By Joyce Kauf
Proving it’s never too late to learn something new, at age 48, Gina Sanders took up horseback riding and set a personal goal — to make a jump in two years. Not only did she achieve that goal, she galloped with gauchos in Patagonia. Riding serves as a metaphor for her management philosophy too. “You need a vision when steering a horse,” Gina says. “It’s like a team getting over the hurdles — you trust them to know what to do, but you have to be looking at the next steps.”
Another critical factor in managing successfully is speed, according to Gina. “It’s the biggest change we have to adapt to in the world today and deliberating too long can result in missed opportunities.” Emphatic that “velocity trumps perfection,” she advises to “move on and be prepared to make course corrections.” Advice like this fits both fashion and communications, businesses that change daily, and it has served Gina well in her role as president and CEO of the Fairchild Fashion Group (FFG).
She oversees all brands and business units of FFG, including Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), WWD com, Footwear News, Menswear, Fairchild Summits, Fairchild Trade Shows and Fairchild Books. “Management is my very favorite part of the job,” admits Gina, who believes a transparent and collaborative management style contributes to improving bottom-line results. She also cites an “inversion of influence,” where the best ideas can come from anywhere in the organization, as a key to her success.
The challenge of turnarounds and start-ups is “fun” for Gina who in the past has launched new magazines that became powerful brands and set new records for advertising revenue. She was the founding Publisher of Teen Vogue, acclaimed by Adweek as the “Start-up of the Year” in 2004. The former Publisher of Details, a men’s magazine, and Gourmet, she was Vice President and Publisher of Lucky, creating the highly successful “Lucky at Your Service,” the world’s first digital shopping concierge.
“My powerful inspirations are not connected to business,” explains Gina. An avid traveler, her trips are “accelerated” opportunities to look at things differently and apply them to her life and work. Her conversation is punctuated with the words of Winston Churchill and Gandhi During the height of the recession, she sought guidance in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. A keen appreciation for words is not surprising for this English major at Tufts University who wanted to be a college professor. However, a competitive runner, she pitched a promotion for sneakers to an advertising agency. Thinking that she could always go back to school, she began a career that she still pursues with unbridled passion. Learning remains very important to Gina.
She points with pride to encouraging her staff’s professional development and to having created Teen Vogue Fashion University, which gives hundreds of girls and boys “a life-changing opportunity” to get an inside look and access to top creative talent including designers and photographers. To Gina, “nothing gives me more pleasure or sense of personal satisfaction than being a mentor.”
Named Condé Nast’s Publisher of the Year in 2005 and the recipient of its gold and platinum awards, Gina reports she is thrilled to receive the Matrix Award. After being notified, she immediately went to nywici org to look up the previous winners. “There were so many women I’ve admired, and now my name is there in perpetuity,” she notes with a touch of awe. “I look at my job as being a permanent student,” concludes Gina. “Getting better is liberating.” It’s a philosophy that has helped Gina succeed and good advice for anyone to follow.