Alali George-Williams, director of creative operations of digital at Victoria’s Secret, oversees the tactical execution of the operating milestones for the retailer’s digital store. Alali’s responsibilities include coordinating in-season asset optimization and out-season planning across the Victoria’s Secret digital platform, as well as managing photo shoot preparation and sample management.
Alali is a LIM College class of 1996 graduate who launched her career via an internship at Macy’s Herald Square. Alali also worked in product development for the retailer, and later for a vendor that licensed products under the Calvin Klein Home brand. She joined Victoria’s Secret in 1999 working in the company’s catalog business as well as in roles involving apparel merchandising before transitioning into digital merchandising. Alali then took over the lingerie portion of the business when Victoria’s Secret introduced apparel categories in early 2000.
Her next career step was beauty merchandising for the retailer where Alali was responsible for building over 50 new third-party brand relationships as Victoria’s Secret developed a strategy to build market share within that sector. Here, Alali shares her insights about her education and work.
WWD: How did your coursework and your experience at LIM help inform your career decisions?
Alali George-Williams: The internship program at LIM was invaluable in being able to immediately get exposure to careers in the fashion industry. From my very first internship at Macy’s Herald Square in the lingerie department, to my senior co-op internship experience at Macy’s working in product development for men’s wear, I was able to gain firsthand knowledge of what it would take to be successful in this industry.
The added benefit of an LIM education was having instructors who were experts in their field and could share firsthand knowledge and real-world experience on a daily basis. The curriculum was well-rounded, with courses focused on what was happening in the industry as well as field trips that allowed for exploration of many different aspects of the industry that I never even knew existed.
WWD: If you could go back in time and give career advice to your younger self, what would you say?
A. G-S.: I would tell myself to continue to follow your gut instinct and don’t be afraid to take a risk on the unknown. Throughout my career I’ve been presented with opportunities that were not directly in line with what I originally imagined my path would be. My plan was to start my career in apparel product development working for a major retail brand. However, along the way I was presented with opportunities that took me into the home fashions arena, lingerie merchandising, beauty and cosmetics and digital merchandising.
WWD: How would you describe your career path? What were some of the challenges you faced?
A. G-S.: My career path has been very diverse. I began in sales and marketing for a tabletop design company that held the license for Calvin Klein Home. From there I moved into the catalog and direct retail business with Victoria’s Secret, which afforded me so many opportunities to learn about different aspects of retail merchandising in lingerie, apparel and beauty, as well as digital merchandising.
I believe that my background in all of those areas laid the foundation for the operations role I hold today. I’ve been lucky in that most of the challenges I faced had to do with building speed and agility within the ever-changing aspects of the industry. Learning to manage change within process and among people has been my biggest career challenge, while also being the most valuable skill I’ve developed to be successful in any role.
WWD: Have you had mentors, and how have they helped you?
A. G-S.: I have had the great privilege and benefit of having mentors throughout my career. Most have been women who also had a wide range of experiences within the industry. They helped me navigate and gain perspective on how to approach challenges. My mentors have also been incredible role models in terms of how they approached shaping their own careers.
WWD: What advice would you give someone considering a career in the retail and fashion apparel market?
A. G-S.: A career in fashion is rarely a straight line. It is dynamic and ever-changing. Take the path less traveled, because you never know where it might lead. Opportunity is always around the corner, so don’t be afraid to grab it. There is something to learn from every experience. Each skill you acquire will eventually be useful in some way. Above all else, have passion for what you do. This will fuel you to always want to do your best.