(By Gary Krantz) Mark Weber spent 40 years in the fashion industry, rising through the ranks to become CEO (and member of the executive committee in Paris) of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH Inc.) and of Philips-Van-Heusen, owner of the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands.
His experiences have given him a unique perspective on the art of success, no matter what business you’re in or where you’re starting from. Those stories and insights are central to his radio show, Always in Fashion, which airs on Cumulus stations WABC and WNBM/New York. Plans are in place for syndication, as well as for Cumulus New York’s OG Podcast Network, a group of independent podcasters who have been brought together under one umbrella to provide a variety of content ranging from the utterly ridiculous to the most intensely intellectual.
Krantz: Give us the short version of your amazing journey to the top of the
Weber: I wasn’t supposed to have this career. I began in the projects in New York, in really humble beginnings. But I had an intense desire to be successful. I did something that’s very important: I paid attention in school. I learned a great deal.
My first job was at Phillips-Van-Heusen; they own brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy
Hilfiger. I started as a clerk. I became a president, board member, and eventually CEO. Then I joined the largest luxury conglomerate in the world, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy. I ran multiple brands for them.
I spent a great deal of time traveling, learning, seeing, and making lives better for people. I wrote two books, lessons you can take away from my experiences. Then I thought about being on radio — and here I am.
Krantz: After 40-plus years in the fashion industry, why radio?
Weber: I’ve always been a huge admirer of radio, going back to Bob Grant and other greats. Howard Stern had an impact because he entertained me. These people left an impression because they made me smarter, helped me look at the world differently. I’ve always driven to work, and I started listening to Talk radio. The more I listened, the more I learned. I realized that based on my desire to teach people what I’ve learned along the way, I felt that I could be on radio and make an impact.
Krantz: How did Always in Fashion get to WABC?
Weber: When I decided to try radio, I realized I didn’t know anything about the industry. I was offered a chance to go into their studios to create demo tapes and see what we could do. And frankly, I was so bad! I went home and practiced. WABC made me feel at home, put good engineers in front of me who were willing to help me.
The people I met the first week made it clear that I was on the right track. [VP/ Market Manager] Chad Lopez knows as much about radio as anyone; he’s willing to be innovative. [Assistant PD] Matt Dahl is a genius when it comes to programming and production. We often re-record based on what he has to say. [Program Director] Craig Schwalb knows what works and what doesn’t work. He’s taught me a lot. And [Director of Sales] Glen Tacinelli, who organized the sales team to support my efforts. So my experience with WABC led me to believe this could be a very rewarding chapter.
Krantz: Tell us about the show.
Weber: The show is about the business of fashion, but much more than that. It is about helping people find their own success, and teaching them to be interesting. We try to make the stories entertaining, to have fun for myself and fun for the audience.
Krantz: You’ve interviewed some incredible guests at the Cumulus “Stage 17” studios in New York.
Weber: I’ve had so many — Tommy Hilfiger, Joseph Abboud, and John Varvatos. I asked Tommy Hilfiger, “How do you feel about being so popular?” And he said, “What it taught me is to keep changing my product,
keep raising the bar.”
I’ve talked to the CEO of Barney’s. I speak to CEOs, designers, people that my audience would be interested in learning from, how they got to be successful, because the show is about helping people find their way. I didn’t intern at Fortune 500 companies. I started with nothing except desire, and I make sure we talk about how my guests became who they are. We discuss lessons that apply to any industry. My guests are from retail, luxury, manufacturing, consulting, banking.
Krantz: You have brought several big fashion brands in as sponsors, generating over $1 million since you hit the air, all of them new sponsors who have never advertised on radio. How did this happen, and are they happy with the results?
Weber: It’s a collaborative effort. I work closely with the Cumulus New York sales team. Chad Lopez and Glen Tacinelli assigned an experienced AE to work with me. His name is John Tyanski. He’s one of the smartest, most aggressive, and most amiable people I have worked with. This guy wants to win, he believes in the show, and he’s there for me and has been there for me every step of the way to follow up and build a great marketing plan for our advertisers.
We go on the calls together. After I have spoken in advance to my fashion-industry colleagues, I tell them that John’s going to call them, and he’s the one who goes in there and talks about the powers of radio, talks about the reach of WABC, and he’s the one that closes the deal. So together we work very well, we are a good team.
Krantz: I hear syndication is on the horizon. How’s that going to change the focus
of the show, if at all?
Weber: The message I deliver — on how to be successful — is universal, it’s not just aimed at New York. I’ve spent my career around the world, and traveling in almost every state. This show will play nationwide.
Krantz: If you had a different career path, what would you be doing?
Weber: I’ve always been fascinated by cars — and they’re dull and boring. I want to pull my hair out. I can go to the auto industry tomorrow and shake that place up, change the look of all those SUVs. It’s the same as being in fashion. You have a product that consumers want. The “fashion” of that product matters, the engineering matters, the way it works with consumers matters. You have to interest the consumer market and advertise to them. So, if left to my own devices way back when, I would have gone to the auto industry.
Krantz: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Weber: Starting out, you first need a desire to win and the recognition that you can be successful. That’s all I had when I began. But more importantly, you have to be curious. Whatever job you’re doing, learn it and do it well. And all the other jobs surrounding you, you should be interested in too, curious about how they impact what you’re doing. You’re building your skill set. Based on my own life and career, there’s nothing more important than learning and being curious.
And that’s the backdrop I think you need to make it on radio — or to make it in life.
Gary Krantz is the CEO and Founder of The Krantz Media Group, KMG Networks and KMG Music. He can be reached at [email protected]