Breaking the rules to build a fashion empire
Fashion insider Jerome A. Chazen explains how he built the largest fashion company in the world
- Duration 11:20
- Date Feb 7, 2012
Fashion insider Jerome A. Chazen explains how he built the largest fashion company in the world
Also in this playlist...
This transcript is automatically generated
Okay this is my favorite part of the show every day is only talk to the entrepreneurs that are out there and that have done something for themselves without government handouts.
And today wouldn't -- we have an icon here with us today to around -- in.
Co-founder of Liz Claiborne author of my life and Liz Claiborne -- we broke the rules and -- the largest fashion company in the world.
What a pleasure to have him here today thank you pleasure to be here OK now a year your resume I mean eat your involvement in the world is we have to talk about it -- started the institute of international business and museum of art.
At the University of Wisconsin you've.
-- given so much back to society but when you started.
And I can't imagine and a whole lot of change in your pocket.
So what made you and your co founders say we're gonna start this fashion company.
Well the time was right.
And we -- -- partners to Begin with.
No kids I was 48 years old I spent my entire career.
Virtually my entire career in the fashion industry one aspect to another of it made plenty mistakes working for other people.
I would say that -- had a successful career.
And but I've never been in my own business you know he's been successful for other people.
And I think -- that it it was in the same psyche is made me make three partners.
And I -- always been and I spent most of my career as a retailer.
And it was always conscious of the consumer and I just felt there was something happening in the consumer world.
And an opportunity for a company to come along and take advantage of it.
Viewers start up though you you you -- had a very say you know this a question always been amazes me when I -- -- entrepreneurs.
You have a -- job you're getting benefits you getting paid you probably not gonna get laid off anytime soon.
He decided to go risky to start -- that could -- Absolutely right absolutely and why -- you confident have to do it.
I understood the business understood the problems that we run up against.
And I was absolutely convinced that you know if not now when I'm one of those things.
I didn't plan that -- money go through the rest of my life and keep saying gee if I had only done -- that and so on.
And so you just make those decision.
He started you leave my wife who was.
Supported support it's -- huge -- important that I.
You started with a total investment of 250000 dollars he said that something was changing with the customer back then what was changing as well number of things are changing.
First of all -- time we started our company back in 197576.
The single most important category for women.
-- -- -- I didn't think we're gonna make it in new world that we had and how -- our company was set up to provide.
For the consumer which was a different way of dressing right.
And to behave coolest people like yourself you wouldn't think of -- any other way -- it's normal.
Back then there were no separates that you could buy and where.
And it was so was in the not -- in new.
A new venture for us it was a whole new.
Take on what women would where pricing you're you're challenging -- -- to kind of follow along with your beliefs exactly and exactly seem to work why do you think it worked because the consumer was really forward.
And that consumers kind of specialist.
I just felt that that was happening that's a huge -- to have their -- in seeing Europe industry right.
You think that was just because you were 48 Jennifer -- years or resist some -- yeah.
No I think it was I think was all of those things it's hard to say.
What triggers what in your life and -- your brain works and so on and so forth.
But do you -- just gathers certain kinds of information as you go along and prices them in certain ways and I just.
Very comfortable with -- we're gonna do 90% of Robinson's fast -- -- first -- so why do you think -- student.
Well I think we didn't fail because we were right on with the convenient you know with the need.
Yeah -- think that's actually something that many entrepreneurs say they felt the need any could be as silly as you know.
At the product for the kitchen.
And their guts admit this is gonna work so they had to go for exactly so then this could -- becomes a household name.
It it almost seemed like it was overnight I mean this isn't listening I grew up with right.
And and then what happens though -- then it's struggled for a little bit too.
Well it's very difficult and unfortunately.
Things happen in companies.
I left the company in 1996.
And -- room pretty good shape.
And decisions were made strategic decisions were made to -- multi billion dollar company at that point.
-- tens of thousands of employees all over the world.
And running -- -- business like that is is difficult.
And the fashion industry is -- forgiving you can't make mistakes and consume more -- consumers who tell you immediately by walking away right.
-- just got great and yet again and that's exactly exactly.
I -- I a try not to speak too much of the decisions that we made -- the company.
Ultimately as we look back now you know people have 20/20 hindsight.
As we look back and say well maybe they shouldn't have done this initiative than that at any rate whatever happened was that they allowed the Liz Claiborne.
Signature pull out of the company.
Too slowly -- Kind of disintegrate -- sense.
It became uncool it became -- right yeah do you -- the company got too big.
Is that it is that a risk I think a lot of people take.
It's very possible that got just two billion adding control it's a question.
-- you know it's it's an interesting question.
And I don't know -- we did become big we had a number of different divisions and the strategy as those who Liz Claiborne line itself.
Less important in the stores and -- -- started to drop.
The strategy the company was to.
Other companies gets -- To get bigger and make up from the lowest and Liz Claiborne business will -- some of the other rules you broke your Italian look at how we broke the -- well.
Course making except between the world was wearing dress clearly -- breaking rules.
The other thing that happened is there was no place for us in the department stores didn't have a place to put our merchandise.
Deal we didn't fit into the -- department stores was set up even in.
I don't know what we Vancouver's sportswear area of the store -- -- -- sportswear.
Department stores -- set up by classification.
It was a blast department a sweater department the -- department.
Each one having a separate -- and the -- didn't necessarily even talk to one another.
So if you wanted to put together -- group -- separate yourself.
It would be very difficult because they wouldn't coordinate.
And here we were coming along we had we had identified this consumer in this -- we said well we'll.
Will present a coordinated -- -- to distort so that consumers can come and see it right there in front of it right on Iraq.
-- and pick out the things it was crazy.
-- to say it was like going animals for -- good.
Exactly everything that's you have everything working everything exactly right as the years saying that there was no that you have a place put they would have -- years -- and finally.
Any other -- volume you want to get exactly.
Some of the -- -- start and to help -- -- to work with -- way was extremely difficult.
What we did get some people who were willing to do it.
And the consumer response was fabulous.
And once that happened through the rest of the retail world wanted to get on board as quickly as they could.
Next thing you change the way.
Fashion designers look to things exactly because they had to creep people out but not just the top -- ironically.
-- sooner write these days.
Well it's very hard to say so many people.
Or trying to.
Do things and mean.
I've always been very partial to the Ralph Lauren people I think even though most of their business is -- And they don't have exactly the same kind of fashion problems in -- as you.
You do and ladies they've done a very good job.
I think that the newcomers -- have relatively newcomers relative move comes in the industry like.
Michael courses specially is becoming very important.
And Marc Jacobs as it is another -- become very important those people seem to be doing it right.
They hundredth -- in the consumer I think Tommy Hilfiger just doing good job.
So as you get into those companies that of the leaders today.
Will -- stay that way I don't know.
Right it's time will tell businesses frankly what's interesting though is those of this gentleman you mention all do our high end.
They're all doing well Lauren lines for places -- -- target and Wal-Mart.
So telling getting any humor that -- yes and also for the for -- major departments right and what used to be cool.
How aryan Brothers -- -- -- better okay as opposed to what became really aged and designer.
Then it was sort of write down -- moderate it was a little bit below -- -- -- Most consumers especially ladies -- going back to work which was in the lucky break for us -- Israel decided on -- And you clubs if -- buy the book what I might get a Larry what do you wanna tell unload onto -- Norm I think I think.
You have to do I I think you know your business.
Know what it is that you're trying to do.
And hopefully if -- major mistakes while working for the people that's good they'll make the same mistakes again -- -- to make some mistakes than your own.
But you know get rid of most of them the other thing is you know -- it well.
One of the things I'm hoping that the book -- -- do will be interesting to his.
Young people who want to get into the fashion industry.
Who really have any.
Kind of a disjointed view of what the fashion industry is there what programs like Project Runway right and I get all excited here I'll make just one thing you do.
Even make -- a million -- overnight.
Doesn't work that way and you need a business and now -- just -- when you have to understand what you're doing why you're doing is how you can do it better and how you can continue to do it.
To take care the consumer.
Yeah you got amazing -- there drone she's in co-founder Liz Claiborne and of course the book is called my life at Liz Claiborne how we broke the rules and built the largest fashion company in the world.
Go buy a ticket out thank thank you make so much for being want to thank you.