Volume 6, Number 3, 1997

Fashion forecasters

Since his wife, Lisa Rissetto, and his sister, Patricia Kelly Holland, are both heavy hitters in the fashion industry, you wonder if Timothy Kelly, BE '83, ever hangs out in, say, an old T-shirt and jeans. (He does.)

Rissetto and Holland, both HR '82, journeyed back to UD this spring to present career seminars to students in the College of Human Resources' Department of Textiles, Design and Consumer Economics.

Rissetto, an expert on stylish accessories, and Holland, a maven of upscale shoes, have the glamorous fashion industry careers of which some students dream. Both travel the world, supervise multimillion-dollar budgets and dress like the models in Vogue.

Rissetto is vice president and general manager of G. Hensler & Co., which manufactures private label accessories for large-scale specialty retailers such as The Gap, Armani A/X, J. Crew and Nordstrom. She was responsible for increasing the annual business from $3 million to $20 million in less than five years.

In addition to management functions, Rissetto is responsible for product development, sales presentations, costing, sourcing and production of handbags and belts made in the Far East and distributed in the U.S. and abroad.

Holland, senior vice president of the Bandolino Division of the Nine West Group, with annual sales estimated at $1.6 billion, has fiscal responsibility for the better footwear division (shoes that retail from between $60-$85). Between 80-90 million pairs are sold annually.

Holland manages the national sales team, the customer service team and the field merchandising associates and is responsible for product selection in three countries-Brazil, Spain and Italy.

Finding a niche in the world of accessories isn't something either woman set out to do, but both have been pleased with the natural progression of their careers since leaving UD.

Actually, they both say, the field of accessories sets the pace for other fashions to follow.

"Because so much of what we do involves leather, we're always about a year ahead," Rissetto explains. "Accessories set the trends in terms of color and shape."

The accessory to watch for this fall, Holland says, is a handbag with a new handle length. Traditional shoulder bags with long straps are being shortened to fall just under the arm, she explains.

In shoes, Holland says to look for interesting soles made from wood and other materials. And, as always, some favorite old trends are resurfacing.

"We were sitting outside, eating on Main Street and watching the college crowd. We kept seeing girls in clogs-just like we used to wear when we were here 15 years ago," Holland says. "We just looked at each other, laughed and said, 'They're baaack!'"

With all the traveling they do and all the seasons they keep in their heads at once, one wonders how Holland and Rissetto can remember what day it is. And, in addition to their careers, both have children at home.

"It's definitely a challenge. Especially since we always deal in four seasons at once. Right now [late April], we're at the end of the spring line, shipping the summer line, manufacturing the fall line and designing for next year. Then, of course, there's the holiday line in between," Holland says.

-Beth Thomas