Candy Washington: Hi Ian! You are staple on the fashion, art, film, music, and design scene. How did you get your start in the industry?
Ian Gerard: In
the strangest place... NYU Law School. I started throwing parties with
some of my cooler law school peers at local New York nightspots. It
gave me the experience of drawing people out to a social experience and
a feel for how the nightlife venue world operated - which would come in
handy in the near future. I, however, had no background in film,
fashion, art or music when a concept of showcasing emerging talent and
having their peers support them - came to me...
CW: What was the inspiration behind creating one of my favorite platforms for emerging talent, Gen Art?
IG: I came up with the concept of Gen Art in my 2nd year at NYU Law. With my brother and a former high school classmate - who was from a major art collecting family - we created Gen Art. Several of my friends were visual artists at Vassar College (where I went) and I knew when they graduated in the early 90s the art market was a mess and there were very few opportunities for young artists to have galleries take a chance on them. I thought that we could make a generational play for young people (like myself) showcasing young artists and having their peers, who were doing well in more professional circles, support the talent by buying their works.
So we built a world class advisory board of influential members of the visual art world - including Louise Bourgeois, Christo & Jeanne Claude, William Wegman, Ross Bleckner and about 15 others. And with a crew of volunteers, we produced our first event - a benefit featuring four emerging artists - that sold out at the Manhattan Penthouse and got written up in The New York Times style section, Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. All of a sudden what seemed like a vague idea had caught fire.
CW: What advice to do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to build a business?
IG: Once an entrepreneur, I think one is always an entrepreneur. I think its important for entrepreneurs to take risks and to fully believe in what you are doing. I think its very hard to succeed if you second guess your decisions or have your one foot into your project and one foot out (hedging your bets). If you don't believe you will succeed, no one else will either. But an important thing in addition to drive and vision - is keeping an eye on not only creating a brand or buzz - but creating a successful business and having a plan for how you take your vision from conception to success. Where do you want to be in 2 years, 5 years, and how are you going to get there. You need to create a roadmap for success.
The one thing I learned from Gen Art is that you should not just go with the flow and be happy with success that comes your way. You need to map out your goals for the business and make sure you follow a path to get where you need to get the business to be not only a critical success, but also a business success.
CW: Where do you go for inspiration and what are some of your favorite things to do during your downtime?
IG: I think its important to escape mentally - from the craziness of one's business. I love going to the movies as a form of escape. I love the big screen experience and for me its totally different than watching a movie at home. And I have no problem going alone, because it's all about that moment when you have time, the film I want to see, and you go - and I'm perfectly content to be surrounded by a big popcorn and diet soda. I probably see 40-50 films each year.
I also of course like to check out what's going on in the various entertainment realms, but not in an overkill manner. I will go to one of two fashion events during fashion week, probably one of the art fairs each season, some special advance film screenings and a movie at Tribeca Film Fest, and what's going on in the private party world, and nightlife. Although now, you will not find me out at 2am during the week.
CW: You’ve been featured in Crains New York Business "40 Under 40" and People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" issue, what were those experiences like?
IG: Quite surreal. Although my photo in Crain's would never have passed muster for the Sexiest Man Alive issue :-) In that one, they picked a rather frightening / intimidating shot. And actually, I was only half of a sexiest man alive, I had the good fortune to share the honor with my brother. Overall it was a nice combination to happen within a few months of one another. The Crains was great to be recognized by the business community and People was amazing because of the sheer reach of that issue - 20mm people. Individuals who never knew what I did (like my building superintendent) all of a sudden understood what Gen Art was all about. We were also fortunate that People focused on what we were doing with Gen Art, and the emerging talent we were showcasing, and didn't ask us silly questions about our beauty regimes or such.
CW: Your latest endeavor is heading up Syndicate-5, an entertainment and lifestyle marketing agency that aligns brands with consumers through their passion points, what have been some of your favorite client moments and project experiences while running the agency?
IG: It's been great to be back at the important nexus of corporate brands, emerging talent and consumers. I have been fortunate to work with everyone from big companies like Cadillac, Heineken and Hyatt, to start-up ventures such as IvyConnect - a great new membership organization targeting a similar audience as Gen Art - and Imposter - a fashion line that if 100% pro-animal and produces the best faux fur fashion products on the market.
Two of my longer term favorite projects are working with Andaz Hotels (boutique brand of Hyatt) and their cultural salon program where Syndicate-5 is responsible for creating partnerships between cultural organizations and Andaz, and for helping promote all that Andaz does in the cultural space (film, fashion, music, art, literature, design and culinary arts).
My favorite event program of late was Sound Waves @ The House presented by Cadillac which was a 7 week music and fashion program taking place at out in Montauk this July/August. It gave me the opportunity to work with a Gen Art alum - Michelle Smith of MILLY, and some great music from ?uestlove to Natalia Kills. It did however require running all day events each Saturday for 7 consecutive weeks...but who can complain when you are poolside, listening to great music and everyone is looking just a wee bit sexy.
CW: What’s something that you want to share with me that only my readers can find out here?
IG: I just booked my tickets and condo for the Sundance Film Festival coming up this January in Park City - and I am quite sure I will be doing something fabulous while there...but can't say what exactly just yet...
CW: Where can we go to connect with you?IG: One can find out information about us on our website (www.syndicate-5.com), our FB page (Syndicate.5.Agency), or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.