Marcia Kilgore, Marina Larroudé, Tamara Mellon and Sharifa Murdock Get Real About Mentorship and What It Means to Empower the Next Generation of Women

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The path to success is never linear, especially for women navigating the fashion industry.

At a panel at FN’s annual Women Who Rock event on Wednesday in New York City, several top footwear entrepreneurs came together to discuss their career journeys, mentorships and how and they are empowering the next generation of woman leaders.

“I am a big advocate for mentorship,” said Sharifa Murdock, the chief impact officer at Kith. “Because if it wasn’t for my mentor, I don’t know where we’re I would be. I’m a young African American girl from Brooklyn, born and raised. And many times, we are overlooked.”

Murdock explained how her mentor, Sam Ben-Avraham, was instrumental in helping her navigate and grow her career. Now, that is something she tries to implement at Kith.

For Larroudé chief creative officer and co-founder Marina Larroudé, her husband was the person she credited as her most important career mentor. “He was always my sounding board, asking and pushing me,” she said. Larroudé also credited supportive people in the fashion industry, including several of her former bosses, with her early success.

In a different vein, Tamara Mellon, co-founder of Jimmy Choo and founder and chief creative officer of her eponymous brand, said she regrets not having mentors during the earlier stages of her career.

“I felt like had to figure it out on my own,” said Mellon, who started Jimmy Choo in 1996. “I felt like I didn’t want to bother [anybody].” Years later, Mellon said she is an advocate for finding a mentor that can help open doors and establish important relationships. “Very often in life, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” she said.

As the founder of the FitFlop shoe brand — and multiple beauty and wellness companies including Bliss Spa — Marcia Kilgore also said she lacked official mentors in the early stages of her business journey, but made it a point to listen to her clients when she worked as a facialist.

“There was a lot you could learn from them if you kept your mouth shut and your ears open,” Kilgore said. “And so I guess they were all my mentors, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

The women also discussed how they’ve adapted their mentorships styles to connect with a new generation of up-and-coming leaders.

Mellon said she has learned a lot from her 22-year-old daughter, Minty, who she said keeps her connected and relevant to young artists and consumers. She noted that her daughter collaborated with her on some shoe designs, which have become among the brand’s top sellers.

As for Murdock, the chief impact officer said that most members of her core staff are Gen Z. This, she explained, helps keeps the team tuned into what people care about — and what they are talking about on social media. When it comes to mentorship, she noted that Gen Z seems to responds best when older generations speak to them like peers and are less pedantic about what they expect.

For Larroudé, the founder said she often hires young, potentially inexperienced people for a job if she sees potential in them. She gave the example of the recent hiring of a young Brazilian woman who is now responsible for creating the entire technology system behind the brand.

“We give a lot of opportunities, it doesn’t matter how old they are, it doesn’t matter the experience,” Larroudé said. “If they can deliver the job, they get the job.”

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