At our Breakfast with the Boss, Karen Murray, President of Sportswear at VF Corporation, discussed the importance of consumer insights and analytics. “If you’re interested in that area, we’re probably one of the best companies to work for..."Read More
This year marks the fortieth year Tom Kingsbury, Chairman, CEO and President of Burlington Stores, has worked in the retail business. Originally planning to work for a marketing firm, Tom studied business marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.Read More
Colleen Kelly, CEO of Alex Apparel Group, graduated from Boston College with a major in theater. Throughout her college career, Colleen supported herself with retail jobs, giving her a true taste and appreciation for the world of apparel.Read More
Debra Malbin, Founder and President of Executive Recruiting Firm, Debra Malbin Associates, hosted a breakfast with FSF Scholars to discuss careers in the fashion industry, share interview tips, and provide Scholars with personalized resume feedback.Read More
For July’s installment of Breakfast with the Boss, Hope Brick, Vice President of Design at Weissman’s Designs for Dance, joined Scholars at the Doneger office to talk about her life and career in the fashion industry.Read More
Lisa Panattoni is President of Merchandising at Ross Stores, Inc., where she directly oversees men’s, home, cosmetics, lingerie, and hosiery. She has been at Ross for almost 12 years, and has spent 25 years of her career in off-price.Read More
Glen Ellen Brown has had an inspiring career in which she has climbed the corporate ladder and held a number of Senior Strategy and Brand Marketing positions.Read More
“If you love what you love you’ll never work a day in your life” – This was one of the biggest takeaways from breakfast with Sammy Aaron, Vice Chairman of G-III Apparel Group and CEO of the Calvin Klein Divisions. FSF scholars gained incredible insight into how to be successful in the business of fashion, while also learning the importance of analytics in the industry.Read More
Peter Sachse, Macy’s Chief Growth Officer and YMA FSF President, welcomed FSF Scholars into Macy’s Executive Boardroom to discuss his career and offer advice to those seeking to make a path for themselves in the fashion industry. After intently listening to Sachse’s stories and hearing more about his job, Scholars asked questions and were given a tour of Macy’s Executive offices.Read More
Andrew Pizzo, President and Owner of Collection 18, took time out of his busy morning to speak with several YMA FSF Scholars about his work at Collection 18 and offer useful career advice.Read More
The YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund hosted its annual Summer Kick Off Party Tuesday, June 15th, on the rooftop of the Sequential Brands Group Starrett-Lehigh Building in New York City. The evening was full of laughs, fun, and networking as Scholars and Board of Governors mingled.Read More
On Saturday, the YMA Fashion Scholarship fund hosted the inaugural Hearst Summer Institute, an informative session for Scholars and Alumni, as part of the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Summer Kick Off.Read More
On Wednesday, award-winning fashion designer, musician and author, Keanan Duffty, and his wife, Nancy Garcia, welcomed several YMA FSF scholars into their apartment for a delicious breakfast and an inspiring conversation on how to break into the fashion industry.Read More
YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Summer Kick Off Week officially began with the first annual Mentor Mixer, held on Tuesday, June 7th. As guests arrived at the breathtaking Hearst Tower, they were ushered toward the escalators alongside cascading glass waterfallsRead More
Engrossed in Kenneth Cole’s sophisticated-yet-classic urban lines and natural tones with pops of color, the YMA Fashion Scholarship Scholars took a seat at the table for the last “Breakfast with the Boss” of the summer, featuring Mia Dell’Osso-Caputo. In addition to hearing about Mia’s exciting day-to-day process as Creative Director and GVP of Men’s Merchandising, we had the opportunity to walk around the rooms that comprise the heart of Kenneth Cole’s creative design process, getting a hands-on feel for the fabrics and sketches. We couldn’t have asked for a more exciting finish to our 2015 “Breakfast with the Boss” series. Take a look!
About Kenneth Cole Productions
Kenneth Cole Productions designs, sources and markets a variety of fashion footwear, handbags, apparel and accessories. The company’s three labels include Kenneth Cole Reaction, Kenneth Cole New York, and Kenneth Cole Black Label. Kenneth Cole’s designs have located a special niche within the industry as fashion-forward product that reflects a modern metropolitan lifestyle. Products range from the core basics that remain in our closets to trending and seasonal products, a combination that provides “freshness in assortments” while staying true to the urban customer’s fashion needs. The balance of sales from retail to wholesale throughout its three core lines increases the company’s opportunities in all distribution channels.
Behind the Design
Mia engaged us with visuals in the form of sketches and concept boards to give us a sense of the origins of her design team. She explained the process of formulating concept and color, which begins with the design and merchandising teams coming up with concept boards internally, and building “brand rooms” which reflect themes and ideas. Next, these design boards are taken to the market and used as a pitch to sell the story in hopes of exciting buyers. Mia walked us through the “Concept in Color” boards that lay out the standout colors by month, as well as boards devoted to the class Kenneth Cole Blackout and Whiteout schemes. We also got to see overarching concept boards of the season, which are used as inspiration for the design team to pull from when detailing its apparel for the season.
Mia noted, “Our ‘Urban Uniform’ look takes the form of an interchangeable closet, where no one is buying head-to-toe anything. Yes, some people are wearing suits every day, but the majority of the country is building their closet savvier. You’re buying and investing in individual pieces, and figuring out that there are no boundaries…there are many ways to put them together. We’re very lucky that when we design clothes, we can say ‘Let’s try it!’ and just go for it. It’s a fun experience not to have any boundaries, and not to be tied to any traditional DNA.” Currently, the design team is working on incorporating technology into its everyday urban apparel, while also making the environmentally conscious shift towards “season-less clothing” a priority.
Words of Wisdom
- Teamwork. At Kenneth Cole, the whole team works together, from drawing board to final product. “It takes a team to build a line.”
- Persistence. “It’s not easy out there, especially when first starting out in the industry. You just have to stay positive—go at it!”
- Network. “Keeping those contacts is so important, because a lot of times the job posting doesn’t make it to the ad or to the agency. If I’m looking to fill a position, I call [the people I know]. That’s something that happens a lot in the industry, which is why that network is important to have.”
- Good First Impression. “In that first moment of professional contact, you want to be just outgoing enough, look like a go-getter, but you don’t want to have so overpowering a personality that the interviewer can’t ask you any questions!”
Q: May He- “Within your design team, how are the departments separated?”
A: “We work with design services on concepts and colors, and design services works on how to get the same message across to all licensees. [Our department] takes it and figures out how to make it menswear. The way the team is broken down is that we have designers by category—woven shirts, knits and sweaters, denim, and outerwear. Then we have a merchandising team, a production team, and a technical team. Everyone is mirrored by category—there’s a family to line-build with. If you’re here on knits and sweaters, you’re going to work closely with the merchandising and sourcing teams, so that along the way you become a unit and everyone knows what you’re doing. At Kenneth Cole, our work is from conception to production—we sketch it, then tech pack it, then fit it…your baby is your baby! I love that experience. If we want to put a trim on a garment, it’s not like we have to go to a trim department and ask. It’s purely in our hands, and we get to do it from beginning to end. It’s a different kind of work style, and I love working that way, but it’s not for everyone.”
Q: Caley Taylor (Kent State University)- “How are you able to differentiate between the 3 different labels and customers that fit those labels, while also keeping an overall Kenneth Cole aesthetic?”
A: “It’s a ‘Good, Better, Best’ strategy built by pricepoint. It’s one brand—there are only so many trends, and we’re Kenneth Cole in DNA no matter what price point. If it’s all about the jogger this season, we don’t say, ‘which brand should we put that in?’ but rather, we’ll put some in an opening price point at $60, and go all the way up to an $800 leather jogger for Black Label. It all has to go together. In our own house, in theory, I should be able to use all of the product from the three lines together and be able to make it look cool together.”
Q: Madeline Hanley- “Was there ever a time that you doubted yourself as a designer?”
A: “Seeing the samples come in, you’re always worried that it’s not going to come together, but ultimately it always does. I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of types of product [throughout my career] and I’m at a place now where I feel confident in what I do. One thing you learn over the years is that you have to be an amazing seller of yourself. A true designer, when they’re passionate about what they’ve done, will be able to sell to internal teams as well as customers."
Thank you to Mia for ending our summer series on such a high note!
Copyright © 2015 YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, All rights reserved.
Whether we’re design or business oriented, whether we have a passion for marketing, product development or buying, all of us share one common goal: Finding a job! After our breakfast with Debra Malbin, President of the fashion industry executive search firm Debra Malbin Associates, the daunting task of landing a job began to feel a little bit more approachable. In addition to her unparalleled talent for industry recruiting, Debra has played an extremely instrumental role in the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund—she has remained on the Board for over 25 years, currently serving as Co-Chair after being Co-President last year. Having watched the organization grow for many years, Debra has a unique perspective that has been beyond valuable in developing the internship, mentorship, ambassador and alumni programs. She coached the scholars on careers within the fashion industry, as well as the ins and outs of interviews, resumes and job offers, providing each scholar with a packet of information and advice to take home. Our one-on-one mentoring experience with Debra was informative, engaging and above all an immense opportunity for personal development.
The Boss' Journey: Steps to Success
Born and raised in New York, Debra graduated from the University of Florida with a business degree in marketing. As she explained, “I really had no clue what I wanted to do in those days,” a feeling that resonates with many of the scholars. Debra entered the fashion industry as a menswear buyer at Bloomingdale’s, where she remained for eight years, learning from the best. After leaving Bloomingdale’s, Debra was recruited to Oxford Industries, Inc., where she switched over to the sales and manufacturing side and eventually came to manage several different fashion divisions within Oxford as Group President. She launched Jhane Barnes, a men’s designer brand, as well as R.E.N.N.Y., a women’s private label sweater and knit division. Thirteen years later, armed with twenty years of retail and wholesale experience, Debra began her own executive search firm. For nineteen years, Debra has been placing talented individuals in jobs within the industry through DMA, a talent cultivated and strengthened throughout her experience in the retail and wholesale industries.
Debra Malbin Associates is a creative executive search firm that services the needs of both the wholesale and retail industries. The DMA recruitment team, lead by Debra, carefully interviews potential candidates in order to a comprehensive understanding of individual talents, strengths and weaknesses and how they can best be applied as assets to specific companies. Having worked in both the retail and wholesale levels of the industry, Debra and her team have placed candidates on a spectrum of professional levels in the sales, product development, design, merchandising, licensing, sourcing and marketing sectors. DMA primarily offers mid- to senior-level opportunities. Additionally, the firm offers career counseling in person and by phone, preparing candidates for their job search process with resume critiques, interview tips and a lot of other professional advice that we had the wonderful opportunity of hearing firsthand.
Words of Wisdom
Careers in the Fashion Industry:
To start off, Debra provided us with a chart detailing job positions within the fashion industry. She explained the tasks each position entails, taking note of the specific skill sets, interests and characteristics of a potential candidate that best fit each role. For instance, Debra highlighted product development as an area well suited for a detail-oriented individual who likes the bridge between merchandising and design, whereas someone with a passion for travel would likely best find a home in sourcing and production. For a student who has strong left-brain and right-brain capability, merchandising, which involves both numbers and creative skills, might be a good option.
Debra’s “Do’s and Don'ts”
Next, Debra went through a list of resume, interview and networking advice—words that she has lived by and coached many students on over the years. Here’s just a portion of the critical advice she offered!
- First Impressions Count. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
- Have a firm handshake. “Nothing is worse than a weak, clammy handshake.”
- Dress appropriately, and dress for the company.
- Look directly into the eyes of your interviewer—be sharp.
- No fidgeting. Sit straight up, have confidence.
- If given the choice to, sit in the center. “The most confident people I’ve seen, the best interviewers, take that middle seat.”
- Resume and Cover Letter.
- Know your resume. Be prepared to explain, justify and expand on everything on it. Be excited about your accomplishments!
- No spelling errors!
- Bring multiple copies of your resume. “You never know how many people you are going to meet. Don’t expect them to make the copies!”
- Give your cover letter a special flair. “Why should they respond to you vs. someone else?”
- Do your Research. “Go to stores to see product, visit their website, read blogs and industry trade publications. Follow the company on Twitter and Facebook to gain insight into their social initiatives, target audience and positioning on current events.”
- Be prepared. Let the interviewer speak and lead the discussion, but have your list of questions.
- Answer the question being asked! Listen to what the interviewer is really asking.
- If it’s a phone interview, aim to sound perky and engaged. Let the interviewer lead the conversation to avoid speaking over one another, and be concise in your answers.
- Just Go For It. “Go for it all the away around—from the beginning with how you show your experience on a resume, to how you write your cover letter, to how you present yourself in the interview, to how you write the follow up thank-you note, and finally, how you accept your job offer…this all represents you. You want them to really think, ‘I have a winner here.’”
Q: Oliver Selby (Savannah College of Art & Design)- “I am currently in the job search process--I recently met with a small womenswear design company and they offered me an internship. Do you think I should take that internship while looking for a job, or should I wait for a job?”
A: “If that internship is in the realm of your interest, I think it’s good experience. If you’re interning, tell them that you will do it, but if you have a job interview you’ll need time out. I’d continue with it—why not? In the design world, a lot of times, to get a full time job, you have to intern. You may not get a job at that company, but I’d stay with them until you find something else and get your job search really geared up. That being said…while a small company is advantageous from the standpoint of seeing many different areas, the advantage of a big company as your first job is that it has a big appeal when people see it on your resume. Also, if you’re trained in a big company, people know you’ll be well trained—at a smaller company, people don’t know what skills you’ve necessarily picked up. It may not be the product category that you really want to do, but [starting in a larger company] wouldn’t be a bad thing if you can land an opportunity. Once you get going in the design world, things will happen for you. It’s getting that first job, that first start, that’s the hard part.”
Q: Daniela Gallo-McCausland (Washington University in St. Louis)- “I’m currently working in planning, but I find that I’m missing the creative side a bit. I’ve been looking at merchandising…do you think there’s a part in the analytical side of merchandising that overlaps with planning?”
A: “Absolutely. Many small companies really don’t have planning departments, so it’s the merchandisers that do the planning work. A smaller company would give you both sides of that more so than a larger company. But being a buyer in a retail establishment involves both numbers and creativity. These are questions to ask on an interview—what does this job entail?”
Q: Jenna Pace (Texas A&M University)- “I’m interviewing right now—I got through the first round of HR and I’m moving on to interview with the people on the team I would be working for. What questions do you think are especially important to ask at this stage in the process?
A: “Ask them a lot of questions about the specific job. What does the day look like? How will you actually spend your time? You want to understand the roles you’ll be taking on. You’ve already gone past one round of interviews, and now it’s time to make sure that YOU will be interested in the job, in addition to them being interested in you.”
Many thanks to Debra for your priceless knowledge, support, guidance and kindness throughout this exciting yet challenging process!
This morning the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund scholars were lucky enough to be invited back to DDK / Boston Traders, where Anthony Caputo, SVP of Design and Merchandising, approached us from the creative side of the business. After a robust question and answer session, Anthony showed us the design process from conception to shipment, inspiring us with larger ideas and concepts (beach sunsets, surfing, volleyball, sailing) that are later channeled into the product categories, prints and fabrications of the overall brand. Take a look!
About DDK / Boston Traders
DDK is a leading manufacturer and global distributor of men’s outerwear, sportswear and swimwear. The company distributes under licensed brands and private label, with ownership of the Boston Traders intellectual property and design. Boston Traders, a New England-inspired modern yet traditional line of men’s sportswear, is known for outdoor lifestyle comfort, function, value and of course fashion. Additionally, DDK exclusively distributes private label for Saks Fifth Avenue’s modern collection, a path that the company hopes to expand upon with other private labels. As SVP of Design and Merchandising, Anthony is responsible for DDK’s overall design, serving as creative director for the Boston Traders brand as well as working on private labels and new brands.
The Boss' Journey: Steps to Success
A designer at heart, Anthony graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Menswear Design & Marketing. Anthony has a wide background of creative experience, coming to DDK from LF Americas, where he served as Vice President of Men’s Design. He started his career at Tommy Hilfiger, and then went on to serve as Design Director at Joseph Abboud and Calvin Klein. Additionally, Anthony served as Creative Director of his own collection for nearly five years, an experience he jokingly likens to “getting [his] Ph.D. in the fashion industry.” Anthony has now been with DDK / Boston Traders for around seven months, an experience somewhat different that requires the use of all of his experience from the past. “DDK has that entrepreneurial spirit which I love,” Anthony explained.
Words of Wisdom
- Diversify. “When starting out, get as much exposure as possible to different areas of the industry, including various brand aesthetics and distribution channels, in order to help define where you want to go in the future.” Whether you’re on the design or business side of the industry, diversification is especially important.
- Don’t stagnate. For maximum exposure and growth, “try not to get positioned in one distribution level or aesthetic throughout your career. On a daily basis, I work with product that is sold at many different price points and have an understanding and appreciation for all of them.”
- Design with both sides of the brain. “I come from the creative side, but having said that, this industry requires more than that. If you’re on the creative side, really try to understand and integrate with the business / merchandising side of the process, and vice versa.”
- Develop Relationships. “Networking goes beyond finding jobs and mentors—If you want to have your own business one day as a few of you have mentioned, it will help to build respectful relationships with retailers as well.”
Q: Dvorah Elster (University of Wisconsin-Madison)- “What do you take into account when designing for private label brands vs. your own brand?”
A: “Your own brand should have a very specific point-of-view from an aesthetic standpoint regardless of who you sell it to. A lot of it also depends on where the brand is in its life cycle. If you have some brand (selling) history, I think it’s a balance of further developing this core while determining how to evolve with new product that compliments the brand. [As for] private label, you’re going to think very specifically about that private label’s aesthetic and provide product accordingly.”
Q: Oliver Selby (Savannah College of Art & Design)- “If someday I hope to start my own business, what direction would you recommend steering in terms of gaining job experience now?”
A: “If you’re looking to start a business, something on a smaller scale is probably going to help you best. The smaller the company, the more exposure you’ll get to the ‘business of design.’ That doesn’t mean you’ll be running the operation, but it does mean that you’ll be more hands-on. The amount of overlap between functions is far greater—as it must naturally be when you have five people running a company [vs. hundreds or thousands]. When everyone is speaking to each other, you can better understand the logistics of [each department]. I learned a ton of that when I had my own business, but I had worked for ten years before that. It doesn’t have to be ten, but get some years [of previous experience] in there before venturing on your own.”
Q: Katie Class (University of Missouri)- “What do you believed has helped you become a leader in this company, and in the industry as a whole?”
A: “I think that I learned at my first job, while working for Tommy Hilfiger, that he knew a lot about everything going on within the company, from business to design. Because of this I decided to choose a smaller company for my second career move that really took me into the trenches…I was in Hong Kong, China, India, Europe…that experience was invaluable. I left a growing company to join a smaller one because I felt it would help me gain exposure to more, ultimately helping me to understand the ‘business of design.’ While having the brand name experience is desirable, and something I ended up coming back to, getting that diversification was critical [to my growth and leadership].”
Q: Dvorah Elster (University of Wisconsin-Madison)- “Starting out working for someone else, how do you maintain your individual creativity / design aesthetic if the brand you’re working for has a more narrow customer or style?”
A: “The short answer is that you usually don’t—meaning that you have to, as a designer, say, ‘this is who I’m working for, I’m going to get my head into it and channel my creativity into this lane.’ As designers, we have to figure out how to get ourselves entrenched into the aesthetic of the brand we’re working for. I’m not saying give up your creativity—after all, brands hire you for the creativity they see in you. But being able to design product within the lane that resonates with the consumer and the brand you’re working for…keeping the integrity of the brand…this can be challenging but is necessary. I guess that’s why designers seek [to have] their own brand…but as a designer, there’s something valuable to be learned working for someone else. Try different levels and different brands…see where you feel best!”
Thank you to Anthony and DDK / Boston Traders for your continued generosity and words of advice!
Copyright © 2015 YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, All rights reserved.
“I truly believe that the future is now, and you are the future.” At our fourth and final “Breakfast with the Boss” of the week, Hope Brick, Vice President of Design at Weissman Designs for Dance, commended our scholars for their hard work and talent as the “future of fashion,” going on to inspire them with stories and tips from her own career journey. Like many of our esteemed “Bosses,” Hope’s career path has taken many pivots and turns, each step along her journey arming her with experience that she has carried with her to her current position. Here is just some of what Hope shared!
Based in St. Louis, Weissman is a family-owned, private company that designs and merchandises innovative, affordable costume and dancewear designs for every age and dance genre. The company’s dancewear line, Dancewear Solutions, offers a wide range of apparel, accessories and dance shoes from both its own brands, Balera and Urban Groove, and a number of other brands including Capezio and Bloch. Its Recital and Competition line, Weissman Costumes, exclusively outfits dance studios and competition teams of all genres in dazzling colors, intricate patterns and beautiful embroidery. Today, Hope showed the scholars a Concept Presentation, laying out analytics and macro trends and how they evolve into colors, patterns and prints. It was fascinating to see how runway colors and trends of the season quickly developed into visions for leotards and costumes.
The Boss' Journey: Steps to Success
“Cream rises to the top, and strong performers are recognized.” Without a doubt the mantra of our morning, these words have come to hold immense value for Hope as she has embarked along her career journey. Hope started her career in Macy’s Executive Training Program as a buyer. Buying for many product categories and continuously proving herself as “cream of the crop,” she was rewarded with the title of Fashion Director, where she was accountable for using trend research and working with marketing, visual presentation and merchants to drive sales. From there, Hope went on to become VP Fashion Director at Foley’s, and later VP Design Director at May Merchandising Company. At each step along Hope’s career journey, she proved herself as a talented executive and continued seeking out new opportunities for personal growth. Next, she became VP Apparel Design at Wal-Mart, followed by Chief Merchandising Officer of Kellwood Company, SVP of Merchandising at Frederick’s, and VP of Product Development and Trend for Cacique and Lane Bryant Apparel.
With each opportunity, Hope has gained a new skill set, leading her far along from her initial position as an assistant buyer. As she relocated cities and companies, Hope enrolled her daughter Sadye in dance classes to keep her feeling grounded despite the moving. Thus, when it came time to interview with Weissman, Hope knew she would feel at home there, having been a customer of dance costumes for her daughter for many years. As Hope’s mantra dictates, her strong performance was recognized. Today, she leads Weissman’s design team as Vice President.
Words of Wisdom
- Rise to the top—be a member of the “Cream.” The “cream” speaks with authority, substantiates predictions with facts and collaborates well with others.
- It’s ok to explore your options. “It’s ok to be with a company for a few years, and then move on. You will gain many different experiences, bring what you’ve learned to other companies, and grow yourself personally, professionally and financially by moving around.”
- Teamwork. “With each move and each opportunity, one of the many things I’ve learned is that none of it happens without partnerships, amazing collaborations and teamwork. The ability to work on a team, with a team, leading a team or being led by a leader of a team—and to do it sincerely—is absolutely critical. Trust your team. Communicate to them that you want them to do well, that you invest in their success.”
- Keep the customer in mind. “Your whole reason for working together as a team is to serve that customer with compelling product that is innovate, that has integrity and that has value. That’s the main reason you are getting up to go to work each and every day. Over time, malaise in the industry has resulted from losing sight of that customer and that product.”
- “Ignite and Delight.” “The retail environment is theater. Whether it’s dance product, T-shirts, denim or intimate apparel, when you’re crafting an assortment, you’re painting the canvas of the selling floor or the electronic screen. You want that customer to have a visual, painted with color, texture and fabrics. It’s the passion behind the product that [will] drive the sale.”
- Find something to celebrate. “Even when it seems like nothing is going right, find something—whether it be a category selling, or a color that’s performing well—to celebrate.” Be the one to find that one thing for your team, and others will thank you.
Q: Carlin Rhea (Texas A&M University)- “You talked a lot about how you’ve managed your career and worked for many different companies. How do you suggest going about personal evaluation, and what is your advice on [analyzing your potential] for growth within a company?”
A: “I think that your own personal career growth and development will show itself to you. A great company has metrics in place that evaluate you and how you’re doing every six months or so…this gives you the opportunity to conduct your own self-appraisal, and also allows your immediate superior to evaluate you, so that you know how you’re doing and can set a development plan. If your organization isn’t providing you with a development plan, I recommend making one of your own, keeping a journal, and measuring your own development goals. Also, use professional patience. Sometimes, we think we need to be growing faster than is realistic, and might believe we are suited for something higher than where we are. But not everything can be measured in financial metrics…it’s also about asking yourself, ‘How happy am I? Am I feeling gratified every day? Do I wake up in the morning feeling like I love what I’m doing?’ But give yourself time [at a company]…it’s a lot like dating! After a year or so, ask yourself if you are satisfied. Life is short!”
Q: Lizzy Schrantz (Oklahoma State University)- “Aside from being the ‘cream of the crop,’ what does Weissman’s Designs for Dance look for when hiring?”
A: “Our company has evolved quite a bit in a short period of time, and we now have some incredible legacy designers, along with an in-house factory that designs by hand. What we’re looking for now in addition to that creative person is someone with technical skills. Having those skills is important, and we’re really appreciative of the YMA [Fashion Scholarship Fund] partnership because we know they partner with elite schools and students to ensure that we are receiving candidates who are fully trained to handle the most technical design software. It’s important that we hire individuals who have the creative savvy, but who are also completely up to date on all technical design acumen. Additionally, being able to communicate is essential…Within dancewear there aren’t many factories that can manufacture this kind of product, so we often take capacity in small, unsophisticated factories in China and must provide them with very specific instructions.”
Q: Katie Class (University of Missouri)- “What do you do for personal development? How do you obtain feedback?”
A: “I personally work with a coach, and I invest in that myself. Many companies will also invest in that for [its employees]. There are also books on leadership and teamwork out there that are just as good and would be a great way to help you take a pulse check, step outside of the organization’s metrics and values and develop your personal values and goals. I would encourage you to constantly grow and develop your leadership style. It will help you not only professionally, but with your family, friends, and in life in general.
If there’s one piece of advice to take away from Hope’s presentation, it’s this: ‘cream rises to the top, and strong performers are recognized.’ Thank you to Hope for your inspiration and powerful words.
Copyright © 2015 YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, All rights reserved.
Scents of orange blossom, vanilla, bamboo and ginger wafted through the room this morning as our scholars took their seats at NEST Fragrances to hear from CEO Nancy McKay. A talented beauty industry executive, Nancy believes strongly in the development of young talent. Serving on our very own YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Board of Governors, Nancy is excited to help foster the idea of bringing beauty companies into the YMA FSF mentoring and internship program and share her insights with the organization. Today, in addition to walking away with Nancy’s powerful advice, each of our scholars left with a lovely gift bag of NEST products to add some of the brand’s lovely fragrances to our homes. Read on to learn about Nancy’s career journey and the advice she shared!
About NEST Fragrances
New York City-based NEST Fragrances is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of luxury fragrances for the bath, body and home. Founded in 2005 by fragrance authority Laura Slatkin, today NEST Fragrances produces more than 20 home fragrance collections consisting of luxury scented candles in several sizes, reed diffusers, liquid soap and hand lotion. In 2012, the company launched the NEST Fine Fragrances Collection, which today consists of eight fragrances available in eau de parfum sprays and roller balls and luxury body cream. NEST Fragrances products are sold primarily in North America through a growing wholesale customer network of luxury specialty department stores, beauty product stores, boutique stores and spas, and the company’s online flagship store NESTFragrances.com.
The Boss' Journey: Steps to Success
“Don’t ever say never.” According to Nancy, no words better describe her career journey. Growing up in Washington D.C., studying Government and Organizational Communications at Florida State University and interning for congressmen, Nancy was positive she wanted to be a senator. “I did all those things you do when it’s very clear that you know what you want to be,” she laughed. But as she advanced towards graduation, Nancy realized that her long-lived dreams were no longer suiting her passions. As she explained, “After going through the long, two-year process of working with a majority leader to write an insurance policy bill, I felt that I’d be much more suited for business, where you start out with an idea, execute that idea, and identify clear measures of success.”
There stood Nancy with a degree in government and no clear path ahead of her. She moved to Atlanta, where she was hired by a prestigious telephone company to join their Management Training program and enjoyed working there for six years. However, when it came time to move up to a new position and move to New York, Nancy—who wanted to build a life in Atlanta—decided not to take the position. Having always been interested in cosmetics, even throughout her time preparing to be a senator, Nancy received a job offer as an Account Executive for Estee Lauder in Atlanta. She immediately fell in love with the industry and performed well, which led her to a promotion to join Estee Lauder’s Chicago office, where she met her husband. When she finally decided to pick up and move to New York to become Regional Vice President of Clinique, the mantra “don’t ever say never” rang truer than it ever had before. Early this year, after twenty years holding various executive positions within the Estee Lauder Companies, Nancy learned that NEST Fragrances was looking for a new President and CEO, and the rest was history.
Q: Alicia Underhill (University of Virginia)- “What do you think brought you to where you are today, as CEO of Nest?”
A: “What helped me get here from an experience standpoint is probably the ‘block and tackle’ work I had experience doing. I knew how to run a P&L, had strong experience marketing and selling a brand, and had strong relationships within the trade [from my prior jobs]. They were looking for [someone who had] experience within the field, along with having a great deal of leadership experience. Working at the flagship brand of Estee Lauder, I also gained a lot of experience working with founders—I understood the principles of a founder-based entrepreneurial company and the processes needed to grow it from quite small to large-scale. Essentially, over the years I developed strong knowledge and experience. That, paired with my love [of] fragrance…I was also very inspired by Laura’s philanthropic work with Autism Speaks...Philosophically, having done a lot of work with the Breast Cancer Foundation at Estee Lauder, I was a good fit for our founder, and my knowledge of the industry and broad range of experience would provide the leadership needed to strengthen the company.
Q: Ruby Ghastin (University of California-Berkeley)- “As you moved from job to job, were you always asked to be promoted, or did you have to seek out your promotions?
A: “That’s a great question. I’ve been really fortunate throughout my career [to be asked and recommended by mentors and friends], but that’s not so normal. I worked for the same company for a long time, so many of my jobs were within that company. What I will say is this: YOU are in control of your career. Do not expect someone to ask you if you want [a job]. When I’m interviewing you, I want to know you want the job, and why you want to come here. Ask for it—call back and ask for that job. Show you want it! If you are in a job that isn’t the right fit for you or you aren’t where you want to be, take control of that—figure out your next steps or your exit strategy. If you’re in a job you love but feel it’s time to move to the next level, try to come up with an action plan. Sometimes, I find that people think they should immediately be ready for that next job. To me, it isn’t necessarily about ‘paying your dues’ within your company, but it’s about gaining experience, and that only comes by showing up [each day] and gaining experience in your particular area. Putting in the time and showing your dedication—that will help you reach success.”
Words of Wisdom
“I’d like for you to write down how many jobs you think you will have in your career,” Nancy addressed the scholars. After hearing our answers, which ranged from 5 to 12 jobs, Nancy informed us of a statistic that shocked many of us: “most Millenials are predicted to have between 15 and 20 jobs over the course of their working lives, many of which are not even in existence yet.” In keeping with this idea, Nancy equipped the scholars with her “3 R’s” that will aid them in the workplace as they move from job to job. Additionally, Nancy felt it was important for us to hear from a current employee and former intern at NEST, Hannah Silver, a recent college graduate from F.I.T. who had some very relevant advice. Take a look!
Nancy’s 3 R’s:
“There are many things in your career you will not have control over,” Nancy explained, “but these three things you do.”
- Resume. A word we’ve all heard many times: the basic list of experiences you bring to the table that can add value to a company. As Nancy explained, the resume is about not only the jobs and skills in your job description that you list on paper, but also about the lessons you learn that help you grow along the way.
- Rolodex. Before the age of computers and smartphones, this was the method used to collect contacts and phone numbers (yes, Nancy provided a visual aid). “As you grow in your career, the relationships you build are critical.” Nancy suggests keeping in touch with contacts you meet along the way who will potentially help and guide you along your journey.
- Reputation. “Do what you say you’re going to do.” It may seem obvious, but people don’t always keep the commitments they make. Whether you have one job or twenty, your reputation will follow you. You WILL make mistakes along the way (and lots of them!), but it’s how you handle these mistakes that will determine your reputation and your success.
- Make Mistakes. “Someone once told me this: ‘If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying.’ A work environment expecting perfection is unsustainable and unrealistic. Mistakes happen—as long as you own up to them, everything will be fine.”
- Build a Squad. Having a team of people who help and support each other is key. “It’s very different than school in the fact that you might not know you’re doing something wrong until someone tells you.”
- Positive Attitude and Good Vibes. “You don’t have to be smiling from ear to ear, but coming in each day with a positive attitude really affects the people around you. If you give off good energy, people will want to be around you, train you, teach you, and most of all employ you.”
Many Thanks to Nancy and NEST Fragrances for such a compelling, informative breakfast focusing on a product category that was new and exciting to us.
Copyright © 2015 YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, All rights reserved.
Wednesday morning quickly turned intriguing as the scholars engaged with the fast-paced world of off-price retail at Burlington. Today we had the pleasure of speaking with Tom Kingsbury, CEO and President of Burlington Stores, Inc. In addition to learning about the company and Tom’s exciting career, we were lucky enough to hear relevant advice from Donna Norton, the Burlington’s Talent Acquisition Manager and Head of College Recruitment. Here’s the inside scoop!
Burlington is a leading national retail chain that offers current, high quality, designer merchandise at up to 65% off of department store prices. Beginning as “Burlington Coat Factory,” a single outlet store in Burlington, New Jersey in 1972, Burlington has grown tremendously, now operating over 544 stores in 44 states and Puerto Rico. Aside from selling the largest selection of coats in the nation, Burlington offers men’s and women’s suits, sportswear, family footwear, handbags, children’s clothing, baby furniture and accessories (under BabyDepot) and home décor. The fast-paced world of off-price retail with constant turnover fuels the company’s entrepreneurial spirit and consumer loyalty, as “the customer feels very confident that they can buy something new every time, and that it won’t be later marked down.”
In addition to clothing America with affordable fashions, Burlington aligns its mission with that of the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, focusing substantial resources and effort on developing future industry talent. As Tom explained, “The most important thing for the foundation of our company is talent. People know that, when they come into our company, we’re going to work very hard at setting them up for success.” At one of the best training programs in the industry, new recruits complete a three-month onboarding program to gain understanding of the industry and Burlington’s model before launching their careers at the company. Additionally, Burlington runs a 10-week internship program for college students, a tremendous pipeline for new talent and leadership—many interns later go on to thrive at the company full-time. After all, as Donna noted, “Once you get the off-price bug, you can’t go back.”
The Boss' Journey: Steps to Success
Tom graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a business degree in marketing. Although he initially saw himself wanting to work for a marketing company, he interviewed with a number of department stores and found himself intrigued by retail. Since then, he’s never looked back. “It’s hard to believe that next year will be my 40th year in the business,” Tom shared. As a former Kohl’s and May Company (Filene’s / Kauffman’s) executive with over thirty years of experience in marketing, business development, e-commerce and information technology, Tom entered Burlington 7 years ago out of desire for fast-paced, hands-on merchandising and has lead his team to incredible success.
As Tom explained, “I love off-price because it’s very entrepreneurial, and it’s the fastest growing channel in retail. What makes it really special is the fact that you’re always in the moment, constantly chasing product.” Whereas department stores rely on fashion trending intelligence to buy everything in advance of the season, Burlington delivers to its customer by buying only one-third of its product before a given season begins, leaving the remaining two-thirds to be purchased and brought into stores after viewing data about the current season’s sales. While Tom’s many roles as Chairman, CEO, and President of Burlington certainly keep him busy, he also spends quality time in the market hunting new product alongside buyers, merchants and interns, and even travels from store to store, “where the magic really happens.” Between Thanksgiving and Christmas alone, Tom visited over 60 stores, because “with 545 stores, you must have a clear understanding of the stores’ needs before you embark on creating change.”
Words of Wisdom
- Do your homework. Understand the culture and structure of the company you’re getting into. Every company is different, and it’s especially important to enter an interview with background information and relevant questions, making it clear that you have spent time in a company’s stores. “If someone puts that kind of work into the interview, that’s their work ethic, and we know when they enter our company they are going to work that hard at everything they do.”
- Set yourself up for success. Make sure you enter a company where you feel you can thrive and grow.
- Don’t move too quickly. Make sure a company is a place you will want to remain for at least 5 years. “As a CEO who hires a lot of people,” Tom explained, “seeing people who jump around a lot from company to company is a red flag. Remaining in one place shows commitment, and that you don’t give up easily.”
- Set five-year benchmarks. “I’ve always looked at my career in terms of 5-year increments.” Tom feels that it helps to set goals for yourself in terms of a new position you can reach within the next five years”—for example, moving from GMM to SVP. After five years, you can set your next goal.
Q: Dvorah Elster (University of Wisconsin-Madison)- “Given that you have worked for multiple companies, what are some different aspects to consider when looking for a job and assessing a company?”
A: “One of the things to really look at is the company’s growth. You really want to join a company that’s growing because the opportunity for personal and career growth is much greater in a company that is growing itself—you never want to feel restricted. You have to do some due diligence in terms of the health of the company overall. Additionally, when you visit a company, you can quickly ascertain how involved all layers of the organization are in terms of [recruiting new talent]. I think mentoring is incredibly important—try to enter a company where you know somebody will take you under their wing and help you grow. Part of the reason I go to stores and markets every week is because I get to interact with divisional buyers, merchandisers, [and many others] to get to know them, help them understand our company’s model, and to help develop them.”
Q: Donna Norton (Burlington Talent Acquisition Manager)- “Since you have come on board, how have you seen Burlington’s core customer change and evolve?”
A: “We’re attracting a different customer today than we were six years ago. One of the areas we’ve made progress with is the higher income consumer. We’ve seen our biggest growth in the company recently come from those customers that make over $75,000. We’ve recommitted to bringing in more brands, opening [new offices], cleaning our stores and making them easier to navigate, and developing better customer service. While we’re cultivating a new customer, I still think the [core customer demographic] we already have is very loyal…we never want to give up our core customer. We try to approach every change thoughtfully, patiently…reinventing the customer but at the appropriate pace.”
Q: Rachel Feller (YMA FSF Intern)- “Given that you focus so much on recruiting new talent, what do you look for in a candidate when you hire?”
A: “We look for people who have off-price experience, who have an entrepreneurial spirit and are comfortable without a lot of hierarchical structure. We look for those who get excited about doing something different every single day. Those who understand product to a certain degree, who are good with negotiating and developing vendor relations, but most importantly, we look for people who really want to learn our model. It’s such a fun model! We find that the most successful people are those who ask questions, make sure they are attentive and are eager to learn.”
Q: Anna LaPlaca (UCLA)- “What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your job?”
“Making sure we’re constantly teaching, training and developing people…it’s not necessarily a challenge, but it’s something that has to be front and forward at all times. I have to make sure [developing talent] is a high priority in everything that I do, and I keep focused on it. Another challenge is making sure that people don’t begin to take for granted our good performance—we’re one of the fastest growing retailers in America, but if we don’t stay focused on [improving], we’re not going to do as well.”
At the end of our breakfast, we were greeted by Timothy Chan, a former YMA FSF Scholar from F.I.T. who has found his home full-time at Burlington. It was wonderful to see one of our very own thriving in the company’s culture. A huge “Thank you” to Tom and Donna for providing an engaging, inspiring morning!
Copyright © 2015 YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, All rights reserved.