It’s February 11, three days before J. Crew’s fall ’16 show, and Somsack Sikhounmuong, the label’s newly minted womenswear designer, has a mini entourage following him around the New York HQ—namely, myself and photographer Landon Speers. “Somie, you’re famous,” teases head stylist Gayle Spannaus between camera flashes. The Ontario-raised designer has granted us VIP access to his day, letting us document his every ponderous pause and aha moment as he meets with his creative team, consults on store merchandising and fits models in his delightfully vibrant (punchy prints! pastel pumps! fluffy faux fur!) debut collection—all against a racing clock.
9:00 a.m. Catching the 7 Train
Polar vortex temps make Somsack Sikhounmuong’s two-minute wait for the train in Queens feel like an eternity. Next stop: J. Crew HQ in Midtown Manhattan.
10:00 a.m. Fittings
Alongside his creative team, Sikhounmuong perfects the final details. “It’s just clothing until it gets on a body and then it’s like, wow! Finally seeing it walking and moving is very exciting.”
12:30 p.m. No time for lunch!
Menswear designer Frank Muytjens shares pics from the men’s fitting next door. “Our presentation mixes men’s and women’s,” says Sikhounmuong. “We work closely with one another to make sure the looks sit nicely together.”
2:00 p.m. Shop talk
Attending a walk-through of the proposed store merchandising for the next month: “I’m looking at it from a visual point of view—making sure the main themes are reflected, everything looks cohesive and the store feels new and dynamic.”
3:30 p.m. It’s shoe time
Next up: a quick meeting with the footwear design team to review colours and materials for spring ’17. “I’m excited about the pastel patent—we haven’t done it in a while and if feels really cool and new.”
4:30 p.m. The final hours
The designer enjoys a moment alone in his cozy, eclectic office. It’s been a long day and FLARE’s shoot has wrapped, but for Sikhounmuong, it’s off to more (seemingly endless) fittings. “It’s my first season, so there’s definitely a heightened level of anxiety,” he admits. “But it’s the good kind of stress. It pushes you.”