Meet the anti-diva behind Target designs – Julie Guggemos

Julie Guggemos - Target
Julie Guggemos, senior vice president of product design and development for Target, talks with a fashion team during a meeting at the company’s headquarters in Minneapolis. Photos by Tribune News Service

In mid January the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a great feature story on Julie Guggemos, SVP of product design and development for the Minneapolis-based Target. Julie has been featured many times in My Private Brand and has been responsible for bringing stylish and fashionable differentiation to private brands at Target.

Meet the anti-diva behind Target designs

January 18, 2015

In charge of keeping apparel and home goods affordably stylish, Julie Guggemos puts the “Tar-zhay” in Target without leaving behind her down-home roots.

Tall, blond and casually elegant, Julie Guggemos lopes briskly through the four floors of design departments at Target headquarters like a palomino in premium jeans and high heels.

“Look at that soft bedding for under $20,” she said, stopping at a mocked-up dorm room where two staffers are amassing back-to-college furnishings for next fall. “I love how there’s cork incorporated into that lampshade.”

Down the hall, the denim team, surrounded by Mason jars full of rivets, snaps and buttons, has hung up a store-brand line of fall youth fashions for her perusal.

“How are you deciding where to distress the denim? Light wash is back. That’s so ’90s,” she said, high-fiving designer Louis Tappan. Pointing to a tiny faux-leather jacket, she said, “What little girl wouldn’t want that in her closet?”

As senior vice president of product design and development for the big-box retailer known as the queen of affordable chic, you might suppose she’d be as formal, and formidable, as Anna Wintour. But Guggemos, while clearly in charge, gives off an easygoing vibe, listening more than she talks.

On weekdays, the Roseville-raised executive projects a blend of glam and all-American-girl style while supervising 600 employees. Weekends, she’s up at the cabin near Spooner, Wis., where her family is looking forward to going snowmobiling.

What makes her unusual is what isn’t on her résumé — any formal training in design. Asking her colleagues for the secret to her uncanny knack for predicting trends that will fly off the shelves a year later will give you a variation on one theme: The woman just has an eye.

From the high-style Threshold home collection she helped develop in 2012 to designer partnerships with Toms shoes, Faribault Woolen Mills and Lilly Pulitzer frocks, Guggemos orchestrates how Target’s products are created and packaged. As many as 25,000 a year must pass her inspection. She travels the world and credits her “photographic memory” for retaining the flood of visuals that influence her choices.

Read the entire story.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.