Exclusive Interview: Annemarie & Alexandra Dillard – Generation Next

June 11, 2011

I first met Annemarie Dillard when she was in town for the Vince Camuto event at Dillard’s Fashion Square. She was shooting a video for the Dillard’s Fashion Files vlog; energetically ad-libbing about the new line of Camuto’s handbags launching that day. She was introduced to me simply as “Annemarie”  and when the shooting was over, she turned to me and said,  “I’m not a professional at this.” Coulda fooled me.

Annemarie and Alexandra Dillard Alexandra Dillard, left, and Annemarie Dillard.

It wasn’t until later that I learned she was Annemarie Dillard, the granddaughter of Dillard’s founder, William T. Dillard. Through happenstance, we ended up at lunch together – chatting about fashion, family life, and of course, shoes (! )  as though we had known each other for years. I was struck by her intelligence and her passion for the retail side of the business. She’s warm and engaging, with an easy-going manner and a wicked sense of humor.

Later, I watched her work the sales floor in a jam-packed shoe department, balancing boxes of shoes in her arms, kneeling on the floor, helping women try on shoes right alongside the rest of the sales staff. She seemed to be enjoying every minute of it.

Annemarie and her twin sister Alexandra are the third generation of Dillards to occupy positions in the Dillard’s department store chain, a retail giant with over 300 stores in the U.S. Their father, Alex, is the company president. They work on opposite coasts: Annemarie out of California and Alexandra, out of Florida. In our exclusive interview, we talked with them about their roles in the company, and how they prepared to enter the family business.

******************************************************************************

SF: You grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, but you both moved away to attend separate colleges. Was it hard living apart from each other for the first time ?

Annemarie: No; we’re both very independent. I went to USC and Alexandra went to SMU.  And it was cool because we got to experience two different colleges and we met so many friends that way.

Alexandra: It probably was our first time apart, but we still talk to each other every day on the phone. We call it “baby-sitting !” Plus we talk to our little sister, Michelle who’s going to graduate school at Harvard. She’s really smart.

SF: So where do you live now ?

Annemarie: I live in L.A. and Alexandra lives in Florida.

Alexandra: Even though we live on opposite sides of the country, we still see each other a lot. Holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas and then we meet up when we go to market in Dallas. We both travel quite a bit.

SF: You both hold positions at Dillard’s. What do you do ?

AnneMarie: I’m the Director of Contemporary Sportswear; it encompasses a lot, but I work primarily on branded contemporary clothes, including finding new resources for our brands.

Alexandra: I’m the Merchandise Manager for corporate exclusive brands, which are our private label brands. My job is to over-see those brands, like Gianni Bini and Antonio Melani – we have several of those; I’m in charge of production and design.

SF: What do you like most about your jobs ?

Annemarie: It’s such a diverse experience, and I love that I get to work with such a broad spectrum of things. I really enjoy working with apparel, but also working store-side and with our vendors.

Alexandra: I love doing a million different things and I love the product development side: working with designers to create products. 25% of our women’s ready-to-wear brands are Dillard’s exclusive brands.

SF: What’s the hardest thing about your job ?

Annemarie: Well, I work in a small office in L.A. and we don’t have any stores there, so I’m a little removed from the stores when I’m there.

Alexandra: Because we’re younger, it was very challenging at first. Getting people to look past your last name and to recognize your talents and realize that you have something to bring to the table.

SF: Did you always know that you would enter the family business ?

Annemarie: No. I knew I wanted to be in business, and of course I was highly interested in fashion, but I was also interested in the tech world and open to a lot of things. But I didn’t know when I graduated college that I was going to work at Dillard’s !

Alexandra: I always knew that I would work in fashion. I have a creative side; I was always styling my little sister when we were younger. And I’m a finance major. We both did a lot of internships, which gave us a good background. We worked at BCBG; we lived in Hong Kong and worked in their factory. We loved working there; they really empowered us to do a lot of different things, even though we were young. So it was a great opportunity to bring those strategies to Dillard’s.

SF: I read online that the Dillard’s store in Scottsdale Fashion Square is the biggest store in the chain. Is that true ?

Alexandra: Yes, it’s physically the largest store; it’s over 365,000 square feet.

SF: Does that mean we get the best stuff ?

Annemarie: I think you get everything ! Dillard’s has divisional buyers, so you get a lot of the best brands and products, because there’s room for more. There’s a lot of room on the shoe floor too, so there’s lots of shoes.

SF: Are there other things that differentiate our store from others in the Dillard’s chain ?

Annemarie: The Scottsdale Dillard’s has a fantastic Southwest Shop. It also has  a huge athletic department with tons of active wear.

SF: If you weren’t working in fashion, what would you be doing ?

Annemarie:  I would work in the tech world. I like to keep up on the newest things; they’re fascinating to me.

Alexandra: I would be a doctor. I’m fascinated by medicine and I’m a total hypochondriac ! I’m always diagnosing people’s conditions and I’m usually right !

******************************************************************************

 

Photo: Courtesy, Annemarie Dillard

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Liz June 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Terrific interview! Love how they both rolled up their sleeves & worked on the sales floor. Eager for part 2.

xoLiz

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: