Segerstrom Center for the Arts, known as the Orange County Performing Arts Center until its renaming in 2011, celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, and it’s an example of the quick pace of West Coast development that took it from a lima bean field to one of the country’s preeminent performing arts complexes.The two venues are situated in a 14-acre multidisciplinary campus that encompasses two other major arts organizations, the Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory theater and the future site of the new Orange County Museum of Art.This story first appeared in the March 22, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.In the Sixties,SCFTA, as it’s now known, was just a glimmer in the eyes of Orange County business leaders. In the mid-Seventies, the Segerstrom family donated a five-acre parcel of land adjacent to South Coast Plaza to begin its creation.When the Orange County Performing Arts Center opened with Segerstrom Hall in 1986, its organization had been years in the making. Executive vice president Judy Morr has been there from Day One.“I was at Kennedy Center before. The board was in search of the whole organization, and the president Tom Kendrick had come from the Kennedy Center, and said to me, ‘I really need someone to operate the theaters. Would you be interested?’ When I first moved here 31 years ago, I could look out the window and see workers in the fields and know what season it was by what they were picking. There was South Coast Plaza, but there was not an urban feel like there is now.”The first years were spent garnering local support for the center. “That’s what we did the first years, to get the community to believe a wonderful arts program enhances their lives,” said Morr. “It makes everything about living here even better. First, they don’t have to drive to L.A. anymore and secondly, the arts are essential. It adds joy to your life [and] changes how you perceive the world.”Morr set to work scheduling performances by The Philharmonic Society of Orange County, Pacific Chorale and Pacific Symphony as well as cultivating a dance program that attracted companies such as New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, the Kirov and the Bolshoi Ballet. The stage at Segerstrom Hall was specifically designed for ballet, and Mikhail Baryshnikov even visited before its opening.In 1998, the Segerstrom family deeded another parcel of land to the Center, and two years later, Henry Segerstrom provided the lead gift of $40 million to the Center’s $200 million campaign, dedicated to the purpose of constructing a concert hall, a multiuse theater, an education center, public restaurant and community plaza. It was the largest charitable cash gift in the history of Orange County.The new Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, designed by the late César Pelli, opened in 2006 and was named after the Center’s founding chairman and his late second wife. The adjacent 500-seat theater was designated Samueli Theater in recognition of the $10 million gift from the Henry Samueli Family Foundation.In April of that year, “Connector,” a Richard Serra sculpture commissioned by Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom uniting the Center’s original structure with the newer venues was installed on the new community plaza.The new addition freed up Segerstrom Hall to have more dance programming and also bring in Broadway shows.“It’s a jigsaw puzzle,” said Morr of the scheduling, which she does two to three years out. She pulls out her 2018 binder that’s thick with color-coded grids for dance, music and theater.SCFTA president Terrence W. Dwyer noted that the Center puts on 450 to 500 performances a year for between 700 and 900 guests per show. “We’re not resting on our laurels and we’re constantly looking to find more ways and reach more members. The earliest vision was not meant to be static or preserving the status quo.”When completed, the new Julianne and George Argyros Plaza will play host to free community performances and outdoor fairs with space for up to 2,000 people.After 31 years, Morr is now spoiled for choice but choices do have to be made. “You don’t have space for everybody. I rarely do anything if I can’t find a partner because I’m also very cognizant of the expenses involved in bringing world premieres,” she said, referring to American Ballet Theater’s debut production of “Whipped Cream” this month.Like leasing retail space in South Coast Plaza, timing is also critical for arts troupes. ABT’s “The Nutcracker” is a perennial favorite, as is the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.“It’s the new work and contemporary dance that is often the most challenged to find an audience, especially with a 3,000 seat house. I think about how a company will look in that big house and aesthetics of the evening are totally different if you have half or not full. Sometimes I feel bad I can’t do as much contemporary dance as I would like but if it won’t look or feel right on this big stage I can’t do it.”The Broadway program is wildly popular, and a three-week run of “Hamilton” was just announced.“We are fully aware of L.A. and the audience that it has so very often most of the shows play L.A. first then come here, whereas with dance we are really a premiere house, so that’s a good balance in terms of the prestige and how we are seen in the community,” said Morr.As most visiting dancers will say, they think of Orange County as their second, sunny home. “We also think of them as extended family. In New York people don’t receive guests as California people do. We are happy to see them back again,” she said.You're missing something!
MILAN — Design Miami/Basel has asked Thom Browne to create an installation for its 2017 Design at Large platform. This is the fourth edition of the large-scale presentation and the first time a fashion designer has been charged to conceive it.For the event held on Monday, Browne assembled 15 vintage desks, including statement pieces from Jean Prouvé and Ron Arad. The American designer, known for his grandiose and theatrical productions, re-created the set from his fall 2014 men’s runway show held in Paris: a Japanese-inspired garden. The desks were surrounded by trees, a little bridge, and animals made with fabrics. Browne also used desks as props for his show held in January 2009 at Pitti Uomo in Florence. At the time, 40 models typed at identical work stations, but in Basel, in a choreographed performance conceived for Design at Large, 15 young art students from Lausanne, Switzerland, all wearing Thom Browne, sat at the desks with paper and pencil to create their own works.“I love doing my shows, but it’s nice to do something outside fashion,” said Browne, who enjoyed seeing the installation “come out of storage, live again and be seen by a different audience. It’s inspiring.” Browne said the desks at Basel were “among the most beautiful, created by the most important designers,” but they became “even more interesting because of their use, moving away from their utilitarian idea.” He emphasized how the artists, wearing his signature looks against the set, elevated everything to art. The performance also questioned the role of desks in today’s changing work environment.Rodman Primack, creative director of Design Miami, said the Design at Large platform, curated in the past by the likes of Martina Mondadori, Dennis Freedman and André Balazs, requires a creative mind that has “a different perspective.” He elaborated, saying that “architecture and design are visible in the Thom Browne brand’s identity,” and praised the designer’s “rigorous language and discipline.” He enthused about the set. “It’s really incredible. It’s the first thing you see when you enter the fair, so it has to be really strong.” Primack started talking with Browne about the project a year ago. “His sets are so inspiring, beautiful objects and we discussed how to develop them and connect them with Design Miami. It all came about in a very natural way.” He highlighted Browne’s fascination with desks and how every store has one. “Ideas develop at a desk into reality and art,” he mused. The installation will be shown at Design Miami/Basel, opening June 13 and closing June 18.The New York-based designer, who was awarded theCFDA men’s wear designer awardin 2006, 2013 and 2016, began his business with five suits and a small by-appointment-only shop in 2001, introducing his first men’s ready-to-wear collection in 2003, followed by a women’s division in 2011. His unusual suit proportions — cropped and tapered pants and shorts with shrunken jackets — put Browne on the map, and he has become known as one of the most directional designers in American fashion in both categories. The company has been expanding in Europe, with the opening of the brand’s first Milan store in April, as part of a new strategy following Sandbridge Capital’s acquisition of a majority stake in Thom Browne in May last year from Japan’s Stripe International.You're missing something!
Change is the only certainty when it comes to thenightlife industry. Damion Luaiye, the former creative director of Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel, isacutely aware of that reality and took a broader philosophical approach whenopening Et Al, his latest endeavor in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.“The idea was to name it Et Al — ‘and others,’” explains Luaiye, who eschewed the notionof openinghis own self-branded establishment after more than a decade as an industry influencer. “We are referencing the guests, the artists, the people who put this place together. There are no abstracts. It’s always referencing some level of personality.”Dressed ina pair of blue coveralls atop a crisp white collared shirt, Luaiye rests casually upon one of the room’s custom-made sofas. In fact, all furnishings and art inside the relatively intimate space were bespoke crafted for Et Al, but nothing will remain in place for long. “There’s something nice about having a piece of art on the wall and having to engage the drama of loving it and letting it go,” adds the congenial entrepreneur. “It’s the ephemerality of it.”This includes a playful set of portraits by local artist Adam Handler that colorfully punctuate the club’s muted color paletteof goldenrod, burnt sienna and neutral browns and grays. “People have moved away from that heavy gentlemen’s club look with overly-tufted stuffed furniture and have gone a little bit more delicate, curvy and sensual,” says interior designer Meg Sharpe.Sharpe, whose résumé includes former New York City hot spots The Lion and The Diamond Horseshoe, carefully designed the space — which can accommodate up to 150 guests — as a “high-end living room,” realizing arecent shift in party culture.“We came to this concept of really wanting the place to feel like home,” adds Sharpe with a soft smile. “It’s all about the intimate parties, the whispers, the small gatherings. This is meant to be a place where you can sit for hours and hopefully you wind up drunk, but maybe you’ve had two great conversations along the way.”In an effort to further promote face-to-face interactions, Luaiye joined a growing worldwide trend in nightlife by banning cell-phone use at Et Al for six weeks afteropening in February,which was unsurprisingly polarizing. “It was split down the middle 50-50 [in terms of support],” says Luaiye. “It’s been a decade that smartphones have been what they are, so now you have a whole range of people who have never socialized in their adult life without social media or a phone in their hand.”After planning this sort of technology ban for years, Luaiye realized his customer wasn’t quite ready to disconnect digitally. Upon entering the venue, which boasts a sinuous bar opposite the main lounge space, guests would have their phone locked in a small pouch by a doorman, returned to them in the protective casing and only unlocked if they’ve stepped outside.While a portion of Luaiye’s clientele revolted against the strict phone ban, other nightclubs around the world including Berghain in Berlin; The Box, Phonox and Fabric in London, and Output in Brooklyn have all successfully discouraged phone use among their clientele.“It just got to the point where you realize the world has changed and there is a level of communication that you need to have,” says Luaiye, who has sincelifted the ban but asserts he will eventually reinstate the policy withrevisions to its implementation.It’sthis passion for in-personengagement that acts as a driving force behind Et Al’s creative direction in every element from the music (mostly DJ sets with the occasional live musician) to the generously sized coed restroom lounge area, which features a long banquette in front of a mural by artist Blair Whiteford.“By the time you get to the bathroom, it’s chapter five of your experience,” says Luaiye. “It’s the last thing you’re going to see and it needs to shine in its own special way. It’s typically darker — more prone to trouble — and in the age of social media is one of those spaces that is the last element of privacy.”Luaiye surmises that it may ultimately be that desire for privacy that willpropel the clientele of Et Al — and other venues — to embrace his philosophy on departing from a near-constant digitalconnectedness. “There is very much a hunger for participation right now,” he notes. “People are looking for something that is less produced and more casual. Everybody needs a little escape.”You're missing something!
MILAN — Pomellato celebrated the launch of its new Rittrato collection and advertising campaign at a cocktail party in Milan attended by the stars of its new advertising campaign, lensed by Peter Lindbergh.The Italian jeweler’s chief executive officer Sabina Belli greeted guests at the Teatro Arsenale in Milan, where large-scale black-and-white images from the campaign were suspended from the ceiling and a selection of Rittrato rings in different sizes were set out in a glass display case.Guests were invited to pose in front of a backdrop with the hashtag #PomellatoForWomen holding signs featuring pre-printed words starting with the letter P (think “patient,” “powerful” or “peaceful”) or blank to add their own message (Belli opted for “proud!”).The ads feature artist Anh Duong; brand adviser Helen Nonini; nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson; art curator Caroline Corbetta; writer Pihla Hintikka; and model, artist and photographer Larissa Hofmann. All but Hofmann were present at the event, and they were brimming with projects.Ferguson, who shot to fame as a model during the Nineties grunge era, said she was launching a health food brand called Underground Food Revolution.“We’re calling it health food disguised as comfort food, because I want it to be for everybody,” she said. “We’re going to do a healthy pizza, and we’re going to do a healthy burger. I really believe passionately about nutrition being for everyone, and it’s become like a thing of the elite.”Ferguson will start with a test location in London’s Canary Wharf business district, but she is also plotting a supermarket range and working with Amazon’s new fresh produce and grocery service AmazonFresh.Hintikka, a Finnish freelance journalist and scriptwriter based in Paris, said she was working on her first novel. “I have a good half of it and everything is organized,” she said. “I just need to do the dirty job of actually writing it, staying in front of my computer for hours and hours in my pajamas.”Hintikka, who moonlights as a model, said she favors chunky jewelry. “I’m from Scandinavia, so my style is very minimalistic, quite calm and harmonious, and I like to pimp it up a little bit with statement jewelry,” she said. “All this tiny little jewelry is not necessarily for me. I like it when it’s big, otherwise I don’t wear it all.”Duong isworking on an installation for the future Statue of Liberty Museum, scheduled to open in 2019. “It’s going to be a mural in the museum with all the names of the donators,” she said, noting that the project felt especially topical in light of the debate around President Donald Trump’s efforts to curb immigration. “Now more than ever, it’s such an important and hot subject, because it’s about liberty.”Duong, also a former model, said she enjoyed reuniting with Lindbergh for the campaign. “You never feel when Peter photographs you that you’re selling a product. He really captures the woman,” she said, adding that she was especially pleased that he didn’t retouch her wrinkles.“If I paint somebody, if I don’t paint their wrinkles, the portrait is boring. It doesn’t look like the person,” she argued. “We live in an age where everybody wants to erase everything from their face, and if you have a wrinkle or a shadow it’s almost like you’re dirty, you didn’t brush you teeth, which is crazy.”The painter and sculptor said she was excited to see fashion becoming more diverse in general. “I think it’s a really nice time for women now that we are starting to see beauty at every stage of life, beauty in every shape,” she said. “I’m really for that, because beauty is everywhere.”You're missing something!
Chefs Club is offering its customers a more casual relationship.The restaurant has opened Chefs Club Counter on the corner of Spring and Lafayette in SoHo, a “fine-fast” concept which culls from the same ideology as Chefs Club up the street. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the menu features items on rotation from various famed chefs, as well as grab-and-go pastries and beverages. It’s opening with West Coast chef Alvin Cailan’s popular Eggslut sandwiches on offer for breakfast, which have attracted a cult following in L.A. — customers have been known to wait in line for hours to get a taste — as well as duck rice by George Mendes and a hamburger by Jean-Georges Vongerichten for lunch and dinner.Vongerichten’s daughter, Louise Vongerichten, has been leading the Chef Club’s expansion through her role as the head of business development. “We wanted to keep that concept where we try to bring the best dishes from different chefs all around the world,” she explains. “The customer dictates what the menu looks like.”If all goes well in SoHo, the restaurant group hopes to open additional locations across New York, and eventually nationwide. “We wanted to bring it to a fast-casual concept because everybody can afford to eat [here] — the check average is much cheaper than at Chefs Club,” she explains of the casual concept. The positioning is a play to establish Chefs Club Counter as a regular daily stop for the mix of businesses and residents in the neighborhood, and its location is conducive to pulling customers from tourist foot traffic.The high-ceiling corner space, which turned over from its tenure as Spring Natural Kitchen last year, was renovated with comfort and a retro, old-school diner aesthetic in mind; staff is dressed in red and blue-striped shirts, giving the space a refined Americana feel. Outlets near the banquets are an invitation for customers to settle in for a while, and wines on offer add to the remote living room appeal.“Really the idea is we don’t have any rules, that’s what we like to say,” Vongerichten says. “Hopefully people are going to love it.”More from WWD.com:This Popular Downtown Brunch Spot Is Releasing a CookbookArmani/Ristorante Chefs Conclude ‘A World Journey’ in New YorkAudemars Piguet Uproots Sculpture by Artist Sebastian Errazuriz for Art BaselTreasure Hunting With Jerry LorenzoYou're missing something!
MILAN —To complement “The Beats and The Vanities” exhibition of Larry Fink photographs on display at Giorgio Armani’s Silos space here, the designer has asked the photographer to select six films for the latest of his film series. The first screening will coincide with Milano PhotoWeek, running June 5 to 11. The film series is also hosted at the Silos.“The Beats” documents Fink’s time as a teenager and part of the generation of the same name, capturing that rebel movement from the Fifties. “The Vanities” shows Fink’s later work, documenting Hollywood parties for “Vanity Fair.”Reflecting the spirit of both portfolios, for “The Beats,” Fink chose John Cassavetes’ “Shadows” from 1959; “Next Stop, Greenwich Village” from 1976 by Paul Mazursky of his life as an actor in New York in the Fifties, and “On the Road” from 2012, with Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart in a film version of Jack Kerouac’s classic book. For “The Vanities,” Fink opted for Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard,” dating to 1950; George Cukor’s 1954 “A Star Is Born” with Judy Garland, and Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere” from 2010.“Cinema has always been a great passion of mine — this began when I was a child,” Armani said. “Since then it has been a constant source of inspiration to me and has supplied me with a vast backdrop of images I often draw upon when building my personal aesthetic. Larry Fink’s selection of films is mysterious and revealing, just like his photographs, and I hope people will find these works intriguing.”Running until the end of July, the exhibit comprises 125 original black-and-white photographs, of which 54 are from Fink’s book “The Beats,” chronicling his hitchhiking trip through America in the late Fifties. The other 71 are from “The Vanities,” his portfolio of images interpreting Vanity Fair’s Oscar parties and Hollywood events in the 2000 to 2009 period. This is the first time they are all displayed together.“The Beats and The Vanities, Larry Fink” follows the photo exhibition called “Emotions of the Athletic Body,” unveiled in September during Milan Fashion Week, displaying images by the likes of Aldo Fallai, Kurt and Weston Markus, Tom Munro, David Sims and Richard Phibbs.The Silos space was unveiled in April 2015.You're missing something!
The Class by Taryn ToomeyToomey, the founder of boutique fitness darling The Class, opened her first wellness studio in TriBeCa after building up a following for her holistic fitness class through Bandier’s Studio B and Danceworks. The Class combines elements of cardio, yoga, expression and meditation, and the introspective quality of the practice is central to her concept. The studio offers an expanded range of classes, including a condensed express version of The Class, stress release classes, pre- and postnatal classes, and guest workshops.Tracy Anderson’s 3 Green Hearts Café.George Chinsee/WWDTracy Anderson Expands UptownTracy Anderson is saving her loyal uptown clients some serious commuting time. She has fully taken over the former movie theater space on 59th Street and Second Avenue, and has opened her second fitness studio in Manhattan and her first full-sized café, 3 Green Hearts. Thecafé offers an all-organic, rotating menu, with lots of raw, healthy options like salads as well as things like fish tacos and chicken nuggets.Project by Equinox Opens in NoLItaProject by Equinox, which opened this week in New York, is the brand’s first stand-alone studio offering nonmembers the chance to sweat it out with some of the industry’s most enthusiastic trainers. Project avows to set itself apart bytheir team of dedicated trainers. With $35 classes ranging from Cardio Dance to HIIT, each 50-minute offering is held in a paired-down studio space in NoLIta and led by aninstructor who designed that specific program. @lifetimefitness + @speedousa = the perfect pairing for high-intensity training in the water! Introducing our newest group fitness format… drum roll please… WTRX (Water Xtreme) 💪💦 Pull out your goggles because it's coming soon! #lifetimefitness #getspeedofitA post shared by Life Time Fitness (@lifetimefitness) on Mar 23, 2017 at 5:03am PDTWater Xtreme at Life Time FitnessSpeedo is determined to get more people into the water and has teamed with Life Time Fitness on a boot camp class called Water Xtreme that has launched at more than 40 Life Time clubs. Each class is taught by certified instructors who will be outfitted in Speedo apparel and footwear and includes the company’s aquatic training tools such as a water shoe, special paddles and a push plate.You're missing something!
Scott Gerber, one of New York’s prime nightlifebusiness owners, commutes in from Connecticut through Grand Central Station every day, and yet was only faintly familiar with one of the terminal’s most iconic corners, the Campbell Apartment. “It was really hard to get a drink, it was always super crowded,” Gerber says.After winning a legal battle against the bar’s former owner Mark Grossich, Gerber’s company Gerber Group, which is responsible for hotspots such as Irvington and, more recently, Mr. Purple, has reopened the famed cocktail bar as simply the Campbell. Given the history, Gerber approached the project with an intention to keep as much the same as possible; the original safe and hand painted ceiling were just one of the many existing details left untouched. One notable change is the removal of the stiff dress code, which prevented many of those who did know about the tucked-away bar from partaking. “I guess the prior owner wanted this to be a very formal place — his slogan was ‘cocktails from another era,’” Gerber says. “I don’t think people live like that anymore. We just wanted to relax it — it doesn’t mean that it’s a bunch of hipsters, it’s not like that. We just want it to be more inclusive.”Scott GerberGeorge ChinseeThe bar is named for New York financier John Campbell, who lived with his wife up on Park Avenue, and leased the space “as a place to entertain their friends,” Gerber says. “The story goes that he used it as a private office in the Twenties.” He died in 1957, after which the space fell into a state of disrepair. It was briefly used as both a jail and a storage space for weapons, before becoming a bar in 1999.When a real estate broker called Gerber in December 2015, he originally wasn’t interested; most of their properties are connected to hotels, and the procedural complexities of dealing with an MTA-owned location deterred him. Eventually, the history and charm of the property took hold, something now incorporated into the updated cocktail offering. “The story goes that John Campbell has a butler whose name was Stackhouse, so we’re doing a rum punch called Stackhouse’s Punch,” Gerber says, over the faint announcement from inside the terminal. In addition to three different kinds of Negroniand Old Fashion cocktails respectively, “We’re also doing something called a Bullshot, with beef bouillon, celery salt, vodka and clam juice” — for the adventurous drinker in your group, one would assume. Aviation($18)<br /> Nolet’s gin, Crème de violette, maraschino liqueurand fresh lemonGeorge ChinseeThe Campbell15 Vanderbilt Avenue, inside Grand Central TerminalMore Feast for the Eye Coverage From WWD.com:$500 Pours and More at The Library of Distilled SpiritsBevy Opens in Park Hyatt HotelMario Batali Reinvents Manzo at EatalyChefs Club Counter Opens in SoHoSouthern Diner 33 Greenwich Opens With Fashion Blogger FlairClover Grocery Opens From Café Clover’s Kyle Hotchkiss CaronYou're missing something!
When it comes to taking the reins of a company — whether it’s to guide it through a bankruptcy and restructuring, or to execute an exit strategy — Mike Edwards brings a lot of luggage to the table.And it’s the good kind of luggage, of course. With nearly three decades of executive leadership experience under his belt, Edwards, who currently serves as president and chief executive officer of eBags, takes a measured, strategic approach during his first 90 days at the helm of a new company. And while the process may not always be easy, the results have given Edwards a positive reputation in the industry as a turnaround specialist.Edwards’ résumé includes leadership roles at Staples, Borders, Lucy Activewear and Jo-Ann Stores. At the latter, he was part of the turnaround team that took the craft and sewing retailer from near bankruptcy to a profitable brand with $2 billion in sales. Edwards got his start in the retail business at May Department Store Co. and at Target Corp. He most recently devised and oversaw the acquisition of eBags (founded in 1998) by Samsonite International earlier this year.Mike EdwardsHere, Edwards takes a deep dive into various aspects of executive management with Tim Boerkoel, founding partner of executive search and advisory firm The Brownestone Group. The two have partnered on multiple projects, Edwards having been both a candidate and a client of Boerkoel’s over the years.Tim Boerkoel: Mike, you have close to 30 years of experience across the market — at department stores, specialty stores and big box retailers. You’ve also been on the wholesale side. And now, you’re in pure play e-tailing. Through all these experiences, what do you typically look for in the first 60 to 90 days at a company?Mike Edwards: My process doesn’t really change from company to company. It usually takes the first 90 days to develop a strategic plan with a large team involved. This allows you to gain the benefit of their knowledge, how they’re thinking about the business, and what the priorities are. Next is to conduct a very detailed financial analysis in terms of where the company is and where we want it to go — and what is expected.In a situation like eBags, our end game was an exit strategy, so I had to build a plan around what would yield the highest valuation in a potential sale. We also had to make sure the structure was aligned correctly to achieve those future goals. It is really important to have complete alignment with your board and key investors at the start of the process. This creates the right foundation for the ceo to become successful.Tim BoerkoelT.B.: That seems like a good formula. And in this case, because of the business model, you were able to get into new products in a faster way and immediately start impacting the business.M.E.: Well, that’s one of the strategic drivers, so I mapped what I learned at Staples and what we learned from Amazon. In this marketplace, product selection is a core tenet of winning, and we were underpenetrated in our core categories compared to Amazon and others.At Staples, I can say that the merchants were more retail trained than online trained. So, their view on what they should carry was somewhat traditional – meaning “I am the category manager and I am responsible for editing and selecting products for the customer.” But in the digital world it doesn’t really work that way since we’re data driven.You’ll succeed as long as you’re dominating your category and making those choices available to the customer, which is what Amazon has always done. They pick a category and they own it – every piece of it.T.B.: This model — and considering what Amazon is doing — seems to be a formula that’s worked well for you. And you were also added new categories of business that didn’t exist before.M.E.: Yes — at eBags we looked at products just outside the core that the customer would likely buy — in the context of our category and brand. And that is where we slowly expanded categories. We’ve increased our sales by 40 percent. But now we’re probably evaluating and cutting back again. I think the idea is to throw a lot out there and see what works, see what fits and then eliminate the unproductive products.T.B.: This is a direct, ship-to-consumer model which is different than other businesses you’ve led before. It’s a model that’s been a key advantage at Amazon and other emerging companies — and now one that you’ve perfected at eBags, correct?M.E.: Well, eBags was founded as a drop-shipper, meaning we carried some inventory but not a lot. And we always had cash. Everyone else that carried inventory — in the early days of e-commerce — quickly went out of business when there was a bump in the market. They just didn’t know what to do because they had no avenue for additional liquidity. It is the main reason the company only raised $30 million in its 18-year history.T.B.: Throughout your career you’ve been able to leverage left-brain and right-brain thinking — in operations, merchandising, finance. But you’re also adept at identifying and embracing the right technology. From that perspective, what’s your view of the current market?M.E.: It seems like there are many corporations that are struggling with what their digital realm should be, right? Some are more advanced than others, and the bigger the traditional retailer, the worse they are at digital.For many, it’s just not in their DNA and it never gets made a priority. So, what you see is Wal-Mart buying up all these sort of dysfunctional brands, and trying to piece together a digital strategy to compete against Amazon. But you can’t compete with Amazon because Amazon is already better at what they do.There has to be some differentiating buzz. Unfortunately, many ceos don’t have digital priorities. Most companies would say, “Wow, you’ve got to spend so much money to be online…we’ve got to bring down our prices…we’re not making the money that we used to. Why are we pouring money into this?” The retail network always had the majority of the sales and profit contribution to the company. Many retail ceos did not take a single point of view with the customer nor understand that a strong digital strategy helps offline retail significantly. We have seen chains like Barnes and Nobel be in complete denial of the online shifts as well as the Amazon effect on their comp store performance.It doesn’t make sense based on a retail network of good operating profits, but everyone sort of forgot that now it’s actually about how you stay engaged and connected with your customer. You don’t really know what they’re going to buy in the same manner you used to. And now with this whole “global first” mentality, or Google mentality, it’s not for everyone in the industry.T.B.: Thinking about your management and leadership style, how do you differentiate it? And is it something that you gleaned from 30 years in the business and/or from the six or seven companies you’ve been at? What actually helped to shape your leadership style?M.E.: I don’t know if it was just one thing. I think bottom line for me has been a lot of experiences. For example, selling a company for the first time is different than the second time around. The second time you know exactly what attorneys you want, what advisors you want and how the process is going to work. You can take a much more commanding approach to the acquisition process — it’s just a function of doing it. If I went through bankruptcy again, I’d know exactly what to do and I would be immediately equipped and active throughout the entire process. I like to think of my leadership style as a journey and always work on staying relevant in the industry. The fact of the matter is you have to be able to manage change and stay focused on the things that matter most to the enterprise.T.B.: Regarding the 90-day period you mentioned previously, you also have to build a leadership team to support that, right? What’s involved, what do you look out for and what are some of the qualities that you seek while building that team?M.E.: I try to understand what everyone’s respective background is and whether or not it’s going to add value to the strategy. I look for people’s engagement or willingness to change and learn and be committed to and passionate about the company. I like to blend experience and create a diverse team that understands teamwork and embraces innovation. I am always looking for the rising stars that will be the impact players for the company and creating opportunities for them to flourish.I also look for early resisters, and I fire them very quickly. Historically, I haven’t fired people as fast as I needed to, but I didn’t waste any time this time [at eBags]. I think I let go three people within 40 days, and I think it created the right mojo that was needed to get the company going. Otherwise, I would have been fighting resistance for too long and I didn’t have that kind of time. The culture is formed by both who gets promoted and who get fired. I do a complete organizational survey in my first thirty days to get a plus on the business.Now though, with the recent acquisition, we are excited about the future of eBags and are primed to seize new opportunities in what everyone knows is a challenging but exciting time in the market. It should be noted that after the sale the ceo role shifts radically with new ownership. It is critical that the ceo stay on and help the company transform to the new expectations. The long-term success or failure will be direct results of the leadership teams ability to manage change and create the new company for the future.You're missing something!
Keri Russell has finally gotten her star. The actress, who costars on spy drama “The Americans” and rose to fame with the titular role on “Felicity,” received the 2,613th star on the Walk of Fame in the Television category on May 30, hours before “The Americans” aired its season five finale. She was joined at the ceremony by her costarsMatthew Rhys, Holly Taylorand Noah Emmerich, and former “Felicity” costar Scott Speedman. The actress donned a gray and white striped off-the-shoulder top and wide-leg trousers by designer Johanna Ortiz for the occasion.Earlier in May, Russell voiced her love of online shopping in an interview with WWD. “So many of us shop this way now, online,” she said at a dinner celebrating the launch ofMaisonette.com. “That’s, like, what I do late at night lying in bed when everyone’s asleep. There’s a half-hour of silence and I just sit there and look at beautiful things.”She and Rhys will return to TV screens in 2018 for the sixth and final season of “The Americans.”RELATED: Colombia’s Johanna Ortiz Works to Become a $10 Million Brand Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in Rag & Bone at the 2017 Met GalaClint Spaulding/WWDMore Coverage From WWD.com:Five Minutes With ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 5’ Star Brenton ThwaitesSam Riley Takes a Shot in “Free Fire”Freida Pinto Takes a Stance in “Guerrilla”Sienna Miller on Motherhood, Being ‘Shy and Weird,’ and Taking on Tennessee WilliamsYou're missing something!