Tuesday, 4 March 2014

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.

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