What Calvin Klein’s chief marketer finds surprising about fashion
Ad Age’s annual 40 Under 40 feature is just a few weeks away. Ahead of its publication on Sept. 9, we are asking former honorees to share career advice, including how they got to where they are today. Don’t forget to nominate your own rising stars for this year’s list ahead of the July 22 deadline. You can do so here.
Marie Gulin-Merle, chief marketing officer at Calvin Klein Inc. and chief digital officer at its parent company PVH Corp., has a long history in marketing. She joined the apparel brand last year after four years with L’Oréal USA, where she was honored as an Ad Age 40 Under 40 in 2016.
At Calvin Klein, a brand known for its provocative ads, Gulin-Merle is tasked with marketing to consumers in an edgy way that doesn’t invite allegations of sexism. Earlier this year, the brand was accused of “queerbaiting” for a campaign that showed a kiss between model Bella Hadid and CGI influencer Lil Miquela. The label apologized. Of course, Gulin-Merle has a history of navigating new terrain. One of her successes at L’Oréal involved a partnership between Snapchat and Maybelline at New York Fashion Week.
Below, Gulin-Merle shares tips for her younger self and muses on how social influence is changing the fashion landscape.
What was your biggest career mistake and what did you learn from it?
First, I think mistakes are always a blessing even though some of them are pretty painful, no matter how much distance and maturity you build in your career. One of my top mistakes was to pick the wrong job, but it taught me how to refine my judgment and read signals differently. Most importantly, I learned that a wrong choice can open so many opportunities but only if you know how to look at them the right way.
What piece of advice do you wish you could give your younger self?
To go slow and then go fast. Because of the pace of change around us, in our industries and landscapes, I tend to be driven by a high sense of urgency. I have learned that not everything can or should be fixed overnight. That said, I never compromise on setting high goals and ambitions.
What do you find most surprising about where you are now?
I love how fashion is becoming socially influenced and shaped by consumers, instead of following the rules dictated by a small elite.
How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
I am lucky as I only need five hours. I love the quiet hours in the morning to do tons of reading and planning.
Who is your hero and why?
French feminists like Simone de Beauvoir and Françoise Giroud for defying the system they lived in, for being irritating to the world around them and changing it. Being irritating comes with being a change agent.