The pandemic has upended careers and entire industries. It is causing all of us to accelerate the questioning of what we are doing and why. One of the biggest changes is happening in the fashion sector, which has seen massive disruptions. Who needs high heels when all of life is on Zoom? Is that sort of lifestyle really what anyone wants anymore?
Dana Gers has spent her entire career working in the higher end of the fashion industry including Guerlain, The Movado Group, Baccarat, Salvatore Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo and, most recently, at Net-A-Porter where she was global Director of Marketing and Communications. In 2017, 2018, and 2019 she was named as the most powerful luxury communications professional in the UK by PRWeek magazine. She had been living in London, hanging with the fashion in-crowd, a heavy hitter amongst other heavy hitters. But then all that changed.
This summer, she and her husband left all that to move to Park City, UT, to regroup and figure out what to do next. It is a question so many of us are grappling with today. How does one decelerate? Where does one go next? What really matters in one’s life? These are questions she and a lot of us are grappling with these days. Let’s find out what a fashion insider thinks of ageism in fashion, what she is wearing on Zoom, and what her new life is like.
“Some of the kindest, most supportive, and generous people in the world work in fashion”
Fashion is such a tough business. How did you survive?
Some of the kindest, most supportive, and generous people in the world work in fashion. Like a lot of creative industries, it also attracts vain, narcissistic, and ego-driven people. I found solidarity with the former, and tried to manage/avoid the latter as best I could.
What is your biggest life challenge these days and how are you dealing with it?
I’ve completely upended my life, leaving my big job in London and moving to Park City, UT. Everything feels challenging! I’ve always gone from big company to big company, scaling the corporate ladder from one big job to another, and now I’m trying to take the time to reflect on what it is that I want. At a certain stage of your life, you’re done trying to prove how successful you are to the outside world, and begin thinking about what drives you and what your own definition of success is. That’s where I am now.
You have a formidable skill set. What sort of life do you imagine yourself having in a year? Are you looking to start anything new?
Well, thank you very much! Yes, everything is new! When I think about what I want, it’s finding ways to continue learning and growing, new skills, new industry, new ways of working. Change is great because it forces me to challenge myself. I’m more focused now on finding good people to work with and good culture to work in. I don’t know what that looks like for now, but I like businesses with an appetite for creative, big ideas, a culture that rewards risk-taking and teams that are encouraged to collaborate. And yes, in the back of my mind, I think about a dramatic pivot to something totally different, like interior design, my current obsession!
From London to Park City, Utah
What was it like being an American living in London?
I loved pretty much everything about living in London; it’s just a spectacular city, with almost the perfect balance of lifestyle, culture, social life, career opportunities; I even didn’t mind the weather that much. I thought I was going to feel more foreign when we moved but, ironically, Americans are one of the least interesting (and most abundant) other nationalities living there; the city is a diverse metropolis with people from all over the world. I think British-born nationals are now the minority in London.
What is it like living in Park City? You are a long-time cosmopolitan. You could go anywhere; why here, of all places?
We’ve had a house in Park City for more than 14 years, and always loved coming here on holiday; it represented our idyllic refuge, with the tonic of wilderness as a perfect balance to our overly programmed lives. In the backs of our minds we always thought of Park City as the place to move when we were ready to downshift, or as our apocalypse plan, and then, well 2020 hit… I do miss some of the trappings of cosmopolitan life, but I’ve been feeling a primal tug toward a more balanced lifestyle, with wellness and nature playing a more central role, and Park City offers that in abundance.
“People are moving to a less disposable and a more enduring attitude about fashion and clothing in general”
You are a fashion super pro. What sort of changes do you see happening in fashion as far as people our age?
I don’t think it’s exclusive to people our age, as the forces of change are impacting all ages. What we’re witnessing now is a more conscious consumption, and this pre-dates Covid. People are moving to a less disposable and a more enduring attitude about fashion and clothing in general. This is partially fueled by attitudes around sustainability and an understanding that fashion – fast fashion in particular – is one of the worst polluting industries on the planet, but also a recognition that closets bursting with “stuff” isn’t chic. When I was at Net-A-Porter, we witnessed this migration to more discreet, super-luxurious brands that could be considered investments. These included brands like The Row, Gabriela Hearst, Loro Piana, and Bottega Veneta. Simultaneously, we’re seeing more circular fashion with consumers renting, buying and selling fashion so that it has a second life.
The other interesting phenomenon that was prevalent for a while, but has accelerated with the pandemic, is a casualization of fashion. We saw this with the emergence of street style, and sneakers, sneakers, sneakers. And now with everyone lounging around their homes in sweatpants and pajamas, I think we’re going to be hard-pressed to get people to go back to work in suits and high heels. I don’t see it happening. I think back to the days when I was working at Jimmy Choo teetering around in stilettos, and I can’t imagine that now. That’s not to say that we won’t want to dress up, but it will be for special occasions. Our daily lives will stay comfortable.
“More important than looking at imagery through the lens of age, is to mirror the values of our generation”
How would you advise a brand that sells to people our age, but whose brand is represented by much younger faces? That seems to be common. In your experience, is that effective?
It’s interesting because I’ve spent my whole career in luxury fashion, and the industry has always fetishized a certain “Ideal”: glossy, airbrushed, young, thin, white. I look at brands who are still pushing that aesthetic, and they all seem outdated and out of touch now. Consumers are resoundingly vocal about having their brands reflect their values. When I was at Net-A-Porter, we looked at our best performing editorial content, and our best performing social posts and, interestingly, of all the celebrities photographed throughout the year, our best performing cover shoot featured Cindy Crawford; our best social post was a 40-year-old influencer wearing a gorgeous red dress. They were both aspirational, but appealing to the luxury customers’ ideal of beauty with women who reflected a version of themselves. More important than looking at imagery through the lens of age, is to mirror the values of our generation; increasingly this is about substance, intelligence and achievement as well as style.
Physical vs Digital Retail Experiences
How do you see the future of the retail space? Digital has had a big leap forward with the pandemic; what would draw people back into physical retail?
Pessimists have presaged the retail apocalypse for years, and if you look at the deserted shopping malls during Covid, it seems to confirm many of these doomsters. The truth of the matter is that the US is over-stored; we have about 23 sf of retail space per person, which is more than double what it is in Europe. I think the pandemic accelerated what would have happened more slowly over time. It doesn’t mean that stores won’t exist in the future, it just means that there’s a necessary downsizing. What will get people back in stores? Creating an experience that is superior to what a customer can get online. Make it beautiful, inspiring, easy, priced competitively, with great service. Make it an experience that warrants the effort, because we’ve all discovered that you can find pretty much anything your heart desires online.
Staying Fit in the Utah Mountains
It is so sporty here in Utah. What sort of things are you doing in that realm? How are you staying fit?
I’m a big walker; it’s where I do my best creative thinking and recharging, and there seem to be endless mountain trails to discover here. I try to hike at least 3 times a week, and while we were on lockdown in London, our family started doing Zoom mat Pilates classes in our dining room with heartcore.co.uk. Even since moving, we still get the link and do the classes. And of course, now that the snow is here, I’m looking forward to getting on the slopes. I want to get better at cross country skiing, too. I tried it a few times last year and loved it.
What is your recent beauty skincare routine? What’s on your top shelf?
I’m not wearing much makeup these days, but I’m making up for it in skincare. I was exposed to a lot of fancy creams while I worked at Net-A-Porter, and now I’m a convert. Utah is a mountain desert so I slather on the moisturizer: face oil (Dr Prager, Aurelia), cream (Crème de la Mer), hydrating spray and facial mask (Dr Barbara Sturm), and lip balm (Sisley). And when I’m going outside, sunscreen (Supergoop).
What are you wearing in quarantine? Or do you enjoy not thinking about it? This must be quite a change from working for Net in London.
It’s been nice to have a break from getting “dressed” every day, but I’m at the point now where I miss it. I brought my entire wardrobe over when we moved, and now it’s sitting in plastic bins in my closet marked, “clothes for a life I no longer lead.” I love the creativity of fashion, and I long for the day when I can take my clothes (and SHOES!) out to party, dinner, vacation….
What is your go-to Zoom outfit?
It’s usually jeans and a sweater, or a dress and a cardigan. Slippers or slides. My shoe game has really been hit hard by this epidemic.
How do you organize your days?
I’m probably the most organized person on the planet. Literally, my garage bins are labelled. But, since moving, I haven’t really had much of a schedule for the first time in my life. It’s liberating and terrifying at the same time.
How do you stay sane? Walking, meditating, Zoom with friends…?
We got a puppy in September, Gatsby, and he has been the biggest mood elevator ever. This puppy=pure joy. I was probably the least doggy person alive pre-Gatsby, and now I plan my days around him.
Inspired by Nature
What is inspiring you these days?
Nature is really miraculous, and I’m astounded daily by how spectacular it is here in Utah. I’m encouraged and inspired by political activism, especially among young people like my kids. But beyond that, and maybe because I’m spending so much time at home, I’ve gotten into interior design; I’m teaching myself SketchUp via LinkedIn Learning, and I’m using it to remodel our house.
Favorite Utah outdoor spots?
There are no shortage of gorgeous hikes here in Park City, but now that we’re here full time, we’ve been venturing a bit further afield. We made an art pilgrimage to Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty the other week, and that was just mesmerizing. I’m a big fan of the National Parks and went for the first time this year to Capitol Reef which is incandescent. Zion, Moab and Arches are still on my bucket list, though.