How does a woman take her love of the business of Fashion and make it international? Edwina Kulego knows how! The Stylish Sophisticate team caught up with the International Business Manager for UBM Fashion Group, to learn the secret to her success and the style choices that help her along the way.
Tell us about your career path. What were some obstacles you faced in achieving your current position?
After working as a store manager for Zara / Inditex Group for two years in Copenhagen, Denmark I realized my passion for Fashion. I decided to pursue a college degree in the world’s fashion capital: New York City. Shortly after my move to New York, I understood that so much of the Fashion Industry was about your network and who you knew. Therefore, I changed my major to International Business and focused on interning at various fashion companies. During this time, I had the pleasure of working for Andy Hilfiger at Tommy Hilfiger and for Essence Magazine’s Fashion Department. My final internship in Collage was at PROJECT Global Tradeshow. I really enjoyed my time at PROJECT and had the opportunity to work with its various departments, which provided me with an insightful overview of the organization. My goal was to land a job right after graduation so I rolled up my sleeves, positioned myself as an employee, and IT WORKED! Right after graduating from college, I became the Executive Assistant to the President. After that, I was promoted to Business Coordinator to the CEO and kept working my way up the ladder.
In 2013, I went into sales and began managing the company’s international business development. My role involves traveling to find new contemporary menswear brands to launch in the US market. Market research is an important part of this process, as it helps me to determine upcoming trends and consumer behavior in each respective market.
I also work with existing clients on ways to expand their reach and presence at our shows.
I am very passionate about working with emerging brands and helping them in their initial stages. It’s extremely fulfilling to see a brand launch in a store for the first time. It makes me so happy!
Initially, I faced obstacles trying to work my way up in a large organization with very little experience.
I overcame many of these challenges by being curious and asking questions. I learned very early that if I didn’t stay anything, I wouldn’t learn anything.
It’s imperative to be inquisitive in a respectful way in order to learn and grow. Learning to prioritize also presented a challenge for me – I was always trying to get everything done ASAP. Now, I start my day by writing my “to do” list and I’ll keep checking it off until the tasks are done.
Did you always know what career path you wanted to pursue? What did you want to be when you were little?
It’s interesting….before high school, I wanted to be a lawyer. But as I got older I realized that sales and customer service was a field that I wanted to get into. My mother is a hairdresser and owns a beauty supply store in Sweden. As a teenager, I spent my weekends helping her and found fulfillment in helping customers and developed a passion for entrepreneurship. With my experience and through my network I’ve been exposed to may interesting positions and industries that I never knew existed. I used to get so nervous about not knowing what I wanted to do in life but now I’ve become very open with the notion of “falling into” something new and exciting. It’s important to be open-minded at a time when technology can connect you to the world in seconds. It’s amazing!
What advice would you give to women who are interested in international business development?
Travel, Travel and more Travel. International business requires open-mindedness and a willingness to learn different ways of doing business.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, being able to adapt is key.
Another recommendation would be to surround yourself with other people who are in the field of International Business. Having a global network is important and can be of great help when you are in a foreign country.
What is a typical workday like for you?
If I don’t have a breakfast meeting with a client, I usually get to the office around 8.30am / 9am. I prefer getting in early before the crowd so I can check my emails and write my “to do” list. My mornings are usually spent replying to emails and doing other office work. I tend to spend my afternoons taking lunch meetings with clients and visiting various fashion brands and showrooms. My day usually wraps up around 6.30pm / 7pm but there are always events going on during the evenings so sometimes I don’t finish working until 10pm. An important part of the fashion industry is to be out and about…attending events and seminars expands your network and knowledge of what’s going on.
How does your career affect your stylistic choices?
Because my current position is a hybrid between fashion and business it gives me flexibility in my stylistic choices. For example, if I have a corporate business meeting I can stay on the more conservative side and wear a pencil skit with a printed blouse. When I’m out and about in Soho visiting showrooms I can switch it up and wear a jumpsuit with some colorful sandals. I love wearing heels and would say that I have them on 90% of the time I’m working. Heels have a way of making me feel slightly more elegant and confident. I enjoy the flexibility of being able to adjust my style to my day and not having to wear similar styles on a daily basis; the uniform way doesn’t really work for me. Style is about expression!
What is your favorite thing about international business development?
I love being able to travel and learn new things on a global scale: new cultures, business and leadership styles, languages, and food of course! Every time I return from an international trip, I come back with something new that I can apply to my professional and / or personal life. It’s a fantastic feeling! Over my seven years at PROJECT I’ve also had the great opportunity to see the development and growth in menswear. It’s been an exciting experience!
How do you manage a work/life balance? Can you share with us some of your tips to de-stress?
Over the past two years,I’ve tried to incorporate more exercise and workouts in my schedule. I am currently working with a personal trainer three times a week and it has really changed my life for the better. My energy level is higher and working out also helps me decompress and focus, which in turn eliminates stress.
Another great tip is writing things down and literally putting everything in my calendar. Even if it’s an event that is yet to be determined, it goes in my calendar and that helps me plan the rest of my week.
Weekend trips have also helped me maximize and enjoy my weekend. Taking a Friday or a Monday off can make you feel like you are on a mini vacation and save you some vacation days at the same time.