With the high priority we place on sustainability, performance and great fit, our design team is paramount in us having success with both our company values and designing products our customers love.
So, let’s meet the faces behind the fabrics—Jeff Wright and Karina Fernandes.
Meet Jeff Wright, Senior Design Manager
When Jeff came to Storm Creek in 2018 he brought along an extensive background in men’s apparel design going back to the mid-1980s. It started in New York, upon completing his 2-year Menswear Design degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology. He would work in New York for the next ten years starting with a company that sold pants to JC Penny. From there he worked for companies designing young men’s sportswear.
Being from Minnesota originally, Jeff came home for the 4th of July one year and met his future wife at a party. Within a few months, he made the move from New York and went to work for Munsingwear.
“You know, the penguin logo?” said Jeff. “Munsingwear was started in the late 1800s in Minnesota. In the early 1900s, it was the largest employer in the state. It started with knitting technology that created itch-less union suits.”
Jeff joined the company in the 1990s as an assistant designer and eventually became their Design Director. A number of changes in the company over the next couple of decades, including a name change to PremiumWear, resulted in its sale to Rivers End, an apparel distributor. During most of this time, Jeff specialized in apparel for the golf industry.
It was while he was at Rivers End that Jeff met Doug Jackson, who was supplying them with Storm Creek apparel for nationwide distribution. After spending a few years in North Carolina at another golf brand, Jeff came back to Minnesota to start work for Storm Creek as our Senior Designer.
“The beauty of my background being young and living in New York is that the pace at which I could learn and experience things was simply amazing,” said Jeff. “And my work with some smaller companies gave me the advantage of learning all the disciplines with regard to product development. I was never pigeonholed into one aspect like I might have been at a larger company. I had to learn everything. It also gave me the opportunity to travel all over the world to various manufacturing facilities.
“The odd thing was, my original inspiration to go into apparel was I wanted to be in the ski wear industry. I was an avid skier as a young person. But of course, you go to New York City and you go where the opportunity arises. It’s rewarding to find myself now in the outdoor apparel industry.”
Jeff’s Biggest Challenges at Storm Creek
Time management is a challenge for Jeff so he can both meet his deadlines and know he’s created the best collection he can in every season for our various markets.
A major part of our revenue is in the corporate promotional products industry. But we also sell our products to retail customers and directly to the consumer. So Jeff continually develops products for all these markets.
He explains, “There are two different parts of our industry. One is the retail and consumer side of the business which always wants change, always wants new. The other is the corporate promotional side that always wants deep inventory and basic colors they can buy year-in and year-out. So we have to balance those two demands.”
Another interesting challenge for Jeff is the amount of detail needed in his communication with our development partners in Asia. “A detailed sketch goes a long way to ensure minimal changes and errors,” he said. “This leads to a more efficient development process.”
What Jeff Enjoys Most About Working Here
Jeff appreciates a couple of different aspects of working here at Storm Creek. The first is the personal satisfaction of designing and producing a product that somebody will buy, wear and enjoy. The process of seeing something go from paper to being shipped out of our warehouse to a customer is very rewarding.
The other aspect he values highly is the freedom he experiences in our work environment. “It’s nice working for an organization that believes in you and allows you the freedom to make decisions on your own—within reason, of course,” he said.
When he’s not at work, Jeff enjoys playing golf, rooting for the Minnesota Gopher hockey team and cooking.
Meet Karina Fernandes, Senior Designer
Karina is much newer to Storm Creek, having just joined us in June 2023 as a senior designer, working with Jeff. She received her Fashion and Business Management degrees from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. From there she went to Istituto Marangoni in Milan, Italy where she successfully worked towards her master’s degree in Womenswear Design, partnering with brands like Au Jour le Jour and Chicca Lualdi. She was offered an internship at Chicca Lualdi after her graduation in 2016.
Karina’s work experience has since been very diverse. She’s worked in the lingerie industry with New York-based Intimateco, as well as the Activewear industry with two Miami-based companies, Tail Activewear and Lucky in Love, where she was the senior designer for the tennis and golf lines.
She then made her way up to Minneapolis and spent a year with Coolibar where she was the senior designer, technical designer and product development manager for their Active, Travel and Fishing/boating categories.
“Because my background is so diverse, I can have some fun with my designs,” said Karina. “I have been working in the Active industry for the past seven years now, and I love using some of my Sportswear influence to elevate the designs.”
“I’m really enjoying Storm Creek,” she continued. “The people are really nice, and the values of the company are amazing. It’s great to work for a company that not only cares about the environment but gives back to the community as well. I’m loving it.”
Though very new with us, Karina has already jumped right in. “I’m already designing the women’s Fall ’24 line that I will present next week,” she said.
Karina’s Biggest Challenges at Storm Creek
So far (in her three weeks with us), Karina sees her biggest professional challenge as the limitations within our markets.
“As a designer, it’s always challenging when you have too many limitations to work with,” she said. “We have to make high-quality garments that stand out from our competition. And even though we have to stay within the industry’s guidelines, we try to use innovative fabrics, cool silhouettes and trendy colors. In the corporate market, there are different types of businesses with different needs. We have to build an assortment that satisfies all our customers.”
What Karina Enjoys Most About Working Here
Karina had never worked in a sustainable fashion company before coming to Storm Creek. She said, “As a designer, it feels amazing. In the fashion world, it’s sad but true—the pollution and waste that happens. So it’s really exciting for me to be designing high-quality products that are sustainable.
As Jeff said, Karina also appreciates the freedom our management team gives her. “Even though we’re trying to meet those guidelines in the market, we still make fashion. We still make beautiful apparel.”
As a new team member, Karina clearly sees how our Seeking Better values are played out every day. “It comes back to the design of how can we make it better? How can we make it more sustainable? How can we make it more fun for our customers? How can we have a bigger variety of products?
“It’s really exciting to work for a company that’s never comfortable. We’re always looking for ways to improve our processes, our sustainability impact and our design quality.”