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13th Dean's Forum
April 9, 2013

Rent the Runway
"Be a Woman; Wear a Dress"
By Amelia Cheikhali

On April 9 young men and women poured into the Katie Murphy Amphitheater chattering away, checking phones, and even knitting, but all became silent as as Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman stepped on stage. In nude heels and a leather and linen A-line dress, she introduced herself simply as “Jen.” She exuded everything the woman CEO should.

“I see myself as someone who has a vision and someone who is very mission driven so my vision is transforming the retail industry,” Hyman said. “Democratizing it.”

Hyman started off with a short presentation entitled, “Experimental Marketing: The New Frontier,” covering the idea of how we went from a material economy to an “experience economy.” Anyone who has been observant lately, especially students in Advertising and Marketing Communications, will have noticed that stores and brands are going above and beyond to grab us and reel us in as consumers. Hyman contributes this to the “shift in ownership,” where we are so used to renting or gaining access illegally (books, music downloads, movies, etc.) that with her company she is just “legalizing the rental behavior.”

Rent the Runway launched in 2009 with only 28 designers; now in 2013 the company has 200 designers and 3 million online members. And even with the huge leap in numbers in just a few years it was no easy task. Some opposition from the opposite sex and getting people to believe in her and work for her without having her “likability” going down was difficult but she equates her success to hard work and being nimble with a changing environment.

“I think that’s the great thing about being an entrepreneur, you believe in so much in what you’re doing that sometimes, you don’t let distractions like how difficult this mountain is going to be to climb distract you.”She also believes you have three responsibilities as an entrepreneur you must one, have a vision of your company two, hire the right people to create a culture and lastly, set your priorities.

To Ms. Hyman, there is this deeper meaning besides getting a dress for cheap. It is about brining younger woman the awareness of designer names, of course not an issue here, but to many other girls in other states they are unfamiliar with any designer unless covered by Forever 21 and H&M. A new section of the company called “RTR on Campus” was created just for that reason. Representatives of the company would host events on their campus, but the process is very selective and you must go through a “boot camp” to learn all the ins and outs of being your own entrepreneur.

Besides giving access to college age girls we should be seeing a new market segment for maternity and plus size women and Jen even hinted at being able to rent accessories such as veils for weddings in the near future. Plus, she gave a heads-up during the Q&A session to all emerging designers to be on the lookout for a platform that will allow them to get involved in Rent the Runway.

Social media has created a platform for the company to have an “honest” conversation with their customers and see these “Cinderella Moments” that are featured on the RTR site with the dresses they rented."It’s more than just a job. It becomes something that, you know, I’m wholeheartedly committed to because I think that we're changing peoples' lives and we’re really helping people to develop these emotional connections.”And a final piece of advice from Ms. Hyman for all the girls entering the business world, “We can have it all.”

Event funded by the Student Faculty Corporation.
Photo Taken by Lorenzo Ciniglio.
12th Dean's Forum
March 13, 2012

Joe Zee Gives Insight To Students

By Richard Gilmartin

On March 13th, 2012 Joe Zee, Creative Director of ELLE magazine and FIT alum, was a guest speaker at the Dean’s Forum held in The Great Hall.

Zee, who is an inspiration to all current students at FIT, shared his personal journey of hard work and persistence. Everyone’s ears perked up waiting for the secret ingredient that has made him so successful. The answer was so simple that anyone in the room could have guessed it: determination.

A native of Toronto, Zee first came to FIT as a student in 1989. He was told he couldn’t do it because he wasn’t pretty, blonde and female, therefore the odds wouldn’t be stacked in his favor. Zee decided to try out his luck anyway and applied late to the Advertising and Marketing Communications program. After pestering admissions for months, he was finally accepted in August.

Once he had arrived, Zee made it his mission at FIT to stand out. He became the Editor-in-Chief of FIT’s W27 newspaper, and even went ahead and was able to find an internship all on his own at Sportswear Int’l. He quickly realized the importance of standing out as an intern, and that all of his various extracurricular activities relied on the skills essential for getting a job done efficiently.

Once out of school, Zee was able to land a job at Allure, where he stayed for a few years before moving on to W Magazine, as the fashion editor. Zee is now the creative director at ELLE magazine.

“The industry isn’t just Devil Wears Prada,” said Zee, whose job isn’t a typical nine to five, and may include anything from exploring the visual identity of ELLE to which celebrity will grace its cover.

Zee also shows a strong passion for technology, encourages students to use social media to brand themselves, and even claims that the use of social media and its immediacy is more important than the press kit in today’s society.

However, all work and no play isn’t what Zee advises; he believes that having an active social life is essential to keeping a healthy balance between work and personal life. He says the key to keeping his determination and putting a little bit of pep in his step, is balance. While working towards one’s goals he stresses that it is important to maintain a social life in order to live happy and reduce stress.

Event funded by the Student Faculty Corporation
Photo Taken by Lorenzo Ciniglio
11th Dean's Forum
 October 25, 2011

Underneath it All: CEO of Calvin Klein Intimate Wear  
By Dianna Mazzone

Calvin Klein Underwear: the brand is edgy, sexy, cool, and… overseen by a man who serves on the Board of Directors for The Children’s Place? That’s right, Joe Gromek does it all. As President and CEO of the Warnaco Group, Inc., Joe Gromek and his team handle seven major accounts: Calvin Klein Underwear, Calvin Klein Swimwear, Calvin Klein Jeans, Olga, Chaps, Warner’s, and Speedo. Gromek detailed his work with each of these high profile clients during a recent lecture moderated by Dean Deborah Klesenski.From personal organization to employee motivation, Gromek shared the insight he has cultivated throughout his almost forty year career within the field of fashion. Gromek testified that “vacations are key” and also spoke to the value of practicing social and civic responsibility in the workplace.

Gromek has certainly proved his advice to be worthy: In 2003, when he was appointed to his current post as President and CEO of Warnaco, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. However, through business practices implemented by Gromek, Warnaco has not only avoided bankruptcy, but has flourished. Today, the name Warnaco is synonymous with quality, innovation, and fiscal success. Gromek attributes these accomplishments to emphasis on product along with well executed global branding. With plans to double the revenue of the various Calvin Klein lines over the course of the next five years, Joe Gromek certainly has a lot on his plate. But armed with experience and effective management skills, no CEO could be more suitable for the job.

If for some reason you remain unconvinced by Joe Gromek’s ability to operate a multi-billion dollar corporation the likes of Warnaco, Inc., consider his response to a question regarding the hiring process: “I like to hire people who work harder and are smarter than I am… that’s why I hire a lot of women.” Now that’s a good business strategy!

Photo taken by Jerry Speier. The event was funded by the Student Faculty Corporation.
10th Dean's Forum
March 29, 2011

Dean's Forum: Terry Lundgren
by Kirby Irby

“If you can say you love what you do, you will be a success at it,” believes Terry Lundgren, th CEO of Macy’s Inc., parent company of Macy’s and Bloomingdales department stores.

Debonair with the quintessential look of a leading man, Lundgren credits assertiveness, a bit of luck and human connection as the framework that guides him through the awkward stage of adolescence and into the ranks as an innovator in merchandising, branding and local sourcing. Lundgren, one of six children, originally set his sights on being a veterinarian, but soon after changed his mind. Sophomore year at the University of Arizona would put strain on Lundgren’s relationship with his father, who worked two jobs to put Lundgren through school.

Underwhelmed by Lundgren’s progress, his father declined to continue payments. Having to confront his poor academic performance, Lundgren was forced into paying his own way through school. By senior year, Lundgren would hold his first managerial position at a local restaurant where he started as an oyster shucker. Immediately graduating college, Lundgren had 13 job offers lined up, five of which were in retail.

By 35 Lundgren had exceeded his father’s expectations, landing the title of CEO to Bullock’s Department Store chain. In 1988 Bullock’s was acquired by Macy’s, ultimately leading to Lundgren’s dismissal from the company. “I was devastated,” said Lundgren, “I had just had a new baby, I was moving closer to the Wilshire district of Los Angeles and the company was taken over. It was a scary time.” After two months of pounding the pavement and searching for new opportunities, Lundgren was hired as Executive Vice President of Neiman Marcus Group; within 12 months he would become CEO. From 1994 to 1997 he worked as the CEO of Federated Merchandising Group, and in a fateful turn of events Lundgren’s career would land him back at Macy’s in his current role as CEO.

Photo taken by Lorenzo Ciniglio. The event was funded by the Student Faculty Corporation.
9th Dean's Forum
November 9, 2010
 
“Those shoes...” whispered the crowd huddled at the front of the amphitheatre, each waiting to share a word with Mindy Grossman. The familiar sound of cocktail laughter roared as Grossman delicately lifted her pant leg slightly higher, revealing the purple suede heels she was wearing. A self-proclaimed “ force of nature in five-inch heels,” Grossman has served as President and Chief Executive Officer to Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and is currently the CEO of HSN, Inc. It’s no wonder everyone was so eager to see her power pumps."

"At 19, Grossman’s life took a pivotal turn when she broke off her engagement and moved to New York City. Even after majoring in English and Philosophy at both Manhattanville College and George Washington University, Grossman wanted to further expand her education once securing a career and took textile technology classes at FIT. On top of managing HSN Inc., Grossman also served on the board of directors for the National Retail Federation as well as the Cosmetic Executive Women. In addition, she is currently the Chairperson for the FIT Executive Women in Fashion Advisory board as well as a member of the Advisory Board of the J. Baker School of Retail at the Wharton School of Business."

""Nike made athletes perform better," Grossman noted, "that alone, is incredible." A huge believer of immersing oneself into a brand, she recalled, "When I worked for Nike, I took a trash bag and made my family toss all the other athletic clothing we had." Grossman is also a huge advocate for women in the workplace. She believes there need be more female leaders, especially in the retail sector. "Women make good leaders, we have more empathy and think differently about people," she said, "there are not enough women CEOs [only 15% of women hold such positions], there is a responsibility to create diversity." As the woman who remodeled HSN for success, Grossman describes being successful by having a "North Star vision." This translates into not just taking tiny steps to obtain goals, but charting an entire course for change."

"With such passion and conviction, coupled with a portfolio of amazing credentials, Grossman's advice was truly valuable. For those unfortunate enough not to make it to the Dean’s forum, here is what she had to say:

"On life: “Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid to leave and make a change if it is holding you back from success.”
On the choices you make in college: “My degrees in college helped me at Cocktail parties!” she said laughing, before adding, “but great communication is necessary today. In order to inspire people, articulate your vision and point-of-view.”
On time management: “ Oh dear, I’m still figuring that out. You can have it all, just not at the same time. There are trade-offs and I always tell myself, Mindy, remember to breathe.”
On paving a career path: “ My career path was not exactly mapped out. It was purpose, passion and risk-taking...which built a portfolio of knowledge and capabilities. Make decisions to your best ability and if it’s not right, make a change.”
On networking: “ It is a combination of developing long-term relationships that are powerful. It is not just stepping up vertically or horizontally, but to embrace the value in all levels. Also, keep up with relationships, I just had lunch with my first boss on Friday. I had worked for him only for 11 months, and he is now 82 years old.”
On power: “ Power is a combination of relationships, reputation and integrity. I always hire people smarter than me, the best people make you better--if they can do it, I will too.”"

"Grossman had an appropriate send off for her audience of up-and-coming fashion aficionados, “Always celebrate success with a pair of five-inch heels.”
8th Dean's Forum
April 13, 2010

Poised and impeccably dressed, home products maven Harry Slatkin projects an aura of confidence and ease. Slatkin was this year's distinguished guest speaker at the Dean's Forum held in the Great Hall on April 13th.

Slatkin is the home fragrance expert behind Slatkin & Co products sold at Bath & Body Works, at fine stores and on QVC. Before entering the home fragrance market, Slatkin was a businessman working at Bear Stearns where he admits he was out of place. "Wall Street wasn't something I was comfortable with," said Slatkin, "When I would go out to dinner with friends from Wall Street I didn't talk because I didn't have the same kind of lingo." He added, "Once I started the business, I was very passionate about it; oh my God--you couldn't shut the up!"

His experiences on Wall Street aided in his business' success, acknowledging that creativity can only get you so far. "Working on Wall Street did help me because it grounded me on how serious money is. I've met a lot of creative people but if they don't understand what it takes to bring [that creativity] to life, it fails."

In 2005, Limited Brands acquired Slatkin & Co. When asked about the perks of being owned by a larger corporation, Slatkin said frankly, "Hooray, I don't have to worry constantly about a checkbook anymore! When you start your own company your business is about one thing: money."

Bath & Body Works occupies the most mall space in America, a perk that provides his products ample exposure under the company's name. "We are not spending a lot of money in advertising, but using that money for the customer experience in the store." This includes the scent of the candles, which can take upwards of six months to develop per candle, to the displays in the stores. Les Wexler, head of Limited Brands and close friend, advised Slatkin, saying, "Always put yourself in the shoes of your customer. If you're content with your display windows but no one is stopping to look at them, they're bad windows." Slatkin said, "Everyone wants to know what's working. For me the fun is what's not working."

Harry Slatkin has combined business savvy with creativity and brought his vision to life. "Everyone's worried about how they'll financially make their dream come true," says Slatkin. "If you persevere and you're passionate, somewhere along the road, it'll happen."
7th Dean's Forum
October 28, 2009

When Kenneth Cole came to speak to an amphitheater full of eager students in the end of October, his message wasn’t somber or negative. Cole kept his attentive audience laughing and ultimately gave the FIT student body a hand full of good advice for its future designers, buyers and entrepreneurs.

Cole, who started his career with Candie’s shoes, said to students, “I urge you to specialize. Get really good at something.”

Though some of his success has been interlaced with said mistakes, Cole still has high hopes for FIT’s fashion industry wannabes. “I think you are on a really exciting path. It’s going to be hard, but exciting,” he opinioned. And through the Q&A session, he continued to give positive and helpful advice to each student that was brave enough to pose a question in front of the 400+ students in the Great Hall.
6th Dean's Forum
March 4, 2009

Tommy Hilfiger speaks at FIT Tommy Hilfiger spoke to FIT students about both his failures and his successes – the latter he attributed to great clothes, unique marketing and Andy Warhol. He discussed how you can find success in any industry as long as you believe in your ideas and refused to give up hope. He told students that he had no formal training, but a passion for creating clothes that he loved. Tommy Hilfiger managed to discuss how life can lead you on many different paths and the importance of taking advantage of all of life’s opportunities.
5th Dean's Forum
October 20, 2008
 
 
Bobbi Brown, make-up mogul and celebrity artist came to FIT to speak to students about how to actualize their aspirations. Bobbi talked about working hard and following your heart. She also spoke about believing in yourself and keeping your goals in sight no matter how removed you might feel. 
4th Dean's Forum
April 2, 2008
 

Calvin Klein speaks at FIT “Most of what you read about me is probably not true.”

That’s what Calvin Klein told students when he was the speaker at the Business and Technology Dean’s forum.  In a short speech, he discussed the history of his company and his design philosophy.

“I always had a vision for the kind of design I loved,” he said. “It’s simple. It’s not very decorative. Some describe it as ‘minimalist.’ I think it’s very American. And it hasn’t changed. That’s important because people have to know who you are and what you stand for. The challenge was to make sure the people who worked for me understood that vision.”

Afterward, he opened the floor to questions.
3rd Dean's Forum
October 17, 2007

Susan McGalla speaks at FIT The Fall 2007 Dean’s Forum featured Susan McGalla, President and Chief Merchandising Officer of American Eagle Outfitters Inc. She spoke about her career and answered questions from students in the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. Recruiters for American Eagle Outfitters later returned to campus to conduct recruitment sessions with students.
2nd Dean's Forum
March 19, 2007

Martha Stewart speaks at FIT Martha Stewart came to FIT on March 19, and passed on the secrets of her success to a standing-room-only crowd of students in the John E. Reeves Great Hall. The event was the second Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology Dean’s Forum, established last year by Dean Alan Kane to bring industry leaders and FIT students together. But it was less a forum than an extended Q&A session, which suited the audience just fine.

“I started working with Kmart in 1987,” Stewart said. “The business went from zero dollars to $1 billion in ten years.”

Today, at her myriad enterprises, from the magazine empire to television and radio shows to retail partnerships, it all boils down to attention to detail.

“We’re not celebrity designers,” she says, “we’re serious design teams.”
1st Dean's Forum
October 5, 2206

Mickey Drexler speaks at FIT Mickey Drexler, CEO of J. Crew, says, “Don’t let anyone tell you that product is not the most important thing in the world.”

He should know. In his previous job as CEO of Gap, Inc., he turned the firm into a multibillion-dollar empire by re-envisioning its clothing, delivering star-studded advertising campaigns (Whoopi Goldberg, Spike Lee), and developing Gap offshoot Old Navy.

Addressing FIT students, Drexler gave an overview of his career and answered questions about the secrets of his success. Drexler grew up in the Bronx and alluded to a hardscrabble childhood that prepared him for the fast paced, competitive apparel industry. “I like adversity,” he said.  A student asked what the worst habit in the industry was. Drexler replied, “looking in the rearview mirror repeatedly— if you don’t move forward, you’re going to get in trouble.”

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