Don’t let her 5-foot, three-inch frame fool you; Julie Macklowe is a powerhouse. By the age of 30, this savvy investor was running her own $250 million hedge fund after stints at Chase Capital Management and SAC, happily married with a beautiful daughter, and known on the fashion circuit for her outrageous sense of style.
After spending 12 years in finance, she recently closed Macklowe Asset Management to pursue her real passion: Investments in emerging entrepreneurs in the fashion industry.
She made her first investment in Bauble Bar, a site that sells jewelry directly from suppliers and designers, and then shifted her efforts from fashion financier to entrepreneur in her own right. After having her products confiscated by TSA while traveling to Europe for a friend’s wedding, she developed the idea of an “it kit” for the woman-on-the-go, which would eventually become vbeauté. She partnered with CRB High Performance Lab of Geneva to develop and launch the innovative skin care line
"I guess it’s like my personality, a little bit crazy, taking risks, right? I mean you have to be somewhat crazy to go start a beauty company from running a hedge fund. "
Becca Cason Thrash recently hosted a luncheon for Macklowe where I had the opportunity to chat with her for a few minutes on everything from finance to fashion and beauty:
CultureMap: What prompted you to make the transition from finance to fashion?
Julie Macklowe: I always enjoyed betting on management teams and betting on companies and was very interested with the idea of how companies were run. So when I came up with this idea I felt like eh, may try it, why not?
I had just invested in Bauble Bar — they were very inspirational. They are this jewelry company —two girls out of HBS (Harvard Business School) — and I was like sounds like a good idea. Why not?
CM: What attracted you to Bauble Bar? Did the fact that these two women had a background in finance help?
JM: They had a great concept about this idea of working with designers and helping them source better and doing an Internet model which a lot of traditional jewelry designers don’t have the ability to do. I thought the business model was very interesting and hadn’t been done.
CM: What do you look for in emerging entrepreneurs from an investment perspective?
JM: Obviously everything is very competitive these days so, are they passionate? Are they talented? Do they have the ability to execute? I think there are a lot of great ideas and a lot of people who don’t necessarily execute through. So you want to have somebody who can execute.
CM: You have made a name for yourself in the fashion world for your “amazing sense of luxury” and fearlessness. How would you describe your personal style and what influences you most?
JM: I guess it’s like my personality, a little bit crazy, taking risks, right? I mean you have to be somewhat crazy to go start a beauty company from running a hedge fund. I have always approached fashion with this idea that its wearable art, and I like to wear things that I feel like, frankly, are more statement pieces that take risks. They make me feel like I’m in something unique.
And when I look at fashion — I am on the Costume Institute’s Committee — you can look at any period piece, there is this fascination with how they acted, what they did, what their social life was like. Ball gowns have always been fascinating to me because I think it says a lot about pop culture. No one demonstrates that better than Lady Gaga.
"It’s funny, as I get older the gowns get shorter and tighter. When I was younger I really had a fascination with the big ball gowns."
JM: It’s just lucky that I happened to collect the right ones. I’m waiting for that seven years which is when I am told I can re-wear them. That’s unfortunately coming up for some of those gowns. It’s funny, as I get older the gowns get shorter and tighter. When I was younger I really had a fascination with the big ball gowns.
CM: How has your skill set as an analyst and portfolio manager helped you towards your entrepreneurship?
JM: Invaluable. When I think about going out to raise money, putting together a business plan, building a detailed financial model and presenting it to investors . . . I don’t think I could have done it. Even the decision to go in certain doors and not in other doors — was made by [asking] can we be profitable but be partners with the retailers where we will both succeed? That was very critical when deciding to partner with certain ones vs. others. I always tell people that you can’t underestimate those skills. They are lifelong skills.
CM: What is next for you? Is there a particular aspect of the industry you want to focus on?
JM: This is next. We are launching new products…We are on the road Wednesday through Sunday. We’re launching into nine doors plus Bergdorf’s and a bunch of boutiques. It’s a full time endeavor. What’s next is I guess having a few extra hours to spend with my family.
CM: Your fearlessness, savviness and work ethic is a true inspiration. What is your advice to women aspiring to achieve your level of success?
JM: I always had two philosophies when I was younger. One is, you always want to get the skill set that gives you the most optionality later. So when I was at Goldman Sachs or when I was then in private equity I would work 24 hours, seven days a week but I always felt like I was getting great skills from very smart people that would serve me later. I think it’s, frankly, just doing it.
"A lot of people you meet in life push paper, and they have ideas, and they are great but if you don’t execute those ideas they’re sort of worthless."
A lot of people you meet in life push paper and they have ideas, and they are great, but if you don’t execute those ideas they’re sort of worthless.
I think it’s if you believe in something and you feel passionate about it, it’s just believing in it enough to keep going. Nothing is easy. Almost anything worth having takes some effort. You have to stick with it if you want it to work out.
Julie Macklowe is doing just that; she is in the stores where her product is being sold, making personal appearances and giving demonstrations. She is incredibly hands on with vbeauté, and she has set aggressive goals and intends to meet them. Her fierce determination was inspiring to me, and after chatting with her I’m pretty convinced there isn’t much she can’t do.
vbeauté is available in Houston at Tootsies and online at Nordstrom.com.
Lindley Arnoldy writes the fashion and style blog The Flip Side.