Master Class: Terry Darland

This is a time for Terry Darland to savor.

As she prepares to cap her 42-year beauty career with plans to retire as president of North America for Christian Dior Perfumes and Cosmetics at the end of the year, the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and LVMH veteran was honored Thursday night during a virtual broadcast of the Dream Ball,  the annual fund-raising event in support of the Look Good Feel Better Foundation.

Darland, who received the Beauty Care award, has been involved with the the event for more than 20 years, stepping up to co-chair, then chair. The fund-raising veteran expects to maintain a good deal of momentum, despite the lack of a live venue. “Last year, they raised $1.2 million at a live event, but this year we set a goal for the virtual event at $750,000, figuring that it’s hard to sell tables when you’re not there,” Darland said. “But so far we’re over $800,000,” she added, noting that the total could hit $900,000, which “would be unbelievable for a virtual event.”

Although there may be no substitute for being there, Darland went to a run-through recently and came away impressed with the program’s “warmth and real compassion,” and the large number of cancer patients receiving help with makeup application through the digital hookup.  “Hats off to [executive director] Louanne Roark,” she said. “We have always known that makeup is transformative.”

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Darland made those remarks during an interview that touched on highpoints of a career that ran from 25 years at Lauder to nearly 17 years at Dior. Now she is preparing to hand the baton to her successor, Charlotte Holman Ros, formerly general manager of Charlotte Tilbury Beauty, who has already started work.

This gave Darland a chance to look back over how dramatically the industry has changed, from a vast forest of department stores bearing more than an estimated 220 nameplates to a market dominated by specialty and single brand stores trying to survive in a digital jungle.

As for what’s next, Darland wants to do more of what she has always done — travel. And not just anywhere. In compiling her wish list, Darland discovered that she and her husband Mike have never traveled together in LVMH’s home turf. “As soon as we can get through this,” she said, “he and I will take a trip to Paris.”

In this long career, what made you the most proud?

Terry Darland: I am probably the most proud of the turnaround of Dior in the U.S. When Pam [Baxter, as president and chief executive officer of Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy] and I got here in 2004, the brand was really in trouble. [Darland was senior vice president of sales and marketing for Dior.] We closed May Co., one third of our distribution. We dried up all the diversion, got rid of all the promotions, started a makeup artistry events program and went after great space and location, slowly reentering stores where fashion was — Neiman, Bergdorf and Saks. At the time, on NPD, we ranked about 13th as a brand in the U.S. This year, we will be the number-five selling brand….It cost money but we came back to profit within two years. We recouped almost all of it within two years.

In terms of fragrance, I believe that the Dior Sauvage men’s fragrance is going to be number one this year. Dior has never held the number-one rank in fragrances at any point in our career here.

Also, there’s a campaign that we’re about to launch for J’adore, called Chin Up. It’s a good time for Dior to really take a stand for the strength and support of all women. It’s going to be on social media.

What is the biggest challenge the industry faces today?

T.D.: The big concern is the drop in the color cosmetics business. Some of that is tied to Sephora, but some of that is tied to an over reliance on same old, same old. If palettes are hot, let’s bring out a million. Instead of relying on really building your basics, they wanted nothing but newness all the time. I learned from Leonard [Lauder], you have to focus on the bread and butter stockkeeping units that you can rely on day in and day out.

What magic ingredient do you need in designing a business?

T.D.: You have to have the right performance-based product to put in the market. How are you going to market it? You have to have a high level of digital social media marketing skills. What is going to make you stand out — is it celebrity? Celebrity endorsements are waning. It’s more like personal individuals who create things. Where are you going to sell it? Are you just going to sell it online or work with a retailer and try to control the overhead? It’s expensive to do business with a retailer. Very expensive.

How would you describe you leadership style? Especially in this perilous time of pandemic and an ever-changing market?

T.D.: You visit stores a lot; you interact with associates, get their point of view. That is why I traveled so much. I always made sure with these store visits, that [the associates] felt they could see me and talk to me. The human touch was always number one for me.

What is your position on mentoring?

T.D.: I talk to my top-level team members a lot about how they are advocating for their team members. How do they help to navigate the careers of not only themselves, but the people who work for them. The thirtysomethings crave it.

We started a mid-year career [review] program in the U.S., because it seemed to me that once a year was not enough.

[With that age group] after five years, they are all looking to go do something else. When we were young, we took it for granted that someone would take care of our careers and tell us when it was time to move to the next thing. This generation feels very strongly that if no one has promoted them within four years, they are out.


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