Board Leadership Change

Madeline Akins, VP at Michael Kors, Chosen as New Chair

St. Louis, MO — The Saint Louis Fashion Fund announced that its co-founder, Susan Sherman, is stepping down from her role as Board chair. She will remain on the Board and serve on the Executive Committee. Replacing her as chair will be Madeline Akins, vice president with Michael Kors, a world-renowned, award-winning designer of luxury accessories and ready-to-wear products.

“We are thrilled to have someone with Madeline’s experience and talent to lead our Board,” said Executive Director Kathleen Bibbins. “Her knowledge of ‘the business of fashion’ will help guide us as we continue to increase the reach and impact of our organization, both locally and across the country.”

The Fashion Fund also announced that Rodney Crim, Interim CEO, St. Louis Development Partnership, Kristin Johnson, a principal responsible for BOA Talent Acquisition and Performance at Edward Jones, Susan Rollins, Executive Director, St. Louis Housing Authority, Nell Schiffer, Chief Operation Officer, Hill Investment Company, Stacey Smith, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapy Specialist, have joined the Board. In addition, Tania Beasley-Jolly, Creative and Marketing Consultant, who previously served as a consultant with the Fund’s inaugural class of designers and a co-founder of the Fashion Fund, is rejoining the Board.

The Fashion Fund, which celebrates its fifth anniversary later this year, announced several new strategies for 2019 that include opening up its Incubator by creating the Fashion Lab that will provide rental work space to the broader design community and expanding its educational programing. In addition, the Fashion Fund plans to create a Fashion Consortium of area fashion companies to facilitate collaboration and access to resources; launch a professional membership program; and continue to work with city and civic officials to revitalize the downtown Garment District.

“We have made considerable progress learning how we can best promote and support the fashion and design industry in the St. Louis region,” noted Bibbins. “A great deal of our success has been due to the leadership of Susan Sherman. She led our efforts to raise the funds to open the Incubator. She shepherded a talented class of designers, built up our Board, and paved the way for our new and exciting strategic direction.”

“Being part of Saint Louis Fashion Fund from its very beginnings has been the highlight of my life,” said Sherman. “We have made a difference in our city, and the best is yet to come. I am thrilled that Madeline Akins will be succeeding me. She and Kathleen Bibbins will make a great team.”

Ms. Akins serves as divisional vice president of Retail Development with Michael Kors New York, where she supported aggressive growth, from $147M in 2010 to $1.6B in 2014, successfully integrating aspects of sales, planning, marketing, store design, and human resources to drive “Retail Development” strategies. She also developed a number of training and development tools to fuel Michael Kors’ expansion, and launched retail development in travel retail locations, such as airports and cruise operators.

Her prior experience included positions at Dillard’s, Macy’s, Scrubs and Beyond, and Neiman Marcus. She earned a master’s degree in marketing from Webster University and a bachelor’s degree in History from SMU.

“It is a distinct honor to be selected to lead the Fashion Fund at this exciting point in its history,” said Akins. “With our initial class of designers, we have demonstrated that we can help their careers blossom, make important connections in the global world of fashion, and gain local and national recognition as they build their fashion lines.

“As we look to the future, I am confident that we will have an even greater impact on fashion in the St. Louis region, through expanded education, designer mentoring, providing collaborative work spaces, and community outreach. St. Louis has a long and rich history as a national fashion center and we are working hard to bring that prominence back to our community.”

The Fashion Fund will continue to offer and expand its current educational and community outreach programs including its Creative Process, Speaking of Fashion Speaker Series and a traveling, state-of-the-art fashion truck known as Miki’s Closet. Miki’s Closet brings fashion career and design education to area students while promoting awareness of the Fashion Fund’s mission around the region. It has reached hundreds of students at area schools and thousands of St. Louisans through various community events over the past two years. The Fashion Fund also teamed with COCA last summer to present a Summer Fashion Intensive Camp, attended by dozens of area students and will continue this program moving forward.

Joanna Wolff