Apparel Leaders Discuss Post-Glass Ceiling Business at City of Hope Fashion + Brunch
During its “Fashion + Brunch: A Women’s Leadership Panel,” hosted Sept. 26 at The Line Hotel, located in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, the cancer-treatment-center City of Hope raised more than $50,000. Organized by City of Hope’s Fashion and Retail Council, the inaugural luncheon included sponsors Rosenthal and Rosenthal, CIT, HUB International, Moss Adams LLP, The TJX Companies, Inc. and Wells Fargo & Company. Attendees were invited to shop brands including Michael Stars, Trina Turk, The Giving Keys and We Are HAH.
While there were opportunities to shop these fashionable and philanthropic brands, the event was organized to cover a serious topic under the theme of “We’ve broken the glass ceiling! Now what?” During a panel discussion that included Sharleen Ernster, founder and chief executive officer of We are HAH; Suzanne Lerner, co-founder and president of Michael Stars; Trina Turk, founder and creative director of her own eponymous brand; and Janet Yamamoto-Concannon, senior vice president of Wells Fargo & Company, these female leaders participated in a conversation moderated by California Fashion Association President Ilse Metchek.
Through this discussion, the women shared ideas regarding how to continue the momentum of positive change after achieving success in their careers. While reflecting upon their careers, the panelists discussed the ways in which they are lifting up others to provide new opportunities through initiatives that promote social welfare, women’s equity and positivity, and the environmental health of the planet.
For Yamamoto-Concannon, her most recent plan to contribute to the greater good was through her company’s Community Support Month, which took place in September. The company-wide initiative allowed employees to participate in a Dedicated Day of Service, during which they dedicated their time on Sept. 20 to nonprofit organizations through volunteer work.
“[My colleagues and I] went to a nonprofit called PATH in downtown L.A. They provide affordable housing for the homeless,” she said. “We purchased and packed toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant and Chapstick to make a hygiene kit for a couple hundred homeless people.”
Looking back on her own career, Ernster recalled how she became driven by the idea of working toward change prior to founding her company. Years ago, as an executive, she was on the job hunt, interviewing with different companies. She had been searching for a role that would allow her to work toward eco-friendlier apparel and help women feel comfortable yet beautiful in their own skin.
“I walked into my home with my daughters after picking them up from school. I looked at them and had a moment where I thought, ‘I can either continue to go about this and not take the plunge or I can open the business and try’,” she said. “At least my daughters would see a woman risk that and know that they could also risk that for their dreams.”
It is Ernster’s hope that successful women continue to be driven by the potential to create positive change that can contribute to a better planet and elevate others who are still building their careers. By charting a path toward more-sustainable, ethical practices in the apparel industry, Ernster has brought visibility to these issues, but she admits that her success isn’t the end of her story.
“We have to continue to lead with the same passion and blaze the trails to make the differences in how you make things and who you employ and how you treat your people in the whole pipeline,” she said. “There is so much work to be done. The whole world is galvanizing around this as being important for the first time.”