Many times when we think of fashion designers we think of runway shows and flashy ad campaigns. But those types of designers barely scratch the surface of the pools of talent that are designing and producing clothes we actually wear in real life. Sue Fuller is one of those hidden people behind the scenes at one of the largest workwear companies – she’s the General Merchandising Manager at Carhartt, Inc. In this role, she is responsible for both men’s and women’s product development, design and licensing. As part of the senior management team, Sue helps develop the overall strategy to support the growth of the brand as the company focuses on introducing more consumers to its products. With over sixteen years experience in the field, before joining Carhartt, Sue held positions L.L. Bean, Land’s End and Polo Ralph Lauren. Here’s a little bit more about Sue Fuller…
1. What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?
Margaret Thatcher and Coco Chanel
2. How did you get your start in the fashion industry?
An internship in the fashion industry at Liz Claiborne. From day one of the internship I knew exactly what I wanted to do for a career.
3. Tell us about what you do for Carhartt and take us through a typical day.
I am in the General Merchandise Manager at Carhartt. I oversee the functional areas of Merchandising/Design/Technical Design/Color/Sourcing. What I love best about this position is that there is no typical day – EVER! Our main objective every week is getting product to the consumer that is Carhartt worthy (impeccable quality/durability/authentic).
4. What is it like working for Carhartt? With its feet firmly planted in workwear and tradition, how do you balance that with “fashion.”
I am fortunate to work for a company that embodies such legacy, history and heritage. How many people can say that they work for a company that has stayed true to itself for over 123 years? With this type of legacy comes a great deal of responsibility to ensure that every product that we produce is built with the worker in mind. We obsess over every last detail to ensure that we are staying true to workwear roots and our workwear consumer. The people that work on the product genuinely care about the consumer. We start every product with the consumer in mind.
5. You work in developing product for both men and women. How is your product development approach different when tackling men’s and women’s collections?
Our product development approach for Men’s and Women’s is actually very similar. We start with the consumer in mind and build product that will really work for them. We also ensure that we are discussing the same qualities of a garment regardless of gender. We always ensure that we are building an impeccable quality/durable and authentic product that will last.
6. The Carhartt licensed apparel in Europe is more streetwear based and the brand is heavily involved in promoting urban culture and lifestyle through music and art, while the original US brand is based in workwear. Are there any plans to expand the scope of the US brand to include more streetwear and lifestyle like the European license?
Regardless of location, we strive to have everyone think of Carhartt and the great durable/quality product that we make.
7. Any exciting new developments at Carhartt that you want to share?
We are working on so many exciting developments at the moment! We are introducing more newness and innovation than ever before across all product categories. A big focus for us is on lightweight and durability. People always think of Carhartt for durability because of our strength in our fabric. We are expanding our line to include just as durable product as we always have had, but with lighter weight options (25-30% lighter). We perform rigorous testing on each and every fabric to ensure that we are exceeding the expectations of the worker.
8. What’s your favorite piece that you’ve worked on?
This is like being asked which child I like the best! It is difficult to choose since we put so much energy into each product and trim component of a garment. I am very excited for our new Quick Duck offering that will be debuting in F’12 where we are launching our first lightweight and water resistant outerwear pieces.
9. Who do you want to work with?
I love individuals who are passionate about what they do everyday. These are type of people I try to surround myself with.
10. What part of being part of the senior management of a large company is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?
I am fortunate to work with an inspiring group of leaders with a common focus and vision. We all greatly respect the worker and the heritage of the company. It is wonderful to be part of an organization where we are all striving toward the save goal.
11. Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in the fashion industry?
Do what you love! I am fortunate to be able to say that I have never had a “job” in the fashion industry – I have had a passion for the past 18 years. This is how I know this is what I am supposed to be doing.
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