To say that Cindy Farkas Glanzrock is a jill of all trades would be a gross understatement. She's sold shoes at legendary department store Alexander’s, run by her grandfather George, worked in advertising, fashion PR and real estate before landing at her current gig decorating commercial lobbies. As such, there is little this power woman can't offer by way of career advice.
Though Glanzrock's days of working with designer Zandra Rhodes and at Ann Taylor may be behind her, her work in fashion taught her many valuable lessons that have helped her in other industries.
Lucky for us, we got to sit down with her to find out exactly how she transitioned from career to career and learn the most valuable advice she picked up along the way -- of which, she has plenty!
On how she got her start in fashion:
My father always had us wear Charles Jourdan pumps [when we worked at his department store], so I gave him the idea, [to knock them off]. When I say knocking off, I mean, designers knew they were being knocked off and wanted to be knocked off to get exposure. And he loved the idea. So we went and made this whole shoe program in Madrid and I learned all about making shoes. I went to the factories and picked colors. I pulled people literally off the escalators when I worked in the shop and I didn't sell them one pair, I sold them three or four.
On the importance of working retail if you want to work in fashion:
Ralph Lauren's first job was at Alexander's doing inventory. Donna Karan told me that she once had a job there. There are so many well known people that have worked in retail. So I would say, how can you design something when you don't know what it means to put it out on the floor and you don't know what it's like to interact with the clothing and your potential clients? It's very important to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk with the sales people. Good designers come in and they actually teach the staff how they were inspired, where their colors came from, where their silhouettes came from. So that's the most important thing to me, working in retail.
On her job right now:
I merchandise lobbies. So it's looking at who are the tenants of the building, the neighborhood, if there is any sort of pedigree with the building or something that the building is known for. For example, one of the buildings I'm working on right now is a small building, 184 Fifth Avenue right off of 24th Street, and I look at the tenants, I look at how old the building is, who are the original architects and I take all of that into consideration when I'm deciding on the art. So it's sort of like merchandising for a store -- knowing who your tenants are, knowing who your clients are, your demographic, and then dressing it up so that when people walk through a lobby they have a fulfilling, fun experience.
On how her experience in fashion helped to propel her career forward:
You sit in these merchandising meetings and... there are a lot of things you have to decide on in terms of the budget. That's what I do. I go back and forth with the architect and the PR. [I ask myself] Is it different? And if I don't go a little edgy--think graffiti, pop art, street art--that's what made me different. Everyone else was just doing things that looked pretty. It was the right scale and the right colors but it wasn't [innovative]. These are landlords who used to hate graffiti artists because people would paint on the outside of their buildings and now they are putting a canvas of graffiti inside their lobby.
On the hardest part of her job:
Keeping everyone happy--the landlord, the tenants and the ownership. Sometimes there are partners that have put up money and they have to approve the budget. And, of course, coming up with art that the artist wants to lease, that the gallery wants to lease, because a lot of people don't want to lease the art, they just want to sell it. There are so many people that I need to make happy, so it's juggling a lot of different balls, so it's about coordination, curation and diplomacy.
On the best piece of business advice she has ever received:
Listen, watch and then participate.
This interview has been edited and condensed.