Ashley Nosek, '05
By Audrey Procopio, ’12
In 2010, Buffalo native Patrick Kane scored the winning goal to earn the Chicago Blackhawks the Stanley Cup. However, he wasn’t the only Western New Yorker whose talents were on display for the world to see that night.
Within seconds, Kane and his teammates were celebrating, donning freshly made caps that anointed them National Hockey League (NHL) Champions – caps designed by a 27-year-old SUNY Fredonia graduate.
Ashley Nosek, ’05, is a product designer for New Era Cap Co., the Buffalo-based apparel manufacturer known throughout the sports and fashion worlds for its high quality headwear, and for being the official on-field headwear provider to Major League Baseball (MLB). And in 2010, as the players gathered at center ice for their traditional Stanley Cup team photo, Ms. Nosek sat in her Buffalo home, with a quiet smile on her face, as she saw something she had created put suddenly on display for the whole world to see.
“It’s a huge feeling,” said Nosek. “I mean, they go rushing onto the ice, and it’s the first thing they put on.”
Nosek’s design was chosen by the NHL among dozens submitted by the company. She learned that it was selected several weeks earlier (not knowing which team would eventually be embroidered in the center), when New Era management called all of the designers in the room and asked, “Who designed this one?” Nosek’s hand cautiously rose, and she was congratulated by her whole team.
Having that experience just once would be amazing enough, but Nosek lived it four times in a two-year span, as her design was also selected for the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 MLB World Series Champions hat, and the 2011 NHL Eastern and Western Conference Champions hats worn by the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks, respectively.
Accomplishments of this magnitude would seem distant for a recent graduate, but Nosek has climbed the ladder of success quite quickly. While working for another apparel company in Buffalo after college, she was recruited by New Era and soon moved to its kids’ department, then to its fashion headwear ‘EK’ line, and later promoted to Assistant Designer in the Ultimate Fan department. In addition to her work with professional sports leagues, she has designed hats for Disney, Victoria’s Secret, and individual Buffalo Bills who were raising money for charities. She was also a part of, “New Era New Hope,” through which Roswell Park Cancer Institute patients designed their own hats.
“I guess I’ve tried to really understand our clients’ goals and expectations,” says Nosek in explaining how she has found herself involved in so many high-profile projects.
A Fredonia native whose mother, Ruby, is a longtime administrative assistant on campus, Ashley wanted to have the full college experience yet still be close to home. She lived on campus, was a member of the diving team, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. When she started college, she knew that she wanted to work with prints and graphics, but this self-described teen “girlie girl” didn’t foresee a career in sports apparel.
“I would always throw on a ball cap and go to sporting events with my dad (Jim),” she says, “but it’s not like I was a tomboy. Now, while I may not know all of the players on a team, I can definitely tell you that team’s colors, logo and mascot!”
She’s also a big Buffalo Bills fan, and enjoys going to see them play, despite any weather. (“Are you kidding? The cold games are the best!”). That makes her especially excited that New Era has been named the official headwear provider to the National Football League beginning in 2012.
Having worked for New Era for six years, today Ashley is a lead Product Designer, handling primarily its women’s and kids’ lines. In addition, she is part of its global trend team, which projects future designs. It may not be obvious, but much goes into the process of making each hat.
“We have to worry about things like cost, embroidery or screen prints, and staying on top of trends,” she explains. “Sometimes we want our hats to match other companies’ apparel.”
As a young alumna, Nosek easily recalls her influences at Fredonia. The department’s small class sizes allowed its professors to have more “one-on-one” time with students, and she cites that as an important factor throughout her education. She was also surprised to find that her first graphic design classes at Fredonia didn’t use a computer, but instead focused on the fundamentals of graphic design by teaching her to draw by hand.
“Even as we continued through the courses, we always started with sketches first,” she said. “That is something I still use today. The best designs are ones that are reworked, have every detail looked at, and evolve over a few revisions.”
Funny…that’s how the best students develop too.