In the fall issue of DT, I asked 12 creatives, who all worked at Ralph Lauren at some point in their careers, what were some of the lifelong lessons they learned on the job. Layering, attention to detail, resourcefulness, and understanding the meaning of quality were points reiterated by many alums including interior Designer Billy Ceglia of Billy Ceglia Designs. Billy likens time spent at RL as “the greatest finishing school for anyone in the creative field.”
In the six years that Billy was there, 1993-1996, he ascended from cashier, to sales person, to Creative Services Manager for Boston, Short Hills, Philadelphia, Manhasset (Polo, Kids, Polo Sport), and Polo Sport Roosevelt Field. He learned a lot and had much to say, but I, alas ran out of space on page. Alas, here on the blog, with space aplenty, I am most happy to share the entirety of what Billy shared with me.
Here are 7 takeaways that Billy got from his time at Ralph..
Something from nothing: the cheapest items made for the best visuals – 8000 national geographic magazines, shelves of flower pots, bales of hay, sand, etc.
Making it work: contrary to popular belief, we didn’t really have much say in what props or product showed up, or if it even worked in size, scale or style for the intended use.
I can make anything out of a bolt of white canvas, two sharpies, a staple gun and a bottle of white-out: Cabana on the French Riviera? Got it, African safari tent? No problem! English country retreat? Yup. I may need a tartan pillow or two, but I’ll make it happen!
Romance sells: people don’t care about the actual product. They want the story and perceived lifestyle that goes with it.
The art of layering: with clothes, decorative objects, etc. it’s about knowing when to stop and how to make it look natural. The key is to add one “off” item (a contemporary photograph in an antique space, the odd rustic Asian artifact in an English country room, a Concho belt over a ballgown or with a tuxedo, etc.)
Building and maintaining great client relationships and a client “book” that you can squeeze in lean times: No investment will help your business grow better than that, I still have my first client 19 years later- and I pride myself that “my clients never go away”
Presentation matters: From how a sample is mailed to a client, to how you show up for meetings with trades and clients everything needs to be consistent, on brand and appropriate for your audience.
After reading Billy’s “Lessons” email, and laughing out loud from his consistently witty and snarky IG posts, I was eager to meet him in person. Our first encounter was at the Alden Parkes showroom. I went to shoot a behind-the-scenes video of the Showhouse in a Showroom event, and Billy was one of 8 designers participating in it. It was Wednesday afternoon, (the day preceding Hurricane Michael) and with 4 spaces to decorate and tzsuj, he had much work to do and yet I could steal him (and the other very busy designers) for a few moments.
WIthin the Alden Parkes showroom, he conceived the room below as a NYC apartment for young marrieds. To the left, out of frame, is a beautiful sleeping area.
Another area entrusted to Billy was the central hall or hub of the showroom. “I wanted to create a museum-like setting for Alden Parkes’ ‘Greatest Hits,” said Billy who arranged the various furnishings on multi-level plinths and set it all against a gorgeous custom mural from Paul Montgomery’s Mural Sources.
The next time I will get my fill of Billy, his wit and style, is in West Palm Beach at the Kips Bay Palm Beach Showhouse. This is the second year that Kips Bay has headed South and the roster of designers is amazing. Can’t wait. (KBPB opens on January 26, 2019 and runs through February 20th.)