Typically, fashion designers are celebrated for curating collections that mirror their creative perspective; even so, it is the Business of Fashion that cultivates brand loyalty and profit. Unsung heroes such as planners, buyers, and merchandisers work behind the scenes to perfect the strategic development, branding, distribution, and display of luxury collections at major retailers. Leading luxury strategist, Felita Harris, is a BLACK fashion executive that continues to lend her expertise in the business of fashion to your favorite labels.
Born in Chattanooga, TN to a traditional family, Harris’ enrolled in Bauder College in Atlanta, GA with the belief in “only doing what you’re good at” and earned an Associate’s degree in Fashion Merchandising. Thereafter, her acceptance into the management trainee program at world renowned, luxury retailer, Neiman Marcus proved to be the beginning of many lessons that would develop her perspective as a fashion executive. Her first manager introduced the reluctant Harris to the individuals working in the shipping and distribution department with the explanation that the people behind the scenes will be the ones “that make it happen when you need it.” She took heed to his advice, and went on to work for Nordstrom, Armani, St. John Knits, and launched the first Agnona Boutique at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2001, as the West Coast Regional Manager. In 2003, Ms. Harris found her home at the Donna Karan Collection where she expanded distribution and managed licensee partners in 38 markets including the Middle East, Asia, North America, Russia, Europe, and Australia. As the Director of Retail Merchandising and on to her position as the Sr. Vice President of Global Sales, Harris’ innovative efforts significantly increased sales volume and repositioned the brand through customer facing marketing programs.
Two decades of strategizing and building partnerships within the luxury market has equipped this elite leader with a wealth of lessons learned. For instance, Piazza Sempione, an Italian luxury brand, asked Harris to become President of Wholesale for North America; while the position was indeed an accomplishment, she realized that she was not honoring herself and needed to preserve her peace and happiness. Upon her request, she returned home to the Donna Karan Collection and became Senior Vice President of Global Wholesale. Felita Harris believes that no one should see you be more authentic than yourself. Her words of wisdom for aspiring fashion executives like me are to be in the moment and “believe that you won’t let yourself down.”