Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play |Spotify

When Janice Sullivan was interviewing to head up Rebecca Taylor, the designer asked her what exactly she planned on doing at the company. That was four years ago, and the beginning of Sullivan’s revamp of the contemporary brand.

Since joining the team, Sullivan has pushed the company in a direction that resembles a direct-to-consumer brand, putting the customer first and finding a way to connect with them everywhere.

“Being able to speak to the consumer directly is the biggest opportunity these small, contemporary brands have had,” said Sullivan. “While people talk about the contemporary world getting the big squeeze, and while there are more contemporary brands than ever, carving out that ability to present your brand and speak directly to your customer, and being able to showcase your brand on social media, on e-commerce, in your stores and with your wholesale partners is the biggest opportunity you have.”

On this week’s episode of The Glossy Podcast, Hilary Milnes sits down with Sullivan, CEO of Rebecca Taylor and Parker, to discuss why she decided to take Rebecca Taylor’s personal life out of the brand identity, how the retail business is evolving and why the brand reclaimed its e-commerce business. Edited highlights below.

Moving Rebecca’s personal life out of the spotlight
“In some of my early workings with Rebecca, it was really evident to me that she didn’t want to put herself out there as this perfect somebody. I remember that she took me through a brand book that was done before I started. It was Rebecca on a lawn, with her children and husband spread out beside her. She was like, ‘You know, that’s not who I want to be for this brand. I’m the one who comes to work every day, in fittings and designing. I’m not this persona. Is that OK?’ And that is totally OK. We don’t need to sell some candied version of who she is. If that’s not authentic, then let’s just not do it. In her own way, she was testing this. What part of her needs to be the public face of the brand? As the business person, I think it’s really important to focus on what your creatives are comfortable with and what’s in their wheelhouse. Rebecca had enough in her wheelhouse without this sideshow of also being the perfect mom.”

The next shakeout
“I think small, contemporary brands have to be as fluid as possible. They have to be able to respond and evolve, both with their customers and their big wholesale partners. If you don’t have that ability to flex and change — if you get stuck too far out there or too far in your ways — you’re going to get caught up. So, one, be really flexible in what you do. That’s what our partners are asking from us. And, two, really mine your customer for opportunity, and be open to her at all times. You really have to get out of your brand and listen to her, because the big shift is not wholesale versus e-commerce versus retail. It’s putting the customer in the driver’s seat, no matter where you are; that’s the most important thing. If you or your leadership is thinking of putting her first, then you’re doing the right thing.”