Image of Misti Blasko

Episode 155 – Coffee N5 – Caffeine & Couture: Insights on Fashion Evolutions with Misti Blasko

Discover the secrets to navigating the ever-changing landscape of the fashion industry with Misti Blasko on Coffee N° 5. From predicting fashion’s unpredictable future to embracing agility in business, delve into the evolution of fashion in the digital age. Learn from Misti’s insights on avoiding trend-based pitfalls, designing for diversity, and fostering inclusivity within your brand. Join the conversation on the importance of vulnerability and transparency as women in business, and unlock the keys to sustainable growth in a dynamic marketplace. Tune in now for a masterclass in innovation, leadership, and the transformative power of staying true to your vision.

We’ll talk about:

  • The evolution of the fashion industry in the digital age
  • The danger of staying stagnant and how to avoid trend-based pitfalls 
  • Fashion predictions
  • The importance of being agile
  • The complexities and challenges of designing for diversity
  • How to bring inclusivity to your brand
  • The importance of being vulnerable and transparent as women in business

For more information, visit Misti’s LinkedIn.

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Also, follow our host Lara Schmoisman on social media:

Instagram: @laraschmoisman

Facebook: @LaraSchmoisman

About Misti Blasko

Misti has 25+ years of diversified experience in the fashion, retail, and consumer goods industries scaling DTC brands while streamlining operational footprints. Recognized by executive management as ‘the Deal Closer,’ she has built brands and teams, while creating growth strategies for a range of businesses – from startups, SMBs, and emerging companies, to big brands and multinationals. In sr. executive and leadership roles for over a decade, she led notable apparel brands, including AllSaints, BCBG, and True Religion Jeans, in rallying people around the corporate mission and turning organizational chaos into profitable cosmos. Along the way, she cultivated strategic alliances and built a strong, interconnected relationship network. Her expertise: growth strategy, global business development, product merchandising, and operational efficiencies.

Lara Schmoisman
00:05
This is Coffee Number Five. I’m your host, Lara Schmoisman. Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Coffee Number Five. Today is one of my favorite days because I have to talk to a hero of mine that I’ve been following her trajectory for many years, and then, poof, one day I’m part of a community with her and I couldn’t believe it. So I got to talk to her and get to talk to her more, and then I got her to come today to having coffee with us. So welcome, Misti Blasko.

Misti Blasko
00:40
Thank you.

Lara Schmoisman
00:41
I’m so glad you’re here. I have so much to talk to you and I don’t think that this podcast is going to be long enough, but let’s get started. Give us a little bit, a short version of your amazing career because you’ve been everywhere.

Misti Blasko
00:56
Yes.

Misti Blasko
00:57
I don’t like to say it’s been over 30 years in the industry because I don’t want to say how long at times, but I’ve grown up in the retail industry. I started when I was going to school and working retail, and I was as specific as being a third grade teacher is kind of what I wanted to do in my life and fell in love with retail. So I was a stylist, a manager, a director, and I have moved my career all the way to being a president of two brands the last eight years of my career. So I have been in the industry and absolutely love it and have worked my way through every level. So some great brands that I’ve been a part of have been the limited brands.

Misti Blasko
01:42
True religion, where I was working directly with the founder, Jeff Labelle to All Saints. That’s an international brand as well as John Barvedos. And now where I sit is in good american working with Emma Creed as she builds her empire.

Lara Schmoisman
01:58
Yeah, well, I mean, it’s an incredible trajectory that you’re having here. But also what I love about you is that you don’t come from saying, oh, I’m just coming here to give orders. You really understand your business. You came from the bottom and you really climb the ladder here. So you understand every piece, every role and how also this industry has changed over the years.

Misti Blasko
02:26
Yeah, I think as you come into corporate, you almost get so far removed from the reality of what’s happening every day. And I am always working closely with the teams and in it with them in respect to all the work that they do. It’s hard work. I also make it mandatory that the corporate team needs to go in store and spend time listening to the customer and being with the teams so they can hear it directly, so they know what impact they’re having in the corporate office environment, and directing down documents and tools and education and making sure that everything is happening in a productive way.

Lara Schmoisman
03:06
And were talking about this before the podcast and it’s so interesting. And this is always something. When I used to teach at Carl Polly Digital Media for the fashion industry, something that I will address in the first classes always. Is that how the fashion world had to evolve really fast? I think it’s the industry that it was affected the most by the digital world. I don’t know if you see it that way, but for me how it changed was drastically.

Misti Blasko
03:38
Absolutely. Things are evolving so fast now that we have this social element that is involved in everyone’s lives and if you’re not relevant and you’re not top of mind, you’re going to get forgotten. So it’s so important to be innovative and continuing to find out what people are wanting and going after those things, because if you stay stagnant, you’re going to get lost and the next brand is going to get ahead of you. Absolutely.

Lara Schmoisman
04:07
And at the same time, you’re working always on trends and what’s coming next, but you’re working so ahead of time that it’s a hit or miss.

Misti Blasko
04:15
Yes, we’ve made some mistakes in some of our assortment, and we all know in 2020, were all sitting at home in our sweats and we still kind of wanted to be in our sweats over a couple of years, and now we want to dress up, but it’s still a very relaxed kind of dressing. So we never would have predicted that. When you think about fashion, you’re planning six to twelve months in advance. So you have to be agile in knowing where you need to chase into where the trends are, potentially pivoting in a different way than what you bought into.

Lara Schmoisman
04:49
But also you need to become the trend.

Misti Blasko
04:52
Yes.

Misti Blasko
04:53
To stand out. Set the tone. Yes, you need to set the tone.

Misti Blasko
04:56
Yeah.

Lara Schmoisman
04:57
So how do you do that? How do you predict that? How do you say, okay, because at the same time it’s changing all the time. And with this influencer world that there’s one thing that stick and it can sold out like crazy.

Misti Blasko
05:11
Yeah.

Misti Blasko
05:12
I think the most important thing is to have good relationships with one your suppliers, because if we can react fast with our partners, we can get anything into speed to market. So that’s one thing that I think is so beneficial in when you have an idea or you see a trend. Of course, we always want to be the trendsetters. I’m in working for good american right now and so proud of being part of an organization that is diverse and inclusive. And you can walk into any one of the businesses and buy a double zero to a size 32 and your size will be available. So I think we have something on the cutting edge of what others aren’t doing that makes us special.

Misti Blasko
05:52
So I think for us, we are continuing to think about how do we make sure that we’re not always providing a skinny leg opening, that we are giving a relaxed fit and those things. So we’re not having to reinvent what denim is for the business, but we’re looking at how do we make sure that we continue to satisfy that every body type and every type of female.

Lara Schmoisman
06:17
And that’s so challenging because first of all, sizing and buying online is so hard because of the returns. We’ll can talk about that, but also the styles are like, for example, I’m big in the top and it’s really hard for me to find tops that they close because I big shoulders and I love certain styles, but I know that doesn’t work for me. So how do you fit it all? It’s so hard to make lines that you’re going from size zero to size 30 something, which is huge difference and huge different body types.

Misti Blasko
06:54
Yeah, it is absolutely a challenge every day because one thing that’s going to look great on you may look not so great on me and having that diversity in the line, but the most important is not to over assort to where you’re trying to chase everything. In our brand currently, we stand for a few things and we do them very well. So that’s what we’re always kind of trying to make sure we’re getting better. We have franchises. That, to your point, boss, is our suiting line. So we have something for everyone that comes to get our blazers or pants. We also have a uniform line that is your basics. So a basic poplin, a basic knit, we can size that range from a smaller to a different size range and make it look amazing on our customers.

Misti Blasko
07:46
We also have been really innovative in regards to our fabrics where we have a scuba fabric that it works as a corset to kind of bring you in. We’ve had some fun with some of our fabric and fits and we’re all about making you feel really good in your own unique style. So the range is definitely for everyone. But what I find interesting right now is this brand was based on being online and we’ve all kind of learned to buy online and the convenience of finding something online versus having to go into a store.

Misti Blasko
08:23
But I think now stores are becoming critically important and it’s what you just said, I want to go into a store and try it on to see how it fits versus trying to figure out my size online and getting frustrated when it comes and it doesn’t work for me. So we are going to expand our store footprint at good american so that we can be where the customer wants to be. And we always say, go where she is. If she wants to shop online, she can find us. If she wants to go to a department store, she can find us. If she wants to come in store, she can find us. So making sure that we have all of those options wherever she chooses to shop.

Lara Schmoisman
08:59
And it’s very interesting because I personally like to shop online. I’m not going to lie, because I like to see myself in the mirror and see at home how it looks like, because in the stores it always look different.

Misti Blasko
09:14
Yeah.

Lara Schmoisman
09:15
Do you think that with the new technologies and now we’re starting to get in place, can we get. The AI is going to get us to have that experience of purchasing clothing and see it on ourselves anytime soon?

Misti Blasko
09:30
I think the customers and myself especially as well, you want interaction, like social interaction. People are still craving that we’ve been cooped up for so long that people want to come out and be a part of an experience. And I do believe that retail is evolving to this more experiential environment where you can come in and explore different things versus sitting behind your computer at home or your phone at home, trying to find things that you like. So I think it’s evolved. Absolutely. And I think there are customers that are more comfortable shopping online, but there are customers, I think, that have a big desire to want to come in and experience brands one to one and engage with.

Lara Schmoisman
10:16
I agree. I really enjoy the experience of going and looking at what’s available. I don’t enjoy the experience of trying.

Misti Blasko
10:26
Yeah, I know I’m the same. I’m not one to try on, but if you come to good american, our fitting rooms are 75% larger than any other fitting room out there. And it just gives you this really amazing opportunity to kind of look at yourself in a dimension that you wouldn’t normally get at.

Lara Schmoisman
10:46
And so did you guys find out that with a survey that people are looking for where this idea of being different in the fitting room came from?

Misti Blasko
10:55
Yeah, it really came from really wanting to be inclusive. And Emma Creed and Khloe Kardashian founded this know has expressed kind of how she has kind of been challenged through her own personal clothing. And everything that we do, we look through the lens of being inclusive. And so that means our fitting rooms, that means the digital experience that we have in the store, because we know that the consumer is looking at their phone or on their computer shopping. Why can’t you come into the store and feel that same environment within our environment? So we partner with Samsung. We have these really beautiful screens that showcase our fit and our fabric. You can go into our fitting rooms. It’s incredibly well lit. It’s larger than you normally would get.

Misti Blasko
11:46
The mannequins are different size range, so you can see how the product fits on different mannequins throughout the store.

Lara Schmoisman
11:54
So unique, that’s. And super inclusive. And as you guys know, I was 120 pounds heavier back then. And it was really hard not only to find the clothing that it will fit me, but also to think, will this even fit my body type?

Misti Blasko
12:15
Yeah, we get that all the time. And it’s the most special moment for me and my teams is when someone comes in and says, you never will have my size. And we get the size and they get in the product and they are so happy about how it fits and how they feel. That is the most rewarding thing that I get to be a part of every single day. But you’re right. Most customers, though, don’t know that we have their size available in store or they don’t want to ask, can you get my size? So we want it to be an environment that people feel comfortable in doing.

Lara Schmoisman
12:49
That, honestly, because I was there, I can talk about this. And it feels so bad when you come to a store and they look at you and say, no, honey, we don’t carry your size.

Misti Blasko
13:00
Yeah.

Misti Blasko
13:01
No, I know. Being in the industry for a really long time, I’ve experienced that in many occasions because the brands that I’ve worked with in the past didn’t go up to more than a size twelve, usually in store. And that has been a big challenge, to not be able to service the customers. And now I’m really proud that I’m able to do that because it is disappointing for most customers to shop in store.

Lara Schmoisman
13:26
So let’s talk about the cycles of the fashion industry for a second, because we always say, oh, the spring is coming in or the fall. How many cycles you have through the year and how ahead of time you start working.

Misti Blasko
13:40
Yeah.

Misti Blasko
13:41
So we have four seasons. So there’s a spring season, a summer season, a fall season, and a winter season. And that’s kind of how the line is made as we are going through proto review and looking at how we’re going to innovate our collection throughout the years. So we look at season first. We do have a bit of a wholesale calendar that we need to make sure we’re referencing so that we stay ahead of all of the wholesale business that’s happening and not miss those deadlines. That’s really important. And that’s kind of how retail will follow suit. And then we’re operating about six to twelve months in advance. So our fall line is already complete and we’re looking at winter now.

Misti Blasko
14:26
So as I sit here in February, in the middle of spring, we’re already looking at what the back half of the year is going to look like. So whether it be colors or prints or trends that we want to make sure that we’re capitalizing on in the new year, that’s amazing.

Lara Schmoisman
14:40
But Misti, you had also a very unique experience that is working with international markets.

Misti Blasko
14:46
Yeah.

Lara Schmoisman
14:46
And working international markets make it even more challenging because you’re talking about different times of the year in different locations.

Misti Blasko
14:55
Yeah.

Lara Schmoisman
14:56
Different cultural values very much.

Misti Blasko
15:00
I think there’s a positive in being international because as we all know, Asia definitely sets the trend. Then it goes into Europe and then it seems like the US is a little bit on the back end of what may be happening from a trend perspective. So in being international, you get to get ahead of some of those trends a bit faster than you would if you were a US brand. So that was definitely a positive. But there are very big differences from Europe to what is happening in the US that I recognized. Whether it be seasonality, there’s not a lot of seasons internationally. So when it’s really warm in North America, it’s not. And sometimes the customer is not ready to move on yet.

Misti Blasko
15:46
And so we would set seasons far in advance and you’ve got to be agile about what is ready now and where now product versus what you want to do to make sure that you’re moving that customer forward through the seasons.

Lara Schmoisman
15:58
But also there is culturally acceptable clothing in one cultures or another. Now another market that is opening up a lot is the Middle east for. And so differently how we need to.

Misti Blasko
16:16
Approach those markets, it’s very know, I think even when you think about the US and you compare them to what’s happening internationally, there are those areas which we’re lucky in the US. We have multicultures that are living here and educating us on how they dress and live and values which I love, and that can be incorporated into a fashion business. Some are conservative, some are not so conservative. So I think it’s just about balancing your assortment to impact. It’s not about doing everything for everyone. You’ve got to have set values in your brand and that you stick to those values. You’re not going to satisfy everyone’s needs, but being agile enough and flexible enough to move with trends and set your own trend is really.

Misti Blasko
17:05
I’ve always learned, especially with all saints, they were doing something that no one else was and if you were doing it, then they would move in a different direction. So I think it’s about standing for what you believe in and having values and not chasing everything because you should be on the forefront of what you believe and want to achieve with the consumer.

Lara Schmoisman
17:24
I love that. And I think it’s so important to stick to who you are as a brand because it’s the only way that you’re going to transcend and grow us in the infinite game.

Misti Blasko
17:35
It’s true.

Misti Blasko
17:36
It’s very true.

Misti Blasko
17:37
Otherwise you’re just going to always behind trying to catch up. Because when you think about the fashion world, it’s six to twelve months ahead. Once it starts to catch on and whatever you’re doing for your brand, it’s too late. You’ve got to stay ahead of it. So it’s about doing research and making sure that you stay relevant within the industry. You need to have the knowledge.

Lara Schmoisman
18:03
A lot of the fashion industry is marketing too. So I think you need to be authentic of who you are as a brand and choose your collaborations right. And not trying to chase what your competition is doing because trying to duplicate someone else or copy the neighbor’s grass never works, even if you use the same gardener.

Misti Blasko
18:25
That is so true. And that’s such an incredibly important point. You got to figure out what your established values are and stick to that. And if you believe in it, that’s the roadmap. And to your point, you keep trying to add in what everybody else is doing. You’re never going to win and you’re always going to behind. So that should be where you stay true.

Lara Schmoisman
18:44
Even with your partnership early on. You need to decide for any brand. And I talk to my clients a lot about this. It’s like where you want to be. If you want to be in a Nordstrom, don’t accept a deal with TJ Max at the. Yeah, yeah. But it’s totally okay. And I know very successful brands that they’re just TJ Maxx and they’re doing fantastic, but you need to be true to your brand and if you want to switch, who is your target audience? You need to be very careful because once you switch, they might be not way back.

Misti Blasko
19:22
Yeah, I think that it’s about patience and making sure that you are not rushing to make decisions in a panic state because the business may not be trending positively. There are those right collaborations that are going to only give value back to the brand. And when you make those poor decisions, it’s going to devalue the, you know, patience in making the right decisions and sticking to it and not veering.

Misti Blasko
19:50
Absolutely.

Lara Schmoisman
19:51
So misty. I know this because we’re both part of women in retail, but I want to also give a shout out because there are a lot of women out there in retail and there is a lot of knowledge to be shared. Being in retail is not easy, and I’m learning every day from you and from everyone there. I know that you are part of the board of directors. So how can we support the woman in retail? These women have been making leadership decisions all the time and how we in the fashion world mostly, and how can we support other women out there and any individuals? Because now we have so many gender fluids also out there that can support through fashion choices.

Misti Blasko
20:36
Yeah.

Misti Blasko
20:37
I’m so lucky to be a part of the board of women in retail, and it allows me to give women a voice, and that’s truly what I want to have happen. We need to stay connected, we need to share. And the thing that I think a lot of women, and I’ve run into the situation as well, is we have families, we have work, and things are constantly kind of up in the air trying to balance. And I think we just need to make the time for ourselves to connect and learn and educate and support all women in whatever fields. And I think we have a tendency to get involved in the things that we’re doing and our heads down and we’re going forward.

Misti Blasko
21:18
But I think being selfish and taking those times to spend with women that you don’t know and want to learn more from and then women that you do know and want to continue to develop relationships with. But again, I know there’s not a lot of time, but to make that time. And women in retail leadership allows you to come together in small moments throughout the year. And we have an incredible summit that we do each year at the beginning of the year in April, where you can meet new people and get out of your comfort zone and get support in some of the things that you might be challenged with, yeah.

Lara Schmoisman
21:51
And I think it’s very humbling be able to ask, I need help, I need support because none of us know everything. We don’t have even the time to know everything. So it’s great to have in this community or any community be able to put out there, hey, I have a question and I should let go a lot of communities because I didn’t find that value and the value of saying, hey, I have a question. Can anyone answer? And that’s a beauty in the meaningful way of a community. That’s how it should be.

Misti Blasko
22:27
Yeah.

Misti Blasko
22:27
I think, though, too, a lot of women have a hard time asking for help and being vulnerable. And I think that’s a really important point to that being okay, but also not knowing how to share what they do. And it may not be that they’re not wanting to share, it’s just how do they open up and be transparent enough to share and give ideas and thoughts and be comfortable in doing that? Women usually have been kind of trained to be reserve and not say a lot. And I think surrounding ourselves with other women that are not as confident can help lift ourselves up.

Lara Schmoisman
23:06
Definitely. I was talking to friend that I was in touch for a long time and she was saying, I don’t feel like I have anything to share. I said, maybe you even have a really great recipe to share.

Misti Blasko
23:17
Yeah.

Misti Blasko
23:18
Everyone, always something.

Lara Schmoisman
23:20
There’s always something to share. And you might not be a businesswoman, but you can help someone make a quick meal. Who knows? And you’re helping that person.

Misti Blasko
23:29
Yeah.

Misti Blasko
23:31
This came to light at my counselor meeting with my daughter. She’s looking at colleges and the first thing that she did was compare herself to everybody else. And I think that as females, never goes away. And your point around someone going, what should I share with the president of X? We’ve just got to stop with comparing ourselves with others and celebrating what we do know and what we have accomplished and share that because it’s always special. No matter who you are, of what you can share or even a kind.

Lara Schmoisman
24:04
Smile, a smile can make your day. Such a big difference.

Misti Blasko
24:11
Yeah.

Misti Blasko
24:12
There’s not a lot of kindness and I think that’s really important. Always, always.

Lara Schmoisman
24:17
Well, Misti, thank you so much for having coffee with us today. This was amazing.

Misti Blasko
24:23
Thank you for having me. You’re so special and I really appreciate you choosing me to be.

Lara Schmoisman
24:27
Oh, I’m thrilled to having you on. And you guys, I hope that you enjoy this talk as much. Everything you need at LaraSchmoisman.com or in the episode notes right below. Don’t forget to subscribe. It was so good to have you here today. See you next time. Catch you on the flip side. Ciao. Ciao.

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