With a contemporary footwear line that is one of the highest grossing brands in Saks 5th Avenue, Filipina-American designer Ivy Kirzhner is ruling the footwear industry--both in the U.S. and abroad. But when asked about her global success, Kirzhner gives a lot of credit to her immigrant upbringing and her beloved Queens, the New York borough from which she hails.
Kirzhner was born in Cabanatuan City, Philippines, though most of her early childhood was spent in Manila, the country's capital. In 1989, she moved to the United States, where her family settled in Woodside, Queens, an area with a large Filipino-American community.
"I think of Queens as the underdog compared to Manhattan or Brooklyn," Kirzhner said in an interview with NBC News. "But I strongly believe that Queens is the most culturally rich borough in the city with the most ethnic groups. It is still down-to-earth and humble. It doesn't have a pretentious air about it. I always felt it is where the real New Yorkers are."
Raised in a creative family, Kirzhner was always encouraged to follow her passions. Her father was an architect and engineer, her uncle a couturier, and her two older sisters are fashion designers. The only rule her father had was that she put all of her focus into whatever path she chose to follow.Aware of the sacrifices her family made to create a new life in the United States, Kirzhner said she knew she had a responsibility to make something of herself. "I knew that I had to do my family's sacrifice justice. I saw what it took for me to move here. I promised myself I would never take it for granted," Kirzhner said.
"Being brought up by Filipino parents in Queens gave me a grounding element that I still carry to this day," Kirzhner said. "You focus on what matters: hard work."