Thursday, 20 March 2014


As the days of my rein as Vice Chair dwindle away we had a last hoorah with the Fashion Society, taking 80 students to capital of cool, Berlin.

We committee members had put months of planning in to organising this trip, from the tedious risk assessments to organising marketing and promotion, competitions and giveaways and the all-important itinerary.

The 22-hour coach journey (each way!) could have been horrific but with everyone in great spirits, armed with their Fashion Society-branded party bags and a plethora of DVDs the hours melted away.

Once in Berlin we took the group on a day of culture in the form of a walking tour around the main sights from the sobering Holocaust memorial and the infamous Berlin wall to the Reichstag building with unparalleled views of the city.

The highlights of the trip included the brilliant Photoautomats that litter the city, the apothecary-style Absinthe bar, stumbling across a pro-feminism protest and, of course, the wonderful people.

It will be a sad occasion when we have to hand over to next year’s committee in April but… we’ll always have Berlin.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Big Issue Student Conference Part Two

Lynn Boorady, an energetic and passionate speaker held a captive audience with her engaging presentation style, as Associate Professor and Chair of Fashion and Textiles at Buffalo State University, she lead a discussion concerning garment fit.

She used a variety of statistics to convey the serious implications fit has for fashion retailers, particularly concerning online sales where 70% of returns are because of fit. Lynn outlined key studies concerning anthropometrics, ergonomics and garment fit historically and currently and highlighted the gaps in research and what needs to be done as well as some interesting technological developments already available (see below).

Most interestingly, she highlighted how the Xbox Kinect is a £250 body scanner sitting in thousands of homes across the globe; we could harness it's capabilities to send our exact measurements to retailers who could then use hundreds of units of data to create more realistically sized clothes over time.

Mark Eley, of Eley Kishimoto spoke of 'Optihope'; his combination of optimism and hope for the future of our global society. He used this opportunity to influence a captive audience of 300, optimistic, wide-eyed university students before they were inevitably jaded by corporate greed about the unfair distribution of wealth and the impossible situation debt-ridden, undeveloped countries face a la Russell Brand.

From the people I spoke to, this speech seemed to fall on deaf ears, they did not understand the content or the reason behind this speech, I myself thought it was interesting and insightful, not to mention brave as Mark Eley seemed to struggle through his nerves and apprehension. Whilst it was not the most appropriate audience he definitely reached one person and made me think about coherent global empathy and his utopian socialist ideology.

Karen Webster, of RMIT University in Melbourne and the Australian Design Alliance, presented her Big Issue, sustainability.

Karen had some interesting thoughts on this well-thumbed subject of overt consumption and the model of disposability, not least the speed at which 'designers' are churning out garments to quench consumers' insatiable thirst for new items. She spoke of how designs are copied from a small pool of ideas making the market entirely homogeneous and dull and limiting the creativity of designers who are unable to convey their passion and skill due to the contstraints of the modern retail market.

Karen proposes we re conceptualise the traditional fashion weeks so they become purely a marketing tool as apposed to having any effect on the supposed 'seasons', this would play on the theatre of fashion and halt the perpetuation of the next 'new thing'. She also believes brands and designers should build on their previous ranges as apposed to creating something entirely new which would encourage consumers to add to their wardrobe instead of discarding and replenishing.

Advancements in fabric technology have meant we now have the capabilities to produce heirloom items such as the life coat by Jet Korine.

Caryn Franklin ended the day with the most empowering and inspiring speech yet, Diversity.

Caryn began by highlighting how we have gone from a diverse and charismatic catwalk in the 1990's to a completely dull, caucasian catwalk today in response to the increasing speed of our modern industry and the lack of importance we as individuals represent to brands.

She showed us a series of adverts that glorify the pornification of fashion and the demoralisation of women, showing various campaigns featuring women in degrading and demeaning positions. Caryn also spoke of how the fashion industry is grooming young and impressionable pre-teens with such images by hyper-sexualising, undermining and objectifying them resulting in an unrealistic and unhealthy perception of beauty.

Her message throughout was to embolden the younger generation, to use ethnically and age diverse models in campaigns and to remember that we are the future and we need to promote a broader spectrum of beauty.

The Big Issue Student Conference

This year's Student Conference at MMU was a smorgasbord of inspirational fashion industry insiders; the day kicked off with Jacqui Gray, Head of International Sourcing for Florence & Fred who I'd met briefly in Shanghai a few months ago on a study trip.

Jacqui's Big Issue was passion, which she defined as "putting more energy in to something than is required to do it". She spoke of her passion and where it has lead her in life and advised us to follow our own, particularly in reference to working abroad; having worked in Bangladesh and China herself she urged us to be brave, competitive and proactive in finding jobs abroad and to open our minds to developing countries.

Her parting wisdom was to understand your own value-adding skills and how you can convey these to others as well as connecting with others by any means necessary.

Tom Burke followed with a unique and well-informed view of the luxury market and how our changing world has affected it. Tom is an ex-MMU student and is now Assistant Manager of Chanel's global flagship store on New Bond Street in London, the largest boutique in the world.

Tom commented on the development of social media, the brand ubiquity caused by this communications revolution and how this has affected the Decision Making Process for the luxury consumer. He also noted how the ease of travel has meant an increase in global consumers shopping all around the world, resulting in a homogeneous market and the effect this has had on how sales staff interact with consumers. In addition, the democratisation of luxury, which began after WW2, means luxury is more accessible to the masses, resulting in the need to offer better, more tailored service to real luxury consumers and not losing the intrinsic, personal connection in this digital world.

Tom sees the future of luxury consisting of more personalised product opportunities, a decline in luxury sales online and more rebranding and repositioning in the market.

Hillary Alexander interviewed Todd Lynn about his career in the fashion industry, a Central Saint Martins Graduate who has made a name for himself designing the clothes of rock stars from Mick Jagger to Marilyn Manson.

Robert Ott, of Ryerson University in Canada voiced his view on unpaid internships in the fashion industry as glorified exploitation fuelled by nepotism, meaning those with connections can get ahead whilst others struggle to find even unpaid work.

His food for thought was for us to realise only we can break this cycle by ensuring we pay our interns when we are in the position to hire them in the future.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Capital Idea

A day in London is just not enough, I'm feeling completely inspired and ready to start the next season.

I could've spent a long weekend in Selfridges alone- they've revamped the men's shoe department and now stock over 72,000 pairs- the largest array in The world I'm told! Check out their shoe carnival this month- it looks a riot!

It was great to speak to the sales staff for the brand I work on, they were more critical than expected but I've now got a notebook full of ideas for next season and enquiries to make with other departments including visual merchandising.

Starting Blocks

Today is the day I start the SS14 range for shirts, ties and accessories. I've just placed the fabric orders for AW13 14 and negotiated delivery dates with all the factories. As my placement comes to an end shortly I've been asked to get the next range finished ahead of time - I'm actually excited at the prospect of everything, not only being on time for once, but early as well!

I'm currently on the train to London to start the process, I'll be visiting the current range and assessing its success by talking with the sales staff and asking what they'd like to see for spring summer. I'll then visit our competitors and see what they're doing (a bit cheeky but everyone has to do it - you don't want to miss out on a major trend).

If I've got time I will also try to visit the V&A, they've got a David Bowie exhibition starting this week, his flamboyant and eccentric style has influenced many a designer over the decades including the great Paul Smith (see this weeks Mr Porter Journal).

On the train back tonight I'll write up my conclusions and ideas for SS14 and when I'm back in the office I'll look at the fabrics from Premiere Vision (see my previous post). I'll then choose the range, creating initial design boards.

I also like to look at trend forecasting site Mudpie, partly because I'm passionate about this aspect of the industry but also for inspiration with colours, vision and accessories.

Once the fabrics are finalised I'll create the design sheets, choosing the fit, collar, cuffs, trims and design details. I also have to take in to account the suits which are overlooked by a separate buying team we try to make the range cohesive so they sit well in stores and encourage add on sales.

When we have the finished shirt range; prices have been negotiated, deliveries agreed and all elements (branding, trim, fabrics etc) have been synchronised we meet with merchandise who tell us how much of each shirt we can buy and asses our margins (being a small but luxury brand means margins are tight). Quantities may then affect prices- if we don't meet minimums on fabrics we can be charged extra which is why it's important to form good relationships with suppliers- they can sometimes let you off the surcharges!

From the shirts, the ties and accessories fall in to place and colours are developed. Since starting on this brand I've been pushing for tie bars - perhaps an obvious thing but with tight margins any risk can be detrimental. At the conference earlier in the month (see my previous blog) store managers asked to see them along with a whole new range of accessories which I'm now going to develop.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Consumer Profiling

When I took over this brand I had little idea of who our customer was, the brand seemed to lack vision and I couldn't work out who would buy our product.

I looked over an archive of past ranges, did my research on the internet (which was pretty fruitless - we're only a little fish in a big pond) and asked around the company, anyone who'd ever worked on the brand had left and no one seemed to have a clear idea.

As I've mentioned before we had little time to pull the range together and so I relied mainly on looking at who I felt were our competitors in the market and looked at who their consumers were; a quirky, luxury shirt brand for a mans man with a rich history and a high end price tag to me meant brands such as Paul Smith, Duchamp and Tiger of Sweden, to name a few, but for this season I've set myself a project of creating an in depth and comprehensive consumer profile of our own (something I think every brand should have regardless)

I've sent our a document to our store managers to fill in, after all they know our customers the best, including the basics; age, job, marital status, reason for buying, style icon etc. I'm also going to look in to more in depth socio and geo demographics and use statistical information from Mintel and the National Readership Survey. 

Once I complete this we'll have a much better idea of who our man is and i'll have a great piece of work to add to my portfolio (which I am constantly adding to as and when I find the time!)

Tomorrow I'm going to London to visit our stores and check out the customers myself, I've also been reading magazines such as GQ & Esquire to get in to our consumer's head and I'm finding it really interesting, I'm intrigued by brand development and what motivates customers to buy, as a buyer you get to be involved in all aspects of the product which is great at getting an insight in to different job roles I'd like to explore when I graduate.