Kamilla Hemati, General Manager of Reiss, has worked in several countries including Sweden, Denmark, Dubai before coming to Hong Kong in 2013. Based in Hong Kong, Kamilla is leading a team of over 30 people, has expanded the business from one store to five stores, and assisted in the development of the Philippines, Australia and China markets. Kamilla has led the brand to a successful expansion since 2014, during a period when the retail market was struggling. She was also named manager of the year globally for Reiss in 2017.
How did you get into Fashion Retail?
I started my career selling fine jewelry and watches in Sweden and was headhunted by a CEO of a fashion brand. I decided to move to Dubai with Ralph Lauren 3 years later when the city was one of the fastest growing markets for luxury goods where I was a department manager responsible for retail, visual merchandising and attended buying trips in Milan.
Where did your career go from there?
I moved back to Denmark after spending two and a half years in Dubai and started working for Reiss. I was nominated to lead the Asia development of the brand which is when Reiss relocated me to Hong Kong. When I first arrived, Reiss had a store in IFC that we had just gotten back from our distributor. Since then, I have opened stores in Harbor City, Sogo, the Philippines as well as helping the Australia market. We are also opening in Shatin and Citygate. We have plans to relaunch menswear this year and introduce this part of the business to the Asia markets.
What kind of leader are you?
I would like to see myself as a strong motivator to the team. I like to bring in great energy and positive vibes to uplift everyone in the business. I want everyone to feel like they are motivated not just about their job but also various aspects of their lives when they wake up every day; and for them to understand that there’s always opportunities for them to grow within the business, just like the way I have developed my career.
Do you think it is easier to have work-life balance when you are in a leadership position?
In some sense, yes, it depends on what kind of a manager you are. I like to train and develop people, and give them full ownership of whatever they do. Of course, they will experience trials and errors leading to failure but I believe that’s the best way for them to learn. I believe a good leader should uplift everyone’s skill and be able to delegate tasks, so in a way you do achieve better work-life balance.
Fashion Retail is traditionally a female driven industry; do you think that makes it easier to achieve gender diversity?
I would say 50/50 because in the leadership team at our headquarters it is more male dominated. In Asia there are more female leaders because in the past we have only introduced womenswear in Asia. This year we have relaunched the menswear line and I believe this will help us in achieving a balanced number in leadership roles.
Does Reiss encourage gender diversity and what do you do to encourage working mums?
We absolutely welcome any gender in the business – for us it’s more about your capacity and potential. As a retail business, we always make sure there is enough manpower to cover an employee’s needs, whether it’s for a working mum, or people who have committed to different courses etc. It’s really about planning ahead.
Do you have any advice for working mums?
I think it’s important to develop a strong support system and infrastructure that makes it work for you, whether it is with your partner, family members or with your teammates. You should be realistic about what can be achieved, and not be afraid to ask for help at work and at the same time, understand that everyone has a busy schedule in life. Mutual respect and open communications are keys to any successful relationship at any stage of your life.
If you were to go back to the beginning of your career, what advice would you give yourself?
Planning! I was more impulsive when I was younger, and I was very eager and wanted to do everything and achieve as much as possible. Now I’m more mature and I focus on the important tasks. I understand now that you can’t do everything by yourself, and that’s why you must develop a strong support system.