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A Denim Designer's Denim Designer

by Maurice Malone |

Kontoor Brands, Inc. Lee jeans Black History Month post for denim designer Sedgwick Cole Jr.

Meet one of my little brothers from my design family tree, Sedgwick Cole Jr. He is the Global Design Director of Lee Men's.

I when met Sedgwick he was freelancing, assisting one of the design teams at Parigi Group Ltd., a children's apparel company. I was hired as the Design Director overseeing the Urban Boys brands and DKNY Denim. The job re-introduced me to the employee side of the corporate rivalry culture that I did not experience as a company owner.

A few of the Head Designers were unjustified divas that fought hard against learning new things and competitively commanded their teams. Sedgwick was different. He wasn't too proud to ask questions and be taught. He absorbed all my kernels of knowledge like a sponge.

When one of the Heads moved on, it was my job to evaluate resumes, interview and fill design positions. After a few weeks at it, I made a recommendation to the company owners that they give Sed the position. Surprised, they argued he was just a freelancer and didn't have the experience. I said true, but he's creative, hard-working, understood the job and wants to excel. In my opinion, he was as good, or better than a few of the other Heads. They said OK and gave him a shot. Proving me right, he quickly bloomed to be one of the company's favorite design Heads.

After the economy crashed during the Bush years, the company didn't survive. I stayed in touch with Sedgwick. I started a freelance design group called Denimwork, including him in many of our projects. One of our fondest memories was the day we ponied-up loose and pocket change, then walked to the supermarket and bought the largest, cheapest beer we could find to drink while we worked on a project.

With me, he learned to be well rounded and highly productive. Easily able to perform all the tasks usually signed to a team of designers and merchandisers.

 

Denim designers Maurice Malone and Sedgwick Cole Jr. working inside the Vigoss jeans office, July 1, 2010.His first Design Director opportunity came while I headed up several brands at Vigoss jeans. I recommended him to the brand's new boys' licensee. They overworked him for nearly 2-years, driving him to resign, regardless of offers of increased pay.


Design Director Maurice Malone and Designer Sedgwick Cole Jr. working at Vigoss denim factory in China, November 2010.

After Vigoss, I was at the beginning of launching Williamsburg Garment Company when I got a call from a recruiter. DKNY was under new ownership and I was offered to do it freelance, with the possibility of it turning full-time. I said I would love to do it, but had to turn it down because it didn't pay enough to cover my expenses. I suggested Sedgwick, and they loved him. He took an opportunity that paid hundreds per week and grew it into a 6-figure per-year salary. Overworked and tired years later, he left offers of higher pay on the table in exchange for time-off and rest.

About a year into his break, I got a call from an HR about Sedgwick. Shortly after the call ended, I called Sedgwick telling him, I was pretty sure they'd be calling him for the job. As you can see, once again they love him.

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