Partnering again with the Brenau University Executive Women’s MBA and the Metro New York Chapter of the National Black MBA, we hosted an intimate evening complete with networking, private shopping, appetizers, and a rousing conversation with DVF President and visionary Gabby Hirata.
With Diane’s curated Ashley Longshore art collection of trailblazing, iconic women throughout history as the backdrop, Hirata and MBAchic’s Founder / Editor Jeneta Hot discussed blazing your own career trail, leaning into opportunities, and what’s next for the DVF brand.
“It was really impactful listening to Gabby and her path and journey to get here,” said attendee and MBA candidate (and MBAchic Fellow) Anne Stewart Forbes. Other attendees—which included a mix of MBA candidates, graduates, and professionals–commented on Hirata’s passion, inspiring story, and heart-warming vision to empower women.
Hirata discussed how she broke into the fashion industry, a notoriously competitive one, with no connections and no explicit fashion experience. Armed with printed copies of her resume, she detailed her adventure into NYC which included a visit to one of the most important buildings on Fashion Avenue, entering Ralph Lauren offices through a freight elevator, and being escorted out (but not before swiftly introducing herself and distributing copies of her resume to members of Ralph Lauren’s team).
She described how it is a choice to be a trailblazer, and that once you’ve decided what your vision is, and who you want to become, your hard work, persistence and perseverance will take you there.
Watch Hirata explain how she leveraged this mindset to land a prestigious assignment at Ralph Lauren while still in college.
Hirata says it wasn’t always confidence that propelled her forward throughout her career.
“I was just desperate,” she said during the event, triggering a wave of laughter from the audience. “Because it gives you courage to go for it.”
“She not only believes in it but she’s actually living her dream and it was inspiring to see that even at her age fear is not an option,” says June Driscol, MBA candidate.
Hirata says Diane von Furstenberg chose her to head the clothing powerhouse, known for its iconic wrap dresses, when it became clear the brand needed a drastic new vision to survive.
Taking the reins at DVF
Since becoming president in January 2021, Hirata has instituted major changes to grow the company and attract younger professionals while staying true to the brand’s legacy to inspire confidence in working women. Her strategies are revamping the DVF’s product line and design philosophy, while reducing the number of new designs each season, offering quality dresses at lower price points, committing to customer satisfaction, and exploring innovative marketing and social media strategies.
“It’s okay to say you don’t know because whatever an executive knew a couple of years ago, truly doesn’t apply anymore, so it’s better, we’re like free, we don’t have the burden,” she says.
“Trying to revamp such an iconic brand as a startup and from what people remember where it’s been–that was very inspiring to me,” says MBA candidate Aquaria Richardson-Smith.
Another one of Hirata’s key strategies is to give everyone a seat at the table, including interns and assistants. “As an intern, I felt like I did have some value and good ideas even though I [was] young and because I remember that our interns at any level are a part of our meetings for the strategy conversation,” she says.
“I can tell you – nothing is impossible,” Hirata says. “Go hit the wall. The wall exists for people who don’t want it enough. If you want it that much, you’re going to get it.”
In addition to Hirata’s inspiring conversation, participants also raved about the elegant ambiance of the event that included wine, appetizers, and shopping—with Hirata herself helping some ladies select the perfect wrap dresses for their figures.
“We were able to mingle with a ton of people,” says Iben Nielsen, a senior manager at Lego visiting from Denmark. “I think we met 15 new people and I learned a lot of inspiring stories of women both before their MBA and after.”
Watch a video recap of the event below.
On blazing your own trail: a conversation with Gabby Hirata, DVF President
Photos by Daryl Tillman, AJ Reynolds, Saniya Waghray, Shernay Williams and MBAchic
About the author
Shernay is a mom, entrepreneur, and lifelong learner who's been fortunate to spend her entire professional career telling stories. She has more than a decade of experience as a TV, print, and radio journalist for local and national news outlets. In 2016, she launched a content firm to help nonprofits and businesses tell their stories more strategically. Her passions: mom empowerment, entrepreneurship, and self-development.
She lives outside of Baltimore with her two sons.