After a successful 35-year career in fashion, having held executive positions
at several national and global brands, Harriet has been consulting with
smaller brands helping them with merchandising and growth strategies.
She is also an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising,
teaching marketing with classes on Luxury Branding and Promotional Marketing
Strategies in the Beauty Industry. There are many synergies between fashion
and beauty which makes this an easy and exciting transition. She finds
being around young creative people to be very inspiring and is learning
so much from her Gen Z students. She also co-founded a fashion lifestyle
blog focusing on women 50-plus with her best friend and fellow Torrance
Memorial Ambassador Wendy Klarik. Having to stay current on multiple social
media platforms keeps her on the pulse. You never stop learning!
The fashion retailing industry had been experiencing a major paradigm shift
even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift of shopping behavior from
brick and mortar mall based retailers to online purchasing and the influence
of Gen Z were major factors. Now in the aftermath of the pandemic, both
large and small brands have been further adversely affected. It’s
heartbreaking to see how many small businesses across the board have had
to close... and it’s not over yet.
Her passion for her chosen industry guided Harriet as an undergraduate
at California State University Long Beach away from her original path
of becoming a school psychologist. Following her graduation with a bachelor
of arts in psychology and French minor, she joined the executive training
program at the now defunct Broadway Department Stores. She’d always
had a passion for fashion and trend. Once given the opportunity to make
it a career, she was hooked!
Her zeal led to steady success. She rose through the corporate ranks in
merchandising positions in the ’80s,’90s, and early 2000’s
with shopping mall brand fixtures such as Contempo Casuals, Rampage and
Charlotte Russe. Her climb continued through the 2000s with senior-level
and consulting positions at denim heavyweights Guess, True Religion and J Brand.
“It was fun and gratifying, but hard work too,” she says. “I
have never had a dull day.” Harriet shares her love of fashion with
her daughter Lindsay, who would accompany her to shop the competition
and attend fashion shows in Europe while growing up.
Harriet and her only daughter have always been close, so during high school,
when most young girls are developing their fashion sense, the two also
began to notice concerning symptoms in Lindsay that couldn’t be ignored.
“She started getting very sick. I didn’t understand how serious
and specific it was,” she says.
Lindsay was eventually diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases. It began
with celiac disease, where the ingestion of gluten (proteins found in
wheat and related grains) leads to damage in the small intestine. Following
this, a visible butterfly rash on her face, led to the discovery of lupus,
a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body’s immune
system attacks its own tissues and organs. She also had developed vasculitis,
where blood vessels become inflamed. Most recently, doctors are calling
her condition mixed connective tissue disease, a combination of diseases,
also known as mixed lupus.
In 2011, a routine procedure to have her wisdom teeth removed was complicated
by Lindsay’s weakened immune system. “It got to the point
where she could barely talk. Lindsay knew something wasn’t right,”
Not given antibiotics following the procedure, Lindsay had become gravely
ill due to an infection. Following a trip to the Emergency Department,
she spent two weeks in and out of Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s
Intensive Care Unit fighting for her life. With a sense of urgency,
Eric Milefchik, MD, an infectious disease specialist, ordered a test of her blood levels.
It revealed she was battling sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication.
Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight infection
trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. This inflammation
can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems,
causing them to fail.
Lindsay was on the road to recovery from sepsis in the Pediatric unit,
when she began complaining of shoulder pain. This led to the diagnosis
of empyema, a condition during which fluid accumulates in the area between
the lungs and the inner surface of the chest wall. Radiologist
Albert Grabb, MD, made the discovery after viewing images from Lindsay’s computerized
tomography (CT) scan. A spinal tap confirmed the diagnosis.
Lindsay recovered from both challenges. The lasting impressions made by
the staff at Torrance Memorial led Harriet to want to find a way to express
her gratitude. Around that time, Harriet’s friend Wendy Klarik introduced
her to Christy Abraham, a
Torrance Memorial Foundation board member. Abraham suggested Harriet join the Ambassadors, a Torrance
Memorial support group, to which she readily agreed. Through gifts to
the Torrance Memorial Foundation, the group’s mission is to educate
and save lives by helping to sustain programs and services provided by
the medical center’s Burn Center, Hunt Cancer Institute, Turpanjian
Rehabilitation Services and Health Education Center.
“We were very impressed with the staff, and the level of care was
amazing,” Harriet says. “They saved Lindsay’s life and
I wanted to give back. Subsequently, I became aware of the programs supported
Ambassadors, such as the Burn Center and Oncology Services. I’ve had people
very near and dear overcome breast cancer at Torrance Memorial.”
Lindsay, who was recently married and is now living in Los Angeles, was
later diagnosed with Systemic Lupus erythematous. With a combination of
lifestyle changes and an effective medication regimen, she has made significant
progress towards getting her health issues under control. No longer working
in fashion, she now devotes her time to serving on the board of directors
for two different nonprofits, Lupus LA and Lupus Foundation of America.
with Lupus LA she focuses on patient outreach and services for the local
Lupus community, which includes support group meetings, emergency grants,
and rheumatology fellowships, to name just a few. As a board director
for the lupus foundation of America, she concentrates on bolstering national
initiatives such as medical trials for lupus treatment (mesenchymal stem
cells is one), national funding programs, and advocacy initiatives.
“I am so incredibly proud of Lindsay and the young woman she has
become. She has exuded such courage in the face of all the medical challenges
that have been thrown her way. Her decision to give back through supporting
these nonprofit organizations will help so many others. She has even reached
out to some of my students who are also afflicted with Lupus.” Says Harriet.
“Lindsay and I have learned through our journey that you have to
follow your intuition and be your own advocate when it comes to navigating
the health care system,” Harriet says. “I feel very comfortable
knowing we have a really good hospital in our own backyard.”