By Claire Zillman
October 7, 2016

Jennifer Reingold’s latest feature for Fortune is a dive into the ousting of Italian-born Federica Marchionni as CEO of U.S. clothing retailer Lands’ End. Marchionni was a flashy and wholly unorthodox choice for the sometimes frumpy, always practical retailer given her background: roles at luxury brands Dolce & Gabbana and Ferrari. But that was the point. Lands’ End’s board wanted an outsider with fresh ideas to remake the struggling company known for its coats, bathing suits, and monogrammed carry-all bags, and so in 2015, she became its sixth CEO in 13 years.

But the board’s out-of-the-box selection ended up backfiring in a culture clash reminiscent of J.C. Penney’s hiring of Ron Johnson, head of Apple retail stores, in 2011. Marchionni’s upscale ideas—a $50 artisanal cheese collection, a $600 men’s jacket, popup stores—initially gained the board’s approval, but her approach didn’t resonate with the company’s customer base or its employees who liked the brand for its durable clothing and renowned customer service.

Marchionni ended up being a sort of fish out of water, but she’s also another example of a woman who took over a company that was struggling or in crisis; another female CEO who was perched atop that precarious glass cliff.



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