Mark Mendelson Gives Keynote at LIM College Graduation

He also received the college’s Distinguished Achievement Award and an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree at the ceremony.

NEW YORK — LIM College honored Mark Mendelson, president and chief executive officer of Ellen Tracy, at its commencement ceremony last week at Avery Fisher Hall here.

This story first appeared in the June 4, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Mendelson, who delivered the keynote address, received the college’s Distinguished Achievement Award and an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree at the ceremony, where more than 300 undergraduates and 46 M.B.A. graduates received degrees.

In his address, Mendelson said he’s learned a lot about Millennials through his Marilyn Monroe brand at Macy’s and has begun to view the fashion industry through their eyes. He told the graduates that they are entering a business that finds itself “at an amazing crossroads.”

“Massive changes in consumer attitudes, media, retail and emerging markets around the world have converged on the industry and are affecting almost everything about it, and that should be both exciting and promising for you,” said Mendelson. By the time they reach 30 years old “not that many years from now,” he said the business will be “radically different than it is today.”

Historically, established roles were followed and designers such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan were the innovators and futurists, and the businesspeople made things happen and brought the fashion to market, he said. “But the new world of fashion has put a premium on innovation and speed-to-market in every aspect of the industry. Business and design must be deeply collaborative partners as never before. And creativity and innovation are now expectations of fashion businesspeople as much as they are of designers.”

Mendelson noted that members of the class of 2013 are among the first graduates to enter the industry who have lived entirely digital lives. “Online shopping was never a novelty to you. Social media was not something your kids taught you about. Fashion is being transformed by connected consumerism and e-commerce faster than most other businesses — as you’d expect of an industry that is so dependent on trends and cultural relevance,” said Mendelson.

He told the graduates that no matter where they come from, they look at the industry from a global perspective. “You’ve grown up in a world of global politics, global sourcing and global social consciousness. Today the business of fashion is a global proposition.”