When Fila announced this week that it had named Jennifer Estabrook the brand’s North America president, chairman Gene Yoon described her as “the steady hand” the firm turned to after the sudden passing of president Jon Epstein in February. (Esptein died following heart surgery.)
“Jennifer has the industry savvy, financial and operational command, and passion for the brand to guide Fila to its next stage of disciplined, high-octane global growth,” Yoon added.
Estabrook, who joined Fila in 2005 as VP legal/global general counsel, has steadily climbed the company’s ranks, building a successful track record for helping the firm navigate several waves of change, including the restructuring of its global operations post-acquisition by Fila Korea Ltd. in 2007. Prior to her newest assignment, Estabrook most recently served as COO.
Her ascension to the top post comes at a critical time for the brand, which has enjoyed a significant resurgence over the past two years, accented with its receipt of the coveted FNAA Shoe of the Year honor for the Fila Disruptor 2 in 2018.
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As the #MeToo movement takes hold — inspiring more women to speak up about injustices at work as well as demand higher levels of recognition in corporate spaces — Estabrook’s new title is particularly meaningful, as it creates another North Star for women seeking to shatter glass ceilings across male-dominant industries such as athletic footwear.
Here, Estabrook opens up to FN about top priorities for the brand and inspiring other women.
What does it mean to you to be the first female president of Fila?
“I am deeply honored to be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the company following the death of Jon Epstein, and moving it forward at what is probably the most momentous time for the brand. The company is grieving and growing all at the same time.”
How does this inspire other women in corporate America as they anticipate what is feasible in their own careers?
“I hope my path can serve as an inspiration for other women who are climbing the ranks and aspire to lead, but anyone who knows me knows that my success has not come without challenges. Luckily, I am resilient, and I have remained willing to learn and grow and adapt throughout my career. I strongly believe that a part of my remit is to continue to help advance, create opportunities for success and foster future leaders both inside and outside of Fila.”
What are your top priorities for the brand for the short term and long term?
“While the culture of our company will not change, my key business priorities will fall into the categories of tech, work and world. In my role as COO, I had been a champion of the integration of technology to keep pace with the growth of our business. This remains a top priority as we implement new protocol like IBM Blockchain and strive to be forward-thinking in our approach from operations to our consumers and retail partners.”
What is the “work” part of the equation?
“Fila has spent the last several years connecting with a new generation of consumers, and we’ve experienced success in reaching this audience. Now we are also focusing on the next generation of workers at Fila, nurturing our young talent, preparing them to step into leadership positions and setting the company up for the future.”
What are some of your global objectives?
“My role at Fila Luxembourg S.à.r.l. has positioned me as part of the ongoing unification of ‘One World, One Fila’ in the unique business model that Chairman Yoon and Jon had established, and I will help to guide that next stage of global growth.”
You’re taking the helm of the brand at such an incredible time. How do you plan to keep the momentum going?
“It’s an exciting time for the brand, and I am confident that our team will not only continue this incredible momentum but also increase it. Fila’s culture and our heritage of authenticity is what makes the brand unique, and that has been a key differentiator for us. New and compelling products and stories, specialized product for our retail partners, an infrastructure that allows us to adapt quickly to changing trends, and maintaining that authentic connection with our consumers will continue to fuel our momentum.”
What pressure do you feel? What are you most excited about as you look ahead?
“Chairman Yoon’s decision to name me president ensures a degree of continuity for our company. We know the months ahead will bring change and new challenges. I am ready to embrace those challenges and lead the company in its next stage of growth. To be part of this success that Chairman Yoon and Jon have built from the ground up has been truly rewarding to me. We have a smart, dedicated, passionate team, and I am looking forward to this new chapter together as we continue to build on the extraordinary legacy Jon left us.”