Leslie Gallin might just be the reason those fabulous kitten heels are completing your outfit today. As president of footwear at UBM Advanstar, an event and marketing service company, Leslie takes the lead on creating some of the industry’s largest marketplace trade shows to bring suppliers and retailers together, including MAGIC, where buyers find the collections to feaure in their stores the next season. Creating, planning and implementing a growing portfolio of trade shows in different cities across the county is just about as challenging as it sounds.
“I equate what we do to professional athletes,” asserts Leslie. “They make it look easy when on the playing field, what you forget about is all the hard work that went into the development to become a professional athlete.”
Leslie’s cultivated combination of business, fashion and dedication means that “game day” brands both big and small directly connect with their customers. It’s a critical meeting that helps next season’s styles find their way to your closet.
Be nimble enough to bend in order to meet challenges.
How did your career lead you to FN PLATFORM and WSA @ MAGIC?
I was at a crossroad: Do I remain in the apparel business or buy a retail store? At the time I was introduced to someone who changed my life with the opportunity to learn the trade show business. They were looking for someone with fashion expertise and business sense. This was my entry to WSA and the launch of The Collections at WSA. I spent 5+ years growing the luxury footwear business for the WSA Tradeshow until the company was sold to ENK. I realized quickly after the sale that the new management was not the right fit for me. I had a larger vision for creating an International Trade Event, which ultimately lead me to MAGIC.
Congratulations on the 5-year anniversary of FN PLATFORM! What do you believe has led to the success of this particular marketplace?
Thank you. I believe in listening to both sides of the aisle. If you listen to your customers and balance that with your company’s goals, the direction becomes clear.
What is a typical day like as president of Footwear at UBM Advanstar? What are your days like at the actual tradeshows?
Oh my, this is funny. With four shows twice a year there is a lot of preparation taking place behind the scenes. I equate what we do to professional athletes. They make it look easy when on the playing field, and what you forget about is all the hard work that went into the development to become professional. I find myself in a mentoring role much more often than before. When a show happens I actually find myself beginning to relax and enjoy what my team and I have created. It’s one of the best opportunities for face time with your customer and networking. Nothing beats personal relationships.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I love what I do. It ticks off all of the boxes. It’s mentally stimulating, always changing, full of opportunities and provides access to working with great people.
What is the key to mentoring emerging brands and helping established brands adapt to the ever-changing trends?
Understand there is no easy or fast way to success. Time and effort, plus relationship building, are the cornerstones. Build a good team. Lead by example. These are the things I tell all new brands starting out.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
I think about keeping the business fresh and on point for our customers. I work to anticipate the next zig or zag, and work to be nimble enough to bend in order to meet challenges.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Humor. You must be able to laugh at yourself and the situations at times. Other than life and death situations or decisions, everything else has solutions.
What advice would give aspiring Leading Ladies looking to break into the fashion industry?
Gain practical experience. Do all jobs and you will begin to understand the bigger picture. This will enable you to be a good leader. “Been there, done that,” really begins to have meaning over time.
What are you most excited about in the next three years with FN PLATFORM and other tradeshows within UBM Advanstar?
Being a part of a truly global, public company is exciting as is UBM’s encouragement of new ideas for business opportunities. We (FN PLATFORM – footwear) are a young business in the scope of the MAGIC portfolio.
What are some of the rules you live by, in both your career and fashion?
An old time salesman once told me, “The same people you see on the way up, are the same people you see on the way down! So best be nice to everyone.”
What is one thing you wish you could do?
Speak multiple languages.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
As Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are the first time, believe them.”