Oakley's Former VP Global Merchandising Visits FIDM

March 14, 2017

Most recently the VP of Global Merchandising for Oakley, Jesse Garcia has a passion for product, retail and fashion. Students in the Premier Merchandise Product Development group were recently treated to a visit from this global leader who has held merchandising positions at Armani Exchange, GAP, Banana Republic, and French Connection, in Milan, New York, and Los Angeles.

He spoke to the students about his experience in global product development, merchandising, and product strategies. When asked what areas of fashion he recommends pursuing, he suggested sports performance brands. They are growing, and it’s an exciting time considering the development and innovations in technical fabrics. He also said beauty is a great industry to go into, with huge opportunities in makeup and cosmetics.

He started in retail at Old Navy as a high school student before transferring to Banana Republic, then GAP as a visual manager at the flagship store in New York City, while attending grad school at night.

Searching for something new, he took a position at French Connection as the Visual Manager for all of New York City where he gained experience with corporate visual. A corporate level position opened up at French Connection as Assistant Merchandiser, and because he knew the customer so well, he was able to sell himself into the role.

He stayed at French Connection for five years and was promoted from assistant to associate, traveling to London. He was then promoted to buyer, specifically for retail, doing all three channels: 44 full price stores, 11 outlets, and the website.

His direct supervisor was the Divisional Merchandise Manager, who is still a great mentor of his to this day. He still asks for her advice when making career decisions.

Five years into his career at French Connection, GAP recruited him back to join their international team. In his first year, he opened 75 locations in 18 countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, determining customer needs and tailoring the North American line to suit them.

He traveled to 30 countries with the GAP. “I was always on an airplane. I have probably been to 70% of the malls in those countries.”

Next, he received a call from an Armani Exchange recruiter, asking him to come over as a director. They loved his international experience. He took the job and went into new markets, tailoring product assortment specifically for those markets. He was overseeing all of menswear for Armani Exchange, taking on North America as well. It wasn’t long before he took on womenswear.

Armani decided to move the design team to Milan. So he spent half his time in Milan and half in New York. They promoted him to a vice president.

One and a half years ago, he was recruited by Oakley to move to the West Coast to be their VP of Global Merchandising & North America Buying. But, as business decisions go, Oakley decided, six months later, to move their merchandising team to Milan and their buying team to Mason, Ohio.

Jesse decided to stay in Los Angeles, and is now looking for his next new opportunity, which created an excellent chance for FIDM students to meet him face-to-face and hear his inspiring story of success.

Categories: Merchandising & Marketing, Merchandise Product Development