Former Burberry CEO Rose Marie Bravo credits the Bronx High School of Science with laying the foundation for her business success.
Bravo, who graduated from the school in 1969, will be one of the honorees at the public high school’s 85th anniversary celebrations at the American Museum of Natural History Thursday night. She will be honored alongside Leonard Lauder, a Bronx Science alumnus and Honorary President of EST.pictureRonald Lauder, businessman, philanthropist and president of the World Jewish Congress, and Stanley Mann, businessman, investor and philanthropist.
They all participate in the Principals’ Circle, the school’s premier recognition body for alumni who have contributed to Bronx science as philanthropic leaders.
“I owe everything I’ve achieved in life to my parents and to Bronx Science,” Bravo, 72, said in a telephone interview Tuesday from his home in East Moriches, N.Y.
Bravo was a student at a Catholic grammar school in the Bronx, where her father ran a hair salon where many of her client’s children went on to study science. She said, “She hadn’t heard of science, but she was going to take the test and go to St. Catharines. [her father] I was very disappointed when he said, “No, you went to science and passed the exam, so you’re going there.” It was formative for me. It was a bit of a culture shock. ”
Years later, after many years in American retail, it was yet another culture shock when she assumed the role of CEO of Burberry. “Suddenly you go to a brand or you go to a foreign country and you think they speak the same language … I remember that disorienting shock. ‘There’s something,'” Bravo said. After serving as president and chief merchant of Saks Fifth Avenue, she was CEO of Burberry from 1997 to 2006.
When she enrolled at the Bronx Institute of Science, she found that she was 14 years old, with many kids skipping grades and starting at 12. . They were well educated and I had her father push me to go to school. ”
For Bravo, the diverse student body was also a sight to behold. “It was a lot more diverse than I have experienced elsewhere. The formative years I read about from age 14 to 18 are very important in someone’s life,” Bravo said.
One of her favorite lecturers at Bronx Science was her French teacher who taught her about French culture. Her knowledge of that helped her future when she was attending her fashion week in Paris. “We didn’t learn how to speak French, but we learned about culture, life, art, history. I got it,” she said.
She remembered being put into honors geometry after first grade algebra. “I remember going to the dean for the first six weeks and being completely lost and saying, ‘This was a mistake.’ , I said, ‘No, I’m sure you can get over it.’ And I figured it out and it became my favorite subject,” Bravo said. “It ended up being tenacity and persistence.” [nature] I think I learned to never lose from that time. Everyone was very bright and full of curiosity. We had the city within reach. ”
Even though it was a science school, she said the arts were just as important. “I think they trained the left brain and the right brain.
Another class that has proven to be an important stepping stone is Engineering Drawing. “I do architectural planning, and in the future where I have to read maps and retail stores and make floor plans, research spaces and locations in the cosmetics industry, and do all the things I see. I had no idea it would be so important.”I looked at the map and knew where I was within seconds,” she said.
Bravo recalled that there was a public school strike in 1968 and, when she was about to enter fourth grade, the school was closed until November. She didn’t know what would happen if she didn’t go to school. She got a job in retail, but she was worried her strike might last the semester. She took two buses to go to her science in the Bronx, passing by Fordham University every day. So she called the university to ask if she could get in, sent her transcripts, and she was told, “Of course, you can start in January.” She started studying at Fordham University and she returned to Bronx Science in June, where she took the Regents test and graduated.
At Fordham, Bravo majored in English. “I was burnt out in science. I pushed myself to the extreme and couldn’t wait to move on to liberal arts. I was equally fascinated by literature,” she said.
Bravo’s early retail career went through Abraham & Strauss, Macy’s and I Magnin before joining Sachs.
When asked if she thinks young people today are equally interested in getting into retail, she said: “I don’t care that much about retail…I hear from friends how difficult it is to keep staff in general. The work ethic is very different today.” want quality time and don’t want to push themselves too hard. they like to hang out “Our generation may be immigrants, but we have a drive to excel and be the best,” she said.
Bravo was asked what career she would pursue today if she were 40 years younger. “It’s exactly what I chose. I always look back and say, ‘Wow,'” she said.
Bravo believes that today’s graduates should follow their passions and pursue careers that do what they love so that it never feels like a job. “Every day in my career, I had never worked a day in my life,” Bravo said.
When asked about the biggest risk she’s ever taken in her career, she said, “Definitely going to Burberry. I was trying to get out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t going to retail. I went to wholesalers and licensees, it wasn’t my training… When I got to England I was out of my comfort zone, I didn’t understand the language.
“Maybe that’s advice for young people,” she added. “Sometimes when I push myself out of my comfort zone and into a disorienting environment, I think that it can be a growth experience for someone else, and I think it helps me learn more about myself, about my abilities and abilities. What I lack, you have.” To learn, you have to bring in people who can do what you don’t know. That’s another part of leadership you learn,” she said.
Bravo said it took him 18 months to get used to working for Burberry. “Until I felt safe that I had a plan, I had a team, I had a vision of what it was going to be. Because I felt I could make it,” she said. She said her husband’s support was important. Eventually he retired while still in office.
Like her father, her husband “had confidence that I could solve it,” she said.
“It was great to have that kind of endorsement. Science boosts your confidence – your self-awareness, who you really are, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, and where you need work. It’s just a fertile grain-forgery that has been with me all my life,” Bravo said.
Speaking about how he turned Burberry back on its feet, Bravo explained that Burberry is a British luxury brand that spans generations. “We found at the core of the company the ability to compete in the luxury sector. They were a series of licensees, some very profitable, some not. My question was, “Why were France and Italy so good at creating these luxury brands, but why wasn’t England?”
“England had great facilities to make coats,” she said. She wondered why Burberry trenches aren’t on par with Hermès scarves and Gucci shoes. “Why shouldn’t we? From there we started leveling up. If that hypothesis is correct, what do we need to do to be in that space? , had some great team members with retail experience.I felt there was a gap between the bridge and the designers.Burberry is very masculine and every man on the Concorde gets on Sometimes we were proud to show Burberry lining, but we felt like, how do we make it feminine and why not?”
Bravo said it all started with a Burberry bikini. “It was like a lightning rod. Not only did it make the brand more feminine, it made her look 30 years younger. We had Kate Moss in a bikini,” she said.
She said she loves Burberry’s current ad featuring a tiny Burberry checkered swim vest. “Cute, back in the bikini,” she said.
Bravo worked with some very creative people at the time, including Fabien Baron, Mario Testino, Stella Tennant and, of course, Christopher Bailey, whom she hired as design director and later became chief creative officer, president and CEO. said they worked together. “It’s been a fun moment. Once you have the momentum, you feel like this really works. The team is vibrant and keeps moving forward.”
During his tenure, Bravo transformed the brand from a raincoat wholesaler into a world-class luxury brand. She revamped her merchandising and design staff, first hiring Roberto Menichetti as creative director to launch the Prorsum label, then naming Bailey as her successor. As part of her marketing strategy, she pushed Burberry’s sales past her billion dollar barrier, opened major flagship stores around the world, and helped Prince Charles and his high glove at the time. Polo built a relationship with her team.
In 2006, Bravo was awarded the prestigious Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for its service to British fashion and retail.
After nearly nine years at the helm, Mr. Bravo felt the time had come and decided to step down. She took her one grandson on the way to London, after which she was seven. “It was a great experience, but now it’s time for others to come in and take it further. It’s always good to refresh and I get excited when I think of Jonathan [Akeroyd, Burberry’s current CEO] The team is doing it and I think it’s a good thing,” she said.
As for what I’m doing these days, I’m doing nothing. I’m taking care of my husband, I’m taking care of my life.pictureeLoader joined the board of directors last November. 20 years on the board has been a great moment. I just love the company. I am retired from business life to focus on my family and personal time and learning Italian. ”
When asked which companies he admires today, Bravo mentions Estpicturee Lauder suddenly pointed out that there are many wonderful companies out there. “I admire Burberry. is doing so many right things.Ehs is also one of the brands that I have a lot of respect for and the way they are promoted. And my favorite in retail is still Costco. i think they are great.
“I think being a CEO is even more complicated right now with the culture wars and stuff going on. You can do it, and I’ve struggled with that too.It’s been really hard not having any downtime.There were so many factors.You’re a global company, you work full time.Everyone is on board,” Bravo said. .