Marigay McKee

" Marigay and I have known each other across a buying-selling table, having fun at each other's homes, enjoying drinks and events, travelling, talking about our kids, my son, Omar, is the same age as Marigay's daughter, Lydia.
I love Marigay's energetic approach to life and business, and when in the States I enjoy our catch ups, and I'm super jealous of her board role at Aston Martin, my all-time favourite cars.
Huge congratulations on your new rather special news, I wish you a very happy life together Marigay. I hope you all enjoy reading Marigay's interview, and yes, I'm glad those long days in 4-inch heels are over too! "


We chat to acclaimed actor and activist Gillian Anderson on philanthropy, style and her sophomore collection for Winser London. Here, Gillian Anderson talks about her work with Women for Women International, how she likes to spend her downtime and collaborating with Winser London.

Marigay McKee is a globally respected luxury retail expert. Raised in west London, she studied history and modern languages and taught in Spain before changing path to join the family-owned department store chain Fenwick. After a period as an executive at Estée Lauder Europe, she moved to Harrods as Senior Beauty Buyer, where over 13 years she rose to the position of Chief Merchant Officer, developing and executing the business’s buying and product strategy across 300 departments. Following her appointment as President at Saks Fifth Avenue, charged with revitalising the grand dame of US department store chains for the luxury customer in the digital age, Marigay relocated to New York in 2013. Two years later, she stepped away from this role to launch MM Luxe Consulting, advising brands and retailers including Blackstone, Related, Edens and Value Retail on strategy and growth. A year later she and investment banker Bill Detwiler co-founded Fernbrook Venture Fund, where she is Managing Partner.

She is a mentor and business advisor to a number of UK and US-based fashion brands, an Ambassador for the UK Trade Initiative overseas and sits on the board of Aston Martin Lagonda, Birdwell, Lily.ai and a number of other enterprises. Based in New York, Connecticut and Florida, Marigay lives with her fiancé (they are due to marry in Summer 2023) Frederick Powers, and their dogs, Tilly and Sutten.

You have enjoyed a fascinating and varied career in beauty, fashion and luxury retail – sectors that have seen enormous change in the past 30 years. How do you view that world now, casting your expert eyes across the industry?

My background as a merchant has taught me so much about the fantasy of retail: skincare is hope in a jar and fragrance is a dream in a bottle. Retailing is about inspiring consumers through aspiration, whether that’s in a bricks and mortar shop or a virtual portal. We are all so much more sophisticated and discerning because we have so much choice, so in all the spaces they occupy brands and retailers need to offer an environment and experience that makes an emotional connection with the consumer. I’m a great believer in retail and I don’t believe the department store is dead. In the global marketplace, there is an explosion of brands – at Saks we had about 2500 – and a retailer needs to know their customer well and create a showcase for them. The idea of shopping as a leisure activity is shifting: people don’t want to spend three hours looking for a dress, trawling through 300 styles.

We want a personalised, edited selection to choose from, so the journey has to be tailored and streamlined, with a personalised edit. It’s obviously not just about a physical space anymore, but about the virtual one too, so there is a need to identify what should be in a building in a certain location, and what might be online and more readily available for customers wherever they might be. Another interesting change is that consumers today are more knowledgeable: we care about provenance, heritage and authenticity. Any purchase needs to involve a more thoughtful kind of consumption. Big brands are focused on the new and also need to manage their re- selling. There is a shift where new is not the priority: my 24 year-old daughter wants to thrift and buy vintage or upcycled products. She likes to find treasure and doesn’t get the thrill in a traditional store. The demand for luxury isn’t reduced, but redefined. Disposable will go away. People want something with a story that has longevity, that is a desirable asset with heritage value.

Tell us about your current work?

When I first left Saks, I was doing consulting work full time, which tapped into my retail brand experience and expertise on a project basis for different clients. Then I met my now business partner, Bill Detwiler and together we launched Fernbrook, which means we’re investing in young founders and creative, smart people who are solving problems with exciting ideas in the tech space, creating disruptive strategies for the future. It’s been a seven year journey to the point we’re at now, which is where we are investing in interesting, solution-solving platforms, majoritively in software, AI, new tech, innovation-driven businesses that can help brands scale in a global marketplace. It’s thrilling to see commercially- minded talent with disruptive ideas that can make a big difference. We’ve had several successful exits from Fund Ones, and we are now raising for Fernbrook Fund Two. To date, over 50% of our founders are female. We didn’t set out to be an impact fund: we set out to be commercial, investing in great products and platforms, but the ones that excite us and make a difference are often female-led. The biggest impediment to success is the fear of failure. Consistency and a conscious, positive approach are a great algorithm. I was always passionate and was called emotional by some peers. Emotion can be a weakness, but passion is often a strength and a powerful weapon in the workplace today.

You are now based in New York, but spend much of your time travelling. How do you put together your wardrobe for the lifestyle you have now?

I am coming up to my tenth anniversary living in the US, and when I’m here I still feel very British. I hosted a big party for the late Queen’s Jubilee and for the Red Arrows when they were here. I attended a large Coronation Party with fellow UK ex-patriots and it’s a very loyal community. I go home regularly and spend time with friends in London or the Cotswolds, but I feel a bit of an outsider now, but I do still love it. Britain has given me so many opportunities and my Britishness is an asset in the US, even though my humour isn’t always understood. I am passionate about supporting British brands and would say I have a British heart with a US outlook, which is about living fast and making dreams come true. I spent 30 years in the corporate world wearing formal business suits and four-inch heels, yet on a day-to-day basis I now wear loafers or sneakers, so I can travel in comfort or run 20 blocks in Manhattan. There’s a general shift in what the expectations of a “working wardrobe” means, so many of us have adapted what we wear to reflect a new approach to professional life. Having said that, I do love to dress up and wear a fabulous dress and heels for dinner or an event – though nowadays I do a working dinner at 6.30pm, so I’m home by 8.30 or 9pm. As I’ve got older, I’ve become more conservative in my style. I love quiet luxury, so I have three or four coats in the same style, in different colours, and the same goes for sweaters and pants. Once I find a style I love, I stick with it in several neutral shades. Over the years, I’ve invested along the way in a handful of brands that I favour, so I have beautiful sweaters that I’ve owned and worn for a decade or more. Winser London cashmere is beautiful quality and is made in classic styles that never date, so I have pieces from Kim’s collections over the years that I wear constantly. I love her stretch silk blouses and the stretch pants, too, and they’re very much part of my year-round capsule wardrobe. Winter white is one of my favourite colours as it makes everyone look so sophisticated, wherever you are in the world. Layering is key for me: in New York, we have extreme seasons: it’s very, very cold in winter and very hot in summer, but there are pieces that work throughout, depending how you wear them. During lockdown, I lived in California for a year with my daughter and I spend a fair bit of time in Florida, where I wear lots of white jeans or white denim shorts with a linen shirt, or I might wear a piece from Lily Eve, launched in lockdown by Emma Forbes’ daughter Lily, who makes fabulously chic garments and accessories by upcycling designer scarves, towels and blankets.

You were recently awarded an MBE for services to British Retail Overseas and were invited to Windsor Castle to receive this from King Charles. What does this mean to you?

When they called me to tell me I thought it was a wind-up. When I worked for Fenwick, they had a store right by the castle in Windsor and I never would have imagined that one day I’d be inside as a guest of the King. I have always tried my best to do a good job, but sometimes I made mistakes, so to receive an MBE is a true honour, even though here in the US they have no idea what it is. It was actually awarded by the Queen in the New Year Honours in January 2022, and I was supposed to come over for the ceremony at Buckingham Palace that summer, but due to Covid restrictions there was a backlog. It was a wonderful privilege to meet the King and take my daughter, my partner and my best friend to the ceremony. We stayed at Cliveden then at Claridges, and had a very special few days marking the occasion.

And finally, when you’re off duty, how do you relax?

Easy: I Facetime my kids every day. My son Alex, 27, works on a trading floor in New York and Lydia, my daughter is 24 and works as an artist in West Hollywood, so I love to catch up on their news. I met my partner, Frederick Powers, an entrepreneur and businessman, during lockdown, and feel so blessed to have found him and his two children, Matt and Brooke, who are the same ages as mine, so we have this wonderful extended family. We also have our dogs, Tilly the Samoyed is Fred’s, and my border terrier, Sutter, who we take on long beach walks. I love going to museums and shows and a few years back I started collecting contemporary art. I read a lot of non-fiction, and want to learn more about politics, current affairs, climate change, crime and more so I immerse myself in books. My guilty pleasure is sitting with a Starbucks caramel latte and the Wall Street Journal weekend edition or the New York Post. I’ll spend a leisurely afternoon reading long-form pieces and browsing Town & Country, Elle Decor, Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker magazine. I’m also blissfully happy when watching movies or documentaries on TV in front of the fire. Aside from Soul Cycle, which I stopped when the pandemic happened, I never used to exercise, but I have become obsessed with it recently. In Greenwich in the winter, I play indoor tennis and play outdoors in Florida at weekends, often early in the morning so it doesn’t break my day. A morning walk is the best way to start the day and Central Park is the best garden in the city, while Greenwich has so many beautiful places to walk and breathe in the fresh air and surroundings. I feel very lucky and certainly blessed.