New York designer seeks to reconnect with his Austin home

Katie Keenan

Illustrator and branding designer Greg Foley has worked with Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and Warner Bros. His next venture: student mentor. 

When Foley isn’t working with designer brands, he writes and illustrates children’s books and works as the creative designer for various fashion magazines. Now, he’s seeking to take his multi-faceted artistic perspective to students, starting in his native Austin at UT. 

As part of a lecture series through the College of Fine Arts, Foley critiqued students’ artwork and shared his learning experiences with aspiring authors, illustrators and creative designers. The series, which seeks to actively connect students with artists working in their respective industries, features professionals from a wide range of artistic fields with the aim of fostering relationships between those professionals and UT students. 

The lectures are open to all students, and, occasionally, the series also offers workshops with experts from a certain field. 

Carma Gorman, director of the design division within the College of Fine Arts, said it sometimes takes an outside voice for students to take their professors’ advice to heart.

“[The series is] just to give students some feedback from someone that’s not us,” Gorman said. “In the same way that it’s hard for teenagers to hear what their mom and dad say, it becomes more meaningful to hear the same thing from someone else.”

Foley, who grew up in Austin but now lives in New York, began his artistic career with the nudge of a high school teacher who encouraged him to participate in art competitions. He said young people can find it difficult to know what to do with their lives, but a point comes when they find their passion and understand how to practically apply it.

“I had no idea what I might want to do,” Foley said.
“Realizing that I could go to art school was a huge relief, and I think that it was probably from the moment that I arrived at the design school, I realized that’s where I belonged.”

After high school, Foley’s itch to escape Austin and desire to explore the world of fashion design led him to the Rhode Island School of Design. He graduated in 1991, and, from there, he helped create Visionaire fashion magazine as well as V magazine and VMAN, for which he is the creative designer and director.

Foley said surrounding himself with a like-minded, passionate community inspired his wide-ranging career path. He said finding the right support along the way is essential if students want to carve out their own successful path.

“Follow your creative questions, find a creative community and do a lot of favors,” Foley said. “You find the same people who are looking to do the things that you want to do, and, together, you make those things happen.”

Overlapping artistic fields can pave the way for a wealth of opportunities for up-and-coming artists, Foley said. He added that social media can take these fields to new heights by providing low-cost or free publicity.

“I think more and more people are expressing their ideas through many different mediums,” Foley said. “We’re in a revolutionary moment with
social media. You also can control your own promotion and actually find your audience without anybody getting in the way.”

Foley said he values his experiences that began in Austin. He wants to reconnect with his home and is eager to begin his return to Austin with the UT community.

“I was dying to get out of Austin,” Foley said. “But now, I look forward to visiting Austin and introducing myself to the University. Maybe it’s a way for me to bring my story back.”