Banana Republic’s Robin Lenge turns materials into merchandise

November 1, 2011 //

Some might consider Robin Lenge’s life a fashion fairytale. Others might call it a testament to the power of networking and pursuing your passion.

Originally from rural Schnecksville, Pa., Lenge, BBA ’91, came to Temple for its urban environment. Today she has a fast paced, New York City fashion-industry career that has taken her to trend shopping in Europe, leather shows in Bologna, fabric shows in Paris, and mills and factories in Asia. She has worked for Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Kate Spade, Coach, Gap and, currently, Banana Republic.

“I wanted to mix the creative with the business,” said Lenge, who monitors commodity markets as frequently as she leads the creation of new fashion accessories.

Early in Lenge’s career, a family friend helped her secure an internship and her first job with industry giants Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, respectively. She remembers running home after one of her first meetings at Tommy Hilfiger to call her parents and tell them that Hilfiger had asked her opinion.

Later, at a fashion awards ceremony with Hilfiger, Lenge saw an outstanding video presentation by then up-and-coming designer Kate Spade. Inspired by the video, Lenge wrote to Spade, expressing how much she wanted to join her company.

“It was such a cool place, and I wanted to be a part of it so much that I was willing to do anything to get there,” she said.

It worked, and when a job opened up at Kate Spade, Lenge was called.

Along the way Lenge made strong friendships in the industry. She recounts the excitement of moving to New York fresh out of college and building a friend and community base around her work. Those friendships helped Lenge move from Kate Spade to Gap and Coach.

Today Lenge is director of production non-apparel for Banana Republic. She helps her team of six coordinate with design and merchandising to translate concepts and raw materials into 500 styles a season and tangible products, such as handbags, jewelry, belts and other accessories.

Lenge provides the designers with the tools to execute their vision, works with overseas offices and factory partners, and manages the designers’ ideas through production and quality control.

One of the most rewarding aspects of her job is seeing the concepts she started with walking down the street in the hands of consumers.

“I see people carrying a handbag I made, and I love that.”