In our recurring column, Hire Up, FN checks in with new execs from companies across the industry to talk about leadership, strategy and the burning issues.
Alison Bergen had already built up an impressive business and fashion resume by the time Aerosoles owner Alden Global Capital LLC named her CEO last December. She previously held posts at a range of companies, from leading financial institutions to Louis Vuitton.
“Vuitton was my deepest dive into [shoes],” said Bergen, who headed footwear merchandising for the brand in the Americas region. “It was an important and rapidly growing business.”
Bergen, a Stanford MBA graduate, also branched out on her own at one point, launching a direct-to-consumer line of women’s shirts called Meme Chose, an inclusive sizing collection.
Here, Bergen talks about the long road to a top spot at Aerosoles and the importance of management support when growing a business.
How I Got Here:
“I began my career at Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs in credit sales training, moving on to Milly, a contemporary brand, launching its e-commerce business and brick-and-mortar store on New York’s Madison Avenue. From there, I became director of e-commerce merchandising, later being named vice president of global merchandising. Next, I moved on to Michael Kors as vice president of merchandising for better collections. My most recent position was head of merchandising for shoes, accessories and ready-to-wear for the Americas at Louis Vuitton.
“I eventually met the investors behind Aerosoles, who wanted someone with strong branding experience and an understanding of the direct-to-consumer business. They also wanted someone who had the willingness to think like a startup and build a new model.”
“Establish Aerosoles as the best direct-to-consumer footwear brand among our peers, and double our current business in three years by focusing on digital and high-value wholesale partnerships. I’m a brand person and value product as well as the time it takes to do it right. It’s about the importance of aligning messaging, brand and culture. Aerosoles is lucky to have the financial backing of a great investor that is very hands off. They’ve given me the gift of trust to build a team and let us work independently — and that’s a healthy situation.”
“Building a global supply chain by making sure you have the best partners. There’s a lot of newness in [manufacturing] techniques, whether it’s sustainability or other ways to create product. We are also [working] on changing brand perceptions. As part of a rebrand, we’re [working] to reposition and make Aerosoles relevant to a broader audience without losing our existing audience, while making product more central to what we do.”
“My mom, CEO of Lancaster General Health System, which includes about a dozen hospitals and facilities and 5,000 employees. There’s also my good friend Kim Nemser, chief merchant at Warby Parker.”
The Best Decision I Ever Made:
“Leaving finance, following my heart to a more creative environment and putting myself in a position to manage teams.”
The Worst Decision I Ever Made:
“Not taking enough time to evaluate the culture of an organization before accepting a role.”
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