Chuck Steelman


A series of conversations with Fashion Group members
What they do, how they do it and why it matters.
 
by Wendy D'Amico
 
Chuck Steelman
 
Susan Glick, Vice President, Women's Apparel, Merchandise Mart Properties, serves as Fashion Group Liaison to three districts, overseeing the activities, growth and future of regions in ten cities in the United States, and six in foreign countries. Additionally, Susan is instrumental in  identifying the willing, able and appropriate candidates to take on the responsibilities of a  district director. And this is what she has to say about Chuck Steelman.
"Chuck Steelman is the ultimate industry professional.  Dynamic, well respected, forward thinking and, most importantly, totally committed to FGI. I met Chuck many years ago when he was active in the New Orleans FGI region and have followed his career path. I am most impressed with the way he can balance his multifaceted job at Neiman's, his extensive charitable endeavors and his recent appointment as a district director overseeing Boston, DC, Philadelphia, Detroit, Minneapolis and Cleveland.  His enthusiasm, his taste level and his creative approach to any project/assignment are to be commended.  How lucky we are to have him play an important role in FGI."
 
Tell us about the early years. Where were you raised?
I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and enjoyed being close to the beautiful Alabama beaches.
 
What about your parents - what did they  do?
My father was an engineer for International Paper Company and my mother was a homemaker.
 
Any siblings?
I have one younger sister who lives in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
 
What's your favorite childhood memory?
As a young child, I got very excited when my mom dressed me up, and I got to wear a bow tie.   As an adult, that excitement continues  -  and I always love a good bow tie.
 
Where were you educated? 
I graduated from the University of Mobile, a private fine arts college in south Alabama.
 
What were your first thoughts about a career; what did you think you were cut out for?
Throughout part of my high school and college years, I worked for a local department store, Gayfer's, a subsidiary of Mercantile, Inc., supporting the fashion director for the company.   It was there that I developed my passion for the retail industry, especially in special events. (Editor's side bar: for those of you unfamiliar with Gayfer's, it was founded in Mobile not too long after the Civil War and was, for many years, a shopping destination for the most  particular and stylish of southern consumers. Acquired by Mercantile in the 1950s, on an historical note, the fearless and enduring icon of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks, worked at the store during that time.)
 
How did you earn your first dollar?
As a teen board member at Gayfer's, where I had the opportunity to work in the store assisting the department managers during special events and sales. Ultimately, this evolved into my first full time job as an assistant to the corporate fashion director. 
 
How did you get to Neiman Marcus?
I was looking to relocate to the Dallas area when jewelry designer, Steven Lagos, recommended me to Neiman Marcus.  I began my career there as the public relations manager for one of the stores in Dallas.  A few years later, I was promoted to NMG corporate public relations as the special events manager.
 
What are the primary responsibilities of your position and what's fascinating about your job ?
Planning and executing successful events for NM featuring fashion trends, designers and charitable initiatives for the brand's 42 stores.  In my position, I also serve as a liaison between the corporate marketing division and the public relations managers in our stores.   Additionally, I oversee the Neiman Marcus VIP Customer Experience program, which allows me to host top customers at high profile events across the world such as Paris Fashion Week and the G'Day USA Gala in Los Angeles, among others.
 
Do you have people reporting to you and, if so, what's your management style?
Yes.  I like to identify high potential candidates who possess the skills needed to be successful in a public relations or special events role at NM.  Identifying, hiring and training  the right candidates allow me to give team members the flexibility to make decisions on their own  so I don't  have to micromanage them.
 
How do you lead? How do you persuade people to embrace your ideas and directives - especially those who may be hard to convince?
I strive to lead by example.  By being enthusiastic and exuding positive energy, I motivate others to succeed.
Given that there's so much conversation about the state of both fashion and retail, and the meaning of luxury, in which Neiman Marcus is heavily invested, how do you  see  this evolving in a new world order... as in  how do you think Neiman Marcus will win the hearts and minds of Millennials, now one quarter of  the US population, reported to have the most spending power of any generation and the most connected to social media. How, in your view, do you think Neiman Marcus should go about attracting this new demographic? 
Millennials have been a target demographic for the company for a number of years.  We recognize their influence and power in the retail industry.  NM has a strong social media presence that caters to all of our customers.  And if you are not following Neiman Marcus on Instagram, you are missing out on great content.  Go follow @neimanmarcus !
 
Can we talk about Fashion Group? As a long time FGI member, regional director in Dallas and now FGI district director for several regions,  you've  been really active in the organization for many years now.  Talk about what it takes to manage your regions, what that role involves , where you get the time and energy ...basically, how do you do it all?
Fashion Group International is a unique organization because of its rich history and notable members. Among the founders of the organization, now nearly 89 years old,  were Eleanor Roosevelt, Edith Head,  Claire McCardell, credited with developing the concept of American sportswear, Elizabeth Arden and, especially interesting to those of us in the retail industry, Dorothy Shaver, then the president of  Lord & Taylor, and the first ever  female president of a department store.  I will admit that being the regional director for FGI  Dallas took a lot of time but it was, however, something about which I was very passionate because Dallas has the second largest region outside of NYC.  Dallas has a thriving fashion presence, and FGI allows the fashion community to come together for networking, business opportunities  and raising scholarship funding for the future fashion leaders of North Texas.  I served as the regional director for FGI  Dallas from 2014 to 2016.
Now, as the district director for Region 1, I'm able to further expand my leadership role with FGI across the country.   Region 1 includes FGI  Boston, DC, Philadelphia, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Cleveland.  I'm hoping that, under my direction, these regions will be able to expand their organizations by elevating their Night of Stars  and Rising Stars events, as well as growing their programs for their  memberships.
 
What's fun about being Chuck Steelman?
If you are following me on Instagram, you already know the answer to this question.  My Instagram profile says it best:  Food, Fun, Fashion, Travel, Scott, Baron, Art. So follow my journey @chucksteelman
 
What would you say are the three qualities that got you where you are today.
Experience, passion and work ethic.
 
One thing you're exceptionally good at? Bad at?
I am really good at working with people and  with time management.  I am really bad at turning my mind off so I can unplug and relax.
 
What would be your most memorable  "aha" moment 
Because Neiman Marcus has such a prestigious reputation in the retail industry,  my position has afforded me the opportunity to meet and interact with some of the most notable of fashion's  marquee names: Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Jennifer Lopez and Anna Wintour would be a very few.
Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows
Secrets went away once the internet was invented. 
...and, finally, please talk about your experience in New Orleans and what happened in Hurricane Katrina
I served as the regional director for FGI of New Orleans from 2003 to 2005.  New Orleans had a much smaller region than Dallas, but was still able to present amazing events and programs.  One student who benefitted from the FGI New Orleans scholarship award  is now a buyer for a major retailer.  Social Media allows me the opportunity to stay in touch with this young woman and reminds me of the impact this organization has had, and continues to have,  on its members.  Coincidentally, I relocated to Dallas from Biloxi, Mississippi, a few weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated the entire Gulf Coast region.  Although I was not personally affected, this natural disaster took a toll on my fashion peers in the region.  Fortunately, because southerners are resilient and always come together in time of need, these areas have been able to rebuild.
 
Pretty clear what Susan was talking about, right? And we would just add that, in 2016, Margaret Hayes honored Chuck Steelman with the President's Service Award for his outstanding accomplishments in New Orleans, his leadership of FGI Dallas and his dedication, commitment and loyalty to Fashion Group International. Thank you, Chuck .