The Evolution of the Fashion Industry - Marty Staff, CEO of BCBG

Marty Staff is one of the most renown names in retail and his extensive experience in the field makes it clear to see why.  Marty has worked in executive roles with companies such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and HUGO BOSS, just to name a few. He is currently CEO at BCBG Maxazaria. Marty has made his mark on the fashion world and continues to advance innovation within the industry. Staff accepted his first role in retail in an entry-level position at Bloomingdales, and the rest is history. He developed a passion for the work that motivates him every day.  “If you don’t love this profession,” Marty said, “You won’t do well. This industry becomes your life, not just your job.” Our scholars were fortunate enough to receive some words of wisdom from Staff at our event hosted by BCBG. “In retail what we need is a marriage between both design and business,” Marty said. “That is where the ‘secret sauce’ for success comes from.” Staff divulged some business advice to the audience, emphasizing some of the core themes our scholars have been hearing throughout the summer. “People are spending less and less on clothes and more on experiences and entertainment,” he said. “Therefore, we need to make retail more exciting and entertaining.” Marty recalled a marketing tactic he and his team used with HUGO BOSS. “We used to simply sponsor events like film festivals and premieres, but never had any true role in the event itself. After noticing that our sponsorships weren’t doing as much as we’d hoped for our brand, we decided to try something new. We put together a huge party for HUGO BOSS and invited all kinds of celebrities and influencers. The reaction we recieved from this event really helped shape the image of HUGO BOSS into what it is today.”

Marty Staff is one of the most renown names in retail and his extensive experience in the field makes it clear to see why.  Marty has worked in executive roles with companies such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and HUGO BOSS, just to name a few. He is currently CEO at BCBG Maxazaria. Marty has made his mark on the fashion world and continues to advance innovation within the industry. Staff accepted his first role in retail in an entry-level position at Bloomingdales, and the rest is history. He developed a passion for the work that motivates him every day.  “If you don’t love this profession,” Marty said, “You won’t do well. This industry becomes your life, not just your job.” Our scholars were fortunate enough to receive some words of wisdom from Staff at our event hosted by BCBG.

“In retail what we need is a marriage between both design and business,” Marty said. “That is where the ‘secret sauce’ for success comes from.” Staff divulged some business advice to the audience, emphasizing some of the core themes our scholars have been hearing throughout the summer. “People are spending less and less on clothes and more on experiences and entertainment,” he said. “Therefore, we need to make retail more exciting and entertaining.” Marty recalled a marketing tactic he and his team used with HUGO BOSS. “We used to simply sponsor events like film festivals and premieres, but never had any true role in the event itself. After noticing that our sponsorships weren’t doing as much as we’d hoped for our brand, we decided to try something new. We put together a huge party for HUGO BOSS and invited all kinds of celebrities and influencers. The reaction we recieved from this event really helped shape the image of HUGO BOSS into what it is today.”

Staff went on to discuss the process behind deciding on the value of a retail item. “If you compete solely on price, you will always lose,” he said honestly. “If a buyer tells you that they want you to lower the price of your item, that means your item is just not that hot right now. The price of an item isn’t about whether it is ‘expensive’ or ‘cheap’ – it’s a question of whether it is worth it to the buyer.” Marty shared some details about the math behind how companies price an item. “Each member of the process wants a certain amount in profits,” he said. “If an item cost $20 to produce, the manufacturer is going to want a 50% markup, which means you need to price it at $40. The retailer will then want a 60% markup on that price, meaning the item will need to be priced at $100 when it hits the selling floor. There are a lot of parties involved and we need to satisfy each one.” In retail, more than half of a company’s business comes from basic items and predictable commodities. Creativity and innovation generate consumer interest in making the purchases that produce the remaining portion of sales. Marty shared that as a company, when an industry feels stagnant, you need to create the demand and then fill it. “A good example of this is a company called Free City,” he shared. “Their main product line centers around loungewear and sweat suits. However, they draw customers in by making coming into their store locations an engaging experience. Alongside their clothing they sell a large assortment of health and fitness items ranging from full sized bicycles to fresh almond milk.” When retail locations are experiential, companies are selling their customers more than just their items; they are selling a lifestyle. 

Staff went on to discuss the process behind deciding on the value of a retail item. “If you compete solely on price, you will always lose,” he said honestly. “If a buyer tells you that they want you to lower the price of your item, that means your item is just not that hot right now. The price of an item isn’t about whether it is ‘expensive’ or ‘cheap’ – it’s a question of whether it is worth it to the buyer.” Marty shared some details about the math behind how companies price an item. “Each member of the process wants a certain amount in profits,” he said. “If an item cost $20 to produce, the manufacturer is going to want a 50% markup, which means you need to price it at $40. The retailer will then want a 60% markup on that price, meaning the item will need to be priced at $100 when it hits the selling floor. There are a lot of parties involved and we need to satisfy each one.”

In retail, more than half of a company’s business comes from basic items and predictable commodities. Creativity and innovation generate consumer interest in making the purchases that produce the remaining portion of sales. Marty shared that as a company, when an industry feels stagnant, you need to create the demand and then fill it. “A good example of this is a company called Free City,” he shared. “Their main product line centers around loungewear and sweat suits. However, they draw customers in by making coming into their store locations an engaging experience. Alongside their clothing they sell a large assortment of health and fitness items ranging from full sized bicycles to fresh almond milk.” When retail locations are experiential, companies are selling their customers more than just their items; they are selling a lifestyle. 

Our scholars were eager to ask such a season retail executive questions about his experiences. “What do you love most about retail?” one scholar asked. “I started as an assistant buyer for sweaters,” Marty shared. “My boss once gave me about 1200 sweaters and told me to set them up in the store by color and organize the display. To the average person, this might sound like the most horrible job in the world. To me, it was amazing. I couldn’t get enough. ‘Does the grey look best by the light pink or the pale blue? Does the pale blue look best by the lime?’ I would ask myself. When I finished setting up the display, it felt great knowing that when the customer sees it they could be inspired to make a purchase. The inspiration and creativity in retail are the root of my drive.” “We’ve heard a lot this summer that it is important to gain experience in the industry outside of your specific role. What advice can you give on how to achieve that?” another scholar asked. “Being able to gain an understanding of other areas needs to be a crucial part of your internship or job experience,” Marty stressed. “When you are looking for a job, you need to make sure that exposure to different areas is something that company can offer you. A job interview is as much for the applicant as it is for the employer. Part of your evaluation as an applicant needs to be whether you can get exposure to a wide range of topics while in that position.”

Our scholars were eager to ask such a season retail executive questions about his experiences. “What do you love most about retail?” one scholar asked. “I started as an assistant buyer for sweaters,” Marty shared. “My boss once gave me about 1200 sweaters and told me to set them up in the store by color and organize the display. To the average person, this might sound like the most horrible job in the world. To me, it was amazing. I couldn’t get enough. ‘Does the grey look best by the light pink or the pale blue? Does the pale blue look best by the lime?’ I would ask myself. When I finished setting up the display, it felt great knowing that when the customer sees it they could be inspired to make a purchase. The inspiration and creativity in retail are the root of my drive.”

“We’ve heard a lot this summer that it is important to gain experience in the industry outside of your specific role. What advice can you give on how to achieve that?” another scholar asked. “Being able to gain an understanding of other areas needs to be a crucial part of your internship or job experience,” Marty stressed. “When you are looking for a job, you need to make sure that exposure to different areas is something that company can offer you. A job interview is as much for the applicant as it is for the employer. Part of your evaluation as an applicant needs to be whether you can get exposure to a wide range of topics while in that position.”

“You’ve worked with a number of very successful and well established brands,” a scholar noted. “How are brands able to continue to drive excitement when it seems as though they’ve reached their peak?” Marty provided some insights on the different way organizations can approach this. “Many companies generate new revenue streams by creating other collections, like direct-to-retailer lines. Ralph Lauren did this when they formed Chaps, and it was a great success. Companies also often partake in collaborations to freshen up their brand image. Brooks Brothers did this with Supreme and it worked wonders for their brand. Louis Vuitton recently released a collaboration with Supreme as well.” Collaborations are a great way to generate new energy within a brand and stimulate excitement. 

“You’ve worked with a number of very successful and well established brands,” a scholar noted. “How are brands able to continue to drive excitement when it seems as though they’ve reached their peak?” Marty provided some insights on the different way organizations can approach this. “Many companies generate new revenue streams by creating other collections, like direct-to-retailer lines. Ralph Lauren did this when they formed Chaps, and it was a great success. Companies also often partake in collaborations to freshen up their brand image. Brooks Brothers did this with Supreme and it worked wonders for their brand. Louis Vuitton recently released a collaboration with Supreme as well.” Collaborations are a great way to generate new energy within a brand and stimulate excitement. 

Marty’s Words of Wisdom: If you don’t love this profession, you won’t do well. This industry becomes your life, not just your job. In the retail market, you cannot be average at what you do and expect to succeed. The price of an item is not about whether it is “expensive” or “cheap” – it is a question of whether the cost is worth it to the buyer. In a stagnant industry, you need to create the demand and then fill it. Love what you do and live what you love.

Marty’s Words of Wisdom:

If you don’t love this profession, you won’t do well. This industry becomes your life, not just your job.

In the retail market, you cannot be average at what you do and expect to succeed.

The price of an item is not about whether it is “expensive” or “cheap” – it is a question of whether the cost is worth it to the buyer.

In a stagnant industry, you need to create the demand and then fill it.

Love what you do and live what you love.

Macy’s Networking Session – Marc Mastronardi & YMA FSF Alumni Panel

YMA FSF Board of Governor and FSF Scholarship Chair Marc Mastronardi recently shared his time with our scholars, delivering an inspirational speech on his experiences in retail and answering their questions on the future of the industry. Marc has been with Macy’s for over 20 years and is currently the EVP of New Business Development and Innovation. While Marc has excelled in the retail world, when he was an undergraduate student he expected his career to take him elsewhere. Having studied finance and accounting at Boston College, Mastronardi had every intention of pursuing a career in finance upon graduation. A visit to his university from the then CEO of Filene’s completely changed his perspective. After the CEO’s speech, Marc was able to speak with her for a few minutes. It was then that she convinced Mastronardi to give retail a try. Marc accepted her offer and decided to venture out into retail; he hasn’t looked back since. After Macy’s acquisition of Filene’s, Marc worked his way through a number of roles and departments at Macy’s, including General Merchandise Manager. In his current role in New Business Development, Marc and his team work to find innovative ways to advance Macy’s as a company and continue to excel at retail. As the landscape of the industry is quickly evolving, the presence of a team like Marc’s is more important than ever. 

YMA FSF Board of Governor and FSF Scholarship Chair Marc Mastronardi recently shared his time with our scholars, delivering an inspirational speech on his experiences in retail and answering their questions on the future of the industry. Marc has been with Macy’s for over 20 years and is currently the EVP of New Business Development and Innovation. While Marc has excelled in the retail world, when he was an undergraduate student he expected his career to take him elsewhere. Having studied finance and accounting at Boston College, Mastronardi had every intention of pursuing a career in finance upon graduation. A visit to his university from the then CEO of Filene’s completely changed his perspective. After the CEO’s speech, Marc was able to speak with her for a few minutes. It was then that she convinced Mastronardi to give retail a try. Marc accepted her offer and decided to venture out into retail; he hasn’t looked back since.

After Macy’s acquisition of Filene’s, Marc worked his way through a number of roles and departments at Macy’s, including General Merchandise Manager. In his current role in New Business Development, Marc and his team work to find innovative ways to advance Macy’s as a company and continue to excel at retail. As the landscape of the industry is quickly evolving, the presence of a team like Marc’s is more important than ever. 

A major discussion topic in the industry at the moment is how to keep brick and mortar relevant. In New York City, many companies are able to create large and exciting brick and mortar locations that can’t be experienced in the same way elsewhere in the country. “How is Macy’s trying to bring the experiences found in the Herald Square location to the rest of their stores across the country?” one scholar asked.  “There is no doubt that this location is special,” Marc said, “And we want to keep it special. Nevertheless, there are definitely entertainment features in this location that we can bring into our other locations. We will bring it physically or digitally through emerging technologies, which are really not so far off anymore. We are always looking for ways to make the in-store experience more important and enjoyable.”  “What do you see the future of department stores to be?” another scholar said. Mastronardi responded that there has certainly been some disruption in the way department stores function. “The role of stores is changing. They will no longer only be the place of commerce,” he stated. “Stores will also be more so a place of discovery and inspiration. Technologies are likely to have scale in the future. Virtual reality, 3D printing –these are all likely to have a role in stores moving forward. If you can make it work correctly, department stores can be the anchors of a lot of communities.”

A major discussion topic in the industry at the moment is how to keep brick and mortar relevant. In New York City, many companies are able to create large and exciting brick and mortar locations that can’t be experienced in the same way elsewhere in the country. “How is Macy’s trying to bring the experiences found in the Herald Square location to the rest of their stores across the country?” one scholar asked.  “There is no doubt that this location is special,” Marc said, “And we want to keep it special. Nevertheless, there are definitely entertainment features in this location that we can bring into our other locations. We will bring it physically or digitally through emerging technologies, which are really not so far off anymore. We are always looking for ways to make the in-store experience more important and enjoyable.”

 “What do you see the future of department stores to be?” another scholar said. Mastronardi responded that there has certainly been some disruption in the way department stores function. “The role of stores is changing. They will no longer only be the place of commerce,” he stated. “Stores will also be more so a place of discovery and inspiration. Technologies are likely to have scale in the future. Virtual reality, 3D printing –these are all likely to have a role in stores moving forward. If you can make it work correctly, department stores can be the anchors of a lot of communities.”

E-commerce has had a huge impact on the function of retail in the last decade as well and is responsible for a lot of the changes that brick and mortar are experiencing. “What are your thoughts on the role of e-commerce moving forward?” a scholar questioned.  “My team and I think the future of e-commerce will expand into video in a much bigger way,” Marc replied. “We think the product page on stores’ websites is where video can really take off. The future state of shopping will be deeply video influenced. Today, many sites looks the same, and digital shopping is fairly static. As we progress, I don’t believe that will be the case. Video is going to require many different formats that are going to inspire discovery and conversion, and each customer is going to require the experience to be different. Shopping online is going to need to be contextualized. For the customer, it is not just about shopping for ‘you’; it’s about shopping for ‘you in this moment’. That’s where my team and I think e-commerce is heading.” As emerging talent in the industry, it is crucial that our scholars acquire good connections within the industry. Networking is a key part of growing your career. “Do you have any suggestions on how to effectively network?” a scholar asked.  “I love breakfast,” Mastronardi said enthusiastically. “People love to go to dinner and have all these fancy events, which are great and are lots of fun. However, if you want to have an intimate conversation with someone, get breakfast. No one wants to wake up early, so if they wake up for you, they really want to be there. I’ve found that to be the most meaningful way to build relationships. Joining organizations like the YMA is a great way to build connections as well. Networking really is a job. It is a commitment to the effort, not just a social engagement. If you want it to be meaningful, you have to put a lot of time and energy into it. But, yes – breakfast. I really like breakfast.”

E-commerce has had a huge impact on the function of retail in the last decade as well and is responsible for a lot of the changes that brick and mortar are experiencing. “What are your thoughts on the role of e-commerce moving forward?” a scholar questioned.  “My team and I think the future of e-commerce will expand into video in a much bigger way,” Marc replied. “We think the product page on stores’ websites is where video can really take off. The future state of shopping will be deeply video influenced. Today, many sites looks the same, and digital shopping is fairly static. As we progress, I don’t believe that will be the case. Video is going to require many different formats that are going to inspire discovery and conversion, and each customer is going to require the experience to be different. Shopping online is going to need to be contextualized. For the customer, it is not just about shopping for ‘you’; it’s about shopping for ‘you in this moment’. That’s where my team and I think e-commerce is heading.”

As emerging talent in the industry, it is crucial that our scholars acquire good connections within the industry. Networking is a key part of growing your career. “Do you have any suggestions on how to effectively network?” a scholar asked.  “I love breakfast,” Mastronardi said enthusiastically. “People love to go to dinner and have all these fancy events, which are great and are lots of fun. However, if you want to have an intimate conversation with someone, get breakfast. No one wants to wake up early, so if they wake up for you, they really want to be there. I’ve found that to be the most meaningful way to build relationships. Joining organizations like the YMA is a great way to build connections as well. Networking really is a job. It is a commitment to the effort, not just a social engagement. If you want it to be meaningful, you have to put a lot of time and energy into it. But, yes – breakfast. I really like breakfast.”

After Marc spoke, our scholars were given the opportunity to hear from a panel of FSF alumni who are currently employed at Macy’s in a wide array of departments. The alumni in attendance were Patrick McCabe, Designer for Men's Dress Shirts and Neckwear, Felicia Podberesky, Associate Designer for JM Collection, Abbie Luzecky, Omni Associate Merchandise Planner, Marlena Meyer, Analytical Consulting Manager, and Samantha Duke, Product Manager for Men's Dress Shirts. Nicole Rosario, a member of Macy’s Human Resources Executive Development Program, moderated the panel.  Nicole began by asking the alumni to go over what their job entails and the role they play within the company. “I work in product development,” said Samantha.  “I went to school for fashion merchandising and always knew I wanted to do something outside of buying, but wasn’t really quite sure what it was. I think product development is the perfect combination of the art and the science of this industry. There’s a lot of math, science, and business analytical skills involved, but there is also a very fun, creative, product-focused side to it. When you’re in product development at Macy’s, you get to touch every single part of the organization in one day. You’re constantly in connection with your buyer and your planner, creating strategies for the season you’re going into. You’re working on so many things at once. You have to constantly be thinking ahead.” 

After Marc spoke, our scholars were given the opportunity to hear from a panel of FSF alumni who are currently employed at Macy’s in a wide array of departments. The alumni in attendance were Patrick McCabe, Designer for Men's Dress Shirts and Neckwear, Felicia Podberesky, Associate Designer for JM Collection, Abbie Luzecky, Omni Associate Merchandise Planner, Marlena Meyer, Analytical Consulting Manager, and Samantha Duke, Product Manager for Men's Dress Shirts. Nicole Rosario, a member of Macy’s Human Resources Executive Development Program, moderated the panel. 

Nicole began by asking the alumni to go over what their job entails and the role they play within the company. “I work in product development,” said Samantha.  “I went to school for fashion merchandising and always knew I wanted to do something outside of buying, but wasn’t really quite sure what it was. I think product development is the perfect combination of the art and the science of this industry. There’s a lot of math, science, and business analytical skills involved, but there is also a very fun, creative, product-focused side to it. When you’re in product development at Macy’s, you get to touch every single part of the organization in one day. You’re constantly in connection with your buyer and your planner, creating strategies for the season you’re going into. You’re working on so many things at once. You have to constantly be thinking ahead.” 

Marlena went on to speak about her past role as a buyer within the organization. “The buyer really focuses on the product and on the relationship with the vendor,” she said. “They work really closely with the planner to understand what is the right product at the right time in the right location. The time and location is much more for the planner to focus on, and the product is for the buyer. Some other topics that the buyer works on are marketing and pricing. Additionally, while Macys.com and Macy’s are now merged, we still have a separate role called the “digital merchant” just for Macys.com, which can be described as a store manager for our online division. As a buyer, you work a lot with the digital merchant to discover what products need to be purchased for the online site.” The panel all agreed that this is a fast paced industry in which things are constantly changing. “Each day is different, and as a planner you need to stay up to date with in-store and online purchases,” Abbie added. “No day is the same.” Nicole then went on to ask our panel what they felt were some of the most important skills needed to be successful in this industry. “From a design perspective, things can change very quickly,” Felicia said. "You need to constantly have new ideas and try to push the envelope in terms of what you are creating. Even if your customer is not the trendiest or most fashionable, she still wants something new and wants to feel beautiful. You have to figure out what is new to her, and give it to her." Patrick added to the necessary skills for a designer. “You obviously need to understand Illustrator, Photoshop, and how to put together a tech pack,” he said, “But I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how to understand your customer and what they’re looking for. You need to understand what they want – not just for right now, but what they will be looking for one year from now. Being able to define what a brand means is important.”

Marlena went on to speak about her past role as a buyer within the organization. “The buyer really focuses on the product and on the relationship with the vendor,” she said. “They work really closely with the planner to understand what is the right product at the right time in the right location. The time and location is much more for the planner to focus on, and the product is for the buyer. Some other topics that the buyer works on are marketing and pricing. Additionally, while Macys.com and Macy’s are now merged, we still have a separate role called the “digital merchant” just for Macys.com, which can be described as a store manager for our online division. As a buyer, you work a lot with the digital merchant to discover what products need to be purchased for the online site.” The panel all agreed that this is a fast paced industry in which things are constantly changing. “Each day is different, and as a planner you need to stay up to date with in-store and online purchases,” Abbie added. “No day is the same.”

Nicole then went on to ask our panel what they felt were some of the most important skills needed to be successful in this industry. “From a design perspective, things can change very quickly,” Felicia said. "You need to constantly have new ideas and try to push the envelope in terms of what you are creating. Even if your customer is not the trendiest or most fashionable, she still wants something new and wants to feel beautiful. You have to figure out what is new to her, and give it to her."

Patrick added to the necessary skills for a designer. “You obviously need to understand Illustrator, Photoshop, and how to put together a tech pack,” he said, “But I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how to understand your customer and what they’re looking for. You need to understand what they want – not just for right now, but what they will be looking for one year from now. Being able to define what a brand means is important.”

Macy’s Words of Wisdom: Networking really is a job. It is a commitment to the effort, not a social engagement. If you want to create a best in class customer experience, pay attention to every detail. Whether or not your customer is considered the trendiest or the most fashionable, she still wants something new, and wants to feel beautiful. You have to figure out what is new to her, and bring it to her. For the customer, it is not just about shopping for ‘you’, it’s about shopping for ‘you in this moment.’

Macy’s Words of Wisdom:

Networking really is a job. It is a commitment to the effort, not a social engagement.

If you want to create a best in class customer experience, pay attention to every detail.

Whether or not your customer is considered the trendiest or the most fashionable, she still wants something new, and wants to feel beautiful. You have to figure out what is new to her, and bring it to her.

For the customer, it is not just about shopping for ‘you’, it’s about shopping for ‘you in this moment.’

Breakfast with the Boss - Malie Bingham, PVH

Malie Bingham has been a designer at PVH since 2002, specializing in cut & sew knits and sweaters. In 2016, Malie founded Pick Glass, an online resource for fashion industry professionals.  She uses her platform to help educate industry members on how to navigate their network and stay up to date with what is going on in the fashion world. Malie is an involved member of the YMA FSF community, and our scholars were fortunate enough to be able receive advice from her on how to approach networking in the fashion industry.  “Tell me the truth,” Malie asked, “What do you all think about networking? When people hear the word ‘networking,’ a lot of people think about networking events, reaching out to brands or influencers that you like, or having friends introduce you to someone you might like to know. The truth is, you always need to be networking.” Malie explained that networking is an important aspect of everyday life. Whether you’re looking for a new job, trying to promote your work, or just looking to stay up to date with the happenings in the industry, you need to build a strong network.  “You don’t only network when you are looking for a job; you network to create a group of people that you can always turn to for support in helping you reach your goals.” When it comes to networking, many people wait until they need something from others to reach out. Malie advised our scholars not to do so. “Don’t wait to connect with people until you need something. Keep them updated on your work; create a conversation. This way, when you do need something, it can come up naturally and won’t seem rude.” Bingham also pointed out that connecting with people who work at companies of interest to you is a good way to get your foot in the door. “It is proven that you will get more jobs through people that you know, instead of just by applying to jobs posted on job boards.  Connect with humans, not a black hole, and you are more likely to see positive results.”

Malie Bingham has been a designer at PVH since 2002, specializing in cut & sew knits and sweaters. In 2016, Malie founded Pick Glass, an online resource for fashion industry professionals.  She uses her platform to help educate industry members on how to navigate their network and stay up to date with what is going on in the fashion world. Malie is an involved member of the YMA FSF community, and our scholars were fortunate enough to be able receive advice from her on how to approach networking in the fashion industry.

 “Tell me the truth,” Malie asked, “What do you all think about networking? When people hear the word ‘networking,’ a lot of people think about networking events, reaching out to brands or influencers that you like, or having friends introduce you to someone you might like to know. The truth is, you always need to be networking.” Malie explained that networking is an important aspect of everyday life. Whether you’re looking for a new job, trying to promote your work, or just looking to stay up to date with the happenings in the industry, you need to build a strong network.  “You don’t only network when you are looking for a job; you network to create a group of people that you can always turn to for support in helping you reach your goals.”

When it comes to networking, many people wait until they need something from others to reach out. Malie advised our scholars not to do so. “Don’t wait to connect with people until you need something. Keep them updated on your work; create a conversation. This way, when you do need something, it can come up naturally and won’t seem rude.” Bingham also pointed out that connecting with people who work at companies of interest to you is a good way to get your foot in the door. “It is proven that you will get more jobs through people that you know, instead of just by applying to jobs posted on job boards.  Connect with humans, not a black hole, and you are more likely to see positive results.”

Growing your network is a truly fundamental part of progressing on your own career journey. “Your network is your net worth,” Malie said. “Many people feel like your work should speak for itself, so you need to make sure that your network knows your work and its value. When your network knows the worth of your work, more opportunities will come your way.” The hardest part of networking for many people is not the initial connection, but staying in touch later. Malie stressed that keeping your connections in the loop as you further your career is a great way to strengthen your ties. She went on to explain that staying in touch doesn’t have to be complicated. “For example, before you leave your job this summer, send your superiors personalized thank you notes,” she suggested. She also recommended initiating conversation on LinkedIn or through email by asking your connections a question, such as “Are you still working at XYZ Company?” Using a question to begin a conversation raises your chances of getting a response.

Growing your network is a truly fundamental part of progressing on your own career journey. “Your network is your net worth,” Malie said. “Many people feel like your work should speak for itself, so you need to make sure that your network knows your work and its value. When your network knows the worth of your work, more opportunities will come your way.” The hardest part of networking for many people is not the initial connection, but staying in touch later. Malie stressed that keeping your connections in the loop as you further your career is a great way to strengthen your ties. She went on to explain that staying in touch doesn’t have to be complicated. “For example, before you leave your job this summer, send your superiors personalized thank you notes,” she suggested. She also recommended initiating conversation on LinkedIn or through email by asking your connections a question, such as “Are you still working at XYZ Company?” Using a question to begin a conversation raises your chances of getting a response.

“You said a good way to connect with people is to update them on what you’re involved in. Are people really interested in keeping up with that we are doing?” one scholar asked. “Yes,” Malie replied, “But you should try and ask them about themselves as well. You can thank people for the time they’ve spent with you or for things they’ve taught you; people like to feel appreciated. Make the person you’re connecting with feel good about it.”   “In the past after an internship,” another student asked, “I’d ask for a letter of recommendation, and I wouldn’t receive a response. How do I deal with that type of situation?” Malie reiterated the importance of following up with your connections. “I know a lot of people are very busy in this industry,” Malie said. “Try following up a second time to give them a gentle nudge. Additionally, you could even write a recommendation for them on LinkedIn! Do a small write up of how much you enjoyed working there and what you learned.” “Networking is really important in every career field,” one scholar noted. “How does the fashion industry differ in terms of networking?” Malie responded that the fashion industry is a lot more concentrated on partnership. “I think that it’s more about collaboration in the fashion industry. PVH is a huge company with many buildings. Even so, I’ve had to work with lots of people in many different departments to get projects completed. People are also doing tons of start-ups now in collaboration with many other different people – not just other fashion industry workers, but people from every sector,” she said. “Collaboration is the new currency.”

“You said a good way to connect with people is to update them on what you’re involved in. Are people really interested in keeping up with that we are doing?” one scholar asked. “Yes,” Malie replied, “But you should try and ask them about themselves as well. You can thank people for the time they’ve spent with you or for things they’ve taught you; people like to feel appreciated. Make the person you’re connecting with feel good about it.”
 
“In the past after an internship,” another student asked, “I’d ask for a letter of recommendation, and I wouldn’t receive a response. How do I deal with that type of situation?” Malie reiterated the importance of following up with your connections. “I know a lot of people are very busy in this industry,” Malie said. “Try following up a second time to give them a gentle nudge. Additionally, you could even write a recommendation for them on LinkedIn! Do a small write up of how much you enjoyed working there and what you learned.”

“Networking is really important in every career field,” one scholar noted. “How does the fashion industry differ in terms of networking?” Malie responded that the fashion industry is a lot more concentrated on partnership. “I think that it’s more about collaboration in the fashion industry. PVH is a huge company with many buildings. Even so, I’ve had to work with lots of people in many different departments to get projects completed. People are also doing tons of start-ups now in collaboration with many other different people – not just other fashion industry workers, but people from every sector,” she said. “Collaboration is the new currency.”

Malie’s Words of Wisdom: “Connect with humans and not a black hole.” “Your network is your net worth.” “Collaboration is the new currency.” “Always try to give more than you get.”

Malie’s Words of Wisdom:

“Connect with humans and not a black hole.”

“Your network is your net worth.”

“Collaboration is the new currency.”

“Always try to give more than you get.”

Breakfast with the Boss: Dana Manciagli, Global Career Expert & Job Search Coach

Dana Manciagli has spent the majority of her life working on the hiring side of business; she’s become quite an expert on job search and recruiting processes. She had a plethora of amazing tips to share during her presentation with our scholars. Dana began her professional career working at IBM in sales. She later worked with a number of global companies that gave her the opportunity to travel internationally and experience the business world in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. After coming back to the United States to work at Kodak and Microsoft, Dana decided it was time to branch out on her own and begin life as an entrepreneur. She started her own business as an executive and job search coach, author, and speaker.

Dana Manciagli has spent the majority of her life working on the hiring side of business; she’s become quite an expert on job search and recruiting processes. She had a plethora of amazing tips to share during her presentation with our scholars.

Dana began her professional career working at IBM in sales. She later worked with a number of global companies that gave her the opportunity to travel internationally and experience the business world in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. After coming back to the United States to work at Kodak and Microsoft, Dana decided it was time to branch out on her own and begin life as an entrepreneur. She started her own business as an executive and job search coach, author, and speaker.

Dana poured a great deal of her expertise into her book, Cut the Crap™, Get a Job! A New Job Search Process for a New Era, which she accompanied with an in-depth digital guide to job search. During her event with the YMA, Dana walked our scholars through her program and gave them advice on how to optimize their job search processes. “On a scale of one to ten,” Dana asked, “how do you all feel about the idea of looking for a job?” Many scholars admitted that they were rather apprehensive about the procedure, and weren’t quite sure where to begin. “It is okay to be nervous. By the end of this session, we’re going to raise your confidence and your ability to look for a job,” Manciagli encouraged. “When job searching, I believe there are two kinds of ‘crap,’” Dana explained. “The first is excuses. Don’t let the idea that you are not qualified enough or too inexperienced prevent you from applying for jobs,” she said. “The second is mistakes. There are a number of popular mistakes that hold people back from getting the job of their choice. With a few simple changes, you can avoid making those.” Dana went on to explain that because the job process has changed in the past few years, there are many more people applying to the same jobs. This means that recruiters don’t have time for errors like typos on résumés or candidates arriving late to interviews. Avoiding mistakes such as these can go a long way toward helping you further your career.

Dana poured a great deal of her expertise into her book, Cut the Crap™, Get a Job! A New Job Search Process for a New Era, which she accompanied with an in-depth digital guide to job search. During her event with the YMA, Dana walked our scholars through her program and gave them advice on how to optimize their job search processes. “On a scale of one to ten,” Dana asked, “how do you all feel about the idea of looking for a job?” Many scholars admitted that they were rather apprehensive about the procedure, and weren’t quite sure where to begin. “It is okay to be nervous. By the end of this session, we’re going to raise your confidence and your ability to look for a job,” Manciagli encouraged.

“When job searching, I believe there are two kinds of ‘crap,’” Dana explained. “The first is excuses. Don’t let the idea that you are not qualified enough or too inexperienced prevent you from applying for jobs,” she said. “The second is mistakes. There are a number of popular mistakes that hold people back from getting the job of their choice. With a few simple changes, you can avoid making those.”

Dana went on to explain that because the job process has changed in the past few years, there are many more people applying to the same jobs. This means that recruiters don’t have time for errors like typos on résumés or candidates arriving late to interviews. Avoiding mistakes such as these can go a long way toward helping you further your career.

“There are five struggles that job seekers commonly face,” Dana stated. “First, many people apply to a number of jobs through online job boards without doing any research beforehand.” Dana told our scholars that when looking for jobs, they need to first figure out what they want from their careers, and then research the job roles available that fit their desired goals. To validate how realistic their dream job is, Dana encouraged our scholars to try to find ten jobs online that fit the description they created. “If you can’t find ten jobs that match you desired description, you’re looking for a unicorn,” she shared. Armed with this knowledge about your career path options, you can then make your way to the job search preparation phase. “Often people don’t take the process of looking for jobs as seriously as they take their current job projects or their school work,” Manciagli went on. “Why are most job-seekers very organized when it comes to school or work, but use yellow sticky notes to track their job applications? You need to stay organized and focused when it comes to planning for your future career, and take it as seriously as you would take any other professional engagement.” “Additionally,” Dana went on, “You need to tailor your approach to the company you’re applying to. They are the buyer and you are the product. You have to fit their needs if you want to work there. The last two most common mistakes are ones that are easily avoidable – being unprepared for interviews, and being a poor networker. Do your research ahead of time and arrive prepared.”

“There are five struggles that job seekers commonly face,” Dana stated. “First, many people apply to a number of jobs through online job boards without doing any research beforehand.” Dana told our scholars that when looking for jobs, they need to first figure out what they want from their careers, and then research the job roles available that fit their desired goals. To validate how realistic their dream job is, Dana encouraged our scholars to try to find ten jobs online that fit the description they created. “If you can’t find ten jobs that match you desired description, you’re looking for a unicorn,” she shared. Armed with this knowledge about your career path options, you can then make your way to the job search preparation phase.

“Often people don’t take the process of looking for jobs as seriously as they take their current job projects or their school work,” Manciagli went on. “Why are most job-seekers very organized when it comes to school or work, but use yellow sticky notes to track their job applications? You need to stay organized and focused when it comes to planning for your future career, and take it as seriously as you would take any other professional engagement.”

“Additionally,” Dana went on, “You need to tailor your approach to the company you’re applying to. They are the buyer and you are the product. You have to fit their needs if you want to work there. The last two most common mistakes are ones that are easily avoidable – being unprepared for interviews, and being a poor networker. Do your research ahead of time and arrive prepared.”

Dana then led the scholars through the three major phases of searching for a job – setting your goal, doing your research, and applying and interviewing. When setting your goal, she stressed having specific details in mind. “You need to figure out what you’re looking for. Don’t be vague – define the functional area, industry, company type, company size, and location you are interested in,” she said. “Hiring managers want to hire people who are passionate about their jobs. When searching for positions to apply to, it’s okay to keep your options open. However, when approached by a recruiter for a specific company position, you need to show your relevance and passion for that exact position. You can present two paths you are interested in if needed, but it’s important to show confidence in the direction in which you want to head.” Dana then delivered some tips about résumé formatting, going over the standard resume layouts our scholars should be using, and optimum organization of the content. We then moved into LinkedIn etiquette. “When you connect with others on LinkedIn, be sure to do so on your computer, not on your phone. This way you are able to send a personalized message to each person you connect with,” she urged. “Doing so significantly raises the chances of your connection request being accepted.” Equipped with Dana’s advice, our scholars left feeling a lot better about the job search process than they did before the workshop. When it comes to looking for a job, you need to do your research, and properly prepare. If you give the job search process the attention and dedication it requires, you’re bound to see results.

Dana then led the scholars through the three major phases of searching for a job – setting your goal, doing your research, and applying and interviewing. When setting your goal, she stressed having specific details in mind. “You need to figure out what you’re looking for. Don’t be vague – define the functional area, industry, company type, company size, and location you are interested in,” she said. “Hiring managers want to hire people who are passionate about their jobs. When searching for positions to apply to, it’s okay to keep your options open. However, when approached by a recruiter for a specific company position, you need to show your relevance and passion for that exact position. You can present two paths you are interested in if needed, but it’s important to show confidence in the direction in which you want to head.”

Dana then delivered some tips about résumé formatting, going over the standard resume layouts our scholars should be using, and optimum organization of the content. We then moved into LinkedIn etiquette. “When you connect with others on LinkedIn, be sure to do so on your computer, not on your phone. This way you are able to send a personalized message to each person you connect with,” she urged. “Doing so significantly raises the chances of your connection request being accepted.”

Equipped with Dana’s advice, our scholars left feeling a lot better about the job search process than they did before the workshop. When it comes to looking for a job, you need to do your research, and properly prepare. If you give the job search process the attention and dedication it requires, you’re bound to see results.

Dana’s Words of Wisdom: You need to take the job search process as seriously as you take your current employment or schoolwork. There are no shortcuts. Don’t let inexperience stop you from going after jobs. Hiring managers want to hire people who are passionate about their jobs.

Dana’s Words of Wisdom:

You need to take the job search process as seriously as you take your current employment or schoolwork. There are no shortcuts.

Don’t let inexperience stop you from going after jobs.

Hiring managers want to hire people who are passionate about their jobs.

Breakfast with the Boss: Ilse Metchek, The California Fashion Association

Ilse Metchek, founder of the California Fashion Association, has been a part of the fashion industry for all of her professional career. She began her journey as a fitting model, showroom salesperson, and designer, working her way up to own the company she worked for. She then became president of White Stag Inc., a women’s clothing brand owned by Warnaco. Subsequently, she became the executive director of the California Mart (now the California Market Center) where she established the California Fashion Association as a non-profit business-to-business organization to provide information for expansion and growth to the apparel and textile industry of California. Given her extensive experience in the industry, Ilse was able to provide our scholars with an amazingly in-depth overview of the industry.   

Ilse Metchek, founder of the California Fashion Association, has been a part of the fashion industry for all of her professional career. She began her journey as a fitting model, showroom salesperson, and designer, working her way up to own the company she worked for. She then became president of White Stag Inc., a women’s clothing brand owned by Warnaco. Subsequently, she became the executive director of the California Mart (now the California Market Center) where she established the California Fashion Association as a non-profit business-to-business organization to provide information for expansion and growth to the apparel and textile industry of California. Given her extensive experience in the industry, Ilse was able to provide our scholars with an amazingly in-depth overview of the industry. 

 

“Fashion functions differently from other businesses, so you need to approach it differently,” Isle said. It is the intersection of business and creativity. It takes great creativity, but it demands analytical and administrative skills as well. Ilse began her outline of the industry by discussing distribution. “In the United States,” Ilse explained, “There is no single way to get your product into stores and homes. There are a multitude of different channels that you need to understand.” Today, purchases for retail goods can be made through television infomercials, mobile sites, pop-up shops, catalogs, and much more - all in addition to traditional brick and mortar retail stores. This multi-channel approach has a strong impact on the overall functionality of the retail industry. “Fashion doesn’t start in big department store chains,” Ilse stated,  “It starts in the mom and pop shops, and with the cool kids – where people will attempt new styles and trends without fear of failure. When trends take off in the small stores, then they will make it into the big chains and head towards mass production.” Metchek went on to say that in today’s technologically dominated world, it is clear that sales for fashion apparel in traditional department stores are in decline. The new retail cash cow, however, is off price retailing. Saks Off Fifth, Nordstrom Rack, and Macy’s Backstage are brick and mortar locations that have the potential to succeed because of the treasure-hunt experience they give consumers. With the recent surge in e-commerce, consumers need to feel a reason to come in to physical stores. Off price retailers provide them with the needed motivation.  

“Fashion functions differently from other businesses, so you need to approach it differently,” Isle said. It is the intersection of business and creativity. It takes great creativity, but it demands analytical and administrative skills as well. Ilse began her outline of the industry by discussing distribution. “In the United States,” Ilse explained, “There is no single way to get your product into stores and homes. There are a multitude of different channels that you need to understand.” Today, purchases for retail goods can be made through television infomercials, mobile sites, pop-up shops, catalogs, and much more - all in addition to traditional brick and mortar retail stores. This multi-channel approach has a strong impact on the overall functionality of the retail industry.
“Fashion doesn’t start in big department store chains,” Ilse stated,  “It starts in the mom and pop shops, and with the cool kids – where people will attempt new styles and trends without fear of failure. When trends take off in the small stores, then they will make it into the big chains and head towards mass production.” Metchek went on to say that in today’s technologically dominated world, it is clear that sales for fashion apparel in traditional department stores are in decline. The new retail cash cow, however, is off price retailing. Saks Off Fifth, Nordstrom Rack, and Macy’s Backstage are brick and mortar locations that have the potential to succeed because of the treasure-hunt experience they give consumers. With the recent surge in e-commerce, consumers need to feel a reason to come in to physical stores. Off price retailers provide them with the needed motivation.

 

 Metchek went on to discuss sourcing, another crucial part of the retail process. “Why do so many companies use global sourcing?” Ilse asked. “They do so because of the difference in production costs and regulations abroad.” She explained that while producing goods domestically provides you with higher margins, more control over the process, and a quicker turnaround, it is a much more expensive process. Polls show that while many American consumers say that they are interested in “made-in-USA” apparel, they are not willing to pay a substantially higher price for domestically produced goods. Ilse explained that for this reason, the majority of major companies choose to engage in production overseas. International production used to be predominantly concentrated in China, but over the last decade or so we’ve seen some dispersal into other countries and regions. Metchek emphasized that because of this, it is imperative that you understand geography when working in this industry. “Which country is best for manufacturing swimsuits?” Ilse said. “How much are customs and duties there? How many factories do they have available? This is all information you need.” “One of the biggest issues in retail is intellectual property,” Ilse stated.  She went on to explain some of the legalities involved with the issue. “While trademarks are necessary in this industry, patents are rare.” Trademarks refer to logos, phrases, and symbols, while patents refer to designs and technology. Copyrights are used to protect artwork, and are one of the more complicated parts of retail. Trade Dress refers to images that are recognized as associated with a certain brand, without the need for a logo or brand names. This refers to things like the blue box and white ribbon associated with Tiffany’s, and the classic red bottom of Louboutin shoes. While there are no obvious logos on these items, it is very clear that they belong to a certain company. Ilse went on to speak about the current discussion about the legality of ‘knock-offs’ and how the recent technological boom has led to a rise in counterfeiting. With regard to ‘copying’, she quoted Marc Jacobs as stating, “Nothing is truly original anymore; when you’re talking about fashion, lose the word ‘original’.” Coco Chanel is quoted as saying “Being copied is the ransom of success.’”  

 Metchek went on to discuss sourcing, another crucial part of the retail process. “Why do so many companies use global sourcing?” Ilse asked. “They do so because of the difference in production costs and regulations abroad.” She explained that while producing goods domestically provides you with higher margins, more control over the process, and a quicker turnaround, it is a much more expensive process. Polls show that while many American consumers say that they are interested in “made-in-USA” apparel, they are not willing to pay a substantially higher price for domestically produced goods. Ilse explained that for this reason, the majority of major companies choose to engage in production overseas. International production used to be predominantly concentrated in China, but over the last decade or so we’ve seen some dispersal into other countries and regions. Metchek emphasized that because of this, it is imperative that you understand geography when working in this industry. “Which country is best for manufacturing swimsuits?” Ilse said. “How much are customs and duties there? How many factories do they have available? This is all information you need.”

“One of the biggest issues in retail is intellectual property,” Ilse stated.  She went on to explain some of the legalities involved with the issue. “While trademarks are necessary in this industry, patents are rare.” Trademarks refer to logos, phrases, and symbols, while patents refer to designs and technology. Copyrights are used to protect artwork, and are one of the more complicated parts of retail. Trade Dress refers to images that are recognized as associated with a certain brand, without the need for a logo or brand names. This refers to things like the blue box and white ribbon associated with Tiffany’s, and the classic red bottom of Louboutin shoes. While there are no obvious logos on these items, it is very clear that they belong to a certain company. Ilse went on to speak about the current discussion about the legality of ‘knock-offs’ and how the recent technological boom has led to a rise in counterfeiting. With regard to ‘copying’, she quoted Marc Jacobs as stating, “Nothing is truly original anymore; when you’re talking about fashion, lose the word ‘original’.” Coco Chanel is quoted as saying “Being copied is the ransom of success.’”

 

With retail’s rapidly changing landscape, major companies are making big changes in attempts to keep up. “What do you think of Wal-Mart buying Modcloth and Bonobos?” one scholar asked. “I think Wal-Mart woke up!” Ilse responded. “But still, they are going to have to compete with Amazon and the brands that Amazon is launching. In the past when stores like Wal-Mart bought brands, they became the manufacturer and, in some cases, reduced the quality drastically. Now the trend is for the retailers to let the brands they buy continue to manufacture the product as long as they fit the correct price point. This allows for quality control.”   Environmentalism has also been a recent trend on the rise, not just in retail, but also in a large array of industries. “How do you feel about sustainability in retail?” another student inquired. “It’s hard to say,” replied Metchek honestly. “What really is sustainability? It means different things depending on the angle from which you approach it. The use of different varieties of products has an assortment of benefits and drawbacks depending on your perspective.” She explained that, on the whole, there is no one sustainable method of production for retail. We can do our best to not be wasteful, but a cure-all has yet to be found.   When it comes to succeeding in the retail world, you really need to ground yourself in a deep knowledge of the industry. One scholar asked Ilse, “Where do you look to gather research on the retail world?” She responded, “In general, look to history, celebrities, and visuals. The way fashion happens is through creativity, but the reason it happens can be traced to economics and a historical perspective.”  

With retail’s rapidly changing landscape, major companies are making big changes in attempts to keep up. “What do you think of Wal-Mart buying Modcloth and Bonobos?” one scholar asked. “I think Wal-Mart woke up!” Ilse responded. “But still, they are going to have to compete with Amazon and the brands that Amazon is launching. In the past when stores like Wal-Mart bought brands, they became the manufacturer and, in some cases, reduced the quality drastically. Now the trend is for the retailers to let the brands they buy continue to manufacture the product as long as they fit the correct price point. This allows for quality control.”
 

Environmentalism has also been a recent trend on the rise, not just in retail, but also in a large array of industries. “How do you feel about sustainability in retail?” another student inquired. “It’s hard to say,” replied Metchek honestly. “What really is sustainability? It means different things depending on the angle from which you approach it. The use of different varieties of products has an assortment of benefits and drawbacks depending on your perspective.” She explained that, on the whole, there is no one sustainable method of production for retail. We can do our best to not be wasteful, but a cure-all has yet to be found.
 

When it comes to succeeding in the retail world, you really need to ground yourself in a deep knowledge of the industry. One scholar asked Ilse, “Where do you look to gather research on the retail world?” She responded, “In general, look to history, celebrities, and visuals. The way fashion happens is through creativity, but the reason it happens can be traced to economics and a historical perspective.”

 

Ilse Metchek’s Words of Wisdom “Fashion doesn’t start in big department store chains, it starts in the mom and pop shops, and with the cool kids – where people will attempt new styles and trends without fear of failure.” “As Marc Jacobs said, ‘When you’re talking about fashion, lose the word “original” - and Coco Chanel said, “Being copied is the ransom of success.’” “Retail is where business meets creativity. We need both to succeed.” “The way fashion happened is through creativity, but the reason it happen can be traced to economics and a historical perspective.”

Ilse Metchek’s Words of Wisdom

“Fashion doesn’t start in big department store chains, it starts in the mom and pop shops, and with the cool kids – where people will attempt new styles and trends without fear of failure.”

“As Marc Jacobs said, ‘When you’re talking about fashion, lose the word “original” - and Coco Chanel said, “Being copied is the ransom of success.’”

“Retail is where business meets creativity. We need both to succeed.”

“The way fashion happened is through creativity, but the reason it happen can be traced to economics and a historical perspective.”

Breakfast with the Boss: Dean Norman, President & COO of Hot Sox

President and COO of Hot Sox, Dean Norman gleaned his southern charm from growing up in North Carolina. While Dean has been incredibly successful in the retail industry, retail wasn’t always exactly where he imagined he’d end up when he was growing up. Dean Norman went to North Carolina State University as a pre-veterinary student and received a degree in animal science. However, when it came time to go off to veterinary school, he quickly learned that was not exactly the direction he was intended to head in. “Where you think you’re going to end up,” Dean said, “and where you actually end up, are often very different.” North Carolina had a massive textile industry, thriving with hundreds of textile mills across the state. In fact, Norman’s father was an executive for Burlington Industries, historically one of the largest textile companies in the world. Dean knew he needed a fresh start, and with some connections in textiles, he chose to venture out into retail. Once he made his choice, Dean decided to go to New York City – or as he likes to call it, “the center of the universe.” “If it is really your goal, you have to get to New York. Just move here,” he said. “There are places around the world that have opportunities for fashion, sure, but NYC is the place to be.” He began his career working at a German textile company selling yarn. He moved rather quickly through jobs, which was not quite as acceptable as a trend then as it is now. “I went through about five jobs in ten years,” Dean recalled. However, as time passed and Norman gained more experience, he made the decision to begin his own company centered around socks. He needed to challenge himself, and beginning a new business was just the way to do it.   

President and COO of Hot Sox, Dean Norman gleaned his southern charm from growing up in North Carolina. While Dean has been incredibly successful in the retail industry, retail wasn’t always exactly where he imagined he’d end up when he was growing up. Dean Norman went to North Carolina State University as a pre-veterinary student and received a degree in animal science. However, when it came time to go off to veterinary school, he quickly learned that was not exactly the direction he was intended to head in. “Where you think you’re going to end up,” Dean said, “and where you actually end up, are often very different.” North Carolina had a massive textile industry, thriving with hundreds of textile mills across the state. In fact, Norman’s father was an executive for Burlington Industries, historically one of the largest textile companies in the world. Dean knew he needed a fresh start, and with some connections in textiles, he chose to venture out into retail.

Once he made his choice, Dean decided to go to New York City – or as he likes to call it, “the center of the universe.” “If it is really your goal, you have to get to New York. Just move here,” he said. “There are places around the world that have opportunities for fashion, sure, but NYC is the place to be.” He began his career working at a German textile company selling yarn. He moved rather quickly through jobs, which was not quite as acceptable as a trend then as it is now. “I went through about five jobs in ten years,” Dean recalled. However, as time passed and Norman gained more experience, he made the decision to begin his own company centered around socks. He needed to challenge himself, and beginning a new business was just the way to do it. 

 

Dean eventually decided to further his technical business skills and learn more about the world of finance by receiving an MBA from Wake Forest University. “You have to be aggressive with your own career,” he said. This meant actively reaching for that higher position at your company, going out of your way to further educate yourself on the industry you are in – doing what it takes to get to where you want to be. He took these skills with him into his future business endeavors, first at Gold Toe, and then Hot Sox, where he currently holds the President and COO title. Hot Sox has become one of the most successful sock companies in the world, with licensing deals with Ralph Lauren and getting to work with other notorious brands such as Vera Bradley and New Balance. Owned by the parent company Renfro, Hot Sox sells to every major department store in the world.   “How do you spend most of your time in your position?” one scholar asked Dean.  “I have six or seven director reports,” Norman responded. “A lot of my time is spent talking to them. I try to give each department the attention they deserve on a given day. I talk about big picture topics like how to meet our sales goals and how to adjust our approach if needed to meet those goals. We discuss our numbers for the month, quarter, and year every single week. We need to make sure we are staying on track and making sure we are taking the correct steps to meet our target.”  

Dean eventually decided to further his technical business skills and learn more about the world of finance by receiving an MBA from Wake Forest University. “You have to be aggressive with your own career,” he said. This meant actively reaching for that higher position at your company, going out of your way to further educate yourself on the industry you are in – doing what it takes to get to where you want to be. He took these skills with him into his future business endeavors, first at Gold Toe, and then Hot Sox, where he currently holds the President and COO title.
Hot Sox has become one of the most successful sock companies in the world, with licensing deals with Ralph Lauren and getting to work with other notorious brands such as Vera Bradley and New Balance. Owned by the parent company Renfro, Hot Sox sells to every major department store in the world.
 

“How do you spend most of your time in your position?” one scholar asked Dean.  “I have six or seven director reports,” Norman responded. “A lot of my time is spent talking to them. I try to give each department the attention they deserve on a given day. I talk about big picture topics like how to meet our sales goals and how to adjust our approach if needed to meet those goals. We discuss our numbers for the month, quarter, and year every single week. We need to make sure we are staying on track and making sure we are taking the correct steps to meet our target.”

 

 “What is the biggest lesson you learned from working at Gold Toe that you brought to Hot Sox?” another scholar asked.  “When I worked at Gold Toe, we had a 50% market share of the socks market, which is huge” Dean said. “At the time, socks were a very basic item, not as stylized as they are now. They were simply a replenishment item that you could buy anywhere. From that job I learned how to build a strong replenishable model. When I started my career, socks were 90% replenishment and 10% fashion. Today, fashion is close to 30%. Socks are one of the hottest accessories in the market. People still need socks and they are still a replenishable item; however, ‘the sizzle sells the bacon.’” “You experienced some major career path changes on your way to your current role,” one scholar noted. “In the retail industry specifically, if you start by doing one thing, like finance for instance, can you move into something like design?” Having some personal experience with this question, Dean responded quite emphatically. “Yes! In fact, I recommend it. At Hot Sox we really encourage people to explore and keep learning. Like in my own career story, we have people in our company moving from department to department internally all the time. Good talent is good talent. If I have dedicated, talented employees who want to try something new within my company, I want to keep them, and give them a chance to explore.”  

 “What is the biggest lesson you learned from working at Gold Toe that you brought to Hot Sox?” another scholar asked.  “When I worked at Gold Toe, we had a 50% market share of the socks market, which is huge” Dean said. “At the time, socks were a very basic item, not as stylized as they are now. They were simply a replenishment item that you could buy anywhere. From that job I learned how to build a strong replenishable model. When I started my career, socks were 90% replenishment and 10% fashion. Today, fashion is close to 30%. Socks are one of the hottest accessories in the market. People still need socks and they are still a replenishable item; however, ‘the sizzle sells the bacon.’”


“You experienced some major career path changes on your way to your current role,” one scholar noted. “In the retail industry specifically, if you start by doing one thing, like finance for instance, can you move into something like design?” Having some personal experience with this question, Dean responded quite emphatically. “Yes! In fact, I recommend it. At Hot Sox we really encourage people to explore and keep learning. Like in my own career story, we have people in our company moving from department to department internally all the time. Good talent is good talent. If I have dedicated, talented employees who want to try something new within my company, I want to keep them, and give them a chance to explore.”

 

“Going off of that, what advice do you have to help make rising talent more attractive to companies?” another asked.  “We hire a lot of entry-level people at this company because we really want to promote them,” Dean said. “Resumes are hard to judge by, so interviews make a huge impact. You need to do your research and know what you’re talking about. It’s flattering to hear someone say that they know about your work. The way you present yourself is so important. You have to have an answer to questions like ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ Have a sense of direction and show some ambition. Work on your interpersonal skills and put them to use. When you work for a company, you are ALWAYS representing that company. Additionally, it is so important to dress the part. This is a visual industry – dress like it. I mean, you can wear anything you want. However, think of it this way: if we have a meeting with our largest account, which for us is Ralph Lauren, would you feel comfortable the way you are dressed? Show a little savvy in how you present yourself. I would always rather be overdressed than under dressed.”  

“Going off of that, what advice do you have to help make rising talent more attractive to companies?” another asked.  “We hire a lot of entry-level people at this company because we really want to promote them,” Dean said. “Resumes are hard to judge by, so interviews make a huge impact. You need to do your research and know what you’re talking about. It’s flattering to hear someone say that they know about your work. The way you present yourself is so important. You have to have an answer to questions like ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ Have a sense of direction and show some ambition. Work on your interpersonal skills and put them to use. When you work for a company, you are ALWAYS representing that company. Additionally, it is so important to dress the part. This is a visual industry – dress like it. I mean, you can wear anything you want. However, think of it this way: if we have a meeting with our largest account, which for us is Ralph Lauren, would you feel comfortable the way you are dressed? Show a little savvy in how you present yourself. I would always rather be overdressed than under dressed.”

 

Dean went on to offer some wisdom on how young talent like our scholars should approach their newfound career path. “Don’t take a job because it’s the highest paying or the highest profile,” he urged, “Take a job because you’re going to learn the most. You have to aggressively manage your career. You need to be asking ‘What more can I do?’ Keep asking, “How you need to get to the next level?” The cream rises to the top. It really does.” Norman went on to encourage the scholars to be able to define their career path. If you don’t know what your career path is at a company, or if there is no upward mobility, he suggested they find a new place of work. “There is nobody waking up in the morning thinking about you and your career besides you,” Dean stated honestly. “Your degree only opens the first door for you. After that, it’s really up to you to manage your career and get where you want to be.” Dean chose to carve out a space in the sock industry over working in something like finance because he felt that he could make a real impact in that sector. He was hungry to learn and grow, and for him, retail allowed him to do so. In his own company, Hot Sox, Dean strives to give his employees the same opportunity for growth that he searched for a young man. “I know what each employee in my company does and I tell them that if they left right now,” Dean said, “It would have a huge affect. You all make an impact.” Dean Norman has learned and grown immensely during his time in retail, and is really grateful for the experiences he’s gained. While he loves New York City, he still has a soft spot for his southern roots. After building his company up to the level it is today, Dean made the choice to come full circle and split his time between New York City – the center of the universe – and his home, North Carolina.   

Dean went on to offer some wisdom on how young talent like our scholars should approach their newfound career path. “Don’t take a job because it’s the highest paying or the highest profile,” he urged, “Take a job because you’re going to learn the most. You have to aggressively manage your career. You need to be asking ‘What more can I do?’ Keep asking, “How you need to get to the next level?” The cream rises to the top. It really does.” Norman went on to encourage the scholars to be able to define their career path. If you don’t know what your career path is at a company, or if there is no upward mobility, he suggested they find a new place of work. “There is nobody waking up in the morning thinking about you and your career besides you,” Dean stated honestly. “Your degree only opens the first door for you. After that, it’s really up to you to manage your career and get where you want to be.”

Dean chose to carve out a space in the sock industry over working in something like finance because he felt that he could make a real impact in that sector. He was hungry to learn and grow, and for him, retail allowed him to do so. In his own company, Hot Sox, Dean strives to give his employees the same opportunity for growth that he searched for a young man. “I know what each employee in my company does and I tell them that if they left right now,” Dean said, “It would have a huge affect. You all make an impact.” Dean Norman has learned and grown immensely during his time in retail, and is really grateful for the experiences he’s gained. While he loves New York City, he still has a soft spot for his southern roots. After building his company up to the level it is today, Dean made the choice to come full circle and split his time between New York City – the center of the universe – and his home, North Carolina. 

 

Dean’s Words of Wisdom: “Where you think you’re going to end up, and where you actually end up, are often very different.” “Don’t take a job because it’s the highest paying or the highest profile. Take a job because you’re going to learn the most.” “Getting a job should be all about gaining experience.” “If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.” “Expectation and perception are everything.” “The sizzle sells the bacon.”

Dean’s Words of Wisdom:

“Where you think you’re going to end up, and where you actually end up, are often very different.”

“Don’t take a job because it’s the highest paying or the highest profile. Take a job because you’re going to learn the most.”

“Getting a job should be all about gaining experience.”

“If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.”

“Expectation and perception are everything.”

“The sizzle sells the bacon.”