I recall my father buying me my first sewing machine when I was 8 years old and teaching me how to sew. From that point on, I would lock myself in my room for hours, sewing clothes for my Barbie dolls. A fashion industry career was surely in the making!
I landed my first job as a designer for a small clothing company in the early ’80s; it was a fabulous experience, as the company was so small I had to wear many hats and gained exposure to finance, sales, and manufacturing. I took a big risk at the age of 24, moving sight unseen to Hong Kong. I traveled extensively throughout Asia and visited many garment factories. Looking back, I think the move to Hong Kong was probably the single most formative event in my career.
I have had incredible opportunities, a wonderfully supportive family, and a few fantastic mentors who helped me achieve the level of success I have today. Ialways remember those that helped me along the way, and take time to mentor others. I spend time with our interns, as well as young people within the organization, to guide and counsel them on their career paths.
I had a tough time after my son was born, as he was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder at the age of two. The company was extremely supportive while I explored treatment options, special diets, and took him to a myriad of doctors. To this day, our CEO, Paul Charron, regularly asks me how my son is doing—which tells you a bit about the culture in our organization. Liz Claiborne is an incredible company to work for, really understands women’s issues, and supports work/life balance.
My advice to others would be this: Life is too short and can throw you a curve ball in a moment’s notice. Be sure you are happy in what you are doing, be open to all options, and don’t be afraid to take calculated risks … as you may never reap the rewards if you don’t!