Company priorities often reveal themselves through staffing changes. This lens may be on Stitch Fix now, as it tasks a new executive to lead its workforce and culture across the U.S. and the U.K.
Announced Monday, the addition of Linda Aiello as chief people and culture officer brings human resources expertise from roles at Salesforce and Uber, as well as more than a decade of experience in luxury retail, to the self-described “online personalized shopping” business. She assumes the role immediately, reporting to chief executive officer Elizabeth Spaulding.
In her previous position as Salesforce’s executive vice president of employee success business partners, Aiello ran the company’s internal HR efforts, particularly as it related to global expansion, mergers and acquisition integration and scaling culture and service. Before that, she led human resources and recruiting on a global basis for Uber across Europe, Middle East and Africa, after stints at Moët Hennessy, LVMH Fashion Group, Jimmy Choo and Bruno Magli.
“My career has been defined by my time in fashion and retail, and then by my time in tech. Stitch Fix brings the best of both together,” Aiello said in prepared remarks. “I can’t wait to dig in with the team to take Stitch Fix, with its incredible people and culture, on this next growth horizon.”
Aiello’s track record may signal a higher priority on global expansion at Stitch Fix. The company broke out beyond the borders of the U.S. with a U.K. launch in 2019. Since then, the business has approached growth primarily through new services and features, such as its direct-buy offering, now called Freestyle, and Fix Preview, which lets subscribers vet items in their next shipment.
But, she joins the company during a tense time, just a couple of months after a highly publicized period in which stylists quit en masse — reportedly as many as one-third. Some ex-workers cited more stringent working hours, while others voiced concerns that the fashion e-tailer wants to increasingly rely on algorithms than humans.
The latter flies in the face of Stitch Fix’s core narrative, which espouses the merits of blending humans and machines to scale service and personalization for the fashion crowd.
In a WWD interview in September, Spaulding called it an “advantage of creative human judgment in the loop of AI and data science — which we believe, absolutely, is going to be a huge part of our next 10 years, the same way it was part of our last 10 years.”
The revocation of flex time stems from a decision to balance and match working hours to customer needs, inventory and tech features. From the interview: “We were prepared that it wasn’t going to work for our entire styling community. So we offered an accommodation, and we were very prepared for some of our folks opting out.
“I do think in that process, we learned some things that we need to do better on where there were probably elements of flexibility from an employment standpoint, that actually mattered more than we appreciated. So we’re working hard right now to figure out how do we, over time, add some of that flexibility back in,” Spaulding explained.
The responsibility sits squarely in Aiello’s purview now. As for what her priorities will be, Stitch Fix declined a WWD request for comment.
In the announcement, Spaulding said, “As we look ahead at the opportunities for our business, our people and culture are at the center of building exceptional client experiences, and we are thrilled to have Linda bring her depth of knowledge and expertise in scaling highly innovative teams across geographies.
“I look forward to her partnership in further strengthening our culture and enabling our teams to do their very best work, in an inclusive environment,” she added. “Linda will help us realize our bold ambitions as we transform Stitch Fix, and the retail industry.”