While Facebook is not the most comprehensive look at a person’s life, you often learn a lot about priorities and patterns examining social media posts. Me? You’d learn that I’m passionate about autism, my writing, my family and my friends. May sound like an amateur move, but I thought I’d poke around the Facebook page of Felita Harris, Senior Vice President of Global Sales for Donna Karan New York, before diving into her interview for our MOMMIES DO THE MOST AMAZING THINGS series.
What I found there was not what you would see on my Facebook page. You won’t stumble upon pictures of me in the showrooms of one of high fashion’s most esteemed houses. You won’t find me posing with supermodels in chic ensembles. You won’t find albums labeled “PARIS” or “MILAN”. But after the glare of all that glamor wears off, the similarities begin to emerge. Not between just Felita and me, but Felita and any mother who has to manage the work-life tension under debate in our nation right now. You’ll find a mom celebrating with birthday cakes, piano recitals, and sharing snowy days between her mad dashes to Milan and Dubai. And dare I say, doing it all with style.
TINA: You are a single parent who travels a lot, and works a lot and hard. How do you manage it all?
FELITA: It’s extremely difficult to have a career and manage your home. My daughter Kennedy is the love of my life. She is at the forefront of every career decision I make. I’ve been blessed to have a very supportive family and care givers who support my desires for Kennedy. Without #TeamKennedy, I wouldn’t sleep at night. I’ve also made changes to my schedule so that I’m available during important moments.
TINA: There’s no way I can have a professional fashionista here and not ask some girly questions! What 5 items would you recommend every woman have as a foundation for a great wardrobe?
FELITA: The five items that I recommend to any woman are:
1. Crisp white cotton shirts. The tailoring should be fitted to the body. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years. Trust me, “the white shirt” is here to stay.
2. Black trousers: slim fit and wide leg. Easily interchangeable during the year. I love trousers because you can wear them year round.
3. Leather blazer jacket. I’m obsessed with leather jackets and blazers. They are great investments and can easily be worn as a business blazer, depending on the industry you work in. Leather is an easy way to register luxe.
4. Heels… Every lady needs a pair of black heels. They will take you from breakfast to after work cocktails.
5. Good makeup: Most women don’t understand the power of a polished face. Before a person looks at what you’re wearing, they are fixated on your face. Invest in high quality products, starting with a cleansing system. Makeup only highlights what’s underneath the skin. Never un
derestimate the power of a polished face that is accented with color.
TINA: I want to talk some about the deeper beauty. We know most women have 5 or so things in their beauty bag they could not do without. What are the 5 characteristics you recommend for every woman’s inner beauty bag?
FELITA: I love this question! The 5 characteristics that I recommend for every woman’s inner beauty bag are:
4. Spiritual countenance
All of these characteristics will keep you centered in the midst of professional and personal trials. Likewise, as you experience success, these characteristics will keep you centered and focused.
TINA: Felita, you say you never imagined you would get as far and as high as you have in the world of high fashion. Farther and higher than most ever will. Looking back, what do you think were “difference maker” decisions/experiences for you?
FELITA: Looking back, I believe that having a strong support system truly made the difference. I was blessed to meet extraordinary people who were willing to provide opportunities and mentoring so I could develop my strengths. My mother was very hardworking and set high expectations for her kids. I believe having a strong work ethic and undying willingness to succeed made a huge difference.
TINA: Working in high fashion, traveling the world all seems glamorous. Share something that makes you say, “Yeah, THIS is the life.” And share something that makes you think “If only they knew.”
FELITA: Working in the luxury segment of the industry has provided an incredible opportunity for me to experience a life that is rarefied. On most of my business trips, I’m staying at luxury hotels and dining at 5-star restaurants. In my day-to-day life, this certainly isn’t the norm, so I truly enjoy every moment.
As amazing as the travel and cultural experiences are, there are countless hours invested behind the scenes. Working 12-14 hours for 20 days straight without time zone adjustments can be brutal on your body. I don’t think people understand the physical and emotional demands of the fashion industry. Not to mention, the relational sacrifices I make. It’s impossible to have a career of this scope and be present for every celebratory moment in your friends’ and family’s lives.
The bottom line is I’ve made this decision and I don’t regret it.
The fashion industry is a full contact sport. It demands the mind, body and exuberant passion. I love every moment.
TINA: What is the most challenging thing about your job? And what do you love the most?
FELITA: The most challenging part of my job is staying abreast of the luxury consumers’ buying habits. It’s my role to anticipate when, where, and how to convey the brand experience in stores around the world. Without a crystal ball, it can be very challenging to anticipate. I love the autonomy, travel, and strategic thinking components of the job. I never imagined that I would travel around the world.
TINA: What do you wish someone had told you when you first started out?
FELITA: I wish someone had emphasized the importance of socialization. In a corporate environment, it is critical to have support and strategic alliances in order to advance your objectives. In simple terms, I spend nearly 50% of my day with co-workers across divisions. It’s important to have their support and input on ideas and strategies.
TINA: You are just coming off Fashion Week in New York City, something most of us only dream about being a part of. Describe the energy of Fashion Week in NYC.
FELITA: I would describe Fashion Week as a seven-day summit filled with of glamour, inspiration, and strategy. It is one of the most unified events in fashion.
We definitely work unbelievably long hours, but it pales in comparison to working with a team of people who constantly inspire you. In the end, Fashion Week is comprised of the best people and product around the world. Everyone has a shared goal, to GET IT SOLD!
Image Credit: K Jamal Photography