Title: Former CEO, DVF, Founder of Fashion Launchpad
Company: Fashion Launchpad
Major City Where You Work: NYC
City Where You Live: NY metropolitan area
Where did you grow up?
I was born in California, but grew up in a suburb of Dallas when my family moved to Texas in order to open a tortilleria. As the second of six children born to two Mexican immigrants, there were two key priorities: family and education. My mother encouraged good grades and rewarded us with $5 or $10 for every “A” on a report card and would give us cash for every book read during the summer. A lifelong learner, she incentivized us financially but, more importantly, reminded us to learn in order to reach for our highest potential. I recall always being involved in extracurricular activities from Girl Scouts to playing in the band to cheerleading. Being a leader was deeply rooted from a young age and I would run for various club officer roles, was head cheerleader, and later VP of my college sorority. I had a serious boyfriend when I graduated from high school, so I decided to stay in Texas for college (Texas Tech University) but was always anxious to find a place where I “fit in” and could be myself without having to try to be someone else.
What does a typical day or week in your everyday life look like?
Life has been very different since March, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is my sleep schedule. I’m an early riser, so my days start between 5:30 and 6:00 am when I exercise and read various newspapers and trade publications. Since COVID, I’ve been living upstate at my farm and my morning also consists of feeding the horses, cat and dogs before 9:00 am when my workday starts. I am generally on back-to-back calls throughout the day with very limited breaks but always make time for my favorite smoothie made of banana, peanut butter, and almond milk and, twice a week, I take an hour to ride one of our horses on the property. My kids are older teens so they tend to make their own breakfast but when they were here, we always had dinner together.
Since the end of August, life at my home has changed quite a bit because my oldest daughter, Grace, left for her second year of college at Yale and my youngest daughter, Julia, left in September to live in Miami in order to study with the Miami City Ballet’s pre-professional division. My son, Luke, is taking a gap year before he goes to college in LA next year, so he and I have spent more quality time together recently. Dinner time is hectic – every animal and human needs to be fed between 5:00 and 7:00! My go-to meals range from parmesan chicken to mustard crusted salmon or a great piece of steak with potatoes. There’s always a good salad involved! I love comfort food but try to ensure we eat food that comes from local farms not only to support the farmers but because I have found there’s a noticeable difference in the quality and freshness. After dinner, I generally continue working, going through emails, or having Face Time calls with one of my daughters. Sometimes, I watch a little bit of TV but most of the time I’m trying to finish my workday. Before COVID, I usually stayed at work until 7:00 pm, would get home by 8:00. At least twice per week, I was involved in an after-work business event, panel discussion and would get home by 10:00. Now, the horses have their last bit of hay and are “put to bed” between 9:00 and 10:00 and then it’s time to for me to do the same.
Tell us why you do what you do for a living.
I always wanted to work in fashion and my dream was to run a company. At the beginning of my career, I worked in sales and then had experiences that gave me opportunities to learn every aspect of the business. I was lucky to be able to learn so much working for such powerful designer brands such as Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, and Oscar de la Renta. I spent time as an entrepreneur as well on two different occasions and had even greater learning about all aspects of running a business. Between corporate and entrepreneurial life, sometimes I prefer the entrepreneurial balance but also recognize a corporate job can provide resources and structure that I also appreciate. I have tried to incorporate my entrepreneurial drive into corporate organizations, bringing a business vision to life through innovation and technology. I have been focused on digital business growth for the past decade and have spent an equal amount of time developing international businesses around the world. I do this because I’m passionate about building businesses, brand innovation, and I love the work that goes into it and the excitement that comes when the goals are achieved. There’s always a roller coaster ride and you have to know that there will be good days and bad but it’s important to stay focused on the mission and stay consistent.
How did you end up in your line of work?
Was it accidental or were you strategic about it? In part, I don’t think I was aware enough of the alternatives. I could have spent more time researching various fields, but I had an interest in fashion and since I was hired right away before I had even graduated, I made it my destiny. At various points throughout my career, I have wondered “what if” but I don’t believe in regrets and I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. I made my choice to work in fashion and since it’s such a complex industry with so many disciplines and functions, I have a broad scope of skills and knowledge. That said, I also believe in applying best practices from different industries so I spend time researching consumer products, hospitality and tech companies processes to see what can be implemented in fashion.
Tell us about the factors that shaped your career and business aspirations.
First, moving to NYC shaped my future on so many levels. It’s the heart of fashion in the U.S. but my level of industry awareness was very limited…I don’t even know if I had ever picked up a Vogue magazine before moving to NY. I was oblivious to European designers and didn’t have the connections to make the introductions. I moved on my own, without friends or contacts, and had to figure it out. There were no membership clubs or women’s groups at that time and I didn’t have the confidence or sophistication to apply for other positions. By default, I ended up in sales and retail buying roles and realized very quickly that Presidents of brands generally had wholesale sales experience. Once I figured that out, I knew my path.
How do you balance the work-life challenges?
I always tell people that I don’t believe there is a “balance.” Firstly, everyone’s version of “balance” is different and one has to determine what’s best for their individual life. Secondly, each day will bring different pressures, priorities, and challenges. Some days will feel very balanced for what your family might need and others will feel very balanced because you were able to accomplish a lot at work. Being a working mom brings challenges. Add to that being a single working mom, it requires that much more juggling. Thankfully, I had a great nanny who helped me raise my kids during the workdays. Most importantly, I truly believe that my kids have benefitted from knowing that I work and how important that is to me and to our family’s lifestyle. They have been active parts in my entrepreneurial ventures – they were models when needed, went on location during photo shoots and commercial shoots, overheard difficult scenarios that required critical thinking, and even still are sounding boards for decisions that require us to be united. They know I love to work, and they respect me for my drive and passion. At the same time, I am so greatly appreciative of the choice that I made to become an entrepreneur during the years when my kids were younger so that I could be there after school, to ensure we had dinner together every night, and to know their friends and the school group well.
What advice would you have for others in the business sector trying to make it day after day?
I like Jeff Bezos’ Amazon philosophy of making each day Day 1. Keeping the same enthusiasm isn’t always realistic, but it’s nice to think about that as a standard. For one, I advise people to get as involved with industry groups as possible. Network, because who you know is so important. Second, don’t be so hard on yourself. Make sure you know what the expectations are and make sure you have the tools that will enable you to be successful. Communicate often and clearly. Create cross-functional relationships. Stay curious!
Did your background/ethnicity create any obstacles for you? Any advantages?
I don’t think my background had any advantages at all. I had to work hard for every role, every promotion, every salary increase. However, I think that being a woman was more of an obstacle than being Latina. Coming to a big city without much knowledge about industry details didn’t help either, so that was within my control. It’s important to recognize that work ethic, relationships, and your ability to be flexible will impact your career more than the grades you received in school.
What inspires you in your work life? What turns you off?
I love being able to make an impact on individuals’ lives. Finding talent and giving them opportunities, helping to make connections for others, and truly having a purpose to help others through my own network or experience is what makes me most happy. The things I don’t like are office politics, lack of trust with people who are more focused on gossip and tearing people down instead of lifting and supporting others so that everyone is successful.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Learn more. Listen more. Smile more. Appreciate more. Network more. Go out more. Reserve judgments. Be open to new people and new things.
If you could have dinner with any person—living or dead–who would it be?
I would want to have dinner with my grandfather Evaristo. He was kind, intellectual, and positive. I was very close to him during my youth and I would like to be able to truly hear about his life and get his input.
What is your favorite quote/saying? “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do,” and “The greatest conqueror is he who overcomes the enemy without a blow.”