Saturday, October 25

Things I Learned at the Forbes Under 30 Summit

At the Forbes Under 30 Summit last week

I must say that it's been an amazing week, STYLE, SHE WROTE. readers! In addition to receiving a new profile from my editor, having my research published in this ethnic dress encyclopedia, and photographing a look book for Walk On Socks, I had the opportunity to attend the Forbes Under 30 Summit earlier this week. And it was AWESOME.

Held in Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Convention Center from October 19th through 22nd, the Forbes Under 30 Summit brought together 1,500 members of Forbes “30 Under 30” list with business leaders and mentors. The Summit's goal? To foster relationships and partnerships through panel discussions, keynote presentations, and parties. I not only learned a lot from my fellow attendees - who are up-and-coming talents in the fields of finance, tech, fashion and more - but from the Summit's distinguished speakers and panelists. 

Although I learned a little something from each speaker, I was most impressed by the Summit's featured fashion entrepreneurs: Hayley Barna of Birchbox, Jenny Fleiss of Rent The Runway, Jodie Snyder of Dannijo, and Sara Blakely of Spanx

Jodie Snyder, Jenny Fleiss and Hayley Barna with Moira Forbes

All four women generously shared their personal and professional experiences, tips, advice and even embarrassing moments with Summit attendees. (Perhaps that's one reason why they are so successful?! Just thought!) Here are some of the business tips that they shared:

- Build your buzz. Snyder explained that it's important to talk about what makes your business unique, as there are likely many similar businesses with which to compete. Stress this in your press and social media marketing. Snyder recommended creating clever hashtags - #armcandy, anyone? - to build interest, while Barna suggested collaborating with up-and-coming bloggers to generate excitement and distinguish your business. 

- Converse with customers. All speakers emphasized the importance of treating customers well. If you care about them, they will care about you! Snyder suggested using social media to interact with customers, while Fleiss recommended gathering customer data from your business website. Not that high-tech just yet? In Spanx's early days, Blakely would sell her products directly to customers and gather their feedback. She then used what she learned to improve her designs. It's important to take what you learn from customers and use it to evolve your business to better serve them.

- Go wherever you need to go to sell your products. All four speakers emphasized the importance of selling products anywhere and everywhere, but Sara Blakely gets extra points for connecting this tip to a great personal story. Shortly after launching Spanx, Blakely managed to get the head buyer of Neiman Marcus on the phone, and offered to fly to Texas for a 10-minute meeting with her. The buyer agreed, and Blakely's 10-minute pitch got Spanx into seven Neiman Marcus stores.

- Never underestimate the power of packaging. It's simple, really: Great packaging helps sell products. For Blakely, this meant using a bright color (instead of the hosiery industry's standard beige) and fun graphics to capture shoppers' attention. Fleiss explained that Rent The Runway's new posh packaging not only encouraged more women to rent from her company, but made them want to take better care of their rentals as well. Not sure where to start? As Blakely wisely advised, "Make the product look like something you would want to buy."

Remember: Your brand is as important as your product. Think a great product is all you need to build a business empire? Think again! Barna, Fleiss and Snyder all stressed the importance of bringing great content to customers AT. ALL. TIMES. Connect with customers and foster engagement by sharing stories about the people and things that inspire and support your business.

Sara Blakely

In addition to these professional pointers, I learned a good life lessons from these entrepreneurs as well, including: 

- Ask others for help. A wise man once said, "No man is an island." As Snyder noted, we can't be experts at everything, and asking others for help will ultimately help you build a better business. Blakely shared a funny story from her company's early days, when she asked friends go to stores that carried Spanx and pretend that they had been desperately looking for them. It gave her products the impression of being in high-demand even though they had just hit the market - and helped drive sales.

- "Fumble your way through it." This was another gem from Blakley who added, "The mistakes make you memorable!" You may not get something right the first time, but the important thing is to keep going. 

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint!" Barna stressed the importance of having work-life balance, something she neglected to do in the early days of Birchbox. Taking time to stop and smell the roses allows you to re-charge. (I am definitely guilty of doing this - after all, I am writing this post on a Saturday night!)

See more Forbes Under 30 Summit coverage on my Instagram and Twitter handles.


Tuesday, October 14

Obsessions: Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody

In 1896, Vogue asked, “What else is Bohemia but liberty dashed with license and freedom from...conventions?” Although they were writing about bohemian living at the time, the same question could also be asked of bohemian fashion, both then and now. This two-hundred-year-old trend has meant different things throughout its history; speaking generally, it usually refers to exotic alternatives to the accepted fashions of a given period. This fall, bohemian style manifests as extraordinary clothes and accessories made from rich suedes and tapestry fabrics, and embellished with fringe, tassels, and embroidery. Break your wardrobe free of convention with these splurge-worthy bohemian finds.


Monday, September 22

Obsessions: Sergio Rossi's "Colourful Beauty" Collection

 Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern, The Independent; Sergio Rossi Spring/Summer 2015, Ronald Seto.

I've admired Henri Matisse's colorful cut-outs since adolescence. In my late teens, I worked at a contemporary paintings gallery in Chelsea, where the owner kept one such artwork in the bathroom. (Needless to say, but it made trips to the loo very enjoyable.) These lively compositions of color and form are considered some of Matisse's best works, made later in the artist's career between 1937 and 1954. And they've been getting extra attention lately, thanks to the hugely popular exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, which debuted at the Tate Modern earlier this year and is now on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. 

The artworks are not only popular with the public, but with fashion designers as well, including Sergio Rossi, whose "Colourful Beauty" women's shoe collection for Spring/Summer 2015 was a tribute to these compositions. Not only did Matisse's vibrant shapes and colors inspire the line, but as the Italian shoe purveyor explains, "As in a work by Matisse, creativity finds body in the most skillful technique; it benefits from the culture of craftsmanship and constant stylistic research, which has always distinguished the world of Sergio Rossi." See the full collection here.