, never ever ever EVER give up.
SHIRE: How does an entrepreneur recognize a good idea?
GEORGE: There are people out there that come out with a constant flow of ideas, incredible ideas. Entreprendre is Old French for “undertaker” – the act of undertaking “x”, in this case the idea. To undertake takes a great deal of chutzpah – it’s a scary world out there and for someone to take money from their savings….or to take money from someone else to go after their dreams isn’t easy. An entrepreneur just knows…and if a road block comes, they find their way around it. There’s no such thing as failure, just “what’s next”.
SHIRE: What attributes do you think are important in becoming a successful entrepreneur?
GEORGE: In 2004, I remember an executive from Nordstrom asked me, “how does it feel to be successful?” And I stopped for a minute and said exactly what my thought was, “I never considered myself successful.” I am so much into the “game” with my eye on the ball, I don’t think about “oh I am successful”. With that little thought I just shared, people equate success with money, and it’s not right. Success is taking an idea and bringing it to the marketplace and have people use their hard earned money to buy it. We equate success with Donald Trump, but was Mother Teresa successful? Success comes in different ways.
SHIRE: What is the main key ingredient to your success?
GEORGE: The main key to Zaharoff being successful, no doubt, number one – the Zaharoff team. With the right team in place, everything can be dealt with. With our team, it’s about the brand – what is best for the brand. Not about Joe, Jane, or Steve. When you come with that perspective, it is easier to make decisions. Then there is the product and service; it has to be world-class otherwise customers will go elsewhere. What we do at Zaharoff is give the same fabrics as the Italian brands, equal or better quality than them, at half to 70% less the price. How are we able to do that? We don’t mark up our goods as high as our competition. And our clothes are made in a brand new state-of-the-art factory outside of Boston.
SHIRE: What was your biggest challenge to become a successful designer?
GEORGE: The biggest challenges the brand has experienced were always external. The WTC attacks on 9/11/2001, directly affected the company and it took me two years to get back on track. And finally this year, 2011, we have been able to recover from the 2008 financial meltdown. To be a successful design house, a brand needs to have a very strong identity and exceptional managers, it must know exactly what it stands for. I refer to a brand as if it was a person, because it is, a brand is a living breathing entity, the managers and designers are its organs.
SHIRE: Was living abroad a beneficial experience for your business? Would you recommend it to other entrepreneurs?
GEORGE: The world was a different time and place when I lived in Europe and I am SO fortunate to have experienced it at that time. The Italians taught me excellence – what luxury actually is – and the beauty in an item we would normally take for granted, like a cashmere sweater. Yes, there is a difference between something that is well-made and something just put together for the sake of being put together. The Germans taught me the finishing of a product – the edges of a box coloured so the white doesn’t show. It changes the way you live your life. There’s a reason why the Italians are so good in what they do, they eat, live, drink, breathe fashion. They wear the clothes they make…and if something doesn’t fit right, they fix it, they adjust the pattern, etc. Over time you have the best tailors in the world. This is also why Germans make incredible cars, because they are passionate about driving.
SHIRE: Please tell me about your fragrance line.
GEORGE: Zaharoff was selling a very successful line of men’s and women’s fragrances in 150 Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus & Bergdorf Goodman doors up until 9/11 – which directly affected the company. I had no choice but to focus on my clothing. We are relaunching Zaharoff Pour Homme at Nordstrom in the Fall of 2011, which is thrilling. The cycle, for me, has never completed itself. You can’t imagine…I’m just very excited. We are going to start with the launch of Zaharoff Pour Homme and then the women’s probably some time in 2012. My dream from day one was to have an entire personal and home fragrance collection as well as beauty, such as skin care and color.
SHIRE: What stores carry the distinctive Zaharoff collection?
GEORGE: Zaharoff can be found in select Nordstrom stores and smaller specialty stores all over the country. You can go to www.zaharoff.com for information.
SHIRE: What is included in the Fall/Winter 2011 Collection?
GEORGE: As of September, 2011, Zaharoff will be doing men’s and women’s tailored clothing (suits, sport jackets, formal wear, trousers, shirts, neckwear, accessories), men’s and women’s outerwear, men’s and women’s sportswear, like items you can wear casually. Finally the launch of Zaharoff Pour Homme, men’s fragrance. Also, there are some plans with Piccolo too…yes, that’s right, my pooch has the DNA for design.
SHIRE: What is the most important thing to you in life?
GEORGE: The single most important thing in my life is Peace of Mind. Peace of Mind means health, happiness, love, fulfillment, prosperity, etc. With Peace of Mind, my personal relationships with my family – my grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, etc. – friends and others as well as my professional relationships with my colleagues, partners, and retailers, flow. Peace of mind brings unlimited creativity and unlimited possibilities. My Peace of Mind is the most important thing to me.
Note the key words in my life: Flow, Peace, Happiness.
SHIRE: If you could travel back in time, what time period and where would you go to?
GEORGE: We all talk about a “Golden Age”, a time where things were more fabulous. The Ancient Greeks spoke of a Golden Age, the Romans spoke about Ancient Greece as being the Golden Age….in the 80s we spoke of the 50s as the Golden Age. Honestly, I don’t think we live in a better time than today. Yes, things can always be better. But we are in a time when technology is changing so quickly and to see that is very exciting. The world is becoming one community – we haven’t gotten there yet, but it has begun, and that is exciting for me. We are also living in a time where we are living the longest we ever have in history.
SHIRE: Thank you so much for your time. Wishing you continued success and happiness.
Find inspiration in George Zaharoff’s powerful blog:
The World of George Zaharoff www.georgezaharoff.com
Keep up with George Zaharoff on Facebook.
Visit www.zaharoff.com to see Zaharoff collection.