BYU alumnus makes impact at DownEast

Grant Leeds is a 1999 BYU graduate. He is the new head designer at DownEast. (Photo courtesy of DownEast Outfitters.)
Grant Leeds is a 1999 BYU graduate. He is the new head designer at DownEast. (Photo courtesy of DownEast Outfitters.)

The inspiration for designing the clothes sold at DownEast Basics comes from simplicity everywhere, from the sky to the cool green grass, according to BYU alumnus Grant Leeds.

Leeds graduated in fashion design in 1999. Since then he has successfully moved forward with his fashion career, recently bringing his expertise to DownEast.

“When we met with Grant it was really exciting for us,” said Jon Freedman, co-founder of DownEast. “He had so much experience in design it became immediately apparent that he could ultimately lead the design team.”

Leeds always knew he wanted to go into fashion but that it wasn’t and isn’t always an easy road. Leeds’ challenge was to always stay on top of the ever-changing styles.

“Things are always changing. Just make sure that you don’t second guess yourself too much,” Leeds said. “You could have gone for stripes when the rest of the world went for polka dots, and you could have struck out.”

Leeds’ unique type of insight was partially due to the experience he was able to obtain at BYU.

“I just felt like a well-rounded, four-year education for me was more important than a trade school,” Leeds said. “That alone has helped me in my career. I remember other interests I had as I explored other classes. It helps me not to be so one-dimensional.”

After gaining his ability to see beyond one-dimensional, Leeds said his favorite part of his career is seeing someone choose something he designed to be a part of their self-expression.

Before joining DownEast, Leeds had a few other stepping stones, particularly at JCPenny. After being there for six years, Leeds wanted to relocate to be closer to family, and the opening position at DownEast allowed him to do that.

Now that Leeds is here he offers his words of wisdom to those pursuing a career in fashion design.

“Do what you are excited about, and be passionate about it,” Leeds said. “You have to have a passion for it. You have to love it. That translates into the product.”

Charlie Freedman, co-founder of DownEast, gave his insights into being successful as well.

“It can’t be about making money,” Freedman said. “Making money is great, but it can’t all be about making money. You have to love the concept and the business.”

Bill Freedman, co-founder of DownEast, offers a different input.

“Innovate or die,” Bill Freedman, another DownEast co-founder, said. “I am always looking over my shoulder. I am always studying new trends. The minute I get complacent, we’re done.”

Pursing a career in fashion design requires passion and determination. With that combination, BYU graduates such as Leeds can take the lead in their fashion careers.

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