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Women are the number one consumers in fashion, spending an average of $125,000 on clothing in their lifetime, yet a majority of those at the helm of the fashion industry identify as male.
Last year, Glamour and the Council of Fashion Designers of America released a survey titled, “The Glass Runway”, showing only 14 percent of major brands are run by a female executive. Yes, you read that right – 14 percent – which ruffled some feathers.
“It is time for our industry to look at itself,” Diane von Furstenberg, the Belgian-born, New York-based fashion designer and chairwoman of the CFDA said. “We need to create a path to full equality, empower women to rise to the top of the fashion industry, and support them and anyone who may be mistreated in the workplace.”
One of the women leading the charge for equity in fashion is Mariah Chase, CEO of the plus-size brand, Eloquii.Coming onto the newly revived brand in 2013, Chase has ushered the brand to be a pioneer in e-commerce and one of the leading fashion houses catering to sizes 14 to 24. But that still hasn’t shielded her from the dreaded imposter syndrome that impacts women at all levels of their career, regardless of skill or accomplishments.
Chase is candid about the internal struggle she faced being offered the position of CEO, which she initially declined.
“I was hemming and hawing about taking the title of president. ‘I don’t deserve that. I’ve never done that before,” Chase told me. “And my friend said, ‘Mariah, you should always go after and take the most ambitious, biggest title that is offered to you.”’
Since taking her friend’s advice Eloquii, and Chase, have been unstoppable.
Revived by their customers as Eloquii 2.0 they’ve opened a number of shops in Detroit, Houston, and a pop-shop in New York City. Chase further solidified their place as fashion innovators with fashion-forward collabs with Taiwanese-Canadian designer, Jason Wu, lingerie collection with Cosabella, and the latest a collection with Fenty Beauty’s global make-up artist, Priscilla Ono.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Mariah Chase to talk about gender inequality in the fashion industry, the biggest lesson she’s learned in her current position, where does she want to see Eloquii in 2020, and more.
Key takeaways from our interview:
Advice to her younger self: “Perfection is the death of creation. So, avoid perfection at all costs. And if perfection is getting in the way, just go! Shoot higher than you possibly can… So if you say you’re going to do something, and you’re doing that, then that’s the way people are going to respond to you. It may take time for you to grow into it, and that’s ok!” (7:50)
Being comfortable with being uncomfortable: “In the start-up space, you are constantly uncomfortable because things are constantly in a state of flux, and at first that can be incredibly unsettling. Feeling uncomfortable is the new normal and it’s ok.” (9:40)
The lessons Chase has learned from Eloquii that Harvard didn’t: Don’t get me wrong, I love Harvard. I had an amazing time and met incredible people, but as I said, I studied history and economics. What Eloquii has taught me and what business really teaches people — it’s about people and those skills are very hard to teach. It’s a little bit defacto needs to be baptism by fire. From the pure skills perspective: empowering people, leading people, motivating and developing people is very hard work and not something they teach a lot of classes on in school. (10:00)
Tackling gender inequality in the fashion industry: I want balance. That I think is the most important thing for all businesses really. Not only is it right, and feel good, but it delivers better results because the customer base overall in the United States is incredibly diverse and that diversity across gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, ways of thinking, however, you may think about diversity needs to be represented. (11:20)
See our interview below.
May 6, 2019 at 07:07AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs