As part of FN’s annual Women in Power issue, we asked 15 footwear execs who have stepped into prominent new roles this year to talk about overcoming obstacles and their advice for the next generation.
Kadian Langlais was promoted to SVP and chief marketing officer of Renfro Brands in July 2021 to help the 100-year-old sockmaker engage more directly with consumers.
Prior to her promotion, Langlais had been with Renfro Brands for three years and previously served as VP of DTC and digital, where she helped guide the company through a rebrand and the launch of its Loops & Wales direct-to-consumer marketplace.
She brings more than 20 years of experience to her new role at Renfro (which was acquired in June by The Renco Group Inc.). Here, she talks about bringing socks to the metaverse and how embracing her own style changed her career path.
My leadership mantra:
“Lead with grace and tenacity. From my experience managing and working alongside others, I’ve found that this mantra is key to building a corporate culture that creates deeper connections between employees and mutual understanding and respect across all levels and functions. I’ve also found that this approach leads to more engagement, innovative thinking, supportive teams and creativity.”
The biggest opportunity and biggest challenge in my new role:
“Right now, our biggest opportunity is leaning into the metaverse and its potential. Imagine being able to outfit your avatar in your favorite outfit complemented by personalized socks. New technology challenges us to rethink what’s possible. Thankfully, at Renfro Brands, we have decades of knowledge of our customers to know what innovations they’ll be receptive to and how to best use technology to meet their changing needs.
“Meanwhile, our biggest challenge is something that we are all dealing with right now: supply chain disruption and inflationary prices on materials and transportation. This disruption has increased the importance of being flexible and able to pivot quickly. While we’ve moved farther away from the start of the pandemic, embracing agility has become the norm.”
The most significant career barrier I’ve faced and how I overcame it:
“Throughout my career, there were times when I felt underestimated. I would often express ideas that were different or riskier. My leaders at the time pushed these ideas to the side only to later resurrect them with others taking the credit. From this experience, I learned to be ‘louder’ and to own my ideas. This is important for your self-confidence and development to know your ideas sparked new opportunities — and for others to recognize that these ideas came from you! This way, when you express another idea, they’ll listen and take note.”
Advice for women starting out in their careers:
“To not be afraid to take risks and go after what you want. Traditionally, young girls are often taught to be nice and accommodating, while young boys are taught to be risk takers. As a result, when women enter the work force, they tend to be less aggressive than their male counterparts. I urge all women who are starting their careers to be fierce, be great and don’t shy away from success.”
One thing I wish someone had told me:
“I wish someone said to me ‘don’t be afraid to be yourself.’ In the early years of my career, I was afraid to be my true self. From my hairstyle to even how I dressed, I sought to emulate a ‘look’ I thought was more palatable for others. It wasn’t until I started to infuse my style and ideas in my work that my career blossomed. It was so rewarding to feel more confident and fiercer when I was being myself.”
The leader who has had the biggest impact on me:
“One of my best friends, Bozoma Saint John, has probably had the most influence on me as a leader and dear friend. Her career is the ultimate blueprint for being a tenacious, smart and disruptive leader. She truly embodies what it means to bring your whole self to work.”