Martina Brown is vice president brand at Schiesser AG, responsible for brand and communications at the German lingerie company founded in 1875. Apart from a brief stint at Villeroy & Boch in her early career, she has worked mostly within the lingerie industry at Falke Wolford, Aubade, and Wolford. She discusses the changes in the industry and the qualities she is looking for in job candidates in this interview.

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Ms Brown, what is it like as a woman in a leadership position in your industry?

That’s a huge quota, I believe. In my career in the lingerie business, I have always seen a high percentage of women. In the fashion industry, isn’t it often the case that the proportion of women is generally high, but then the management is made up of mostly men – I’m thinking of Victoria’s Secret, a prominent worst case scenario in recent years. These structures have been shaken up by the #MeToo movement, I believe. But you need to see it in the right context. It is around 200 years since the beginning of the women’s movement in Europe, and in America. It’s amazing how much has changed since then. However, we still have a lot to do.

That’s the sociologist talking, isn’t it?

Although I studied sociology, political and cultural sciences in Tubingen, Paris, and Bruges, I also worked as a side-sector worker in the textile industry. When I was done with my studies, it became clear to me which career I wanted. Analyzing people’s behavior is what fascinates me, regardless of whether they are choosing the right party or the clothes they wear. My Francophilia and French language skills have been highly valued in this industry. Falke was fortunate to have an open-minded HR manager who offered me a job, even though I had no marketing or fashion experience. It is important to be open to people from other backgrounds and to have discussions with people from different fields, if possible. In the marketing industry, I consider lateral entrants to be an unavoidable benefit.

Your career was strongly focused on lingerie and underwear. How has the industry evolved since you began?

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Since I’ve been in the industry, innovation cycles have accelerated beyond belief. The product side has seen a lot of innovation in the past generation. It could be invisible and seamless products or fabric development, or even sustainability. A new awareness has emerged about how to manage the environment and its resources. The relationship between women’s bodies and the environment has changed on the consumer side. Body positivity can be described as a visual language. Women want to be happy with themselves and let go of old ideas. It is becoming less common to discriminate against any group. This is a positive development for me.

You have been at Schiesser for just under a year. What are your goals for the brand division?

My goal is to inspire new target groups for Schiesser based on the brand’s historical heritage and tradition. Our products are loved by the Baby Boomer generation, and some parts of Gen X. After the lockdown, the spring/summer 2022 collection was released. This new visual language celebrates joy and carefreeness. We have collaborated with Noah Becker to make this collection more appealing to Gen Z and millennials. Schiesser is also committed to its core values of sustainability, quality, and reliability.

What can you do to encourage them?

I try to be available for my teams to share everything. I value feedback and take it seriously. I try to be patient and share my knowledge and experience. You can see their progress if you believe in them and value them. This is especially true if you encourage, support, and give them perspective.