Luxury Innovators: A Candid Conversation with Leading Luxury Entrepreneurs

Milton Pedraza is the CEO of the Luxury Institute and EIX (Emotionally Intelligent Xpert). Today, Luxury Institute is the world’s most trusted research, training, and elite business solutions partner for luxury and premium goods and services brands. With the largest global network of luxury executives and experts, Luxury Institute has the ability to provide its clients with high-performance, leading-edge business solutions developed by the best, most successful minds in the industry.

Over the last 16 years, Luxury Institute has served over 1,100 luxury and premium goods and services brands. Luxury Institute has conducted more quantitative and qualitative research with affluent, wealthy and uber-wealthy consumers than any other entity. This knowledge has led to the development of the company’s scientifically proven high-performance, emotional intelligence-based education system that dramatically improves brand culture and financial performance.

Milton advises and coaches luxury CEOs and advises and serves on the boards of top-tier luxury and premium brands, as well as luxury and premium startups. He is a sought-after speaker worldwide for his practical, innovative and humanistic insights and recommendations on luxury and high performance and is the most quoted global luxury industry expert in leading media and publications. Milton is also an authority on Customer Relationship Management and Artificial Intelligence technologies, Analytics, and Big Data. Prior to founding the Luxury Institute, his successful career at Fortune 100 companies included executive roles at Altria, PepsiCo, Colgate, Citigroup and Wyndham Worldwide.

Milton is a frequent guest speaker at Columbia University and has presented at Harvard. He has been recognized as a top Latin Entrepreneur by Stanford Business School. Milton was born in Colombia, raised in the United States, and has lived in several countries. He has conducted business in over 100 countries and speaks several languages.

Kareen Mallet is the Founder of Replika Software, a social selling solution for the retail, fashion, luxury and beauty industries. She is a global executive with extensive experience in fashion, retail, luxury and digital in both corporate and start-up environments. Kareen has 17 years of fashion communication and direction within multi-channel luxury brand, Neiman Marcus Group, along with proven experience in launching and leading an innovative social commerce platform. Kareen has a passion and thorough knowledge of fashion, retail, digital, cultural trends, consumer behavior and innovation in addition to a strong understanding and expertise in current social platforms.

Ayana Miller is an experienced technical advisor on privacy and data protection. She has built and managed in-house privacy programs at Facebook, Snapchat, and Pinterest. Through PRIVILGD, she provides data privacy and data security guidance to professional athletes, entertainers, and other high profile clients.

Prior to working in Silicon Valley, Ayana worked in Washington, D.C. at the United States Federal Trade Commission and MITRE, a federally funded research and development center. With a focus on practical privacy practices in an era of social media sharing, she has been a speaker at marketing and tech conferences across the United States.

Ayana holds a master’s degree in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University and has multiple privacy certifications through the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), where she also served as an advisory member of the publishing board.

Clea O’hana grew up in the fashion capitals of Europe and began her career in fashion as a stylist for Net-A-Porter. In her next role as the Global Head of Visuals at Belstaff, Clea realized she could solve the age-old dilemma of “what to wear” by founding Wishi, an e-commerce personal styling service. Wishi offers access to personal Stylists who send personalized recommendations based on the user’s body type, budget, color preferences and pull their suggestions from many retailers such as Nordstrom, NET-A-PORTER, Shopbop and more. Today Wishi is transforming the way people get dressed and offers a new way to feel truly confident. WISHI has been chosen as one of the most promising startups who is “shaping the future of commerce” by the Dream Assembly accelerator powered by FARFETCH.

Lisa Morales-Hellebo is a VC, seasoned entrepreneur, product strategist, and community builder. Her career spans 25 years working with start-ups to F500s on strategy and execution across branding, products, and innovation. 

She is currently a co-founder of The New York Supply Chain Meetup and The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation; and is co-founder and general partner of REFASHIOND Ventures — an NYC-based, early-stage supply chain technology venture fund that invests in startups refashioning global supply chains.

In 2014, Lisa founded and launched the New York Fashion Tech Lab with Springboard Enterprises and the Partnership Fund for NYC while serving as Executive Director for the first year. Lisa’s previous fashion tech startup, Shopsy, raised capital and participated in TechStars in 2012 after she was selected as one of the Top 10 Women in DC Tech. She’s been featured in numerous publications and media outlets, and is profiled in the bestselling book; Disrupters: Success Strategies from Women Who Break the Mold.

Lisa is active in the startup community, serves on the Advisory Board of Puerto Rican accelerator, Parallel18, the Advisory Board of luxury resale site, LePrix, the Board of Directors of The Center for Advancing Innovation, while advising companies around the globe.

Educating the Leaders of Luxury Brands During the Next Decade

Bob Shullman, Founder and CEO of the Shullman Research Center that focuses primarily on four business sectors: the luxury and affluent markets, media and advertising, financial and wealth-related services and CSR/ESG.

Prior to launching The Shullman Research Center, Bob held C-suite positions with several leading marketing intelligence and consulting firms including most recently Ipsos Mendelsohn, where he was its CEO and transformed The Mendelsohn Affluent Survey into the leading source for intelligence and insights about the American luxury, affluent and wealth markets. Prior to Ipsos, Bob was a co-founder and CEO of Willard & Shullman, a top 50 American marketing research firm. At SRI International (formerly known as the Stanford Research Institute) prior to Willard & Shullman, Bob co-directed the launch of SRI’s Consumer Financial Decision syndicated study.

Bob holds an MBA in marketing from NYU’s Stern School of Business, where he also completed most of the course work for a Ph.D. in finance, as well as an AB degree in American History from Georgetown University. He also is a member of the Advisory Board of the NC State University/SKEMA Global Luxury and Management Master’s Degree Program as well as the Market Research Council and the Advertising Research Council.

Giuseppe Ammendola, Ph.D., teaches International Strategic Management, Marketing, Finance, Trade and Government at New York University and Columbia University. He is an international and multilingual consultant and public speaker. He writes on international strategic management, marketing, finance, trade, and government, all fields in which he has been teaching university courses and lecturing for over three decades.

Dr. Ammendola has been a speaker, organizer and/or a panelist in hundreds of lectures, roundtables, and TV programs in the US and abroad. Dr. Ammendola teaches at New York University at the graduate level, as well as at Columbia University at the professional level, and has been a visiting professor and has lectured at several Italian graduate schools. Professor Ammendola holds doctoral degrees from the United States, where he originally arrived as a Fulbright Scholar, and from Italy. He also is the inaugural Joseph Schumpeter Visiting Professor of International Economics at the Universidade Autonoma of Lisbon where he teaches International Relations at the doctoral level. Bilingual in English and Italian, Dr. Ammendola has also native like fluency in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Andrea Ciaraldi, Senior Vice President Creative Director at Ralph Lauren Women’s Collection, is an Italian creative director with 30 years of broad-based experience as a gifted brand builder and an in-depth, global understanding of Luxury Haute Couture and Women’s Ready to Wear.

Before joining Ralph Lauren, Mr. Ciaraldi was a Designer at Mila Schön  working on Haute Couture and Ready to Wear and served as Design Director for both Giorgio Armani (ready to wear and Armani Privè) and Valentino (for Haute Couture and Ready to Wear). He holds an Arts Degree with a specialization in Textile Art Design from Rome’s Istituto D’arte “Silvio D’Amico” and has a Masters in Enterprise Design Oriented Sectors from Domus Academy in Milan.

Cara Fratto, Lecturer in Luxury Marketing Strategy and an Advisory Board Member at the NC State University/SKEMA Global Luxury and Management (GLAM) Master Degree Program.

In addition to her roles in the GLAM Program, Cara is a marketing consultant specializing in luxury brand marketing. She has over 17 years of experience in the luxury markets across multiple marketing disciplines including strategy, branding, events, public relations, and communications. Prior to starting her own consulting firm, Cara worked for Saks Fifth Avenue in store and corporate roles including Marketing Director for the Raleigh and Boston locations and senior corporate roles in Event Marketing and Integrated Marketing. Prior to Saks Fifth Avenue, she held a lead marketing role at VIETRI, one of the largest U.S. importers of luxury Italian tableware and home decor.

Cara holds an MBA from NC State University Poole College of Management and a bachelor of science in business administration from Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Dalia Strum is an expert on the business of fashion and retail and focuses on communication, building community and content creation. Her expertise spans over 15 years within the Fashion, Tech, Retail and Luxury spaces in which she pioneers strategies around the integration of new technologies and applies them towards marketing practices, omni-channel retail, and brand strategy.

Dalia has spent the majority of her career consulting with a number of luxury brands including Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Burberry. She most recently launched RethinkConnect, an agency, which focuses on the future of marketing in an ever-changing environment. Her podcast, Decision Makers, discusses marketing and sales strategies and has hosted guests from Facebook, Instagram, and other notable brands.

She also maintains a consulting practice that includes speaking engagements and workshops with the senior management of luxury brands around the globe. Dalia not only teaches at FIT, she is also an alumnus who is ingrained in its community. She also teaches at NYU, Baruch College, College of Westchester and Westchester Community College.

Do Italians Do It Better?: Why Italian Managers are Leading the Charge in the Luxury Space

Venanzio Ciampa founded The Promotion Factory in 2004 after successful stints in marketing and communications at the Swatch Group, the world’s largest watch company, and LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group.

Born in Long Branch, NJ, Venanzio grew up in a small town in Calabria, in southwestern Italy. He studied in Rome, then returned to New York, where he worked as a journalist and producer for RAI, Italy’s national broadcasting company. Under an agreement with Martin Scorsese, he launched the New York branch of Cinecittà to sell Italian movies in the U.S. He was then hired by the Swatch Group and relocated to Switzerland to work on the worldwide relaunch of the Omega and Swatch brands. Subsequently, worked at LVMH as well as the Kering Group.

After founding The Promotion Factory, Venanzio’s first client was Hublot, at the time an obscure, struggling Swiss watch brand that had just come under the direction of Jean-Claude Biver. Venanzio had worked with Jean-Claude at the Swatch Group. The Promotion Factory collaborated with Jean-Claude and Hublot for the next 10 years on a highly successful campaign to reposition Hublot as a luxury mechanical watch.


Giovanni Carra is SVP, Finance and Strategy, Global Brands and Global Value Creation Program, for The Estee Lauder Companies. Giovanni is a member of Estee Lauder’s Executive Leadership Team and is responsible for the strategy, financial planning and reporting, business analysis and development, and project/change management for a cluster of approximately 20 brands, including MAC, Clinique, Jo Malone London, Tom Ford Beauty, Too Faced Cosmetics, Becca, Prestige and Artisanal Fragrances, Smashbox, and Glamglow.

For the GVC Program, he is the leader of a multifunctional team responsible for the Governance, Enabling and Tracking of 16 Value Creation Initiatives, in the areas of Advertising & Promotion Effectiveness, Demo/Selling Productivity, Retail operations, Gross to Net, Returns Optimization, Indirect Procurement, Cost of Goods, Inventory, Receivables and Payables. Giovanni joined ELC in 2009 in Paris as VP Finance, Strategy and Business Operations – Europe, Middle East and Africa, a region including 17 affiliates and 35 markets.

Before ELC, he worked for 19 years in the Procter & Gamble (P&G) Company, covering assignments in Italy, Belgium, USA, on Financial Planning and Analysis, Brand Finance, Supply Chain Finance, Global Treasury, Internal Audit, as well as leading several Transformation projects. Key roles were: European Banking manager in Bruxelles (BE), Finance Director Italy in Rome, and Finance Director Hair Care North America in Cincinnati (OH).

Giovanni holds BA and MBA degrees in Corporate Finance from LUISS University in Rome and is a Certified Internal Auditor. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters and a poodle dog.

Monica Mandelli joined KKR in 2015 in New York and is a Managing Director in the Client and Partner Group where she leads the High Net Worth (HNW) and Family Office business globally, and leads the institutional client business in Latin America. She is also a member of KKR’s Inclusion and Diversity Advisory Council. 

Prior to joining KKR, Ms. Mandelli worked at Goldman Sachs for 17 years in investment banking where she held various leadership positions, most recently as managing director and global head of Goldman Sachs’ family office coverage and strategic relationship management group. Previously, Ms. Mandelli was head of Goldman Sachs’ publishing and information services sector and the theatrical exhibition sector, within the technology, media and telecom group, having broad coverage responsibility for many media clients. She was also co-head of Goldman Sachs’ firm-wide women’s network. 

Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, Ms. Mandelli worked at Merrill Lynch in London in their mergers & acquisitions group. Ms. Mandelli holds a B.S. and an M.S., summa cum laude, in Economics and Social Sciences from Universita’ Bocconi, and an M.B.A, with Distinction, from Harvard Business School. She serves on the Women’s Leadership Board at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Bocconi Alumni Association Board, the Board of Trustees of Horace Mann School and the Board of Directors of Endeavor Italy. Ms. Mandelli is also Chair of the American Friends of the Victoria & Albert Museum, and is a member of the Brookings Council. In 2019 Ms. Mandelli was knighted by the President of Italy as “Cavaliere della Repubblica”, the highest honor bestowed by the Italian Republic.

Stefano began his professional experience at Diesel, working in different areas of the company (from production to marketing), to become first Diesel’s 5-pocket (denim) Brand Manager.  Later he was appointed as Strategic Brand Alliances Director, creating and managing some of the brand’s most important global collaborations, from a limited-edition sneaker series with Adidas Originals, to the worldwide partnership with Ducati.

In 2011, Stefano became Director of Corporate Development of OTB (the parent company of Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Paula Cademartori, Viktor&Rolf, Staff International and Brave Kid).  Two years later he was named co-CEO with the task to design the group’s new governance, and to guide the People & Organization function in building the managerial team of the future. In 2017, he was named CEO of Diesel North America, Diesel being the biggest of the group’s brands and North America a key area of development for the group. The move marks the company’s decision to strengthen its presence and leadership in the market, with an emphasis on maintaining a strong voice as a denim leader.