University of Rhode Island
TMD 402 Spring 2012 "Entrepreneurship"
Susan Cohen is petite and unassuming, but her passion for fashion is massive. Wearing a chartreuse knit top and a pair of black stove-pipe pants, Cohen spoke to URI’s Textile, Merchandising, and Design students about her experience as a sales representative for Worth: New York, and her role in operating her own business utilizing Worth’s products and services. Cohen worked in the human service sector as a counselor after receiving her Masters of Education in Counseling for some time before deciding to go with her original dream of working in the fashion industry. She says as a young girl in New York she would visit various department stores with her relatives and observe designer garments with careful attention. Cohen called herself a young “fashionista.” She says her interest in fashion could be linked to two factors: the fact that her brother was a fashion designer, and her astrological sign being a Taurus, saying those under the sign “appreciate beautiful things.”
Cohen began doing trunk shows for Worth: New York in 2004. The company itself was founded in 1991. The company employs various independent sales associates who participate in direct contact with consumers and are overseen by district and regional managers. Therefore, each independent sales associate acts as his or her own “small-business owner.” The design and production team is based in Manhattan on 33rd Street and 8th Avenue. Designers pride themselves on excellent construction and attention to detail and fabrication. After Cohen’s presentation, I asked her about the fabrication and construction of garments. Cohen reports that garments are manufactured in China, Hong Kong, and the U.S. using machine and hand-sewn methods of construction. Textiles used for production of garments are typically high quality and come from the same mills that produce textiles for Chanel, Ferragamo, Prada, and Gucci, among others. Fine woolens and cashmeres typically come from Italian textile manufacturer Loro Piana. Therefore, women have the opportunity to purchase high-quality garments in excellent fabrication at a fraction of the price of high-end brands. Diane Manley is the Design Director at Worth: New York. According to Cohen, high-end Italian designers such as Prada and Gucci inspire Manley.
Cohen says there are many incentives to working with Worth. There is a 25 percent commission, plus various contests and incentives for reaching and exceeding targets determined by the district and regional managers. Cohen says the business gives confidence to women and skills that can transcend different occupations. Cohen says her business is targeted towards women aged 50 to 70 years old. Cohen’s previous experience as a counselor has been instrumental in her success. Cohen says she has developed many customer relationships that have lasted 10 or more years. These clients come to the trunk shows that Cohen orchestrates not only to view the next season’s collections, but also to share stories and get some “girl time.” Cohen’s clients are loyal to her, and she credits these relationships to her survival during the economic downturn that has plagued the country in the past years. She says her key to success has also been linked to her persistence and determination. Cohen shared a story with the students about a time when a client told her she wouldn’t be able to attend one of the trunk shows. Instead of giving up on that client, she called her for the next trunk show, and the client was ecstatic that she had called her. Worth: New York is a company that prides itself on customer service and a personal shopping experience. Susan Cohen exemplifies the mission of this company and possesses the knowledge to exceed the expectations of her customers.
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