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!