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Stuart Weitzman: Innovation Through Inclusivity

BoF meets the chief marketing officer of Stuart Weitzman, Behnaz Ghahramani, who shares how the company's values of optimism and inclusivity make its employees the "masters of their own destiny."
Stuart Weitzman employees | Source: Courtesy
By
  • BoF Careers Team

NEW YORK, United States — Acquired by the Tapestry group in 2015, the Stuart Weitzman business has a creative pedigree spanning over 35 years, with the brand's eponymous founder growing up in the shoe business. Today, the global brand is synonymous with refined design suited to a luxury clientele.

With flagship stores located on Madison Avenue, Rodeo Drive, Rue Saint Honore, Via Sant’Andrea and Via Condotti, the brand has become one of the most recognisable names in footwear, present in dozens of international markets. In 2018, the brand appointed Edmundo Castillo as head of footwear design.

Also appointed in 2018, Behnaz Ghahramani has been tasked with continuing to evolve the marketing strategies of the house, responding to the needs and desires of modern, independent women. Working closely with Castillo, she brings her previous experience as Gucci's director of relational marketing and Ralph Lauren's vice president of global marketing for the luxury collections to the role.

BoF sits down with the chief marketing officer to discover how inclusivity and optimism are driving both her and her team’s creative and commercial success.

Behnaz Ghahramani, chief marketing officer at Stuart Weitzman,
by Guillaume Gaudet | Source: Courtesy

How would you describe the company culture of Stuart Weitzman?

During the recruitment process, I had a chance to meet with a variety of leaders within the organisation at Stuart Weitzman and at Tapestry. I had previously worked for iconic fashion houses in Europe and in the US, and corporate culture and core values were important to me. When I met Victor [Luis] in particular, I was inspired by his vision and what the team was building at Tapestry, specifically their values of optimism and shared inclusivity. That really resonated with me personally.

I myself am a first-generation immigrant and so those New York ideals where anything is possible and with hard work and determination, we can achieve anything, is something that I personally have internalised. I wanted to work for a company that had the same drive and perspective as a part of its culture.

Secondly, throughout this process, as a female executive, I was so inspired by how progressive and inclusive of women the leadership team has been, both at Stuart Weitzman and at Tapestry. I actually went through the recruitment process while I was pregnant and for me, it said a lot about this company. I felt totally supported through the recruiting process and when I started my new job, as I gave birth soon after.

What excites you most about working at Stuart Weitzman?

We have a unique opportunity to define the business and to think about our business from a different perspective. We are a very lean organisation and that allows us to operate in a start-up like, dynamic environment, and react quickly to changing market and consumer trends.

Culturally, we really value entrepreneurial spirit and we have the ability to take great ideas and quickly implement them. That’s something I personally love about working at Stuart Weitzman and I think it’s a tremendous asset that we have as an organisation — that we’re not necessarily limited by any of the formalities and we can work much more cohesively as a team. I feel that is something uniquely embedded in terms of our company culture and that’s something that we’re building on every day.

At Stuart Weitzman, you get to see the impact of your work and your efforts almost instantly.

Coupled with that, I think the strength of the group, of being a Tapestry company and being part of the Tapestry culture as well, is that we are a brand empowered to be the masters of our own destiny and to have the freedom to be creative and express our brand in our terms — the way we think is right for our brand. Within that freedom that we have with creative expression and innovation, there’s also a strong mandate on accountability of the business to our team, group and shareholders, and I think that that balance of empowerment and accountability that we have with Tapestry has really been fundamental to give us the chance to succeed.

How have you seen your role, and how you execute it, evolve?

One of the things we did when I started was to bring together marketing, communications, ecommerce and digital. This had previously been two separate departments. Today, we are all under one umbrella.

Bringing these areas together enables us to put the customer at the heart of everything we do, thinking digitally first. Given changing consumer behaviour and media landscapes, this structure provides us with a really interesting way for us to think about content creation, branding, and building the business.

Another of the first orders of business when the new leadership team was put in place was the creation of mini task forces. Leveraging multiple disciplines and seniority levels within the company, these bring unique perspectives and insights into functional areas to creatively problem-solve business opportunities that we identify. To inspire innovation, we look at ways to harness the creative power within the organisation to find solutions and maximise opportunities.

What development opportunities exist at Stuart Weitzman?

Because of the nature of our business, and the size of our team, at Stuart Weitzman you get to see the impact of your work and your efforts almost instantly. You get to see the pulse you create in the business and how consumers respond to the brand. It’s quite powerful. Whereas I think in some larger corporations, you move through several layers between cause and effect — before you really get a chance to impact something directly — but here, as an organisation, we really get to do that. There are only certain instances when you get to be a part of a brand and curate that brand for a specific period in time. I feel like we’re at that moment here.

You really get to see the pulse you create in the business.

I believe that we have an opportunity to become even more of a globally recognised modern luxury accessories brand for women. We have a really strong foundation on which the brand and the business is built, but the potential at Stuart Weitzman is tremendous. I think that the talent that comes in can have the strength of that foundation and think about how that can evolve to be able to connect with consumers today, which is a really unique opportunity.

On a personal level, I am also excited to be working for a company that puts women at the heart of everything we do, and by how we can further connect the Stuart Weitzman brand with women as its core consumer base. I have worked on the transformation at Gucci, I have worked closely on the evolution of Ralph Lauren and the celebration of the pinnacle of that brand in the 50-year anniversary of the brand, and I do feel that we have something quite magical that’s happening at Stuart Weitzman as well. It is a unique opportunity to join the brand at a time where the future potential is very exciting. So, I think for talent coming into a company like ours, that is a very exciting prospect.

What talent needs do you currently have?

I am definitely looking to attract and hire the best talent at Stuart Weitzman — building a superstar team of highly motivated individuals that are excited to work at Stuart Weitzman and to really build the future of this company. I am looking for people with global experience, particularly in China as that is an important market for us. We are a global company that is based in New York and I really need local experience in key markets. We’re just getting started and I think there are so many exciting things that are going to be happening here.

We are looking to recruit individuals from a diverse set of perspectives and experiences to allow us to think and work differently as an organisation. I’m looking for talent from creatives to storytellers to data-driven marketers, focused on the consumer. I am extremely inspired when I think about how we can build the team and what we can build together — so we are not simply doing things because that’s the way we’ve done them in the past as a company, or even as an industry. Personally, I am very excited by the future.

This is a sponsored feature paid for by Tapestry as part of a BoF Careers partnership. To explore careers at Stuart Weitzman, please click here.

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