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.”

Breakfast with the Boss: Mia Dell'Osso-Caputo, Creative Director and GVP of Merchandising of Men's at Kenneth Cole Productions

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&A
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.

Rachel Feller