Jeff Karly Drouillard is a Haitian-American creative director, professor, designer, and an all-around multifaceted individual from Flatbush Brooklyn, New York.
“I am a son, a brother, a friend, [an] educator,” said Drouillard, “just a guy with a perspective.”
There’s more to the fashion industry than jobs in designing or styling. Like any other sector, fashion is a business so there’s a space and a job for everyone. That includes a person who loves math, a person who solely loves to shop or a business-minded individual.
The word “everyone” doesn’t just refer to those who have different interests or job titles, but also those of a different race or gender. We’ve decided to highlight how diverse the fashion industry is, could be, and should be with a series of stories on Black professionals with not-so-average fashion careers.
How did you get to work in fashion?
Drouillard has always been a stylish guy with a love for fashion, but he saw himself as an external person looking into the bubble [the bubble being the fashion industry].
Although Drouillard has always been into fashion, his fashion journey doesn’t begin until he graduates from The College of Staten Island in 2012 with a degree in marketing and international business, and a minor in finance.
Unfortunately, after graduating Drouillard was in a car accident leaving him out of work for some time. As a result of not being able to work or find work, he decided to launch his fashion brand called Unique Expozzure in 2015.
“I didn’t see many designers like me in the space, I also didn’t see some of the products I was looking for, or a strong sense of storytelling within clothing so I started this brand,” said Drouillard. “I didn’t have the knowledge, the finance, the background, connections to do it – but I did it anyway.”
He added that although starting the brand was a great experience, things weren’t matching what he envisioned. So Drouillard asked himself, “in order for me to take this to the next level…what would be the next step?”
“My next step was going to grad school, so I went to Parson’s School of Design,” he added. In 2018 he graduated with a masters in strategic design and management, and in 2020 he went for his second masters degree in fashion management.
What’s your current fashion job?
Unique Expozzure requiring so much of him equipped Drouillard with what was needed for the next step of his journey. So in 2020 Drouillard became a creative director for brands outside of his own, such as Baron & Baron and Alice & Olivia.
“I did everything…my campaigns…the shoots…the modeling…the styling…so because I had experience doing that, I was able to transfer that to other brands that I work with,” he explained.
As a creative director for other brands, Drouillard works on campaigns conceptually, from marketing campaigns and videos to digital activations, or working with actual clothing.
“With creative directing I get to put my perspective on things that are typically whitewashed,” he said. “Typically, we see the standard sense of beauty and I’m able to sprinkle what I consider holistically beautiful into spaces that sometimes are narrow.”
In 2021 he began teaching at his alma mater Parsons due to the suggestion of a colleague. There he teaches design studios in BFA; professional practice in MFA; entrepreneurship in MPS; digital studio branding in MPS; and new roles for fashion designers, continuing professional education.
He is also a professor at Glasgow Caledonian New York College (GCNYC), where he teaches an online course, he built, called fashion as culture/culture as fashion.
As an educator, Drouillard said a big ethos of his is educating his students on the business of fashion, but also on the business of life.
“I’m teaching you the things we need to teach in class but I’m also spitting real knowledge and things you need to know that are practical once you leave here, and to me that’s most important and fun,” he said. “But [he also loves] seeing the brilliance of people; it’s remarkable to see how brilliant these kids are, these young adults are, and the future of the industry.”
What does an average work day look like?
Drouillard’s average day doesn’t separate based on the two titles he holds. His days start with a workout and a picker-upper like matcha or a chai latte. He then checks his emails to see what his clients need as well as what his students need.
“Teaching is once a week, but students are always asking questions, you’re always thinking of things to give them so that’s almost every day” Drouillard explained. “Creative directing though – see what my clients are saying, how to pivot, what new ways they’re looking at going forward with the campaign.”
So, he said, he can be focused on modeling coordination one day, and another day the focus is on print layouts or scouting locations.
“Everyday is different which is pretty cool, but it’s an ecosystem to make sure the whole shit is working.”
A word of career advice
To work in the industry, Drouillard suggest that you know your strengths, and for those who don’t know – experiment.
“Continue experimenting, continue iterating on what it is you love,” he added. “There’s so many teams within to run an organization, to make an industry run…don’t be narrow in what you think you could do.”
In addition, Drouillard said for those wanting to go into entrepreneurship, find a gap in the market, “the space that no one is particularly looking at or talking about. I think that’s where your superpowers come in. If you try to do what everyone is doing, you’re just going to get lost in the ocean. So find something that is unique to you.”
His last piece of advice is to be flexible with the opportunities coming your way.
“Be open to receiving some of the blessings that you didn’t know [were] possible,” he continued. “And dive into it as best as you can….be open to what the universe is bringing you.”