Stanley Silverstein, President of International Development & Global Licensing at Perry Ellis International, spoke with scholars about his unique path into the fashion industry through law, his experiences working for both Warnaco and Perry Ellis, and the highs and lows of his career. He shared valuable advice for the scholars who aspire to have careers in fashion and explained that, although there is rarely a straight line to success in the industry, it is very attainable if you work hard and have a positive attitude.
Stanley grew up in Ohio and attended Harvard Law School thinking that he would have a career in law. He moved to New York and moved from larger law firms to more boutique firms, but couldn’t quite find a place he enjoyed. He then relocated to Connecticut, thinking it was the New York law firms that were off-putting, but he realized eventually that he was not entirely interested in working as a law associate in general. He began to search for a new job and was then hired as an in-house lawyer for an apparel company in Connecticut. “I found that I really enjoyed the [fashion] industry. We worked with many brands, from Hathaway to Christian Dior and I got to learn the intricacies of the fashion business and understand its dynamics. I had quite a bit of responsibility and took it upon myself to be constantly curious”. He explained that he definitely worked through quite a bit of twists and turns but took advantage of them and maintained his work ethic and positivity. “The company went from being a 500 Million dollar company to a 2.5 Billion dollar company, and it was incredible to see the transformation. I maintained a leadership role and built out the brand platform in a dynamic way, opening new markets and new brands”.
Stanley spent 29 years at Warnaco, Inc. but explained that he had three or four different careers within the company. “We rebuilt Warnaco around the Calvin Klein brand, expanding globally from 2003 to 2013. Then, PVH took an interest in what we were doing and wanted to integrate, so they bought Warnaco, and I helped work on the integration. However, after eight or nine months, I began to look for a new opportunity and met with the founder of Perry Ellis, which gave me the opportunity for the job I have now”. Stanley articulated that since he began working there, Perry Ellis added 111 new licenses. He now manages a group of people in licensing around the globe in locations such as Hong Kong, Europe, and Miami, who work on international and domestic licensing, as well as the company’s EMEA operations headquartered in London.
Stanley shared some words of wisdom with the scholars. The first suggestion that he had for students was to work hard, but work smart, and to be thoughtful. “If you’re close to the hoop, stuff can happen. If you’re there and people can count on you, that’s important. It can lead to mentorship and new opportunities,” he explained. “You have to be willing to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and make yourself noticed, whether it is working at a fashion show or doing an internship”. The second suggestion that he had was to find the right balance of patience and impatience. “You may not get paid enough or properly recognized for your hard work at first, but if you continue to persevere and maintain an optimistic attitude, you will eventually leverage your passions and find your place in the industry”.
Stanley also stressed how important the FSF organization is as a resource for scholars. “Getting that first job is always the hardest, and FSF has an immense network of contacts from the companies that scholars aspire to work for,” he said. “All of these companies have so much respect for the scholars and FSF serves as the go-to development office for recruiters.” Although scholars need to have their own drive and proactivity, FSF can really help them out in terms of putting their resume in the right hands, or informing them of what jobs and internships are hiring at any given moment. Stanley also discussed other ways to use one’s network to find an internship or job. “You can definitely reach out to friends and colleagues, but make sure you position yourself in a thoughtful/professional way,” he explained. ‘You can ask something like ‘I heard your company was looking for a designer’ rather than just meeting up without a specific idea in mind.” He also mentioned that schools usually have some sort of job bank or career services network that scholars can also tap into. One scholar asked, “I have a background in fashion design, but I changed career paths a little while ago and now I work in technology. However, I want to get back into fashion. How can I bridge the gap?” Stanley replied by saying that fashion and technology are becoming increasingly integrated and that the world will see more and more things like wearable tech in the future. He told the scholar to explore her options with the Amazons, Googles, etc. of the world, and to tap into her resources.
Lastly, Stanley took the scholars to the showroom downstairs and showcased the new Perry Ellis 2019 collection, which included water and stain resistant dress shirts and suits. They were intrigued to see what Perry Ellis had in store for the future and were thankful that they got to see a sneak peek. The scholars left the breakfast feeling inspired and uplifted by Stanley’s story and multitudinous words of wisdom.
Stanley Silverstein’s Best Tips from the Boss:
Put yourself near the hoop.
A positive demeanor and a friendly smile goes a long way.
Keep your options open, you never know where you may find your niche.
Maintain your network and don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
Find the right balance of patience and impatience.
Hi! My name is Katie Kornienko and I am the 2018 YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Summer Intern. I am studying Fashion Merchandising and Finance at the University of Delaware, and I am the Executive Editor of my school’s fashion publication, UDress. I was also a top FSF scholarship winner for Merchandising & Marketing in 2018. Enjoy reading about the fun and engaging events we are hosting this summer for the 2018 scholars!