Q&A with Kirsten Ludwig:
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what brought you to NYC.
born in chicago, grew up in southern california and went to school on the east coast. i’m urban led, but love a good relaxing day at the beach. nyc was inevitable for me given the energy, creativity and passion is incomparable. plus i love that you just can’t be the craziest one here…no matter how hard you try.
Please explain what your job entails.
chief creative officer. i run the creative team at SET – my job is to have the creative vision for SET and to build and inspire the team. i work to make sure they have the tools, resources and inspiration they need to constantly push and create.
How do you describe your self as a creative/artist? Please tell me what the creative agency specializes in, and the kind of work you do.
i am a marketer. an editor. i understand brands. how to dig down deep and find the brand soul and then present that in a relevant, cool and meaningful way that consumers connect with. it could be an image campaign, a brand identity, an event, a window. it’s about the brand experience.
SET is an experiential creative agency creating visual environments and brand experiences that engage and inspire. everything we do is about creating an experience. it’s how we see. we look at brands through an experiential lens. every action, visual element and marketing message is an opportunity to create authentic and memorable experiences for the consumer.
Are you working on anything else creative outside of your work at SET?
creating and raising awesome kids. best thing i have ever done.
Tell me about your interest in fashion. Were there any early influencers that led you in this direction?
my mom will tell you i was always interested and had a strong sense of fashion. i designed and styled (complete with fauhawk) my cabage page kid, had identifiable accessories that (other kids would make fun of and then had them 6 months later) and always chose my own outfits (had a temper tantrum at 2 because my grandmother wanted me to wear something i didn’t want to).
i always knew that was the world i wanted to work in. i worked at the gap in high school (and lied on my application so they would hire me at 15) and became the store denim merchandiser (think i may still have the certificate). i interned in london for a super avante guarde fashion magazine – went to crazy parties, photoshoots and represented the magazine at london fashion week. and i have been fortunate to work for several visionaries in the industry.
murray perlstein – the visionary behind louis boston – took me under his wing and showed me everything hands on. visual merchandising and great window displays, we produced one of the first “magalogues” in the industry, produced events, buying and merchandising, he even designed a line. It was amazing. i am SO fortunate to have had that experience and mentor in my career and my life. he was and is an unbelievable influence on me.
from there i went on to work with ron herman – the visionary behind fred segal and ron herman. there was an amazing team of creative people there. all different backgrounds and abilities that ron gave great freedom, some direction and a lot of inspiration to.
after that terry shaeffer and kathy prost. a marketer and merchandiser that had created great iconic brands like esprit. then on to ralph lauren and people like doug bilmaheir – the genius behind the vintage buying to the tipees on his RRL ranch.
the inspiration i have experienced has truly been amazing. to this day mickey drexler will return my call or email. that alone is awesome to me. i just connect with these people. what they represent is the point of what we do. create your own path. believe in it. and then pave the way for others to do it even better than you did with your support.
How did you get to where you are today?
leaving off from above, i went on to be a creative director at american eagle outfitters, martin + osa, anthropologie, stella & dot and consulted on my own for several years and started a creative photography agency for emerging photographers called just add water.
How did you learn to do what you do?
think some of it is innate – there truly are some things you can’t teach. some of it is trial and error – you’ve truly just got to learn some things by doing. some is actual guidance / direction from someone, a mentor or boss – but don’t expect this to happen all the time, just be happy when it does.
What is one (or a few) of the favorite projects you’ve worked on?
i love the pop up that we did for dailycandy – It was really fun to take an online brand, translate it into the physical and have it come together at such a magical experience. i’m proud of the work we recently did with nike for the superbowl – a great blend of strong retail visual presentation and integrated brand experiences that consumers engaged in. i love the partnership we have developed with oakley and that we are constantly collaborating on how to make the brand experience even better and more innovative.
What are you currently working on?
we are working with refinery29 and they are a really awesome team that it makes it SO fun to create an experience with them. we are working with uniqlo to help them execute their summer store experience – it’s a great brand that has been at the top of my list and i love working with a brand like that is growing from managing a handful of stores to the high double digits. we are working on expanding the creative team in all of our offices and find the right talent to continue to raise the bar.
Describe your style. Is your personal style different from your professional style?
my style is about great iconic elements like a great blazer, the perfect white shirt and great fitting jeans mixed with a pop of color (like a REALLY bright fluorescent one) in the shoe. i’m a sucker for a french striped sailor top, amazing unique shoes, a great vintage scarf and the perfect selvedge jeans. fashion to me is about expressing your creativity and your personality.
What do you love about the work you do?
i love the people and the constant inspiration. i know it’s cheesy, but i really am so inspired by the team and work that we create. every single person is so committed to making things awesome and it is a constant source of pride and inspiration to me. i love going to work every day because i get to see and interact with an amazing team of people and be a part of creating inspiring and game changing work.
What is something you’ve always wanted to do?
i would love to create a great visual campaign for j.crew, a cool brand experience for google and redefine the seasonal launch for an entertainment brand like hbo.
Any advice for someone interested in following in your chosen path?
reach out to your heroes and ask.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
you can do anything you think you can.