Dr. Todd Snyder Offers LIM Students Life Lessons to Learn

By: Jean E. Palmieri | Link to article

In receiving an honorary doctorate, the designer told students to be creative, curious, persistent and nice.

What do Taylor Swift and Todd Snyder have in common? They can both now officially be called “Doctor.”

Last week Swift received an honorary doctorate degree from New York University and on Monday, Snyder was awarded a similar title, receiving an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree from LIM College. Snyder was also presented with the school’s distinguished achievement award and gave the keynote address at LIM’s 83rd annual commencement in Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield.

LIM College president Elizabeth S. Marcuse said Snyder was selected for the honor because he is “an entrepreneurial innovator who has redefined American menswear and injected new excitement into the retail experience.” She also singled out Snyder’s “robust internship program” and pointed out that a LIM graduate was recently hired as an assistant merchant at Snyder’s company after completing a merchandising internship.

In his address, Snyder mapped out what he believes is the road to success in fashion and encouraged the students to take advantage of the opportunity they have as graduates of a college in the heart of New York City.

“I grew up in Iowa, I graduated from Iowa State in 1992,” he said. “I moved to New York to try to get into this industry. I worked at great places like Ralph Lauren, and J. Crew, for free, just to get my foot in the door. You guys have a huge advantage today, standing here in New York, graduating from this amazing college because of the people and the faculty that you know.”

He went on to offer advice on the skills they will need to get ahead. “It always comes down to four simple steps,” he said. “One is be creative, no matter what it is you’re doing. Pushing creativity always pushes the boundaries. You don’t have to do things the exact same way it was done in previous times.”

The second skill is to be curious. “Don’t just take things on status quo,” he said. “Always be asking questions, learning as much as you can along the way. I remember when I used to go on trips to Asia, and I couldn’t wait to meet these factory owners and technicians and understand how something is made. That’s how I really mastered what I was doing.”

Third is to be persistent and never give up, Snyder continued. “I’ve been knocked down. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told ‘no.’ It’s really hard to take that criticism, but at the same time, it’s important for you to keep going. [And at the same time], it’s important for you to really understand what that person on the other side is saying and to have the respect for that person.”

The last life lesson the students need to learn — and perhaps the most important, he said — is to simply be nice. “I know it sounds silly, but being nice is probably the most important thing. Nobody in a job ever wants to promote jerks. You have to have respect not only for your boss, but the people around you.”

It was these four things that really helped Snyder succeed in his career and have the wherewithal to launch his own collection. He singled out Ralph Lauren and Millard “Mickey” Drexler, the former chief of The Gap and J. Crew, as integral to his education in the industry and recalls his father telling him: “If you want to be the best, work for the best.

“I would not be able to launch my own company like I did 10 years ago, if I hadn’t had those connections.”

If the students follow his advice, Snyder said, they will also find themselves on the path to success. “If you get three of those things right, you’ll probably be working for some cool brand and I’d love to do a collaboration with you at some point. But if you get all four right, more than likely we will be working for you guys at some point.”

In her address to the graduates, Marcuse likened the ceremony to another major Central Park event, the finish of the annual New York City Marathon, saying, “Earning your degree was your own personal marathon. I hope you will draw upon the confidence you’ve developed, the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired, and the life lessons you’ve learned to aim for that promotion, to build that thriving business, to follow through on that desire to make our world more equitable and sustainable, or to reach whatever goal is guiding you. Because you have proven that you do have it in you to cross the finish line, however far away it may seem at the start.”

During the graduation, LIM presented its Maxwell F. Marcuse Award, its highest alumni honor, to Lisa R. Bannister, vice president of home digital for Ralph Lauren and a class of 1994 graduate. In addition, Lauren Gallo, class of 2007, who is senior director of brand marketing and creative at Nike, received the Shining Star Alumni Award while Elisabeth Gil, Class of 2015, senior manager of global brand supply chain for The Estée Lauder Cos., received the Rising Star Alumni Award.