In honor of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power's latest book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($17), we're running an interview series featuring 17 questions (in honor of the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of the most inspirational female leaders in the fashion industry. In the past, we've tapped Rebecca Minkoff, Sally Singer, Rachel Zoe, and more. Up next? Elyse Walker.
Talk to any girl who's obsessed with fashion, and chances are she does her shopping at Forward. The high-fashion site curates designers from Acne to Vetements. But while it's now considered an e-commerce game changer, when Elyse Walker started, Forward was a must-visit brick-and-mortar store in Los Angeles. Now Walker's empire has expanded to its online store and most recently, a second store in Newport Beach. With so much success, what have Walker's biggest learnings been along the way? From keeping her email in check to what she looks for in a new employee, the fashion mogul has plenty of great advice.
Read on to see her answers to all of our questions!
"My job is not what people think it is. It's not just pretty clothes and fashion shows. My days are filled with strategy and budget meetings which I actually look forward to. I also support my staff, merchandising, and new brand acquisition as well. I try to return all calls and emails within 24 hours and [have] no more than 10 emails in my inbox."
"That I am happiest in the stock room organizing and climbing ladders and usually sweating! It's not the glamour that you see in the magazines and on social media. The glamorous days are few and far between."
"I never went on a job interview, as I took over my family's shoe business in 1987. I am pretty sure I wore pink leather over-the-knee boots with a black Norma Kamali cutoff shirt. It was the '80s, and I was somewhere between Flashdance and Desperately Seeking Susan!"
"At this point, it would be with Gianluca Vacchi, and I would hope that his wife would join us. They seem to have mastered living life to the fullest and are always fashion forward."
"Instagram, Business of Fashion, and shopping my favorite stores in Milan and Paris."
"I regret not building more of a support team earlier. I realized the importance of a strong administrative structure and operations a bit later than I should have. My store needed more support from the back to help the team out front, and now that I have it in place, I realize the importance."
"Longevity in previous jobs, enthusiasm for our existing brand (surprisingly, retail experience is not necessary), positive referrals/recommendations, someone who is willing to go out of their comfort zone and take on new challenges, and someone who is not afraid to show their weaknesses (we all have them!)."
"Something green—it's my lucky color."
"Intense, demanding, kind-hearted, but fierce in the field."
"I'm never uninspired or unmotivated. I see inspiration and opportunity in everything—not that I would pursue it all, but I could happily observe what others are doing."
"A good note and follow-through, and work your butt off until the last minute. Don't check before your last day. Be your best until the very end. As they say, exit as gracefully or more gracefully than you entered."
"A Palisades Beech Street Cafe salad—arugula, chicken, candied walnuts, grilled mushrooms, radicchio, and chopped tomatoes. And in the Newport area, Bear Flag tuna poké and crabmeat salad."
"Most common for entry-level is taking a job and then asking for vacation because he/she has three out-of-town weddings that they have to attend! #notcool. As for my peers, I've seen some really talented retailers doubt their own vision and follow what other stores are doing and their businesses go off track. It's always good to have your eyes and ears on what's going on in your industry, but stay true to your vision. Stay true to your own brand."
"@FWRD, my online company. I am so proud of that team; we're a small team but super fierce and focused.
"@Kelsey_White: I just discovered her. She is so talented, and I look forward to her style and the way she shoots.
"@Bartoli Style: Their vision is insane. Someday, I want them to style me.
"@thevault_elysewalker: I'm so proud of our newest Instagram. Alex Lippin (our jewelry and art buyer) is doing a fantastic job. Check it out; it highlights my other loves: jewelry and art.
"@thecoveteur: They were ahead of their time, and they're still the best in the business when it comes to curating and creating beautiful content."
"Morning starts with coffee. Then I try to return every email in my inbox. I shop all of the online websites to see what they are promoting, check social media, communicate with my staff, and exercise at 7 a.m. at Gold's Gym.
"In the evening, I tend to pass out. Sometimes I am just thankful when I get to brush my teeth! I am a day girl—like the Eveready battery, once the battery is out, it's dead!"
"The new store in Newport! We opened this past Friday, and I am so excited to bring our styling and vision to this community!"
Courtesy Elyse Walker
Want more inspiring advice? Check out more from our Career Code series!