Some of the biggest names in fashion design have employed her expertise to enhance the sale of their luxury brands. For June Haynes the recognition from the celebrity customers whose confidence she has won, is priceless.
There are times when “the girl from Guyana” wants to pinch herself to remind her it is all real.
“I remember being at a Madonna concert and we had outfitted Madonna in every costume change and all were pieces of Dolce & Gabbana, and I looked around and I thought, ‘My God! I have really arrived – a girl from Guyana,” recalled the svelte fashionista.
In Barbados recently enjoying a break from her hectic schedule, Haynes told EASY magazine: “I never thought I would be at a brand like Dolce & Gabbana . . . in charge of and being responsible for not only hiring, but training and building relationships and working with celebrities.”
The youngest of 13 children, she was the one who chose to go to her mother’s Guyana clothing store to help out after school.
“Through spending time in the store, one of the things I realised was why all the women came to visit. It became a social gathering. I was fascinated by that and I said to my mum ‘I love how everybody knows you’ and every time they came they bought something.”
“Watching my mum engage these women, I wanted to be a part of that.”
She was just 12 years old when the family migrated to the United States and she announced her desire to have a career in the fashion industry.
Today she is founder and president of June Haynes Luxury Retailing, the company she formed two years ago after 27 years of giving her knowledge and passion of the luxury retail industry to the businesses of internationally-acclaimed fashion designers such as Valentino and Dolce & Gabbana.
A graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, she has been cultivating and enhancing the culture of luxury brands, transforming the client experience by developing and implementing one-on-one client services.
“Being a Caribbean child, your parents want you to be a doctor or lawyer. For my parents, having had my other siblings pursue their dreams of becoming doctors and lawyers, when they got to me, being the youngest, they decided ‘okay we are going to let her do what she wants to do.”
She started as a sales person at Kenzo, a store associated with the French luxury fashion house founded by Japanese designer Kenzo Takada. Within a year she became the number one sales person.
“The owner at the time recognised that I had a gift in really servicing the client and working with VIP’s like Jackie Onassis, (former First Lady of the United States) who was one of my biggest clients. She frequented the store and we really had a great relationship,” Haynes explained.
That initial experience she said “helped me shape and mould how to be comfortable around VIPs and working with them.”
She met the Italian design duo of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana while managing the retail floor at the luxury specialty retailer Barney’s in New York where all the big names in fashion design were on display..
Dolce and Gabbana were clearly impressed. They chose her to manage their flagship store on Madison Avenue – the first Dolce & Gabbana to be opened in North America.
“That was for me the beginning of where the industry of retail really took me to the levels of where I am today,” said Haynes. “It was the 1990s . . . . The heyday of Dolce & Gabbana. Every celebrity wanted to wear Dolce & Gabbana. From Madonna to Janet Jackson, you name it. So I really built a strong clientele base and empowered my team on how to engage the customer; in building strong relationships; helping them know how to compile a wardrobe and knowing the customer’s lifestyle so that you are better able to service them in a way that is conducive to their life.”
Little wonder Valentino, one of the top fashion houses made overtures to her. The president of the company turned to her at a time when that design house wanted to also become a lifestyle brand, making a transition from the red carpet glamour to upscale day and evening wear.
“They came after me to help them shape and mould Valentino US.”
She spent ten years as senior VP of Valentino, responsible for hiring, training, management, opening of stores and building customer experience. She was responsible for all Valentino boutiques in the US and in 2007 was given additional responsibility to refine Valentino’s retail strategy in Japan to help the team there to reshape the brand.
Haynes describes herself as “a spiritual, loving, sharing, giving being”, and she quipped “let’s not forget fashionista.”
“I was fortunate in my life and in my career to have really great mentors who helped me along my journey of retail and growth,” said Haynes. “I made a vow to myself that it was important for me to give back in mentoring students who wanted to be part of the industry.”
She is on the board of “March to the Top” a charity started by her best friend Barbara March and her husband Roy March, which builds schools and provides health care and education for people in Africa.
Last October she was surprised to receive a call from the White House that turned out to be an invitation from US First Lady Michelle Obama to speak to young people about her journey and her accomplishments.
Public appearances such as this allow her to share her knowledge and to be a mentor to students with sights set on a career in the fashion industry.
She has formed priceless friendships with the rich and famous. But name-dropping is clearly not her style and only after some prompting did she say: “I am really blessed to have really built throughout my career some strong relationships with celebrities who are still my friends.” Hesitating at first, she went on to call a few names like La Tonya Jackson, wife of actor Samuel L Jackson and Pauletta Washington, wife of actor Denzel Washington; talk show host Oprah Winphrey and television personality Gayle King. Though she has left Valentino’s, the ties with the fashion house remain strong and she is regarded as family.
Haynes is grateful to have had the “great fortune” of styling Denzel Washington for his role of Brutus in the Broadway version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a job for which she won a credit.
She is in her 40s, but remains single because of her choice to put her career first. “For me it was always not now, next year.
“What this has taught me in my life today is it is important to have a balanced life. Too much of one thing is not good.” Her mission now is to achieve a balanced life – “marrying the personal life with a successful career”.
But with 12 siblings, there is no lack of children to cherish, as she has a bond with her nieces and nephews.
She describes a deep spirituality which has been her invisible guide along life’s path. Armed with it the girl from Guyana managed to navigate her way through the competitive luxury fashion industry. She confessed she had no time to notice prejudices along the way. “That does not mean it does not exist but I put on my blindfold. When you are on a mission you are just going to keep going. I don’t care who I encounter. I want to be judged by my accolades . . . my character.”
“Whatever you call yourself – white, Chinese, Jewish – you are just people, and I was fortunate enough to go through the world looking at life in that way.”
On the day of the interview she made wardrobe changes, taking advantage of the picture perfect settings that abound at Coral Reef Club. She was not shy to let it be known “I have always been a fashionista”, following in her late mother’s footsteps.
Her personal style is “a little edgy with a twist, but definitely not classic”.
“For me it is looking at a wardrobe and figuring out a way to make it different. I tend to like to mix things up because that’s the fun and the beauty of fashion.”
Of the decision to launch out on her own, Haynes said: “I decided it was time for me to really build my brand. I wanted to make an impact in not just touching one brand at a time but helping many brands at one time to achieve their next level.”
June Haynes Luxury Retailing aims to help luxury companies grow their business and to ensure they have the right talent in place, among other goals. It is a global strategy that she has now extended to luxury hotels.
How is the business doing?”
“It is going really fantastic” Haynes told Easy, “I have absolutely no regret.”