Angelo Ng is all about career diversity. A veteran of the apparel, accessories and footwear industries, he counts Nike among his former jobs. Recently named Wolverine Worldwide’s first-ever chief merchant officer, he’s been tasked with leading the company’s merchandising growth strategy and innovation road map for its portfolio of brands.
Landing a job in retail as a high schooler, he was introduced to the apparel and shoe industries. After graduation from college, he unexpectedly found himself at a small Dutch fashion brand. “This was a great training ground, as it allowed me to touch and learn the different aspects of the business, which, combined with my retail experience, gave me a good understanding of the industry,” he said.
Here, Ng talks about his fashion journey, his mentor along the way and his job goals.
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How I got here: “I started retail jobs back in high school and continued throughout college. This helped me discover my passion for apparel and footwear, and so I decided to pursue that as a career, despite it initially not being on my radar. I landed a job with a small Dutch brand, where I gained exposure to the design, development process and sales of apparel. From there, I moved to Nike, which had set up European operations just a few years earlier. This was another great experience, given the massive growth the company was going through at the time. I started in the liaison office, supporting Nike’s soccer efforts, then moved into merchandising for soccer and other team sports. Despite my love of sports, I wanted to work with a fashion apparel brand again and got the chance to move to Levi’s back in 2001, where I spent the last 18 years across different geographies and brands.
Key job goals: “Unprecedented change and disruption in the market, whether from an innovations point of view or retail perspective. My goal is to position our brands to win by having a deep understanding of consumer behavior to deliver solutions that consumers need.”
Job challenges: “The push model is dying where wholesale distribution in brick-and-mortar stores serves as the filter of what [product] consumers got to see. Today, the pull model is emerging — consumer-generated content that’s driving commerce, while data is becoming more available and more important. Influencers are the ones now filtering content for [consumers]. The gateway to the consumer is now peer-to-peer.”
My career mentors: “Waddell Blackwell, who worked for Levi’s. He was the head of the southern region of Europe, which accounted for 70% of the business. He was [awarded] a basketball scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley. His career started on the selling floor out of school. He was African American and the first person Levi’s sent to [post-apartheid] South Africa when it entered the market there. His knowledge of cultures, the company and merchandising is what led him to be one of my mentors.”
Best decision I ever made: “It’s difficult to name one as there have been multiple, all with valuable outcomes.”
Worst decision I ever made: “The times when I didn’t speak up. Those are the ones I regret.”
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