Global Girlboss: Kristiana Kragh
“I have always loved fashion but never thought I would build my career around it and end up in Denmark,” Krissy shares.
She’s speaking through the lens of a third culture kid, whose home is often both where the happiness once resided, and simultaneously, where it currently resides. A Danish-Filipina beauty that was “made in Beijing", born in Hong Kong and reared until school age in Indonesia, Kristiana Arzaga Kragh spent her formative years in Manila, where the gregarious teen attended the International School and wholeheartedly participated in both sports and the arts, freelancing as a commercial model on the side.
After finishing university in the UK, Krissy found herself armed with an opportunity to become an international trainee for a Danish retail company. That company turned out to be Bestseller, whose parent holding company, Heartland, is perhaps most notably the largest shareholder of ASOS.com, and also retains 10 percent of Zalando, the German retail giant.
Kristiana Kragh leads a team of 16 talents in Selected Femme’s Denmark headquarters
Today, Krissy is the Buying Manager for one of the house’s brands: Selected Femme, fraternal twin to Selected Homme, both “positioned at low of the high in terms of brand level. Like Massimo Dutti for Inditex or COS for H&M group,” Krissy explains.
She is championing her brand’s stance in sustainability, and is currently focused on learning
and experimenting more with innovative and ethical fibers
Her career started here in Brande 16 years ago, in the sales department for Spanish brand Only. A station in Malaga, Spain, at Only’s head office came next, then a stop in Beijing where Krissy, who had decided to shift from sales to buying, unearthed her true calling in purchasing. Two years of training reaped its rewards when she was offered an assistant position in Only’s Woven buying team, back in Brande. In 2016, Krissy became Buying Manager for all Selected Femme products.
Weekend time with her boys is Krissy’s secret to unwinding and recharging for the week ahead
These days, the global girl boss is dedicating her time to becoming more versed in sustainability, a core thrust of her company. “Approximately 75 percent of our collection is in more sustainable fibers, an achievement we are extremely proud of considering the nature of our business.”
As a matter of fact, Krissy finds herself tied back into her other motherland by way of Pinatex / Ananas Anam, a company that sources pineapple leaves from the Philippines, that she’s working with to create a leather substitute. “We have made shoes using Pinatex. One of our other recent accomplishments which we are extremely proud of is that our jeans are made out of 100 percent Organic Cotton.”
As her story finds its way from Denmark, to Beijing, and back, we wonder if the Philippines is due for its full circle in her journey—“Unfortunately we are in not the Philippines, but another sister brand Vero Moda is. Though it would be a dream come true for FEMME to be there one day.”
In the meantime, nestled comfortably in Brande, Denmark where the headquarters for Bestseller is, Krissy raises her beautiful family and champions the 16 employees she is directly responsible for at work.
Here’s how she gets it all done:
What do you spend your most productive hours doing?
There is no simple answer to what seems like a simple question. No one day is ever really the same. My responsibilities, the job and the type of business I am in makes it is always busy. We are juggling diverse production and sampling collections simultaneously. As Buyers we need to ensure the best product (in cooperation with design), at the most competitive price and on-time delivery. We are constantly in dialogue and negotiating with our suppliers. We have many strategy and collection meetings which we do in close cooperation with Sales. But to make sure that all is running smoothly my main task is to keep my team on track. Ensure that my Buyers have clear goals to strive for, with a proper balance for challenge and success. I invest many hours of the week on one-on-one dialogues with my team and meetings in general.
“To be a successful leader you need to always be authentic, know how to trust and delegate,
give the proper balance of constructive criticisms and praise, and always be clear in your expectations.”
What would you do with a spare 30 minutes during your day?
As a manager, my purpose is to lead, support, and motivate. Off work, I do the same in my mommy/wifey duties. So if I had 30 minutes off every day, I will use it selfishly on me. This “me time” recharge enables me to have more energy to give to my loved ones at home and my colleagues at work. Work-wise, I could always use the extra 30 minutes to read and answer my emails.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I love the dynamics of my job. The Buyer in me loves the mix of business and creativity in an exciting fast paced environment. The leader in me loves to see results and loves working with people. I believe that lucrative businesses are run by happy and motivated employees. To be a successful leader you need to always be authentic, know how to trust and delegate, give the proper balance of constructive criticisms and praise, and always be clear in your expectations. You need to genuinely like to work with people because you are the support function and the one in the background. When my team reach their targets (professionally and personally), then I am happy because then I know I did my job well. I am motivated by their success, because their win is also mine.
Krissy’s career in retail has seen her stationed in Brande, Denmark as well as Malaga, Spain, and Beijing, China.
What are some routines, systems, or habits that keep you performing at your best—physically, mentally, spiritually?
Weekend family time is a top priority for me. As we have demanding schedules during the week, this time together is important and my key source of energy. I perform at my best because I know I have my family. Living where we do, we are blessed with our surroundings of beautiful nature. We make sure that our kids appreciate the “simple pleasures” of fresh air and quality time. These moments are what give me the strength to tackle whatever that comes my way.
Red lipstick does the trick.
What are a few moments in your career that made you want to pinch yourself?
When we won the BS Sustainability award in 2017; when I met Anotnio Banderas who did a collab with HOMME; and when a colleague came up to me and told me that I was the reason and inspiration why he is in the company today.
What is a quote that brings you strength or solace?
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’" It is so simple, yet so true. Life can be tough and unfair, but I believe in karma that what goes around comes around. However don’t be naïve always be good and fair but "Expect nothing. Appreciate everything" because good fortune always comes to good people—eventually.
When are you at your most confident?
When I have my red lipstick on.
Did you have anyone that looked like you to look up to in the career that you wanted to pursue?
My source of inspiration growing up was my father. He left Denmark when he was in his 20s, moved to Asia and never came back. He worked his way up to building and owning his own trading company. It started in the Philippines and branched out to Indonesia and Vietnam. A self made man, he did it on his own in a foreign country without any extra help nor hand me downs.
The tables turned. Other than a good education and emotional support from home, I am where I am today because of me. I was a “no one” and made myself into a someone through hard work and determination.
If there's anything you want people to take away from your journey, what would that be?
Love what you do – then you will truly succeed. You spend most of your time at work, so might as well do something that you enjoy. Prioritize your happiness and self-worth, authenticity is everything. Don’t ever give up and don’t ever take anything for granted.
“I believe that lucrative businesses are run by happy and motivated employees.”
Before you go, could you put us onto something you love? (be it a life hack, a product, a podcast, poem, idea, person, etc.)
My family. They are my everything. I love my job but family always comes first. Being a wife and mother is my biggest blessing and most important “job.”