Cultured Magazine

Spring 2014

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Before there were collaborations like Pharrell and Takashi Murakami, Cary Leitzes had already mastered the creative connection. BY JANELLE ZARA PORTRAIT BY DANA LIXENBERG 60 CULTURED Cary Leitzes' SoHo office is a transparent operation, in the literal sense. Friends in the neighbor- hood—from Visionaire's Cecilia Dean to Team Gallery's José Freire—frequently stop beneath her second- floor, floor-to-ceiling windows to wave hello and best friend and gallerist Suzanne Geiss is downstairs. "At Harper's Bazaar," where Leitzes once served as photo director, she says, "I had my own office, and it was quite lonely. Here, we constantly have brands coming up for meetings or different artists because the gallery is downstairs. It feels like a real creative hub with people coming in and out." Likewise, there are no metaphorical walls in her brand consulting business, either. For the past nine years, Leitzes & Co has thrived on the interdisciplinary free-flow of ideas, building campaigns by connecting brands to artists. After a career in fashion magazines from W to Harper's Bazaar, she started by matching contemporary artists with fashion brands, a process that requires some skilled intuiting. "So much of it is about listening, understanding the wants and needs of both sides," says Leitzes, who in 2005 created her first campaign with LeSportsac and Brazilian artist collective assume vivid astro focus. AVAF provided the pop psychedelic motifs for the French sports accessories, and founder Eli Sudbrack told Leitzes that if he could design a fanny pack, he was in. Since then, the landscape of branding has evolved with the advent of social media. In this modern age of Instagram, according to Leitzes, she's discovered that consumers require more visual stimulation and an intimate sense of connectivity. "The product itself is not enough," she says, for artists and brands alike. "Artists need to be able to talk about their work, and brands need to offer a strong, interactive experience." In more recent years, she's placed an eccentric, AVAF-designed Lady Gaga pop-up holiday shop in Barneys; had French illustrator/fashion blogger Garance Doré design a Coca-Cola bottle; and tapped artists to reinterpret Donna Karan's iconic New York City logo for 10 different global cities (with the help of strategically made YouTube videos, her hashtag ultimately trended No. 1 on Twitter). Leitzes has expanded her clientele beyond fashion brands and the strictness of the term "artist"—she now prefers "creative," citing the multi-disciplinary success of others in the playing field, from Pharrell Williams' chairs for Galerie Perrotin to Doug Aitken's cross-country project with Levi's. Speaking to the soft-spoken Leitzes is almost a therapeutic experience, a quality that no doubt helps her connect to her wide breadth of clients. "I love people," she says, "and I'm interested. Most people don't make time to hear other people's stories." Of course, we have to wonder why she doesn't offer her matchmaking skills to her friends. "Honestly, I just don't know enough good single men." ART OF THE CROSSOVER

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