“Throughout my career I’ve taken risks. Some would call them bold moves. But it’s always more about maximising the opportunities that present themselves,” says Marigay McKee. The general partner at the venture investor Fernbrook Capital Management has now become an Independent Non-Executive Director for Aston Martin and is one of three businesswomen leading Aston Martin Lagonda’s Female Advisory Board (FAB).
McKee, who was appointed MBE in January 2022 for services to British retail overseas, has achieved an extraordinary career. She progressed from Estée Lauder’s European beauty buyer to chief merchant at Harrods. From there she was promoted to Beauty and Accessories Director and advanced to become the London luxury store’s Chief Merchandising Officer, where store volumes trebled while she helped to seal Harrods’ reputation as the home of exclusive luxury brands.
In 2013, McKee moved to New York with her two teenagers to become President of Saks Fifth Avenue. Here she initiated a new branding strategy, creating a luxury platform for emerging and international brands, in the process driving $500 million of revenue growth in just 18 months. Within a couple of years, McKee had left Saks to start her own business, MM Luxe Consulting. The move was driven by her passion to work closely with companies from around the world who were operating at the cutting edge, helping shape the future of life and work, shopping and leisure — businesses like Related, Blackstone, Edens, and Value Retail.
The entrepreneur in McKee new that the time was ripe for independence. “I was doing something different for the first time in my life,” she says. “I always loved helping others and being part of a chaotic mix, so strategic retail advisory made sense and kept me very busy from the get-go.” For her it has always been about learning. “I was lucky to work with world-class brands that were developing the future of living, working, dining and shopping.”
McKee’s retail background had taught her the essential components for success. She had learned the importance of great branding and design, of building communities and thus customer engagement, of creating flexible platforms in the age of physical and digital shopping.
Yet her years at Estée Lauder, Harrods, and Saks also showed her how to place all this within a strict framework, “with great standards and great service at the helm and putting the customer first.” She stayed clear of bringing the corporate structure to her new world. “I felt that creativity, high energy, passion and commitment to hard work were the only key rules needed.”
McKee wanted to take the concept further. She was on a mission to help young and upcoming inventors and entrepreneurs achieve their goals, and gain success with their business ideas. In 2016 she joined forces with the investment banker Bill Detwiler and founded Fernbrook Capital Management. The venture fund’s focus is firmly on consumer tech brands and platforms that have a progressive environmental or societal outlook, with a portfolio of businesses that are now 60% female led.
“My philosophy in life was ‘fortune favours the brave’,” she says. “I was taught to embrace life and every opportunity that came my way, and to never waste time overthinking. So I was less cautious in some instances than I probably should have been,” she continues candidly. “On the upside, from my years at
Estée Lauder to my tenures at Harrods and Saks, it’s been a journey of learning and evolution, and a very international experience.” Last year McKee was approached by Aston Martin to join Anne Stevens and Dame Natalie Massenet on the company’s Female Advisory Board, strengthening its mission to bring diverse, female voices to the company and help open new avenues within the luxury scene. The marque’s commitment to advancing technology and electrification also make it a good fit. After all, McKee has been honing her understanding of the tech world with Fernbrook.
McKee is clearly excited to be part of Aston Martin’s progress into the electrified future. “It is the most iconic British luxury brand and a world class leader in the field, and it makes me proud to be on this journey of evolution at such a critical point.”
McKee enjoys adventure. She’s parachuted to raise awareness for breast cancer, climbed Kilimanjaro and hiked in the foothills of Mount Everest. Her next stop is an Arctic trek. She’s also big on mantras. “I love mantras,” she beams. “Life is a wonderful thing, so ‘never miss an opportunity’ is my mantra.” And her latest, “innovation is my new inspiration”, seems fitting to her role at Aston Martin.
Aston Martin Lagonda initiated the Female Advisory Board (FAB) in 2015 with the objective of introducing influential women to the marque. The move forms part of a wider brand strategy by the company chair, Lawrence Stroll, to bring luxury industry expertise to the Aston Martin board of directors in order to support its future growth ambitions.
The FAB team is led by three strong female voices, each carrying a wealth of knowledge gained from their work in fashion and luxury, retail, and technology and engineering. It includes former Ford manufacturing operations director Anne Stevens, Net-A-Porter founder Dame Natalie Massenet, and co-founder of Fernbrook Capital Management Marigay McKee.
Stevens, Massenet and McKee have already started initiating novel ideas and approaches to business development and marketing — extending as far as future product decisions. The FAB approach is not about making “female-centric” cars. This unique group brings exceptional experience to the company, helping ensure that Aston Martin’s brand strategy remains inclusive and in line with the wider luxury space. Stevens, Massenet and McKee have extensive knowledge and know-how gathered from their different careers and life stages. Their collective experience will help guide Aston Martin to form an even stronger position as a creator of contemporary luxury automobiles.
This story is an extract from an article featured in the AMXX issue of Aston Martin magazine, out now. If you're not already a subscriber, visit magazine.astonmartin.com/magazine-subscription so that you can read the full story.