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Q&A with Karen Reuther, Vice President, Creative, VF’s Global Innovation Center

Tags: Strategy & Innovation Life at VF

Q&A with Karen Reuther, Vice President, Creative, VF’s Global Innovation Center

December 1, 2016

Listening to the voices of consumers around the world, and translating those insights into industry-leading, brand-driving, inspiring products and experiences is what motivates Karen Reuther.

Reuther joined VF in June as Vice President, Creative, at the company’s Global Innovation Centers (GIC) in Dover, New Hampshire. She brought with her more than 25 years of experience in the apparel business and a deep curiosity for design and technology.

LeClair

Location: Dover, New Hampshire

Fun Fact: I am a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan and still remind
myself a few times a day that they did it! 

Favorite VF brand product: At the moment it’s the Timberland®
Carleton Suede Boot, in every color.

One word to describe herself: Designer

In her role, Reuther works with brand and consumer strategists, designers, material specialists, engineers and scientists. The team combines proprietary insights with consumers’ needs and a solid understanding of technology and new materials to help VF’s global portfolio of brands create products that delight their consumers.

What is a typical day like for you?

I’m spending a lot of time listening and learning about the capabilities of our Innovation team and the expectations and desires of the brands we support. We’re focused on what the brands stand for and what consumers care about. Our goal is to understand how we can manifest our creativity, while meeting consumers’ needs.

How difficult is it to work on different brands?

Innovation for The North Face® is different than innovation for Vans®. The challenge is being able to work on a shoe for Vans one day and shifting back to work on a boot for Timberland® the next. Our role is to understand the uniqueness and the authenticity of our brands. They are rich brands with amazing legacies, and the good news is that our consumer’s ongoing desire for innovation gives us a rich palette to design from. For us, it’s about delivering platforms to the brands that suit their needs and developing innovation that can be scaled across VF.

What makes VF such a unique company?

People are open to learning new processes and welcome the opportunity to share experiences. Although there are a lot of long-tenured associates here, VF is good about attracting associates from diverse backgrounds and professions. Whenever I meet someone, I’m curious about their experiences and their expertise. It makes for a good working environment.

How important is collaboration to the process?

What we’ve set up within the Innovation team is special. We welcome people to stop in and spend a day with us to learn about what we do and how we can support them. The power is in the collective, and we welcome the opportunity for people to be curious and ask questions. Sometimes in our more risk adverse or busy world, we tend to push that to the side. But, that’s ultimately our competitive advantage at VF.

How does the current retail landscape challenge you?

At the GIC, our role is to deliver and delight. We want to offer indispensable and disruptive designs. It’s about elevating design and understanding the value of design-led brands that connect to the hearts and minds of our consumers. There is a lot of noise today, but being more focused allows people to connect with our brands through great products, great design and great experiences. I think it’s a game changer.

What piece of advice has guided you in your career?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is to lead by example. For me, I learn by rolling up my sleeves and doing the work, and I stress the importance of that to my team. The work we do is rapidly changing, but that is both a challenge and an opportunity.