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Role Call | Ariana Milton, Vice President of US Sales

Ariana Milton, vice president of US Sales at Liberty Art Fabrics, says there is always an administrative side to any creative role and one cannot flourish without the other.
Ariana Milton | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Kati Chitrakorn

There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. Role Call highlights some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them. For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

NEW YORK, United States — Ariana Milton is Liberty Art Fabrics' vice president of US sales. A graduate in fine arts, Milton began her career as an associate and customer service manager at Nine West Group, based in Boston. Milton moved to New York in 2003 and has since held a variety of sales director roles across brands such as Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent, Yaya Aflao and 10 Eleven. In 2009, she became vice president of sales at womenswear brand Tibi. Milton oversaw all domestic and international wholesale businesses and distributors at Tibi for five years, before joining Liberty Art Fabrics.

BoF: Please describe your current role.

My job is to oversee direct partnerships between North American-based brands and Liberty. Founded by Arthur Liberty, a pioneer in style and innovation, Liberty Art Fabrics has followed his example by putting quality and twist of humour into the heart of everything it does. I love that every print design tells a story and that the integrity of the brand is visible in its vast archive of more than 43,000 original pieces of art — an inspiring chronicle of artistic expression over the past 140 years. My role is to help various brands recognise how integrating our fabulous Liberty print designs onto their products will enhance their brand. I also help to develop new markets for Liberty, which includes travelling across the US and Canada to facilitate this.

BoF: What attracted you to the role?

In spite of its long history, Liberty remains relatively unknown in US markets. I’m excited to be able to bring an awareness of all Liberty has to offer to the North American marketplace. My role within Liberty allows me to be creative and to use my expertise to present ideas to brands with whom we might partner with. I think as both a designer and a businesswoman. Previously, I trained as an artist and have spent years combining this skill set with sales and marketing, in order to help brands grow locally and internationally.

Focus on what you need to do and do it well. Don't worry about what someone else is doing.

BoF: What is the most exciting project or initiative you have worked on?

Each project offers something interesting, but finding new growth opportunities within untapped markets has been the most inspiring challenge, due to the distinct and differing needs of each customer. It’s always amazing when one of our designs speaks to a customer. There's a diversity of forms our fabrics can take, from a couture gown to a pair of shoes or even to a bikini. My job is to help them turn their ideas into reality.

BoF: How is your role changing? What are the forces driving this change?

When I first took on this position, it was obvious that hiring the right team would be essential to our growth. Building my own team has been an important initiative and it is beginning to bring growth to the business, as well as great personal satisfaction, as I watch each team member fit into his or her role. I have found incredibly talented and intuitive associates who inspire me as I work on the big-picture strategy.

Even with the right team, the current marketplace is challenging. Most businesses have been affected in some way by the struggling economy, which has pushed us to diversify our brand portfolio and think beyond the usual suspects in contemporary and designer markets. We are now working on partnering with a few larger companies that will honour our brand integrity, while offering the customer a different take on Liberty products.

BoF: Tell us about a time you failed and how you learned from it.

My greatest failure was trusting others to execute strategies when they were unsure of their role and had not yet proven themselves. I don’t employ micromanagement and am committed to trusting my co-workers within their assigned roles, but I’ve learned that I must hold onto the reins to oversee key projects until these co-workers have shown their ability to manage assigned tasks without direct oversight.

BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?

The greatest lesson I’ve learned over the years, the one I’d pass to others, is to understand that there is always an administrative side to any creative role — one cannot flourish without the other. This is incredibly important for a head of sales within the fashion industry. You must have both the creative and the business skill sets in order to get the job done — and done successfully. It is imperative to think beyond a specific assignment to the bigger picture, past the quick win, to focus on building a truly lasting and successful business through strong partnerships and solid products, which speak to the brand’s history and aesthetic. Never allow yourself to get caught up in office politics. Focus on what you need to do and do it well. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

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