Lands' End CEO: From supercars to American fashion

The future of this American label could depend on Italian Federica Marchionni's touch
The future of this American label could depen... 06:40

Federica Marchionni is the new CEO of clothing retailer Lands' End. The company parted ways last year with parent company Sears and now the future of this American label could depend on an Italian's touch, reports "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King.

Appointed to the top job in February, the 43-year old faces real challenges. In March, the company had to recall some of its Childrens' sleepwear, as materials used failed to meet federal standards for flammability.

"We take this very seriously. We do control our product right from the beginning to the process and to the end and we will continue to do that," Marchionni said.

The recall certainly didn't help the company's stock, which closed Wednesday at 28.63 more than 27 points off its 12-month high of 56.25.

Today, the clothing and lifestyle company brings in more than $1.5 billion dollars a year, but some would say, Lands' End has been struggling a little bit in recent years. Marchionni said that's why she's here.

"I always made any company succeed and actually even more than succeed from the expectation," she said.

Marchionni herself goes against expectations for a company whose stock and trade is outdoorsy American casualwear.

Her two previous jobs were at Italian sports car manufacturer Ferrari and the high fashion house Dolce & Gabbana -- though she said there's no plan to trade in polos and tote bags for sequins and stilettos.

But her friends had differing reactions when she told them she was thinking about leaving Docle & Gabbana for Lands' End.

"Well, my friends, first of all, trust me. So, they thought that if I think that this was a good opportunity for me, I should go for it. Some were more skeptical," she said. "I was trying to convince them that this is a company that has the biggest opportunity in the market to grow. Everyone love Lands' End, everyone."

And that includes Marchionni, who said before she ever imagined working for the company, she was a customer because of her 7-year-old son Gabriel.

"Because he wears the Lands' End uniform from his school, and this is how I get to know them. And then I start to shop," she said. "I was so impressed by the customer service that I can really say this is the biggest strength of the company."

Lands' End, a company that started in 1963 as a yachting supply business, is headquartered on a sprawling campus in the tiny Wisconsin town of Dodgeville.

Marchionni is leading the company while splitting her time between New York and Wisconsin. From small town to Times Square, Marchionni is able to navigate two very different worlds.

"And I like it. And what I said is that envisioning the non-obvious makes things unexpected. And, of course, this wasn't an expected choice. But only when you do take chances, you can grow," she said.

The Lands' End campus buzzes with activity. Though their products are made overseas, all customizing is done in Wisconsin -- hemming their iconic chinos, monogramming their tote bags and emblazoning shirts with logos.

The campus is also equipped with a fitness center that includes exercise classes and a swimming pool -- all available to employees at no cost.

"So, this is the philosophy of the company. The founder always said that if you take care of your people, if you take care of your customer, the business take care of yourself. And I totally, totally agree with that," she said.

In a recent "CBS This Morning" interview, CEO Jack Welch said he thinks it's important for the top person in a company to be friends with their employees. Marchionni said as people-person herself, she strives to create strong teams.

"I'm always say to them, 'I work for you. You work for the company.' So I try to help them and I try to always raise the bar of what I need to achieve," she said. "And, of course, I'm demanding."

Demanding, she said, because she's never content.

"It's never enough. We can do better. So, I believe that there is no perfection, but there is excellence," Marchionni said.

Excellence she hopes to achieve using the same characteristics that attracted Lands' End.

"Strong business mind with passion for success, knowledge of how to create an appealing and wonderful offer to the consumer and how to conquer consumers," she said.

As for accomplishing the latter, she said it's just a question of time.