A future in fashion
Catching Up With a Grad: Katie Hutchinson, ’98
KATIE HUTCHINSON in front of Banana Republic, where she is the buyer for petites.
Heading off to college was traumatic for Sonoma Valley High graduate Katie Hutchinson (’98).
“Coming from beautiful and small Sonoma made San Diego feel like the biggest city on the planet. I felt like a dot and I missed my friends terribly. Out of my comfort zone, however, I got to know myself, did a lot of growing up and really became an adult,” said Hutchinson.
Today, she is a newlywed with a glamorous job in the corporate offices of Banana Republic in San Francisco, but in those early college days, Hutchinson had a different future in mind.
She chose San Diego State for college because it has one of the best communication programs in the country and she was interested, perhaps, in a career in advertising. She worked at her first retail job while there, however, and after a few months manning the register at a surf shop in Mission Beach, the owner asked her to take over the women’s buying responsibility. She had a budget of $70,000 and could basically use it however she wanted. In a case of one thing literally leading to another, upon graduation, Hutchinson was offered a spot in the management-training program at the popular retailing giant, Abercrombie & Fitch.
She worked hard, gaining a series of promotions from trainee to store manager to general manager before eventually being named district manager. But she had doubts as to whether a future in retail was for her. “I kept thinking to myself, ‘I like the clothes and the business more than I like the constant managing of people part of the job.’ I knew I wanted to do something in fashion, but also knew that I was not creative enough, and didn’t have the training to be a designer.”
Hutchinson started looking for a job that used both her creative and analytical skills, and merchandising was the perfect fit. Getting an offer from retailing icon Levi’s was a pivotal point in her career. She found herself loving the work of the merchandising department, and Levi’s promoted her to global merchant for the company’s women’s business. The product line she is most proud of at Levi’s is the launch of Levi’s Curve ID jeans for women. She worked very closely with design to build the line and then worked with the sales team to help craft their story on how to sell the line to the major accounts.
Today, Hutchinson works at Banana Republic as the merchant for petites. Her role is to work with the design team to conceptualize and build a line each season. She brings the historical selling information and tells the team what has worked for the company in the past, what has not worked and any trends she sees. She also works with the inventory management and production team to bring the line to life at the right time, in the right stores and, most importantly, at the right price. Her job also involves some travel, visiting Banana Republic stores around the country, as well as checking in on its competitors.
Outside of work, Hutchinson lives on
Lombard Street in San Francisco with her new husband, Owen, who is a financial analyst at a hedge fund in the Presidio. They travel as much as they can and enjoy getting to Sonoma to visit with her family and friends who still live here.
Hutchinson loves her work and believes she has been successful because her heart is in it. “The best advice I can give anyone graduating is to follow your heart! No matter what you are good at or what you like to do, there is a career for you.”
Hutchinson at SVHS
Who were your favorite teachers at SVHS?
KHL: My favorite teachers at SVHS were Louann Carlomangno (who is now the superintendent), David Donnelly (I can’t look at spirulina without thinking of him), and Allison Manchester (some of my favorite books are the ones I read in her class).
What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subjects in school were history and English, and I took a great photography class my junior year that I still think about whenever I am trying to take a good black and white photo.
Who do you keep in touch with from SVHS?
I keep in touch with my girlfriends from high school and see most of our guy friends out and about when I am in Sonoma.
What was your senior project topic?
Our class, ’98, was the first senior class to do a senior project. My friend Lindsey and I decided to work with the Marine Mammal Center in Marin to learn about what they do and how they help animals. We got an A.
What is your favorite memory of SVHS?
The week of homecoming was always a really fun and mischievous time in Sonoma and just being able to see your best friends every day was something I took for granted and still miss.