2024 Person of the Year

A discussion with Lizanne Kindler, Executive Chair and CEO, KnitWell Group

Is it true that you’ve wanted to be in retail fashion since you were a young girl?

That is true! When I was 11 years old, I traveled to the United States from Denmark to visit my aunt, Hanne Merriman, in Washington DC. She was the president of a department store chain called Garfinckel’s and she took me to work with her. She walked me through their offices, the store, the buying department. I got to see teams of designers working, felt the general ‘buzz’ in the office. I saw the customers reacting to products in the store – and all in an incredibly exciting and vibrant city. That was the moment that I fell in love with the business of retail fashion.

KnitWell Group brings together some of the most iconic American retail brands. What do you hope to accomplish with all of these brands under one umbrella?

The KnitWell name reflects our core belief that each of our brands – Ann Taylor, Chico’s, Haven Well Within, Lane Bryant, LOFT, Soma, Talbots, and White House Black Market - is strong and distinctive, but when woven together, they are incredibly powerful. With more than 400 years of brand history, nearly 45,000 associates and 3,000 stores, and $6 billion in sales, we can provide greater resources and capabilities, economies of scale, enhanced value, incredible opportunities, and the power to do good – not only for our brands, but for our associates, our customers, and the community-at-large. 

What is the one thing you have learned as a leader that you continue to carry forward with you?

The thing that I keep going back to as a leader and just as a human being is that you can’t possibly know everything…and that’s okay. I’ve learned in 30+ years that if you accept this fundamental truth, then three amazing things happen:

  • You become more confident by letting go of the insecurity around having to know it all.
  • You have the opportunity to surround yourself with smart people who know what you do not know.
  • You open yourself up to learning new things every single day.
Do you feel added responsibility as a female leader?

First, I think it’s important to point out that we have the benefit of working in an industry that is filled with strong female leaders and talented female associates. So yes, as a female leader, I do believe we have a responsibility to lift each other up, to guide, and support…and to lead by example.

Having said that, the responsibility I feel is not as a female leader, but simply as a leader. Anyone in a position such as mine has a responsibility to mentor and build the next generation of leaders through compassion, shared experience, and clear expectations. 

You are the Executive Chair of a $6 billion company. You are also a wife, a mother, a friend, an active member of your community. I’m sure you’ve been asked this many times – how do you do it all?

I think the first and obvious answer is that I do not do it alone. I am surrounded by incredibly smart, talented partners and teams, as well as very supportive family and friends.

As women, we do play several roles and one thing that I am very clear about is that you cannot balance them all at the same time…at least not well. I strive to fully engage myself in the moment whether it be at work focusing on the task at hand or home cooking dinner with my family.  

Finally, it’s also important for me to find time for breaks in order to recharge and keep my energy and focus going, which makes me even stronger in other elements of my life.