I was sitting between a super model and a sales executive for Bugle Boy Jeans (yes, Bugle Boy Jeans!). Across the table in a private room at a popular Vegas steak house was a passionate designer talking about the return of sweat pants as couture clothing. I was just a kid working my first staffing gig. My boss sent me to MAGIC (apparel trade show) to scout for talent. As the Bugle Boy sales guy told me he cleared over 600k last year the mound of cocaine in front of him was nearly gone..."you want a bump, kid?" I graciously declined. I was nervous, intimidated and way out of my depth. I wanted to get back in the kiddie pool but I was determined to show my boss that her gamble on me was worth it. Years later and many fashion staffing jobs later I wrote my first book, You Can Get a Job in Fashion. It was a good primer for young fashionista's looking to break into an industry that they were determined to crush.
I knew the industry was changing when I wrote the book but I didn't know how fast and how dramatically it was changing. Fast forward to last week, I was on the phone with an executive from a big Italian fashion brand as she wept on the phone telling me that she now hates fashion and that she didn't get into the business to be a digital media expert or web programmer. This talented merchant is an industry legend that built fashion brands and had a record of raking in double and triple digit growth at luxury. She was looking for a Chief Merchandising role with another brand but when it came to the question of certain 2017 skill sets she balked. For the last ten years, this veteran and name brand talent had taken a 10-20% pay cut, almost yearly. She told me that she made more money in the 80's than she does now. That's when I told her my Steaks, Cocaine and Sweat Pants story (there are more details but wanted to keep it short and PG-13).
Instead of focusing on the skills she didn't have we talked about the opportunity to lead the companies that lacked certain skills with her expertise. Where could we take her voice? Where could we leverage her ability to strategize? Where could she be the adult in the room? I wanted her to take advantage of a longer runway. To latch on with a traditional fashion company would mean that she may have to look again in a year. Nope, we needed to find the best last chapter of her career.
I am writing about this now because it was one of my shortest engagements. Our work together was just two sessions. Our timing was perfect. I knew of a VC firm that was engaged in a pure play eComm company and they wanted an adult in the room. She messaged the Managing Director and detailed her plan. She didn't want to go into clicks but the job was too good to pass up.
She may never make the huge bucks she used to. The world she loved, romanced about...that world is gone. But, instead of fighting the tides she packaged herself as an innovator and creative strategist again...just on a new playing field and she couldn't be happier. Mazel tov!