Abbe Gale Eckstein
is an award-winning

What do you do as a design manager?

I combine creative leadership, project management, and hands-on design and production to:

  • manage integrated design projects through their entire life cycles
  • lead all areas of the creative process—from needs analysis to strategy to design to workflow to deployment
  • establish policies and strategies to drive the design direction, ensure quality, and improve efficiency
  • implement brand strategy and guidelines consistently across platforms to ensure user experience continuity
  • translate requirements to action items for designers and developers
  • collaborate with cross-disciplinary team members, stakeholders, clients, and vendors to ensure that designs achieve desired functionality and performance
  • prevent uncontrolled ‘scope creep’

What do you do as an art director?

My job is to communicate, not just decorate. I formulate user-centric design solutions that help sell products by:

  • transforming business objectives into high quality, creative design concepts
  • overseeing almost all aspects of the design and production process
  • managing multiple projects, allocating resources, and prioritizing
  • collaborating with cross-disciplinary team members, stakeholders, clients, and vendors to ensure designs achieve desired functionality and performance
  • working under tight deadlines and making sure those deadlines are met

What is a milliner and what does it have to do with design?

While working during the day as an art director, I spent my evenings studying millinery design with legendary hat maker, Ann Albrizio at Fashion Instititute of Technology.

By studying patternmaking, I gained and enhanced skills that I later employed as a design manager, including facility with:

  • geometric shapes and concepts
  • spatial skills with two and three dimensions
  • interpreting and making adjustments
  • checking accuracy and maintaining design integrity

Combining the millinery skills I learned with my advertising and design expertise, I founded Abbe Gale Hats, which specialized in making children’s hats.

What was involved in running a hat-making business?

In addition to design, for which I received the Earnie Award for Best Children’s Accessory Designer from Earnshaw’s Magazine and the Childrenswear Manufacturers Association, I was also responsible for:

  • Patternmaking
  • Factory operations
  • Inventory management
  • Staff supervision
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Web site development and maintenance
  • Database management
  • Licensing

I grew distribution from scratch to over 500 wholesale and 5,000 retail clients.

The Earnie Award

Where were the hats sold?

Initially, Abbe Gale Hats were sold exclusively in better boutiques, department stores, and specialty catalogs in the United States and Canada.

As their popularity grew, the hats were sold directly to consumers via catalog and internet.

What happened to the business, and is there a way to get the hats now?

With the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), it became harder to profitably manufacture products in the United States.

After ten years, I closed the business and liquidated the hat factory. Many of the hat patterns were donated to the Fashion Institute of Technology millinery program. Others were licensed to The McCall Pattern Company, and can still be found on various sewing web sites to this day.

Are you still making hats?

Of course.