Arts & Entertainment
Scroll through the blog posts and stories below to learn more about Hamilton student and alumni experiences in this industry. Finally, meet with your career advisor and explore the Career Center curriculum to learn how to network with alumni to discuss your interests and learn more about their work.
Arts & Entertainment Blog
Q&A with DÔEN president Holly Soroca ’97
By Holly Soroca ’97
March 6, 2023
Tags Arts & Entertainment
I grew up in a family of fashion and theater, both passions of mine to this day. I get to experience the magic of both daily in the magnetic culture of New York City, where I live with my husband and three sons. I have worked in the fashion industry for over 25 years, with an unwavering goal of prioritizing a culture of women supporting women. My weekends are spent out and about – on a field or a court – cheering along my incredibly sporty sons. I am thrilled to be president of DÔEN. Founded in 2015, DÔEN’s mission is to create lasting, beautiful collections while supporting women-identifying individuals in all aspects of our organization, supply chain, and community.
What was the process like to get where you are now in your career?
From a business perspective, the fashion industry has a few major paths: the retail side, the brand side, and the editorial side. After graduating from Hamilton with a major in economics I went right into the executive training program at Saks Fifth Avenue. I like to say this was the equivalent of going to business school in the fashion world. It was an incredible program that gave me the fundamentals needed to become a buyer, and it ultimately opened the door to so many opportunities in the industry. I would highly recommend any of the major buying training programs for anyone looking to get into the buying, merchandising, or planning side of fashion. I spent the early part of my career as a buyer, but moved to the brand side where I had the opportunity to see the business from a completely different perspective. I became the vice president of sales at Theory where I was responsible for running their wholesale business, including managing the business for major retailers like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Saks. I continued on the brand side at a few different companies (Joie and FRAME) and began to focus more on direct-to-consumer and how we could speak more directly to the customer. Over the next twenty years, I opened over 30 retail stores, launched and developed e-commerce businesses and expanded into global markets. Each role throughout my career has organically introduced me to the next. Creating these important relationships along the way has been my biggest asset. My strongest word of advice is to start building those relationships from day one and never burn bridges. Successful leaders like to bring their teams along with them. Once you create strong working relationships with people who have a proven history of success, you want to bring them with you on the next journey. I have employees who have worked for me for over a decade and come with me everywhere I go. The founders of DÔEN and I worked together building the business at Joie. Years later they decided to launch their own female-run, direct-to-consumer lifestyle brand, and I am immensely proud to have joined the company in 2021 as their first President.
What excites you most about your career?
After more than 25 years in the industry, I still feel like I am learning every day. The way we interact with the consumer, the data that we can access, even the way we actually produce the clothes, continues to evolve and change. Working in such a dynamic industry, with beautiful products and passionate teams, continues to make it exciting. One day I might be deep in budgets and spreadsheets and the next I am in the design studio looking at garment samples and putting together assortments of products. I love that my career allows me to be so intimately involved with both the financial and creative sides of the business.
How did Hamilton help prepare you for your career?
I was an economics major at Hamilton so the natural path would be to go into finance. I had grown up with extremely entrepreneurial parents who owned clothing stores so I knew about the fashion industry from their perspective. But I didn’t know that buying training programs for the major department stores existed and were the perfect balance of business and fashion. The liberal arts education at Hamilton gave me a strong foundation and made me much more versatile in the workplace. Knowing how to think strategically was so much more valuable than if I had gone to a larger school and majored in fashion merchandising. I was also a theater minor at Hamilton and a member of Special K. The ability to perform with confidence in front of large audiences gave me an extraordinary amount of confidence throughout my career.
What are some important experiences to have or skills to attain before you enter this field?
My first piece of advice when speaking with graduates wanting to go into the fashion industry is do not go into an interview and say, “I have just always loved fashion” or “I really love clothes.” The fashion industry is a business that is multi-faceted and a passion for fashion just isn’t enough to secure a spot at any company. I always look for candidates with previous fashion experience, whether it is working in a retail store or interning with a brand, retailer, agency or magazine. Coming into an interview with an understanding of the different roles and opportunities in fashion is crucial so you can clearly articulate why you are choosing this path beyond just “liking clothes.”