In recognition of Women’s History Month, MR continues our tribute to successful Women in Menswear. Here, Alison Mangaroo, co-founder, creative director, and designer of Paisley & Gray talks about creativity and work/life balance.
How has being a woman in the menswear business impacted your career?
In the early days, while the boys spent their time partying and socializing, I was working long hours behind the scenes to gain recognition and respect.
Have male or female mentors been more impactful in your career?
In my 28-year career in fashion, female mentors and bosses have had the most impact when it comes to structure and organization. Generally, they’ve been much better at the planning process, setting calculated goals and assisting their team to achieve them. But when it comes to taking risks and going outside of your comfort zone, the men have shown me how great the reward can be when a smart impulse pays off.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a mentor?
When I started buying in ‘97, I worked for Stefani Greenfield – it was like a six-month crash course! She was getting ready to open her first Scoop store and needed someone to take over buying for Atrium. She took me under her wing; it was intense and felt like Buying Boot Camp. She was regimental and tough, but a very hard worker with an incredible vision. She shared with me her thoughts on every decision she made which truly helped me learn the business. She taught me to always trust your gut and not let anyone sway you, advice that has served me well over the years.
What advice would you give to women entering the industry today?
Determine what your goals are and stay focused on what you want to achieve. Be creative and don’t let people put you down because you have an idea that’s outside their comfort zone. Many bosses will only take a risk if it’s their idea, but once you’ve seen some of their “great ideas” fail, you’ll gain more confidence to believe in your own.
Do you prefer working for men or women?
This is a challenging question as many of the women I’ve worked for have taught me a lot but have been controlling and regimental. The men, on the other hand, have been less structured and easier going but nonetheless successful. And they’ve made sure to have a lot more fun along the way.
However, as far as having a business partner verses a boss, I much prefer to partner with a man. I feel the balance of a strong male mind with a strong female mind focused on the same goal is a very powerful combination.
Do you prefer hiring men or women? Why?
Hiring is more about the maturity level than gender. If job candidates are driven and love what they do, they’ll be great employees.
What would you do differently if you could start your career over?
I would have believed in myself at a much younger age and showed more confidence.
Are you happy with your work/life balance?
Paisley & Gray is an extension of my personality so in my head I’m always working. But Covid has helped remind not to feel guilty taking time for myself and my family. During the first few months of Covid, I was fully remote and sharing a workspace with my teenage daughter Dylan. We worked around each other’s zoom schedules and took afternoon walks together. She got to witness the passion that I have for what I do, as I was literally designing on the dining room table. Now that life is getting back to normal, I make sure I get home earlier and don’t spend all weekend on my computer. Work-life balance is so much easier when you have a great kid!
What in your career are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of being instrumental in conceptualizing and building Paisley & Gray from the ground up. Conceived as a young men’s lifestyle brand, my goal was to give men a chance to have fun with their wardrobes, to build outfits that help them feel good about themselves, gain confidence and stand tall.
My love and passion for the brand is what drives me, and my goal is to continue to build it into a household name and add a women’s collection sometime soon.