Margaret Molloy is the New York-based, global chief marketing officer at the renowned branding firm Siegel+Gale. A native of Ireland, and a Harvard Business School graduate, she is regarded as one of the most influential global marketing leaders and consistently appears on top CMO lists, including Forbes’ top CMOs on Twitter. Margaret was named by The Drum as the 2017 Marketer of the Year. A strategic marketer, she is a sought-after speaker and has published articles in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fast Company and beyond.
Margaret created #WearingIrish in March 2016 as a passion project to showcase Irish fashion designers. The movement is going from strength to strength with WearingIrish and Margaret receiving many accolades, including: Overseas Business Woman of the Year 2017 by Image magazine; 2017 Marketer of the Year by The Drum; Top 50 Power Women and Top 100 Irish Americans in Business in 2016 and 2017 by Irish America; and the 2018 Creativity and Arts awards for Fashion and Design by Irish Central. Recently we spoke with her about the event.
What are your own roots?
I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Offaly in rural Ireland and came to New York after college. I subsequently earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. Today, I’m the chief marketing officer (CMO) of Siegel+Gale, one of the world’s top branding agencies. I’m a member of the executive leadership team responsible for setting the firm’s growth strategy and orchestrating the execution of it. As CMO, I oversee all new business and marketing including public relations, social media, and new business sales pitches. Known as the simplicity company, Siegel+Gale has helped leading companies build great brands for over 40 years.
When and why did you first become interested in fashion?
From an early age, I’ve been interested in aesthetics. I appreciate beauty in all its executions. And fashion is an arena where everyone can express creativity daily in terms of the composition of what he or shewears. While my formal training is in business strategy, the interplay of creativity and strategy excites me. When you work at a branding firm, as I do, that awareness is heightened. I’m particularly interested in how fashion designers can build great brands with a loyal following. The magic for me happens when creative inspiration is underpinned with solid strategy and business acumen.
What is WearingIrish all about?
WearingIrish sets out to tell the world the untold story of contemporary Irish fashion and the makers behind it. It began as a social media experiment with #WearingIrish in 2016. This social media pilot captured global media attention. Most inspiring, however, was the impact it had on real people. Women and men posted photos of themselves on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #WearingIrish. It wasn’t about fashion models or paid influencers, it was real people showcasing Irish design in everyday situations.
What is the NYC event’s core mandate?
Having captured the imagination of consumers and influencers on both sides of the Atlantic via social media, WearingIrish, for the first time, has selected 10 designers to display their creations and meet influential members of the New York community. WearingIrish NYC 2018 is an invitation-only live event program featuring salons hosted by preeminent groups. The program runs May 15-17 and takes places at Bank of Ireland startlab, near Grand Central Terminal. Designers will benefit from access and exposure to the New York market and glean priceless market knowledge from direct consumer meetings.
How and when did this event come together?
The live event program is one canvas to tell the WearingIrish story. I curated a salon-style program to maximize the number of guests we can receive and to bring relevant perspectives. Salon hosts include Harvard Business School Women’s Association, Cornell University, Irish America Magazine Power Women, The Doneger Group, Omnicom and more. WearingIrish NYC 2018 is made possible by the generous support of Bank of Ireland, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through Ireland’s Consulate in New York, Tourism Ireland, CIE Tours, Invest Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Bureau and Enterprise Ireland.
What are the challenges involved?
This is a pilot program, so there are the expected operational challenges. I have deep expertise in events, so those hurdles are surmountable with the help of wonderful volunteers, advisors, and some budget from inspired sponsors. Ireland has a thriving base of designers, so selecting the participating designers was an important consideration. In February, we launched a competition to find 10 exceptional Irish designers to bring to New York. More than 170 applied for the coveted spots. I recruited a panel of more than 25 jurors to select the winners.
What are the rewards?
My most high-potential insight from WearingIrish in general, not limited to the event program in New York, is that the awareness of Irish fashion brands is very low and yet there is plenty of latent goodwill toward the concept of supporting Irish designers. Countless people contacted me to find out where to buy Irish designs. Many sent me messages thanking me for helping them discover Irish designers. I’m confident that there will be plenty of long-term rewards for everyone involved—from sponsors to designers to Ireland in general.
What excites you most about the reaction to WearingIrish?
I’m appreciative, motivated, and validated by how this simple WearingIrish concept has mobilized many supporters – from companies to individuals – to add their voice, resources, and influence to the conversation.
What makes a good piece/item of clothing/jewelry?
A good item must be intrinsically beautiful and well-crafted. Fit matters. Fabric matters. Composition matters. What separates a good piece from a great piece, however, is how the piece makes the wearer feel. Fashion goes beyond utility. Clothes have so much soft power because what we wear is the first image in our story. And every outfit gives the wearer the opportunity to craft a new story or build on an ongoing narrative.
What are your thoughts on the current state of fashion in Ireland?
Designers across the island of Ireland are producing world-class fashion, and yet few people outside of Ireland can name an Ireland-based designer. WearingIrish sets out to change that. A key objective of the WearingIrish platform, therefore, is to ignite a fresh conversation about Ireland’s capabilities in the fashion sector. Promoting design and fashion is a concrete way to demonstrate Ireland’s creativity and, when that happens, everyone wins.
What’s next on your agenda?
I am very ambitious for WearingIrish as a platform. It began with #WearingIrish on social media. Now, WearingIrish NYC 2018 is a signature live event. I am evaluating ideas for further programs and I’ve been approached by many groups interested in collaborations. The mission will stay constant – WearingIrish is a platform dedicated to championing Irish design and the makers behind the creations.