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Fashion looks to female CEOs to meet short- and long-term industry goals

Lauretta Roberts
05 February 2021

New CEOs in fashion are now more likely to be female as businesses look for leaders with deep digital, sustainability and retail understanding to take them forward.

A new report by algorithmic merchandising firm Nextail, shows that female representation among 100 incoming CEOs in fashion (primarily in the US and Europe) during 2020 rose by 95% with 40.2% of incoming CEOs being female and 79.4% of all outgoing CEOs being male.

Big name recruits during the period included Helena Helmersson at H&M and Sonia Syngal at Gap. Helmersson came into the role with a strong sustainability brief while Syngal has a strong retail operations and analytical background.

Sandra Mertens Lustig

Sandra Mertens-Lustig at Lulu Guinness

In the UK big name appointments including Rachel Osbourne at Ted Baker, Sandra Mertens-Lustig at Lulu Guinness, Hannah Colman at Jimmy Choo, Michelle Ryan at Agent Provocateur, Sarah Welsh at N Brown and Jan Marchant at Florence & Fred at Tesco.

“This report shows that despite the consequences of Covid-19, businesses were planning for the future as much as attempting to deal with immediate issues,” said Nextail CEO and Co-Founder, Joaquin Villalba. “The hiring of fashion retailers reflect their strategies for succeeding in the new retail landscape, entrusting leadership who will lead the way towards making fashion retail a better, more sustainable place.”

"Fashion’s Newest CEOs at the top of 2021’ notes that after a flurry of activity in the first quarter of the year, the appointment process slowed down until after the first set of lockdowns were over. However, the priorities seemed to remain constant: deep fashion and a well-rounded retail background; 63.7% of hires had existing C-Level experience; while setting forward-looking priorities, such as digital transformation and sustainability.

Of the CEOs who left their posts in 2020, the average time spent in the job was almost 8 years, not including those who lasted only a matter of months.

The female fashion CEOs appointed in 2020

  • Sandra Mertens-Lustig, Lulu Guinness
  • Michelle Ryan - Agent Provacateur
  • Angela Cretu - Avon
  • Johanna Andersson - Totême
  • Helen Aboah - Urban Zen
  • Katharine Poulter - Laura Ashley
  • Jan Singer - J.Crew
  • Libby Wade - J.Crew
  • Liz Fraser - Kate Spade
  • Helena Helmersson - H&M
  • Lisa Attia - Moynat
  • Ashley Merrill - Outdoor Voices
  • Benedetta Petruzzo - Miu Miu
  • Hannah Colman - Jimmy Choo
  • Pippa Wicks - John Lewis
  • Sue Y. Nabi - Coty
  • Shira Sue Carmi - Altuzarra
  • Sonia Syngal - Gap, Inc.
  • Mary Beech - Sarah Flint
  • Rachel Osbourne - Ted Baker
  • Sarah Welsh - N Brown Group
  • Hillary Super - Anthropologie Group
  • Anne de Vergeron - Repossi
  • Sandra Stangl - Banana Republic
  • Jan Marchant - Florence & Fred at Tesco
  • Sally Scott - Klekt
  • Céline Assimon - De Beers jewellery
  • Hali Borenstein - Reformation
  • Chun Li - Lazada
  • Charlotte Werner - Giambattista Valli
  • Joanne Crevoiserat - Tapestry
  • Nancy Green - Old Navy
  • Lauren Hobart - Dick's Sporting Goods
  • Barbara Werschine - Eric Bompard
  • Claire Spofford - J.Jill
  • Alessandra Rossi - Machine-A
  • Annie Young-Scrivner - Wella
  • Shelia Harrington - Free People Group
  • Marisa Selfa - North Sails
  • Kristina Lukes - Nelly
  • Molly Langenstein - Chico's
  • Simona Cattaneo - Kylie Cosmetics
  • Joann Cheng - Lanvin

Nextail is a SaaS platform that enables agile merchandising decisions. To compile its report it used publicly available information including press releases and announcements on Linked-in.

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