My Mentors/8: Federica, a Visionary Woman

Lucia Pasqualini (October 06, 2016)
An honoree of the Columbus Citizens Foundation for 2016, Federica Marchionni is the CEO of the clothing retailer Lands’ End and has previously served as President of Dolce & Gabbana USA. Here her friend and former Vice Consul in New York describes some unique traits of her personality.

When I think back to my childhood, I realize that I was never pushed to think big or dream beyond my boundaries. When I announced that I wanted to become a diplomat, most of the comments were discomforting and discouraging. Nevertheless, I never listened

to them and studied very hard without questioning my chances of passing a quite dif cult exam. I realize now that the hardest part of realizing your dreams is believing in yourself beyond any rational criteria. It is something

I hadn’t pondered much before meeting Federica Marchionni, whose vision and lucidity expanded my self-awareness.

Meeting Federica

I had been living in New York for almost a year when one day I received a phone call from an Italian friend who asked me if I had met the new head of Dolce
& Gabbana USA. My friend had heard nice things about her and had been trying to get in touch with her. That was the rst time I heard about Federica.
I met Federica over dinner with a mutual friend a few months after her arrival in New York. She was all smiles and friendliness with everybody, and exuded enthusiasm and eagerness to know everything. She was impeccably dressed and perfectly at ease.

That rare gift of listening Federica is a curious person. She has that rare gift of listening attentively to everybody and seeing immediately new and different options. This is a quality that I noted from the very rst moment we met.

She rapidly became an active member of the Italian community, even that which lies beyond New York. Surprisingly, for a person from the world
of fashion and luxury, she proved open towards all sorts of milieus. I witnessed this attitude rsthand during a lunch for the Italian–American Chamber of Commerce. We were having a conversation, and I told her about a project I was working on with the Metropolitan Opera to implement Italian subtitles for Italian operas.

I did it with no ulterior motives, yet her sincere interest in the project surprised me and prompted me to action. She told me that the D&G collection for the upcoming season was inspired by the world of opera and that it might be a good idea to support the initiative. At the same time she was frank with me: she would rst have to consult with the designers to support such an initiative. Federica ultimately managed to persuade the designers, who wound up making the biggest contribution in support of the project. When she called me to give me the good news, I couldn’t believe it. She had kept her promise, as she always does. I am perfectly aware that a company as big as D&G would never have supported us had my and Federica’s paths not crossed. I have frequently thought back on that casual talk which began our friendship.

Empowering other women

After that, we became much closer. She lived a few blocks away, and our children attended the same neighborhood school, Scuola d’Italia G. Marconi. My children became friends with her son Gabriele, and our families spent evenings and holidays together. We shared the common experience of working mothers who try to balance different priorities and responsibilities day in and day out. She was always supportive, and I was happy to refer my Chinese babysitter to her on weekends or whenever she needed.

Thanks to her distinctive and inclusive approach, Federica rapidly became an active member of many institutions in New York, especially those that support other women, being herself a true advocate of other women. That is another quality that sets Federica apart; she truly believes in empowering other women. That is what she did with me in the three years we spent together in New York, by her example and advice.

A true mentor

What has always struck me about her is her profound self-awareness and con dence. Federica would proudly recount her humble origins and her clear and extraordinary vision about the goals she set for herself back when she attended university. She had always dreamed of working in the US and achieving a position of leadership. Her long service to D&G is an inspired story in which intelligence meets audacity, courage, and style. Federica has always been able to seize on opportunities and pave a way to achieve her goals. I was not shocked when she was appointed CEO of Lands’ End. Her incommensurable generosity and gratitude also had a great in uence on her life.

Federica has always been a kind and honest con dante in moments of dif culty. I remember during one conversation complaining about something that had not worked out as I had expected. She wisely told me, “Lucia, you must thank God every day for the gifts you have received and have mercy! You are incredibly lucky, never forget it!” Federica opened my eyes that day, so that I saw life from a different perspective. Her advice was always sincere, and sometimes quite frank, but it always pushed me to grow professionally and personally.

Once I was very upset and she did not console me as I had expected. She acted asatruementor.Shefocused herattentiononhowIwas mistaken and suggested I change my attitude. It was not exactly what I wanted to hear in that moment, yet she was right. That has always been her approach to becoming a better person and an exceptional professional. I thought hard about that conversation and was happy that nothing had changed between us. Neither has anything changed after she assumed her new responsibilities at Lands’ End. Federica remains the same person. Despite being much busier, she is still quick to answer an email or pick up the phone whenever I need her. She was the rst to call me when the earthquake struck central Italy a few weeks ago, having remembered that I originally come from the devastated area and that my mother still lives there.

Taking an active role in the Italian-American community
She herself hasn’t forgotten her origins, which is why I was not surprised when she called last summer to inform me that she accepted an invitation to
an honoree of the Columbus Citizens Foundation in 2016. Like Alberto Cribiore, she is another Italian who immediately understood the importance of taking an active role in the Italian-American community. Congratulazioni Federica! I wish I were there to celebrate you. You are an amazing honoree, and I am very grateful for our friendship, which shall continue wherever life takes us. 

*Lucia Pasqualini: is former Vice Consul in New York





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