Fashion executive hopefuls can now easily heed the advice of industry titan Mark Weber on how to break into the biz and rise to the top. The esteemed former CEO of leading luxury group Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy USA and Chairman and CEO of Donna Karan International—a position Weber will step down from this month—has released a book titled Always in Fashion, which details his storied career. Here, the veteran apparel exec, who continues to consult for LVMH, shares some of his most coveted business advice.
What do you think it takes to be a successful CEO?
In order to be an effective CEO, it’s not enough to be an excellent speaker; you must be a successful communicator. A CEO must manage to a diverse group of constituents. He must manage upward correctly to the board. Explaining his or her vision, clearly articulating the progress and ensure buy in to the strategy and progress. He must manage laterally the strategic plan and initiatives to his or her direct reports. They need to believe in the goals and plans so they can execute the vision. This is particularly important for they communicate to their direct reports who in turn are the people who day in and day out are implementing the strategy. The CEO must communicate clearly and concisely to all third party partners, suppliers, licensees, retailers to insure they too will provide the right pricing, products and floor space to highlight the specialness of your company. And last but not least, a successful CEO must communicate the exciting products the company represents. You need the consumer to vote for you rather than your competitor.
What’s the most difficult part of being in charge?
Everyone wants change until they are asked to change. Behind anyone with vision, there are fifty well-intentioned people undermining that vision.
What did you find most rewarding in your career?
The creativity in the luxury fashion and retail industry inspires me every day. There are so many talented people. You are responsible for all the parts. Seeing it come together and winning is a great joy for you and all the people counting on you to deliver on the promise.
What are some of the best perks of being a CEO?
Almost total control of my calendar!
Where is the coolest place you traveled during your long career?
I walked the Great Wall of China when I was younger than my children. I traveled throughout Europe and Asia negotiating multi-million dollar deals on my own as the decision maker when I was 25 years old. This made all my business travels cool.
What is the biggest misconception about how to achieve success?
It’s about you! Success is never about you. Success is about the people around you, starting out with the right mentors and learning from them, nurturing relationships with people who provide objective advice, and how you lead and get the best from the people you surround yourself with. But don’t kid yourself—of course you need to be talented, but the people you work with will be the reason for your success.
What is the single best piece of advice you can share from your experience in the fashion industry?
There’s no substitute for good taste.
By Jason Binn
DuJour CEO/Founder; Chief Advisor GILT.COM; Editor Wireimage/Getty; Niche Media Founder