The Height of Fashion
Kris Wilson finds her niche at home and in handbags
Photo by Wendy Carlson
Kris Wilson has come full circle. She grew up in Glens Falls, New York, surrounded by mountains, lakes, and beautiful vistas. She left all of that to work in New York City. There she forged her successful career and occasionally longed for the tranquility of her childhood. “My husband John and I spent summers in different places to see where we’d like to have a weekend house,” she explains. “The Hamptons were too hectic and too ‘New York,’ so we followed a friend’s suggestion and checked out Litchfield. We fell in love and found a house in Washington. So, here I am again—peaceful environment, lakes, vistas, and great people.”
In between those serene weekends, Wilson spends her days in the city, where she is president of Vince Camuto handbags. She joined the Camuto Group four years ago, the latest move in an extraordinary career in the fashion business. “I had a strong creative knack as a child,” says Wilson. “I was always making things out of shoeboxes. At camp I was making wallets and belts with hand tools. But I got my degree in psychology—a far cry from the fashion business. Funnily enough, I find my psychology background handy in my business. It all kind of works together.”
Wilson began her foray into the fashion world with the Ralph Lauren organization. She became manager of the home department in one of the stores. “And then I got a call from Olin Lancaster, who is now president of Polo Brands. He asked if I would be interested in coming to work for him in the children’s division where I would learn about wholesale. And I loved that aspect of the business, forging relationships with buyers, learning the regional differences one had to consider, about forecasting and how to run an open-to-buy.”
Wilson herself could pass for a model. Whether she is in jeans and a cashmere sweater walking in the country or in a perfect black dress for a night in the city, she is always impeccably turned out. And, of course, she has the perfect bag and shoes for every outfit. And Wilson is always looking for the next challenge. “I had spent time at Nine West, the footwear company, and learned all about that business,” Wilson says. “So when I eventually got an offer to oversee the footwear brands at Camuto I jumped at it.”
The next stop was handbags. “Just as I had settled into footwear, Camuto wanted to bring handbags in-house again and asked me to run the division. It also includes wallets for men and women.” While the world of accessories doesn’t stage the elaborate fashion shows associated with clothes, there are seasons and market weeks to consider.
“We have four markets a year in handbags,” she explains. “There are two that overlap with the big categories of apparel and footwear and those occur in February and August. They give us the opportunity to see an entire look from head to toe. We can compare colorings and tones and have a cohesive idea of new trends.”
She adds: “We look at runways, and we still watch the street to see what the younger set is wearing and carrying. Social media has made a huge difference and impacted how fast we can spot a new trend. With Instagram, we can see what’s happening all over the world. This fall the ’70s look is hot for handbags as is suede with tassels and woven trim.” As a brand ambassador for Camuto, Wilson will be adding to her extensive collection of shoes and bags. And those who love fashion will follow her lead.
Wilson studies fabrics, upholstery, graphic designs for ideas. “The texture and color of stone walls—Connecticut has the best stone walls!”