Remodista Interview Series: The Importance of Women in Retail Commerce
Lois Herzeca, Partner, Gibson Dunn and Co-Author of Fashion Law and Business: Brands & Retailers (PLI 2013)
Interviewed by Kelly Stickel, President and Global Community Builder, Remodista September 17, 2013
1. Why did you choose to specialize in fashion and retail within law?
In the last 5 years, there has been a retail revolution, powered by e-commerce, mobile commerce and the explosion of social media. This is an exciting time, but it has created novel and challenging legal issues for brands and retailers operating in the United States and internationally. As a corporate lawyer specializing in the fashion and retail industries, I am able to help my clients navigate these challenges as they grow and expand their businesses.
2. You have a lot of experience in the area of fashion law. How has being a woman framed your perspective on this topic? What do you think you do differently than men (if any)?
This is an industry whose primary customer base is female. Research has shown that women spend more online than men, make much more than a majority of online purchasing decisions and are powerful drivers of e-commerce. The best lawyers are those that understand the business dynamics shaping the industries in which their clients operate. My experience with the consumer facing side of fashion and retail, combined with my industry knowledge and experience with companies from start-ups to multi-nationals, enhances my ability to effectively represent fashion and retail clients on their business transactions.
3. What was the driving force for authoring a book on Fashion Law and Business?
My co-author, Howard Hogan, and I felt that there was a need for a complete, up-to-date, one-volume book exploring the intersection of law and the business of fashion and retailing. The book covers a broad range of topics, including: starting a fashion company, design and production, brick and mortar stores and e-commerce, intellectual property rights, FCPA, labor and employment issues, international trade, antitrust, acquisitions, and IPO’s .The book is intended as a guide for designers, executives, investors and, of course, other lawyers.
4. What do you see as the key drivers for increasing growth in the fashion/retail sector today?
First and foremost – the management of big data, How companies, collect, store, manage and use data across the spectrum, from their supply chain through the consumer experience, will distinguish the winners from the losers in this industry.
5. In the fashion and retail industry, the primary customer base is female. Executives are devoted to the female shopper and finding out how best to serve this segment. However, many executives who have the decision authority are male. Why do you believe there aren’t more women in the senior most roles in retail?
Of course there are many successful women in fashion and retail. Tory Burch, Sara Blakely, Rose Marie Bravo, Shirley Cook, Angela Ahrendts, Bonnie Brooks, Liz Rodbell, and Mindy Grossman, just to name a few. However, you are correct that the percentage of female executives generally, including in fashion and retail, is much too small. There is a continuing debate about the reasons for this, and there is no easy solution. But, as a general matter, companies need to focus more on elevating women, and women need to focus more on developing the personal and professional skills that will help them to succeed. Women need to be visible and to take credit for their achievements.
6. According to a March article in RetailWire, Forrester Research expects e-commerce in the U.S. will see another string of double-digit gains over the next five years, albeit barely at a 10 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR). What role do you see executive women playing in this growth?
Women need to own the digital landscape.
7. From your experience in the fashion/retail industry, what do you see as some of the differences in female vs male executives in the retail/fashion industry? As more women like Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry, rise through the ranks, how will that change how business is done in our sector?
Recent articles suggest that the female leadership style is more collaborative, and more focused on fostering human relationships in order to enhance performance. This style of leadership has been shown to be quite successful. Moreover, women leaders who emphasize the importance of balancing work and family obligations can have a meaningful impact. Ahrendts was recently quoted in a UK newspaper to the effect that she is a mother first and a boss second and that she encourages Burberry staff to spend quality time with their families.
8. The fashion/retail industry is innovating quickly. As the law partner to some of the most innovative brands/companies, do women approach innovation differently? What are the pros / cons to their approach?
I am seeing more and more women entrepreneurs in the fashion and retail space. The most successful new companies have a strong brand identity, fill a hole in the market and have well though-out business plans. As consumers, women are often able to think innovatively about new products and services.
9. What industry trends excite you most today? Where do you see the most opportunity for growth?
3d printing and wearable technology. These trends are going to fundamentally change our lives.
10. What do you believe is the most pressing issue fashion or retail currently faces that inhibits growth?
For early stage companies, an important issue is obtaining financing on reasonable terms while maintaining control over the business. For more established companies, international expansion into emerging markets continues to be a challenge due to cultural, language, currency, legal and infrastructure issues.
11. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, encourages women to work collaboratively to talk about what they can do, rather than what they cannot do and support one another by sharing challenges they face as females in the corporate workplace. How do you see this playing out in the fashion /retail sector?
There are great communities of women in retail, such as Remodista, where women can share experiences and information. It is so important for us to see that other women are facing similar challenges and to exchange strategies for succeeding.
12. What advice do you have for women in retail? / What is one piece of advice you would like women to take away from your experiences?
Be bold and be prepared
Lois F. Herzeca is a partner in the New York office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Ms. Herzeca is a member of the Firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions and Capital Markets Practice Groups and is Co-Chair of the Firm’s Fashion, Retail and Consumer Products Practice Group.
Ms. Herzeca advises public and private companies, and investment banks, on significant legal and business matters, including mergers and acquisitions, capital market transactions, license agreements, and joint ventures. Although she counsels companies in a wide range of industries, she specializes in insurance transactional matters and the fashion, retail and apparel industries.
Ms. Herzeca was named a “Dealmaker of the Year 2012” by The American Lawyer for her representation of Transatlantic Holdings, Inc. in its $3.4 billion business combination transaction with Alleghany Corporation. She was named a “Dealmaker of the Week” by The American Lawyer for her representation of CommScope, Inc. in its sale to The Carlyle Group for $3.9 billion in 2011.
Ms. Herzeca’s fashion and apparel clients have included: Helmut Lang, Proenza Schouler, Brian Atwood, Tabitha Simmons, Rachel Zoe, L’Wren Scott, Maria Cornejo, and Zumba Fitness.
She is ranked as a leading lawyer by Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, and is one of Avenue Magazine’s “Top Women Lawyers” in New York City.
Ms. Herzeca earned her Juris Doctor cum laude from the Boston University School of Law. In 2009, Boston University honored her with an Alumni Pro Bono award recognizing her many community-based and international pro bono initiatives. She is a board member of Women In Need, Volunteers of Legal Service and Women in Law Empowerment Forum.
For over 15 years, Kelly has built many rich partnerships focused on community, content, and commerce. She is proactive in building alliances with key leaders that are helping to lead the way. Kelly is experienced and passionate about researching emerging markets, innovations in technology, business drivers for transformation, and consumer behavioral shifts due to thinking with mobility.
With the business objective to create an educational forum elevating women and collaborating on new strategies that integrate content and commerce, Kelly founded Remodista, June of 2010.
Kelly continues to share innovative thinking with mobility. New strategies stemming from community are creating paths that have large cost saving dollars, increased efficiencies, and new revenue streams attached to its growth.
For the last 6 years, Kelly has been an active leader, calling out trends, and supporting the expansion of mobile and social commerce through curriculum, collaboration, video, consumer behavior research, articles, and mentoring programs for young tenacious leaders. Kelly continues to expand thought leadership through various initiatives and programs.
For the past 15 years, Kelly has also worked as a mosaic artist and teaches classes in the community.
Remodista is a collaborative forum with three primary goals: to elevate women, educate brands, and mentor a community focused on shaping universal best practices for global retail mobility. By connecting industry leaders with innovative ideas, who are ready to learn, share and bring visionary strategies to the market, Remodista has built a strong brand community.