Photographed by Shoji Van Kuzumi
Written by Rachel Janfaza
This feature is part of our series on members of our community who inspire us. From entrepreneurs, stylists, and consultants starting their own businesses to executives changing the game at the highest levels, we’re lucky to be able to learn from these incredible role models.
In that vein, half the profits from our Duet Pinky Rings fund seed grants for entrepreneurs around the world. Each ring is a symbol of a pinky pledge to pay it forward to support women & a connection between each member of our community. Make your own pinky pledge here.
In terms of fashion and luxury marketing, Julie DeLoca has done it all. After her start with advertising agencies, working across the country with a number of fashion and beauty brands, she went to work in-house for Rebecca Minkoff and later Elie Tahari. Julie now runs her own agency, Loca Marketing, and helps young women across all industries understand the importance of championing your own brand. She's also a mom to two great kids, and has been a wonderful figure for us at Shiffon Co. to look up to.
Julie’s success is the result of her authenticity, and Shiffon Co. is fortunate to consider her a mentor. In a recent conversation, Julie walked us through her vast experience. We are proud to share her story and advice.
On breaking into the industry…
After studying philosophy at Colgate, I thought I’d go to be a writer at Condé Nast Traveller, writing great stories about my adventures. But when I went to Condé for an interview, they made me take a typing test, which I failed. You had to be able to write 50 words a minute, and I wasn’t doing that. So I went to work in advertising.
I worked in San Francisco, LA, and NY doing mostly fashion and beauty advertising, working on a number of brands including Maybelline, Neutrogena, Helena Rubinstein, Liz Claiborne, Redkin, and Levi’s. I went to a high fashion agency and worked with Valentino, Escada, Versace, and Tommy Hilfiger. I became president of an agency called Modco where we did Vera Wang, Alex and Ani, Viga Spiga, and all kinds of stuff.
Then I switched over; I wanted to work in-house for an apparel brand. So I went to Rebecca Minkoff. I was their first marketing person ever. I went in thinking I knew everything there was to know about fashion advertising and marketing, and I really didn’t.
I learned so much about sales, retail, wholesale, putting together in-store events, promotions, appearances, etc. It was the very early days of social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We launched a shoe line solely with an Instagram campaign, which was completely novel at the time. We brought in Olapic, one of the earliest companies focused on tagging your brands in Instagram pictures. That seems so normal now, but it wasn’t. Rebecca and her brother, Uri, had two mandates; they wanted to be innovative and to engage with their customers.
After Rebecca Minkoff, I went to Elie Tahari.
On starting her own company…
I wanted both to be the last crazy boss that I would have and to try advertising from the out-source perspective. That’s why I started Loca Marketing.
I got a call from one of my prior clients, Capezio, who I had previously worked with on their new logo. They were ready to do a whole redo of the company and became the first client for whom I acted as an outsourced CMO.
I brought in a fashion photographer to shoot dance, but we needed people who understood movement. So we also brought in a choreographer and created such amazing imagery that just deserved to be big. We redid their flagship store in NY and put a ballet barre and floor right in the center so that clients could spontaneously rehearse, try out their shoes, or just go crazy.
This was a perfect example of exactly the plan for Loca Marketing. I could come in from the outside and have a better view of what a company needed, then help them sell it through all the different departments. As an outside person, they knew I would leave eventually, which prevented infighting.
On working with consumers themselves and not just the big companies…
If you don’t really see your customer and know who you’re talking to, you’re going to miss something. You have to spend time in store. And not just in the tri-state area. You have got to get out of NY and LA and go to stores all around the world and in middle America to watch how people respond.
For Capezio, for example, we did a whole research project where we wanted to see how customers experienced the store. So we watched. For example, if a mom was coming in with their kid, maybe we put the yoga clothes next to the tap shoes, so after she bought the shoes, she could get something for herself too.
The whole goal is to make the consumer feel like she’s a part of the brand, wherever she’s shopping. Brands that you love and care about have their own kind of vibe, and you want to be a part of that.
Being a brand champion…
The brand champion is the keeper of the heart of the brand. The protector of the brand equity. I found that I would be running marketing somewhere, and we would come up with a program or concept, but the retail division was doing their own events. Wholesale was doing a 25% off sale, but they weren’t offering the same 25% off the website. Everyone was doing something a little different, lacking in consistency, and brand identity was getting lost. In this era, we are bombarded with so different many messages that we are going to get lost if they don’t add up.
You really need a brand book or bible with your goals and objectives. And, everyone has got to really live and breathe and love it in all facets of communication. You have to give that brand a voice. Somebody needs to be the brand champion, like the police, and make sure that the message is consistent across the board.
On the values of consistent, authentic marketing being important in all facets of life…
I mentor a lot of young women. I joke that I’m everybody’s Jewish mother. I have a workbook that I do for brands to help them figure out what their core identity is and what their key attributes are. I recently met with a woman who was leaving her job, and I said maybe try to do the workbook; it’s a little like therapy. We all need a mission and it needs to have some purpose to it. It’s important to understand what we’re here for.
On mentors in her life…
My mom was a nursery school teacher and then a stay at home mom. She went through the late 70’s freaked out about women’s lib and went back to work and worked her way up. She was so strong and powerful; she was this boss business woman. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she found herself coming back after chemotherapy, puking in the bathroom, and asked herself, “Why am I doing this? I want to be with my kids.” And so she sold the business. I have always thought that was a great message. You can work hard and be successful, but you should have priorities. And your priorities should be things that make you feel good, too. We always have to make sacrifices. You can be successful and also be happy and comfortable with who you are.
I’ve also worked for a couple of really incredible people in the ad agency world. I followed a CEO to three different agencies. He had a really good sense of what makes people tick. He used to say, “You can only mess with people’s heads for so long. After a while you have to go to their hearts.”
On advice to her younger self…
Don’t second guess yourself and don’t be afraid of success. That means financial success too. That’s really important. Know your worth, and go for it.
Visit startupgirlfoundation.org to learn more about the companies our Duet Pinky Ring is currently funding. Make your own pinky pledge to pay it forward and support women by purchasing a Duet Pinky Ring here.