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Conversations with the Inspiring Kelly Helfman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Helfman.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kelly. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My grandmother was a seamstress and then as a child, my mother owned a vintage clothing store in LA. We used to spend our weekends buying for the store at estate sales, the goodwill, salvation army and garage sales, I was taught how to have the “eye” for a good piece from a very early age. Working at our store is how I learned the basics of retail, wholesale, markups, budgets, etc. Throughout college, I worked a number of retail jobs to continue in the world I loved. After graduating from the University of Arizona in 2003, I started my own clothing line called: KWEEN by Kelly Markiewicz (maiden name). The line was a collection of tops, dresses, and bottoms that were inspired by some of my favorite vintage pieces I had collected over the years. I was in a great showroom with kitchy brands like Heathrette (remember them?!) and Megan Fabulous. The line was a success but such a hustle. Everything I made went right back into to producing the next line. Making the line in LA was not cheap. I can relate to those brands now making their lines domestically and having to compete with brands made overseas at a much cheaper cost.

While working on Kween, a family friend mentioned an opening at MAGIC. Of course, I knew of MAGIC and the sound of a corporate position with a steady income sounded dreamy. So, in 2006, I interviewed for an entry-level position as a Customer Service Rep for WWDMAGIC and got the job. Here I am, 12 years later. The Vice President and Brand Director of four of our major women’s shows… WWDMAGIC, POOL Tradeshow, AccessoriesTheShow, and FAME. These 4 shows brands I oversee are both in Las Vegas and New York, totaling 12 shows a year.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The ride has been such an interesting one. I come from an interesting perspective… not a business owner, but how to move up at a corporate company. At some points, it was smooth and other it was rocky. I remember when I was just a couple years into the job, the owner of a major brand was yelling at me about his booth location. I had a good cry at the show that day. Then again, it is the most rewarding job as you are a part of these designers success stories. At our show, brands can write that major order with an A-tier retailer which will change their lives. All jobs have their ups and downs. If you think otherwise, you will forever be leaving jobs and starting new ones. It is like dating. There were times when someone else got the promotion I thought I deserved or the category of business I wanted to work on, but in the end, doing other jobs and working on different areas of the business made me a more well-rounded employee and leader. It just takes patience. You need to earn the promotion by doing the work, being accountable and having patience. Listen to your manager’s feedback. You may not agree at that moment in time or be hurt by what they are saying, but some of the constructive criticism I received from past boss’ made me evolve to the VP I am today. I was so patient guys. In 12 years, I worked my way up from customer service rep to VP. It took a great attitude, hard work, dedication, and patience. Be willing to put in the work and time. Last thing, never be afraid to ask for more if you think you can handle it. The worst they can say is “no.”

What should we know about WWDMAGIC? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I oversee a large portion of UBM Fashion’s women’s tradeshows which include WWDMAGIC, AccessoriesTheShow, Fame and POOL Tradeshow. These equal a total of 12 events a year in both NYC and Las Vegas. Ultimately our shows are where designers sell their collections to the retail stores at wholesale. The brands take a booth (varies in sizes) at the show and bring their newest collections for the upcoming seasons, the stores then attend the show and put in their orders. Buyers want to touch and feel the product they will be selling in their stores. It is also a great opportunity for stores to find new brands. MAGIC is a B to B event, connecting the brands with the buyers. In my role, I merchandise the show floor by placing our brands in their booth spaces. It is like merchandising a store, It needs to make sense. You cannot have $10 denim next to $100 denim. I create the look and feel of our shows, activations, experiential marketing, exhibitor and retail programs, etc. I launch new neighborhoods for our retailers to shop like beauty or gifts as they are becoming relevant in our market. We continuously need to enhance the shows and create a successful experience for our brands and retailers. I, of course, also have to do the behind the scenes work like managing the P&L, creating 3-year strategy plans and all that fun stuff. I am pretty proud to say that WWDMAGIC is the largest women’s fashion tradeshow in the US. It has the most diverse selection of ready-to-wear and accessories brands, almost 600 total! Some noteworthy exhibitors include Free People, Seychelles, BB Dakota, Miss Me and many more.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
To be punctual, patient and accountable while also showing confidence. And dress the part (sort of a fashion tip).

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.ubmfashion.com
  • Email: kelly.helfman@ubm.com
  • Instagram: @GreyDahl is my personal and shows are @WWDMAGIC @POOLTRADESHOW

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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