In honor of fashion week, Refined Culture would like to shine some light on those running the show.
Legendary, Harlem-born Audrey Smaltz who has been named three times to the International Best Dressed List, is the CEO of the Ground Crew, the fashion industry’s first backstage management company. Her clients include Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Bill Blass, Oscar De La Renta, Gucci, J. Crew, Adrienne Vittadini, Carolyn Roehm, Vera Wang, BET Network, Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret and many others.
Her company is coordinating a fashion show’s backstage operations. She makes sure that the models are dressed, their hair is done and their makeup flawless. She came up with the idea for the Ground Crew while working as a fashion editor for Ebony Magazine. She noticed that designers’ family members were dressing models and handling backstage matters. But in her heart, she knew that these relatives would prefer being out watching the fashion shows.
It took her a long time to sell the idea of backstage coordination to designers. She kept, however, sending out letters and making phone calls. Her break came when Bergdoft Goodman, the prestigious New York City department store hired her. As luck would have it, a reporter from the Wall Street Journal came to write about the Ground Crew. Smaltz donned the writer in a signature “Ground Crew” T-shirt and put her to work. The rest is history. The subsequent story put her on the map and everyone wanted to know about the Ground Crew.
Today, the company that mostly hires African-Americans is run out of Smaltz’s penthouse apartment off Fifth Avenue in New York. Sometimes she employs three to four teams as well as seamstresses, tailor and pressers to handle the demands of her clients.
Does patience and persistence pay off when starting a business? Yes. Smaltz can now look back and see that her business idea handsomely paid off. “I’m doing exactly what I please and what I love doing,” she says.