Four years into her CEO stint at Browns Fashion, Holli Rogers is transforming the venerable London retailer — which turns 50 next year — in dramatic ways. Not least with new flagship boutique, Browns Brook Street, opening summer 2020. Here, the straight-talking Texas native, who also recently became chief fashion officer at Browns’ parent Farfetch, talks about pushing sustainability to the forefront, the importance of supporting the next generation of designers and how she’s cultivating a strong culture at the company.
FN: You’ve been CEO of Browns since it was acquired by Farfetch in 2015. What has that meant to you personally and professionally?
Holli Rogers: “I never really wanted to be a CEO, and I didn’t think I could do it. I appreciate [Farfetch founder] José Neves for offering it to me and believing in me. I also took [the job] because I wanted to be a role model for other women. People can think, ‘Oh, wow, Holli can be fashionable, she can be nice, and oh my God, she is also a CEO, so maybe I can be a CEO, too.’”
FN: What has been your biggest career challenge, and how have you overcome it?
HR: “Up until not so long ago, it was having confidence, believing that I could do certain things and feeling I was valuable. I still have to read books all the time to remind myself that. I am always amazed by people who are naturally self-confident. I’ve read pretty much everything by [research professor] Brené Brown. She did an amazing TED talk called ‘The Power of Vulnerability.’ You also have to make sure you’ve got the right people around you, not blowing hot air up your a** but who are truthful about what is in front of you.”
FN: What are you doing at Browns and Farfetch to advance women’s empowerment issues?
HR: “We try not to separate men and women. To make the progress we need to make, men have to be here with us. We’ve recently introduced flexible working hours. I see a lot of smiling faces around the office since we introduced that. We can work anywhere with laptops, and we are all adults, so we should be responsible for the way we manage our time. I don’t want to get on the tube in rush hour, and I like to pop out to the gym during the day. We’ve also enhanced our [policies] for both maternity and paternity leave. Households are shifting, as women are often now the primary breadwinners. I have so many friends where this is the case and they can’t afford to be gone from their jobs. One of our core values is to be human, so it’s a statement about the attitude we all have to each other.”
FN: How are you supporting the next generation of design talent in London?
HR: “Browns all started with Mrs. B [Joan Burstein] supporting young talent, something I’ve always been inspired to do. Otherwise, our industry would not exist. Six months ago, we took over the sponsorship of the British Fashion Council’s ‘NewGen’ initiative from Topshop. Ida Petersson, our buying director, spends a lot of time on the judging panel and with designers in a mentoring capacity.”
FN: The company has led in sustainability efforts. Why is that so important?
HR: “I am aware of how decisions I make impact the environment. We now use electric scooters and skateboards in the summer for local deliveries. We trialed noncoated recyclable packaging, but it wasn’t robust enough, so now we’ve reverted back to [our packaging] being reusable. Using tissue paper made me really guilty about waste, so we’ve also developed a special reusable inner bag made from recycled materials. It feels like satin. Small decisions are not going to change everything, but it all adds up. We already have 45 sustainably produced brands [at Browns], but we’re introducing a new Conscious section in which they will all sit. That all started because someone asked if there was a way to navigate the site for sustainable brands. Everyone wants to make a difference and choose where they spend money.”
FN: What does your new role as chief fashion officer at Farfetch entail?
HR: “I’m still in the deep-dive phase, doing a thorough analysis of everything from styling, editorial and dropdowns on the site to packaging and customer care. Farfetch is a technology company that has become one of the most valuable players in the luxury fashion arena. I am the only fashion voice that sits on the executive team, so it’s my job to make it more fashion-aware and talk to a more ‘fashion’ consumer.”
FN: Who are some of the women who have made the biggest difference in your life?
HR: “Natalie Massenet, who I worked with for 12 years very closely. She is an inspiration, and we remain friends. More recently, [I’ve been inspired] by some of my peers here at Farfetch. Sandrine Deveaux, managing director for Farfetch’s ‘Store of the Future’ initiative, has a completely different take in what a retail environment should look like. She is a mom of four and a powerhouse.”
What more women should do: “Believe in themselves and have confidence in their abilities.”
Her leadership style: “I asked my team, and they told me it’s inspiring, passionate, collaborative and empowering.”
The #MeToo effect: “It built a general awareness of how people have to be a lot more careful in how they approach and talk to women — and they can’t take them for granted. But it’s not just about women; it’s also generally how you treat people and speak to them.”
Her power shoe: “I love shoes, so I definitely don’t have just one. Right now, I [love] my Dior hightop sneakers and Amina Muaddi heels. Sweetly, she named a pair after me. I believe in what she’s doing, and she launched her first collection with such a definitive design. That is powerful.”