Libby Wadle

You May Learn More in Your Retail Job than in College
December 11 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: The Trend That Never Dies

Why do jeans look fabulous with everything? Seriously. Casual or dressy, they’re an obvious wardrobe staple for anyone and everyone. If you know me, you know I had to Wikipedia blue jeans, and here’s what I found out: Blue jeans date back to 1871 and were originally designed for cowboys and miners until 1950s teens and the like came along (thank you, Elvis.) Oh, and that tiny pocket situated in the bigger front pocket? That’s for your pocket watch, of course.

When I think back over the memorable parts of my life, I often recall what I wore. That’s how incredible clothes can be: They can take you back to the first time a boy held your hand, or when you beat your brother at go karts. What memories did you make in your blue jeans?

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: $129.8 Billion

Obviously, the days of cowboys in blue jeans have changed a bit. People now wear jeans with a blazer and call it “business casual.” Heck, people even wear jeggings (*proudly raises my hand*). By the year 2021—which, as much as that sounds like the future, is, like, a few years from now—the denim jeans market will have generated an easy breezy $129.8 billion globally. That’s a lot of pairs of jeans. (By the way, why do we call them a pair?)

WOMAN TO WATCH: Libby Wadle, President of Madewell

If you haven’t heard of Madewell, listen up: It’s the denim brand making some serious headway. From T-Swift to Emma Roberts, Madewell is worn by normal people and celebrities alike and is the daughter company of J.Crew, offering premium jeans at a more affordable price. Now, the brand offers everything from sweater dresses to jumpsuits to ankle booties.

That’s where today’s Woman to Watch, Libby Wadle, comes in. Libby is the president of Madewell, and is responsible for the big stuff like partnerships and retail stores. The former president of J.Crew, she helped revive the J.Crew brand by acquiring Madewell and making it a place you want to visit in person, not just online. Part of the Madewell vision was incorporating size inclusivity, and the store carries items ranging from XXS to 3X.

Libby knows merchandising and retail well. From working in various retail positions at The Gap, to working up to Division Vice President of Women’s Merchandising at Coach, and then to 13 years at J.Crew, you would think Libby started her career with the denim industry in mind. Take it from her: You can do whatever you dang well please if you work hard enough. Don’t diminish your high school retail experience.

You see, Libby didn’t go to college to learn about retail; it was actually during her early mall job days that she grew to love the customer experience. Instead of doing just any internship to put on your resume, Libby advises young people to intern doing something they really love and experience a wide range of opportunities.

This denim pioneer sets a great example of how starting small and focusing on quality can go a long way. Libby says that in order to scale a new business and also maintain customer loyalty, being “nimble and dynamic” is key. (And let’s just say, when you’re in Madewell’s high-rise comfort stretch jeans, you’re agile AF). As J.Crew closes some of its underperforming locations and Madewell continues to open new locations, Libby says constantly thinking about fresh ideas while capitalizing on what you already have in your start-up is the way to succeed doing what you love.


Singer and actress Katharine McPhee said:

"Everyone has that inner voice, the one that's a Negative Nancy. I'd say to ignore that voice and to be confident and follow your heart."

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