Q&A with Bruce Fetter, CEO at St. John

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By Butterboom Writers  /  December 2, 2016

Bruce Fetter, CEO of luxury American fashion label St. John was recently in town to launch their Spring/Summer collection and the newly launch Sports line. A fashion veteran who lives in Orange Country, Bruce has spent over 20 years in the fashion industry. He provides insight into what it’s like to run the knitwear company started by founders Marie St John and her husband Robert Gray who still sits on the board in Southern California where the company head office, yarn and knit factories are based. 

Key driving force of St.John brand?
The company started when Marie made a knit dress and sold it to the department store. Over the 55 years, the brand had maintain its core offering of elegant, quality well made clothes that have stand the test of time. Having said that knitwear has always been the core DNA of the brand and St.John’s knitwear quality is well known through the times and we are at the forefront of knitwear technology. 

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Key ingredients to succeed in fashion?
Determined, have a creative mind, perspective in what’s happening in fashion, adaptable to what’s happening in fashion industry and economy and a little luck.

What’s interesting in fashion that keeps you interested?
Enjoy working with talented people who are good at what they do and that are passionate. Pushing the brand forward.

Most important thing you do?
Set the vision and make sure everyone have the resources to be successful. Keeping the KPI in check.

What’s a typical work day like?
I’m up looking at email at 6am over breakfast. In the office by 7am and walk around the office, listening and seeing how people are doing, just being available for my team. I go to the knit factory, close to the office and I meet with my direct report an hour once a week. I meet with the board weekly to update them and . I am usually home at 5.30pm and have dinner with my wife. 

What do you do during your free time
I like to play beach volleyball, cycling. I have a boat and like to take it out in the sea. Spend time with my grand kids.

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Most rewarding part of my job..
Finding talented people and adding them to the team. Coaching and enabling them to thrive in the team. 

Expansion plans
We currently have 3 stores in Hong Kong and we’re looking at opening a new store in Hong Kong next year and Beijing before end of the year. Opening in Selfridges in London and new accounts in the United States. 

Qualities you value most when hiring for your company?
Someone who is hands-on, happy to get involved, team player, fits in with the company culture and of course having the right technical skills. 

Pet peeves
I’m direct and like to be upfront with people so people who are not annoys me. Procrastinators.

Opportunities in new retail landscape
Merging online and off-line to bring a seamless experience for the customer wherever and whenever she wants to shop.

Biggest challenges in fashion industry
Speed of online world and how to adapt with getting products on store when the customer wants it and production cycle. Digital communication has opened up many new options and range of platforms and touchpoint from which we need to figure out how to navigate.

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