“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.
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