We discuss season dressing and scaling business with Elizabeth von der Goltz, CEO of Browns and Chief Fashion and Merchandising Officer of FARFETCH. The first thing I do when I wake up is go and have myprobiotic drink which is refrigerated, it’s a refrigerated powder VSL3 and then I make myself a vitamin C drink and I take all of my morning supplements – there are a lot of them, so I won’t list them all but it’s everything from Rhodiola to turmeric to my NAD Tru Niogen. I then shower and make a green tea before I sit down to work or head to the office.
When it comes to the brands and the products a lot of that is overlapping so if I’m in market or at the shows or talking or in business meetings with the brands, I then use that time to cover both Farfetch and Browns. I consider the strategies and asks or any issues opportunities, so I use that same time to cover all the things we’re asking for from the brands. That’s really like how I try to make sure that then we have one single view of both businesses with the brands which is actually something that we really needed in the business so that you know you’re making sure that each channel is actually providing what you want from that brand and there is no overlap.
I try to spend time with the different teams from both obviously and we work constantly on WhatsApp chat where we share our favourite looks and our favourite trends and that’s a nice piece of crossover there as well. I also do walkthroughs with the Browns team in the store, and we have very Browns specific trade meetings etc. but there’s so much alignment that I think that we probably didn’t have in the past without this role overseeing both and it’s actually really nice for all the teams and the business to have this like single review of supply across all our channels.
I started my career in the 90s at Barneys New York under the Pressmans and I think every role I’ve taken has really brought me to where I am today. When I first started, Barneys was about bringing fashion to the US, we were the first ones to discover and bring all the Japanese designers and all the Belgian designers – we really launched so many brands so that era for me was all discovery, really working with emerging talent, helping them grow over time and bringing that to market. I was at Bergdorf for 16 years and we were there to modernise everything from full floor renovations to building out the offering of the biggest brands like Valentino, Dior and Gucci.
We built the largest single door businesses within the US and alongside that it was about how to market this offering from physical activations to online and how we look after our top customers. Understanding the global customer and that their ability to spend, the love of fashion was so important as was spending so much time on the sales floor to understand their needs – that stays with you for the rest of your life and that is something that you need wherever you are whether your business is digital or physical. I think about the customer first and I think that really came for me from my time at Bergdorf as it was so customer centric.
Bergdorfs always came first as a brand so it was about how we kind of toed this line between making sure that we we kept our Bergdorfs aesthetic, our Bergdorfs point of view but then also making sure the brands got the most out of the business as well. At the end of my Bergdorfs career we took over our website from Neiman Marcus and so that took me on the journey of e-commerce and really grew my interest in that area and from there I went to NET-A-PORTER which is pure e-commerce and a global business. The experience I took from my past roles to was No.
1 understanding truly what the customer wants and we knew we had a global customer so really understanding how you use the data. This was was for me one of the most exciting parts of the business as you do not have such a depth of data in a store. It is what do you do with the data, how you translate the data and how that helps you buy when you’re at market.
When you’re launching a new collection or new designer you have to really think about how to bring it to life online and that was such a fun challenge, working with the creative and marketing teams to bring to life all the amazing projects. From there I went to Matches, which started originally as a boutique and later became a very large global e-commerce business. I was able to bring together again that idea of physical brick and mortar with digital and how you bring to life all the content you’re creating within your physical spaces online.
A great initiative for me there was doing international pop-ups and bringing Matches to the forefront of the view of our global customers. Now at Farfetch I really see the future of fashion, it’s the largest global luxury platform there is, and it works not only with multi brand boutiques all over the world but also directly with the brands and then on the Browns side you have the beautiful store in London’s Book Street which is all about heritage and curation. We work with the technology from Farfetch to really drive the customer experience through Browns and that’s what we call connected retail, so it’s almost like every every single step every along the way has led to this new opportunity.
I think what everyone in fashion loves about it and what I love about fashion is that it is such a creative field and you’re working with creative people all the time but it is a business. Whether we’re working on a new project or product, we also have to remember it needs to sell and each season to improve on the last. The product that you have needs to engage the customer, to convert the customer and it’s really about your sell-through, which is motivating because you can actually see an immediate effect of your buy.
I think for me it’s really probably a lot to do with empathy. It’s really understanding people and I’m someone who I loves to communicate but I also understand how everyone reacts differently to communication, everyone is motivateed by different styles of working and I think my strength is probably understanding those within not only my own business internally, but those externally including designers, CEOs of companies and any organization – understanding what both sides of the table want and making sure we all come out feeling happy with the negotiation. It is important to understand how people are motivated by how you communicate with them.
There are many new brands every single season and it’s difficult because there’s so much talent out there and you also want to represent brands from all over the world. What is really important is you want to find something that immediately strikes you as something that has a very specific DNA, something unique and something that has longevity. To scale you need to be able to produce, the quality and fit needs to be there and consistent to gain the trust of the customer so you wanna make sure that they have all the right things in place to be able to ship on time and that the fabric quality is there.
I love a blazer, I love a jacket; I probably have every different style and every different colour and shoulder, but I love a jacket. I would say for me I’m always pushing myself to grow and learn and to feel scared or intimidated again because I want to learn something new and I want to develop new skills. I wanna learn from other people so I think probably the latest and largest challenge I had was when I took a break and decided to go back to school at my age to study an Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
There your cohort are people like you who have been in the industries for 20 years, they’re all at exactly the same level and that was super intimidating in the beginning, no one was in fashion, and I was like oh my god what am I doing this for? It gave me a lot of anxiety actually in the beginning but once I was in it and and sitting with these amazing professors you realize that you all have the same challenges whatever industry you’re in — it was a huge challenge but probably one of the best things I’ve ever done, it’s amazing. Transparence. I like authenticity and just not taking yourself or everyone’s not taking themselves too seriously, especially in the industry we are in.
It’s really about bringing people joy and it has to be and feel real. I always joke I feel like there’s certain people that when you’re in this industry and you’re someone who has done it for as long as I have, I always say we were built physically in some certain way that we’re able to l live without sleep, we’re able to travel all over the world and not even think about time zones and we’re able to just be on all the time and still actually enjoy what we’re doing. It does take a certain physical ability I think to do that, but then I think I still get excited by this industry, whether it’s an amazing new designer or new technology.
I’d be bored in any other industry, this keeps me excited, and brings me the joy to keep my energy levels up. Having said this, I do really try to control my personal time and to protect it as much as possible. Professionally you can’t be everything and go to everything so I think you really have to pick and choose where you think you will both get the most value and give the most value.
I try to get as much sleep when I can, if I’m home for the weekend I actually make no plans and I exercise, meditate and I have my facials religiously to really balance out the fast pace of work. Having mentors in my life I think is one of the most important things, actually it’s probably one of the pieces of advice I give to anyone who comes to me for advice. I say – reach out to people you admire, I would say I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with a lot of amazing people, for example from my old CEO at work in Goodman to great friends who runs huge businesses across different industries.
For me it’s so important being a woman leader and really building a support network of female entrepreneurs and leaders who have blazed the path before me. I always try to go to them and ask them for advice as well trusting my own gut more – I think having confidence in yourself and trusting your gut is really important. I think the best bosses I ever had or the best mentors I ever had really believed in me.
From the very early age I had people who really were so supportive of how they saw how I looked at the business and they were like always saying we know you can go really far, and I’ve had those people throughout my life and career – even today – and I think believing in yourself comes from knowing everyone. I mean my husband is my number one biggest supporter of my career and I could never do what I do without him but it’s having this group in this community whether it’s your friends, whether it’s people within your business, your husband or your family – the level of support gives you the ability to continue. Being a female leader I have a lot of people come to me that DM me or reach out to me on LinkedIn or just literally cold call me just to ask for advice or have a meeting and I so try to say yes as much as I can to pay this support forward.
That you don’t have to be in a rush all the time. I think I probably gave up certain things when I was younger because all I wanted to do was get to the next level and be promoted – just go go go. In hindsight I think you can probably take a little bit more time for yourself and your family.
I think when you work in fashion every day looks like you’re going to party. Depending on where you live, I would say when I worked in New York it was more full-on, London is a little more low key. The worst thing is to get overly dressed up or be in something that you just don’t feel like yourself in, so for me when I’m party dressing it’s literally just a different version of how I dress normally – it just probably a little bit more fun.
Actually, this is the first time in many years I’m actually not hitting the Austrian alps which is where I usually spend the holidays skiing. I’m actually doing a hot climate this time so we’re going to Porto Escondido which is the beach in Oaxaca, Mexico and that’s where I’m spending the holidays. .