VP/GM for Nordstrom Chris Wanlass Talks about his Journey
In this episode of Ai LIVE, host E. Vincent Martinez sits down with Vice President and General Manager for Nordstrom, Chris Wanlass. The duo discuss how Wanlass got started in his career, as well as share advice for making headway in the fashion industry.
Wanlass has been with Nordstrom for 28 years, and it’s the only company he’s ever worked for. At 16, he got a summer job at Nordstrom in Utah, expecting it to be a stepping stone towards his desired career as a doctor. But he enjoyed working with others, and to his surprise, found a love for fashion. As time went on, he let go of his aspirations to be a doctor and worked his way up the Nordstrom chain of command. Part of what kept Wanlass at the retailer was their culture, which focused on empowerment and supporting positions close to customers.
When it comes to finding a career in the retail industry, Wanlass says that there are plenty of opportunities. Some retailers, like Nordstrom, often promote and hire from within, but outside help is always needed, especially as the landscape continues to trend towards a more digital approach. Beyond finding a place, he also speaks to the fashion students, eager to get their work seen. Wanlass stresses that up and coming fashion artists should do their homework before coming to present. What niche do you fill? How does your work supplement or complement the brands already on display? By knowing the answers to these questions, it can help get fashion students noticed.
One of the challenges Wanlass had to face was the 2020 pandemic. However, rather than being a setback, as other retailers experienced, Wanlass describes their approach as accelerating their ambitions. They were still a few years out from where they wanted to be, but the pandemic forced those plans into action. Their approach focused on attracting talent and making the shopping experience easy, no matter how a potential customer chose to interact.
Wanlass concludes the interview with encouraging students to be flexible, and find people who have a strong vision of where they’re headed. He also encouraged patience and optimism as important traits to cultivate.If you want to learn more about designer fashion, check out the programs at the Art Institutes by clicking here.
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