Former President of Tomorrow Projects Julie Gilhart Talks Career Switch

Throughout her career, Julie Gilhart has adhered to the idea that businesses can be purposeful and profitable simultaneously.

Building upon that, she has started her own consulting business, after exiting Tomorrow London Ltd. last month. Gilhart had been president of Tomorrow Projects and chief development officer for nearly five years. Currently consulting on the LVMH Prize, and advising a beauty company, she also serves on Mulberry’s board of directors and other boards including nonprofit ones.

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“I do think that profitability doesn’t have to be at the sacrifice of the people or the planet. We need to be thinking about that,” Gilhart said. “We have two big crises in the world: a mental health crisis and a climate crisis. We can use the fashion business, where we have profitability, but we’re also contributing back. We have to concentrate on the positive, and fuel that. If we only keep fueling the negative, that’s what we’re going to get.”

Many in the industry know Gilhart from her 18-year tenure at Barneys New York, where she was senior vice president of fashion direction and discovered such designers as Alber Elbaz, Alexander Wang, Helmut Lang, Nicolas Ghesquière, Olivier Theyskens, Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez and Riccardo Tisci. In that role, she also worked companies like Prada and Jil Sander. Helping to advance emerging talent and build their businesses in a responsible way that allows them to maintain their creativity and craft remains a priority for Gilhart, she said.

And consulting is not new terrain for her, having run her own firm after leaving Barneys.

Recognizing that the back-to-normal and accelerated pace that returned after the pandemic shutdown, as well as the influx of new technology like AI, has led to challenging times for some fashion businesses, Gilhart decided to make a career move. She said Friday, “Some people are doing really good, and some people aren’t. There is change in the air.”

As someone who has always thrived on completing one chapter and starting anew, Gilhart plans to maximize her knack for finding new talent and enhance their growth in a purposeful way. “So many of the smaller brands are struggling, so I thought, ‘Wow, I’d really like to focus on helping them and use my skill set for that,’” she said.

Maintaining the craft in their work, as well as the environmental responsibility that comes with such practices, is also top of mind for Gilhart. How companies will use new technologies for the betterment of business and the human condition is another focus. However data-driven technology is, fashion still involves instinct, Gilhart said. “When you merge the two in a simpatico way, that’s when magic happens.”

Having recently participated in a panel that was moderated by The New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman at the Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen, Gilhart said the industry’s rate of change in terms of conducting more positive, responsible, sustainable business practices has not progressed to the degree that some attendees at the 2009 inaugural summit had expected. “There are a lot of things that are not responsible that are growing. It was a real a-ha moment,” she said. “All of the big brands are talking about responsible business, but yet a big part of the business is not regulated.”

She continued, “We have to talk about what’s gone well and what hasn’t gone well. We’re now at a point where we have not done enough. We have a lot of the solutions that we just need to execute and collaborate. We also need to pay attention to better educating our next generation of designers.”

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