- Isabella Griffiths |
In the latest installment of our Work In Fashion Series, FashionUnited quizzes Laura Dowling, Chief Marketing Officer of US based Digital Brands Group, a globally expanding digital-first luxury lifestyle business, about the ins and outs of her job, career progression and her top tips on how to break into a marketing role.
What is your background?
I graduated with a Bachelors followed by a Masters in Communications & Media Studies from Fordham University in New York City. After I graduated, I broke into the retail industry with David Yurman. From there I moved into a sales role at Bulgari. Funny enough, I actually went and knocked on the door of the Fifth Avenue store to enquire if they had any openings in the New York office located upstairs from the boutique and they opened their arms to let me right in. As my role evolved I started spending more and more time with the marketing team and it was then that I realized how much I was really motivated and intrigued by the power of perception that marketing has.
I got my first big break when a friend of mine introduced me to the US President and CEO of Links of London, Sharon Buntain, who was opening the New York office and needed someone that would literally hit the ground running. I loved it there - there was no job I didn’t do, and I got so much experience across the entire business. Once the office grew, I was able to move into a more specialised marketing role, where, amongst other things, I launched the company’s e-commerce website and wholesale as well as retail strategy.
How did your career progress to your current position as CMO of DBG?
My career in marketing really grew exponentially while I was at Links of London. I stayed with the brand for close to five years before taking on a newly created integrated marketing role at Ralph Lauren, before moving to Harry Winston. Even though Harry Winston is such a legacy brand, when I started there, I truly started from scratch; it was like working at a startup. I was tasked with leading the retail and e-commerce marketing strategy, experiential events, public relations and customer relationship management (CRM) activities. I was with Harry Winston for nearly five years, then I came to the conclusion that the missing piece from my experience was scale, so I moved on to Coach, where I was Divisional VP of Marketing & PR - my goal was to rethink the brand’s approach to retail, kind of turn the traditional retail strategy on its head, cultivate stickier content, and open up the brand to a whole new audience.
A few years ago, I recognised that the retail game had changed and I was eager to parlay my experience in traditional retail over to the D2C space. Before I found Digital Brands Group, I had spent some time pitching Private Equity firms a very similar concept, of creating something like an in-house marketing agency that could be leveraged by multiple brands.
How did your previous roles prepare you for this role?
I’ve worked in and with nearly every marketing role, as well as in big teams and small teams. I’ve had to build brands from the ground up and reposition them to maintain their competitive edge and cultural relevance. All of my roles have required and cultivated my ability to creatively problem solve, as well as to streamline processes and maximise budgets - these are all things that are crucial to stepping into my role as CMO. As a side note - I am generally passionate about Women in Business and the retail industry in general. I have always kept up with connections I have made throughout my extensive career as I see every opportunity as a chance to connect, of course, and more importantly, learn something new.
What does your job role entail and what are your core responsibilities?
I’m building a marketing strategy centered around customer and audience data that can be scaled across DBG’s different brands. For the immediate future, I’m focused on elevating the DBG brand identities and emotional customer connections, launching new and customised communications, developing our physical stores and experiences, and introducing our personalised fit and style strategy.
What does a typical day in your job look like?
Right now, my days are very busy! I usually get in early to settle in before the morning hustle and bustle starts up. I’ll have meetings throughout the day with our CEO, my marketing team, and the product and operations teams. We have an open concept office which makes it so easy to touch base on timely things throughout the day. Right now, my day focuses on building out DBG’s long term strategy and balancing that with supporting my team’s short-term initiatives, like planning advertising campaigns, product launches, and social storytelling.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
You need to be able to balance what the bigger picture is with the pieces you need to get there. Being able to put together a tactical roadmap is key, as is constantly reminding your team of the larger vision. It’s also necessary to be aware of your surroundings, like who your competitors are, what they’re doing, what’s going on culturally, what the right communication tools for your business are etc.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the team environment, and I love getting everyone rallied around a concept or project, and then achieving it together. I also love the openness to new thinking, working in a smaller, digital and data-focused company like DBG, there are so many opportunities to test content, messaging, and new ideas. It’s really exciting when you try something out of the box and it works, or even if it doesn’t, you know almost immediately, and you’re able to learn and change it.
Are there any perks of working in marketing over other departments?
What I love about marketing is that you get to work with every team. We work extremely closely with product to plan launches, with tech to optimise the website, and with customer services to leverage customer feedback. Marketing is all about storytelling; I find it so amazing when you’re able to establish a meaningful connection with your customer through visual and other forms of brand expression.
Do you feel marketing offers solid and varied career development opportunities?
Yes! Marketing is the power of perception. If you enjoy getting inside someone's mind, discovering what motivates them, and unlocking how you can affect that motivation, marketing is for you. Marketing covers a wide umbrella of career paths: analytics, advertising, social media, PR, graphic design - there are so many roles within the scope that make up the bigger picture.
Do you have any tips for anyone looking to pursue a marketing career in the fashion industry?
Knock on the door! Use LinkedIn, social networks, and events to meet people. You never know! Networking is so important, don’t be afraid to ask questions and request exploratory meetings - those meetings give you the opportunity to learn about someone’s role and connect without applying direct pressure for an immediate employment opportunity. It is much more of an organic type of engagement.
I also think it’s important to think about what excites you and motivates you in fashion, and to not be close minded. Having passion for a brand or a role is key, but when you’re first starting out, your first job may not be your dream job, and that’s ok. Diversification in the field or on your resume is key, and it often helps you realise what you really love or don’t love about the industry.
Photos courtesy of the brand