“Career Diaries” is a column from Step Up Magazine where we feature established professionals on what it’s like--and what it takes--to enter their field. Today we are excited to learn from Jacob Lahr.
Industry: Luxury Retail
Job title: Store Director
Years of experience: 15 years
Where Jacob went to college: George Washington University
Jacob Lahr currently serves as a Store Director for Saint Laurent in Tysons Galleria. Throughout his 15-year career in luxury fashion, he has become an expert in client relations, luxury sales, and creating a culture that drives relationships, profitability, and innovation within his teams and markets. Jacob is currently a steering member of Saint Laurent’s Innovation Committee in Paris, developing the focus and concept to drive luxury brick-and-mortar retail through Omni channel experiential approaches -- forging a path that ensures Saint Laurent’s success and relevance with today’s and tomorrow’s ever-expanding client base.
In a few sentences, please tell us what you do and what your job involves.
As a Store Director of Saint Laurent, my days are never quite the same; I wear many hats. I am responsible for the daily store operations and profitability, client relations, and staff development. My main role is creating a culture within the store that is in line with our company’s heritage and expectations. Serving as the key face of the brand within the market, I must not only work for Saint Laurent, but truly embody the culture of Saint Laurent in my professional and personal life. I take this as a great honor to be able to work for such a storied and influential Maison.
What is the appeal of store directing? Why is store direction different at Saint Laurent than at another brand?
As a Store Director, you are the key figure in any given market for the brand. Thus, you are the brand for that market. To be a successful store director, you must be a curator of culture and vibe. You set the direction and tone of your brand for the community. Saint Laurent gives the permission to be a true entrepreneur with your teams and stores. We have built a culture of empowerment and vision that inspires every employee daily, which comes straight from the top leaders of our Maison. We have a genuine culture of love at Saint Laurent; other brands may try to replicate it, but they don’t have our people.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I honestly don’t have a typical day. I set three priorities each quarter, and those are my main focuses to drive towards our ultimate goal. Any given day may have me supporting our team on the floor and meeting with clients, to attending social events, to flying to New York or Paris for meetings. It is part of what makes the job so very exciting and why I am so passionate about what I do! I meet every day as a challenge: an opportunity to learn and grow and ultimately to push toward providing my teams and our clients something unique and memorable.
What would you say are good qualities for Saint Laurent employees to have?
Empathy. This is something you cannot train someone to have. I can teach an employee how to sell...and the expectations of our Maison/clients. You cannot teach someone to truly care about another person, to make an impact on a client’s day, to give them something unique and memorable. This comes from within and it must be genuine. If you are able to [really] connect with a client, a coworker, or a new contact, success will come with focus and commitment. In our day and age, people long to be touched, to feel something, and to do this, you must be able to relate to another person on an emotional level. If a stylist is able to achieve that connection, then success will follow.
What's the best career advice you've ever received?
In order to build something great, you need to focus on the small things every day. You must first realize what your full potential is…consistency and commitment to your greater goal will focus your actions and one day you will become the extraordinary.
What is something unique about your work at Saint Laurent - or work in luxury goods - that others might not know about?
I think that our brand is unique in how involved our corporate team is with each of our stores and employees. They are true champions for each of us and push us to realize/achieve our full potential, think in a different way, and act as entrepreneurs. The world of luxury is often micro-managed and at Saint Laurent we respect our brand image/heritage and are able to build a business ourselves that drives innovation and ethos within our stores.
You worked for Saint Laurent during Hedi Slimane's creative direction, and now work for the brand under Anthony Vaccarello's. How would you say the aesthetics and brand have changed? Has the store experience changed?
I am always so interested when people ask me about this. First and foremost, we are the house of Saint Laurent. Over our extensive history we have seen many great designers hold tenure within our brand. Throughout the changes one thing has remained: the heritage of Saint Laurent. Anthony Vaccarello is a true visionary that speaks to the visions of Monsieur Saint Laurent and made it his own while responding to the epoch of the times. Saint Laurent has always been inspired by the street, music, art, and culture. This is what makes our brand so truly unique; we have never strayed from our roots and the ability to empower people through fashion, thus we are always authentic to ourselves, our heritage, and the world around us.
How has the Saint Laurent (or YSL) brand influenced your personal style?
To be honest, Saint Laurent has inspired me to be more true to myself. There is something about wearing our brand that gives a person confidence and sophistication with effortless ease. My entire wardrobe is filled with designers, but I always find myself going to Saint Laurent, even on my days off. Our brand speaks to the individual and is truly wearable on any occasion; Saint Laurent has become my personal and professional uniform. Once you experience our brand it becomes part of you and you a part of it.
What are your favorite business tools/resources, and why?
I am going to use a French saying that I learned from Ambassador Gerard Araud: “en France, on n’a pas de pétrole, mais on a des idées” (in France, we don’t have oil, but we have ideas). I find the most useful tools or resources are the ideas and passions of my team, my colleagues, and the people I meet. They bring new perspectives and inspirations that can challenge you personally and professionally. When I am able to take these, self-reflect, and learn, I [strive] to do better, make something different, and innovate in new ways.
As an employee and brand devotee, what would you say are some defining moments for the brand (be it through advertising, runway, et cetera) that have recently occurred?
Most recently, [it] would have to be the epic men’s show we presented in New York this past June. It was the first time we had a show outside of Paris and we really went all out, taking over the city. I was fortunate enough to attend and can tell you it was absolutely magical. The runway was done in such a way that the lights of Manhattan glimmered on the black marble, that the models looked as though they were walking on the Hudson. There was a true nod to the 1970s Studio 54 vibe and glamour and the parties that Monsieur Saint Laurent threw and attended. In my opinion, it is one of the best collections we have done since I joined the brand. This show and our last two women’s shows in Paris really brought the haute couture and heritage of the house alive and this something I think is rarely seen in fashion houses today. I can’t wait to see what the future holds and Anthony Vaccarello’s continued vision for our Maison.
Aaron Royce, 20, is a student and journalist with writing experience for print and online publications. His journalism interest began when he started reading back issues of Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and Vogue before entering high school; he was a co-editor for the school’s newspaper and arts magazine. Post-graduation, he attended Christopher Newport University before transferring to NOVA’s Annandale campus, where he is currently a sophomore pursuing a Communications major. He recently completed a summer as Northern Virginia Magazine’s style intern, and now writes for online publications and interns with ArtJamz Creative Director, RMCI Senior Designer and fashion blogger Anchyi Wei.