NRF Foundation All Access Summer 2021 features the following speakers.
View Past Speakers: Spring 2021 | Fall 2020
Uniqlo Advanced Visual Stylist
Ashley Cairns is an advanced visual stylist at Uniqlo. In this position, she is primarily in charge of styling mannequins on the sales floor, deciding product placement and analyzing weekly sales numbers. She has a bachelor’s degree in fashion business from Columbia College Chicago, focusing on merchandising and minoring in advertising.
During her education, she worked as a stylist for undergrad photographers, dressed models at fashion shows and competed in three national scholarship competitions. One of those competitions was the 2018 NRF Foundation Student Challenge – her team placed first. She went on to be the NRF Student Ambassador the following year.
Nike Global Big Kids Lifestyle Footwear Merchant
Evan Chisholm works for Nike as a global big kids lifestyle footwear merchant. Before joining the kid’s team at Nike, he also worked with the men’s Nike sportwear footwear team, overseeing strategy for the brand’s coveted retro basketball models as well as a new modern space within the line.
Prior to joining Nike, he has had a diverse career journey that included starting his own urban contemporary apparel company FamCo. Clothing and working as an assistant buyer for a digital retail startup, Bombfell, in New York City.
Originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, Chisholm is a proud graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and the Fashion Institute of Technology. He has a bachelor’s degree in business management and an associate degree in merchandising. He is also the recipient of the NRF Foundation’s 2014 Ray Greenly Scholarship.
Chisholm lived in Harlem, New York for four years and currently resides in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Jessica, and his son, Kori. In his spare time, you can find him spending it with family, weight training and exploring anything associated with hip-hop culture.
H-E-B Own Brand Manager
H-E-B Own Brand Manager Grace Dusek manages overall product lifecycles and brand portfolios for several grocery categories. Founded in 1905, H-E-B operates more than 420 stores in Texas and Mexico and is known for its innovation and community service.
Dusek is a proud alum of Texas A&M University, where she received a master’s in marketing and bachelor’s in business administration in marketing from the Mays Business School.
She was a finalist for the 2016 NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship.
BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer
Laura Felice has served as executive vice president and chief financial officer since April 2021.
Prior to that, Felice served as senior vice president of finance and controller and was responsible for oversight of a team of 100 individuals who are accountable for the integrity of the financial records for the company. She has over 18 years of experience in the retail and consumer goods space.
Prior to joining BJ’s, she worked for Clarks Americas, Inc., where she held progressive finance management roles including her last role as senior vice president, where she was accountable for the strategic and operational financial management and control of the Americas Region.
Felice started her career in public accounting working for the Boston office of PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, specializing in serving public and private companies in the retail and consumer products industry.
She is a certified public accountant and a member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Society of CPAs. She holds master’s degree in accounting and a bachelor’s degree with a double major in finance and accounting from Boston College.
Gap Inc. Head of Customer Belonging
Bahja Johnson is a dynamic product and inclusion leader, with success devising innovative category strategies that improve financial performance, increase market share, and deliver exceptional product to the customer.
She began her career at Gap Inc. in 2012 as part of the company’s rotational management program, subsequently advancing within merchandising roles across both Gap brand and Banana Republic.
In 2018, Johnson co-founded the Color Proud Council, Gap Inc.’s first product inclusion initiative, with the mission of bringing diversity to the bottom line of the business. Successful council initiatives include integrating inclusion principles into the product-to-market pipeline, creating new training materials centered on inclusive design, and launching the Banana Republic True Hues Collection, a range of products for every skin tone that challenged the industry’s definition of the word “nude.”
In July 2020, Johnson became the first head of customer belonging for Gap Inc., leveraging her passion for creating inclusive products and experiences to drive impact across the portfolio.
Johnson holds a bachelor’s in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She enjoys dance and yoga in her spare time and is an avid Los Angeles Rams fan.
The Container Store CEO and President
Satish Malhotra is chief executive officer and president for The Container Store, the nation’s leading specialty retailer of storage and organization products and solutions, and custom closets. He joined the company in February 2021 after 21 years in various leadership positions at prestige beauty retailer Sephora Americas, most recently as chief retail officer and chief operating officer.
Saks Fifth Avenue Senior Vice President, Fashion Director
Roopal Patel joined Saks Fifth Avenue as senior vice president and fashion director in September 2015.
In this position, Patel plays a key role in forecasting the trends that underpin Saks Fifth Avenue’s buying activities, articulating the luxury retailer’s seasonal fashion message, and discovering emerging designers and collections.
Patel has the unique ability to source emerging fashion, talent and trends. Since joining Saks, she has been instrumental in introducing the Saks customer to groundbreaking designer brands including Christopher John Rogers, Pyer Moss, Khaite, TOVE, Reese Cooper, Amiri and many others. Her taste, experience, and expertise position her as a trusted source for the media, and she is regularly quoted as a fashion industry leader by publications such as VOGUE, ELLE, The New York Times, Business of Fashion, Women’s Wear Daily and The Wall Street Journal. In 2017, she was added to Harper’s Bazaar’s “150 Most Fashionable Women” for her exceptional sense of style.
Since 2017, Patel has served on the Selection Committee of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, where she is involved in selecting and mentoring top emerging designers in the program. She also sits on the founding board of directors for RAISEfashion, an organization connecting black-owned brands and individuals to fashion industry leaders for mentorship. Additionally, she serves on the Executive Committee for the Whitney Museum Contemporaries.
Prior to joining Saks, she founded and directed Roopal Patel Consulting, a creative consultancy focused on brand development, positioning, merchandising, retail strategy and trend forecasting. Additionally, Ms. Patel previously served as Moda Operandi’s Executive Fashion Director, Neiman Marcus’ Senior Accessory Market Editor and Bergdorf Goodman’s Senior Fashion Director.
Patel has a degree from NYU’s Stern School of Business and currently resides in New York City.
Target Corporation Associate Planner
Christian Sopoco has been in the retail industry for more than five years and has both in-store and corporate experience. He was a semifinalist in the 2017 NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship and started his career as a retail management intern for Nordstrom. In his current role at Target Corporation as an associate planner, Sopoco is in charge of financials and forecasting one of Target’s growing businesses.
Outside of his role, Sopoco is mentor to students and has served on committees advocating for diversity and inclusion. He is from Dallas and his degree is in merchandising and marketing.
We’ll be updating this page as we confirm our speakers, so keep watching for more updates.