Fashion is glamorous, fascinating, and enchanting, but can one say the same about the fashion business?
Desautels Fashion Business Uncovered literally uncovers these myths about the fashion industry and helps participants understand the different angles of fashion business.
The conference consisted of various panels with speakers from different backgrounds, which this year included two keynote speakers from Groupe Dynamite, the main sponsor of the conference, and others from Cory Vines, Beyond the Rack, Love That Bag, Frank and Oak, Pajar, Ernest & Young, Patty Shapiro & Associates, Le Chateau, Prestige Recruitment, Maybelline/Essie, LouLou, and finally, Elle Quebec.
Thanks to the wide variety of speakers, I was able to discover so much of the backstage action happening in the industry, as it allowed me to indirectly experience what the speakers shared with the conference attendants – their experiences, insights, stories, and advice. Since I found this conference helpful, I want to share my take on it for Her Campus readers who might be interested in attending next year.
FBU did a wonderful job attracting such a wide variety of panelists. Each speaker was able to share her/his story and experiences in their own area of the business, which definitely allowed the committee to achieve their goal of “building visibility” and making it known that fashion business is not just about design and modelling.
For example, FBU presented Daniel Lieberman from Cory Vines, Yona Shtern from Beyond the Rack, Alessandra Salituri from Love That Bag, and Isaac Souwiene from Frank and Oak as panels for E-Commerce, a fast-developing area of business. They also invited speakers involved in the Human Resources area from Patty Shapiro & Associates, Le Chateau and Prestige Recruitment, as well as areas such as print (magazines), beauty, outerwear, and audit.
It was very interesting to see their different views on topics such as globalization, the shift from “authentic” or traditional ways of retailing to fast fashion, and of course the switch of generations.
Many speakers including Elie Chammah and Tanya Lehrman talked about how the way people shop today has changed vastly. The pace of evolution is speeding up and the way to survival is to adapt to technology – new product infrastructure, new short-term base inventory changes, and a new landscape of retail as whole. It was very exciting to hear them share honest opinions regarding this change, as they described it as the era where you grow up with the bosses, and also the “exit of baby-boomers.” Factors such as social media, the web, and E-Commerce all contribute to the parallelization of the world, and they emphasized the fact that our generation is the one that truly will understand this shift. At the same time, we are the spoiled consumers who can see new inventory on a two-week basis, and we are the ones in control of what is offered in most cases. We know what we want.
This was a recurring theme in the world of print as well, as the editors of LouLou and Elle Quebec described. Although they believe there always will be a need for print, they agreed that it will no longer be what it is today. Due to the fast changing technology, a new platform of print is emerging on the web such as virtual reality, leaving little space for conventional uses of physical print, but generating the need to be creative to define its space in the industry, which is becoming our job. The “tangible relationship of physical pages” can never be replaced, they firmly stated, but due to the change in the whole fashion business, it is inevitable that we carve new landscapes for it. Such comments frankly expressed the panelists’ mixed feelings of concern and excitement for the new generation
The FBU conference made sure to cover some real life concerns and curiosities of the participants, and to draw helpful and applicable tips from the panels. Some skills or traits they deemed as a plus were agility to keep up with the continuously evolving industry, the ability to accept hard criticism, emotional intelligence to find something personal and relatable, attention to detail (“retail is detail!”) as well as the ability to build one’s presence (social personality, bi- or multi-lingual ability for international presence, etc).
When they were asked to give some advice, most speakers talked about the importance of knowing the difference between the “real” aspects of fashion business as opposed to the expectations that people often have.Speakers from Patty Sharpiro & Associates as well as Le Chateau and Prestige Recruitment explained that there is a certain perception of high-end brands that most people have: Forget about it, they said. They explained that the glam is for the customers, not for those who create it – it has a theatrical aspect where all the backstage action is the responsibility of the workers, and all the fun and glitz for the customers. The glamorous lifestyle you would expect to have is something you earn in years, the same as you would expect in any other businesses.
Another common misconception is that one might have a say in products; what to offer and how. However, fashion brands are, in most cases, broken down into departments just like any other companies; it’s a business, after all. And it is very rare that one worker in a certain department will have legitimate impact on the product itself, especially in big name companies that many hope to work for. So unless you want to have your dreams crushed and find out the hard way, you better realize that whichever industry you go into, you earn what you put in. Fashion industry does not equal glamor.
Areas to improve on
Overall, the conference managed to carry out a very healthy and active relationship between the panels and the participants throughout the day, held an encouraging and inspiring atmosphere, and the speakers were very honest and friendly. However, there was one thing that I personally thought could be improved on, which was the beauty & fashion section of the conference. It was a thoughtful decision for the committee to include a beauty aspect in the conference, since beauty and fashion are often closely related. The speakers were recent McGill graduates, which also helped us relate and see real cases of successful McGill students. The thing that I was disappointed by was that the beauty panel was merely an introduction and a promotion of the brands the speakers represented; Maybelline and Essie. I found that in their presentation, the panel focused mainly on introducing the brands, if not straight-out advertising. There is a fine line between explaining or describing their work as a brand ambassador and promoting the brand, and the speakers and the committee should be careful not to skew the content towards the latter, in my opinion. Highlighting the new campaigns and the new product lines can come off as advertisements. Therefore the presentation should be more focused on how one can work for such renowned companies, and get to the ambassadors’ positions where they actually get to participate in such projects.
When I personally went up to Melanie Ioanna (the speaker from Maybelline) and asked her specific questions, she was very kind and enthusiastic in helping me out and answering my questions fully, so the committee should fully leverage the speakers’ willingness and readiness to help out and ask more detailed questions that might come in handy for the listeners. For example, when I asked her about how she was able to win the Brandstorm competition and earn a job offer from L’Oreal, she gave me a detailed answer outlining the different case competitions that she participated in since she was a freshman at Desautels, such as Jeux de Commerce, Desautels Case Competition, and many more hosted in cooperation with other companies.
All in all, the Fashion Business Uncovered conference was very successful in providing all participants with a platform to obtain more information regarding frequently overlooked aspects of the fashion industry, and insights from experienced professionals that one cannot easily obtain in their every day lives. If any Her Campus McGill readers are interested in pursuing a career in a fashion related field, I strongly suggest that they attend the conference in upcoming years, and come prepared with specific questions that they may want to ask during the conference itself or personally during the networking cocktail, in order to take full advantage of all panels.
Images obtained from the Fashion Business Uncovered Facebook page.