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Global careers: Top employers

Fashion is, without doubt, a global business. We pick 10 of the best places to work around the world and tell why you want to be there.

Adidas

Headquarters Herzogenaurach, Germany
Employees worldwide 40,000
Date founded 1949
Web herzo.adidas-group.com

Adidas

Adidas

South African Michele Steyl joined Adidas’s head office in Germany’s Herzogenaurach as an intern in 2011. She is now a business analyst, working between the design teams and the IT department, ensuring the creative people who design collections have all the tools necessary to do their job.

Steyl loves the open-minded and diverse working culture at Adidas: “It’s a big campus. People are young and dynamic. It’s like an extension of university.”

The sporting facilities are extensive; whether you’re into swimming, track sports or tennis, it is all available on site. Staff also have the chance to come face to face with their sporting idols. Lionel Messi, David Beckham and basketball player Dwight Howard have all been guests at Herzogenaurach.

Steyl found relocating to Germany a bit of a culture shock, especially in terms of the food. However, she says because there are so many nationalities at the head office it feels very cosmopolitan. Luckily Adidas’s award-winning cafeteria, Stripes, does not disappoint.

Opportunities to progress your career are plentiful, says Steyl, adding: “Adidas has been an eye-opener for me from a leadership perspective. I have met so many inspirational female leaders. It has a strong ‘never say die’ attitude and a very fast-moving culture.”

Al Shaya

Headquarters Shuwaikh, Kuwait
Employees worldwide 40,000
Date founded 1890
Web www.alshaya.com

There are a number of Middle Eastern retail businesses on the lookout for British talent, and Al Shaya is one of the better
known. It is a franchise operator that represents some 70 brands including Mothercare, H&M and Debenhams.

Its head office is in Kuwait, but there are opportunities throughout the company’s 2,500 stores across the Middle East, North Africa, Russia, Turkey and Europe.

Esther van Veen, senior consultant at recruitment consultancy Talisman Fashion, says: “The Middle East, especially Dubai, is very attractive for UK people. The financial rewards are great and there are plenty of opportunities for career progression; there are stores opening every day.”

She says Brits often find it difficult to return to the UK as they get used to the lifestyle - it is not unusual to live in a beautiful apartment with a swimming pool.

A move to the Middle East would suit people in their first or second job wanting an adventure. Roles in demand include mid-level retail positions such as buyers and merchandisers, as well as store managers. English is spoken throughout the region.

C&A

Main offices Düsseldorf, Germany and Vilvoorde, Belgium
Employees worldwide 37,500
Date founded 1841
Web www.c-and-a.com

It may have quit British high streets some 14 years ago, but C&A is a big player in the European fashion market and a worthy destination for people looking to progress their careers on the continent.

Cherel Pacey, divisional manager at recruitment firm Fashion & Retail Personnel, is impressed with the work ethic at the privately owned company and says: “They are very good at assisting with relocation. They help you settle in and the vibe in the office is sociable.”

There is a good bonus scheme and for the first five years staff pay tax at the rate in their country of origin, which is good news for British candidates as income tax in Belgium and Germany is higher than in the UK.

Pacey says salaries are competitive, too: “People are paid based on what [the company] thinks the role is worth. It is not necessarily dependent on your previous salary.”

There are two head offices. Men’s and children’s clothing is run from the Vilvoorde office, while Düsseldorf handles womenswear.
C&A has had its issues, and is trying to reinvent itself by improving quality in an attempt to rid itself of its low-budget image. It has also pledged to brush up its green credentials by investing in organic cotton on a big scale.

Cotton on Group

Address North Geelong, Victoria, Australia
Employees worldwide 19,000
Date founded 1991
Web www.cottonongroupcareers.com

With its beaches, relaxed lifestyle and cosmopolitan cities, Australia is a dream destination. In terms of developing your career, however, it can be less attractive. Kate Barron, sector lead for retail at recruitment firm ReThink Talent Management, says: “Australia is a great place to work, but not so good for your career. Fashion retailers and brands are a year or two behind the UK.”

Nevertheless, there are a number of companies worth looking into and Cotton on Group is one of them. Over the past 20 years, it has become Australia’s largest value fashion brand. The head office is based in Geelong in Victoria, about 45 minutes away from Melbourne, and it has hubs in South Africa, Singapore, New York and Brazil.

The wellbeing of staff is a priority. There are two gymnasiums and eight full-time personal trainers at the head office, providing sessions for team members across a range of areas including physical fitness, nutrition, team building, stress and recovery, and injury management and rehabilitation.

Osteopaths, naturopaths and massage services are also available on site, and staff are encouraged to take part in company-wide sporting events and competitions.

Fast Retailing

Headquarters Yamaguchi, Japan
Employees worldwide 26,400
Date founded 1949
Web www.fastretailing.com

The Asian market is innovative when it comes to fashion, according to recruitment specialists.

One of the best companies to work for in the region is Japan-based Fast Retailing, owner of a burgeoning collection of businesses including Uniqlo, J Brand and Comptoir des Cotonniers.

The company recently listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and has ambitious plans to become a big player on the global stage. Kate Barron, sector lead for retail at recruitment firm ReThink Talent Management, says: “There are some sexy locations in the world, such as South Africa and Australia, that are great places to work - but you will take a step back in your career. If you want to develop your professional life, head for incredibly commercial, city-focused locations such as Hong Kong and Tokyo.”

Ecommerce is highly developed in these markets, there are plenty of rich executives with important jobs who buy into fashion and the opportunity for career progression is immense, she adds. Fast Retailing offers a good platform for fashion employees of all levels. However, Barron warns most design roles are held by the Japanese.

Groupe Galeries Lafayette

Headquarters Paris, France
Employees worldwide 15,000
Date founded 1893
Web www.groupegalerieslafayette.fr

Paris is arguably the world’s design capital, especially when it comes to high-end fashion.

It is also a lovely place to live thanks to its cafe culture, art galleries and proximity to London. And working conditions are worth a mention: France has a 35-hour working week and benefits are generous.

Barron says a stint in Paris will boost your CV, especially if you work for a well-known retailer such as Groupe Galeries Lafayette.
“Like London and New York, Paris is a hotbed of design,” she says.

The company has been managed by the same family since it was founded 120 years ago, and has big ambitions.

It is expanding internationally and has so far opened department stores in Berlin (1996), Dubai (2009), Casablanca (2011), Beijing and Jakarta (2013). Further openings are planned in Istanbul and Doha in 2015. Knowledge of the French language, however, is a must.

Inditex

Headquarters Arteixo, Spain
Employees worldwide 125,000
Date founded 1975
Web www.inditex.com

Inditex

Inditex

Spanish giant Inditex, owner of Zara, is the largest fashion company in the world with sales of £13.5bn. The majority of its 6,340 stores worldwide are company-owned and it designs and manufactures all its collections. As such it is a fast-paced, highly competitive environment. 

Helen Taylor, associate director at recruitment firm Fashion & Retail Personnel, says the structure is very flat: “There is no hierarchy.”

The company does not offer as many benefits as those in the UK or Germany, for example, but it has negotiated some great discounts for hotels and travel. 

Zara’s headquarters are in Arteixo, A Coruña in the north of Spain, and Taylor says it is “not an easy place to live or place candidates”. However its stablemates Bershka, Lefties, and Pull & Bear’s headquarters are near Barcelona and therefore have more facilities and things to do. 

Inditex prides itself on being fair and multicultural (there are more than 150 nationalities within the group, speaking 40 different languages).

It has an ‘equality plan’ that aims to facilitate work-life balance, which includes measures to help women return to work after maternity leave, the offer of paternity leave and options for flexible working hours.

Nike

Headquarters Hilversum, the Netherlands
Employees worldwide 44,000
Date founded 1964
Web www.nikeinc.com

Nike

Nike

Nike’s European headquarters are in Hilversum, 16 miles southeast of Amsterdam. With more than 1,400 employees from 68 nationalities, the complex is an international melting pot. 

Lisa Duncan relocated to Nike from the UK in 2004 to work in the events team, where she stayed for three years. Although she has since moved back to the UK and set up her own events business, she says it was one of the best places she has worked.

“I loved my time at Nike. The facilities are incredible. Every sport you can imagine, from hurdles to yoga, is available on site. You are allowed to take a class at any time.”The dress code is casual, with not a suit in sight. An employee store is open to sell Nike product at a substantial discount, while two restaurants serve food labelled with detailed nutritional information. 

The eco-friendly office has a roof shaped to collect rainwater that is then used to irrigate the gardens and flush the toilets - thus saving more than 4 million litres (879,877 gallons) of water per year.

As well as being obsessed with sport, people at Nike are heavily into brand development. Duncan says: “The attention to brand detail is phenomenal.”

VF Corporation

European headquarters Lugano, Switzerland
Employees worldwide 57,000
Date founded 1899
Web www.vfc.com

VF Corporation

VF Corporation

VF Corporation is the American parent company of more than 30 well-known brands including Wrangler, Lee, The North Face, 7 For All Mankind, Vans and Reef.

Although a franchise operation, the business works in conjunction with brand designers to tweak products for the European
market - creating an opportunity for designers here. This is particularly the case at its European headquarters in Lugano, Switzerland.

Kate Barron, ReThink Talent Management’s sector lead for retail, explains: “When you walk onto the Vans floor at the VF offices, it looks like a Vans head office. There is product everywhere and designers working on new lines.”

VF is keen on British talent. Its head of HR is Adrian Parry, formerly of New Look, and he has been recruiting staff from the UK.

Switzerland may be tax free, but living costs are high. VF attempts to make amends for this, however. Salaries are typically £10,000 above those in the UK and the company helps with relocation, offering a concierge service and three months’ free accommodation.

Listed on the New York Stock Exchange, VF is very much an international business offering candidates the chance to work on some highly regarded brands.

Gap

Headquarters San Francisco, US
Employees worldwide 134,000
Date founded 1969
Web www.gapinc.com

Gap

Gap

It can be difficult to get a job in the US because of the strict visa requirements, says Esther van Veen, senior consultant at recruitment consultancy Talisman Fashion.

If you are serious about working there, however, a stint at Gap would make your CV sparkle.

The company is the third largest in the world in terms of sales, with £9.6bn, behind Inditex (£13.5bn)and H&M (£11.5bn). It operates some of the most recognised global brands, including Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta, from its 3,200 stores worldwide.

As well as its commercial success, Gap has been recognised for its social responsibility. It recently came third in a list of
‘100 Best Corporate Citizens’ compiled by Corporate Responsibility Magazine.

Among its efforts is a programme that teaches basic skills - including literacy, stress management and verbal communication - to female garment workers in developing countries such as Cambodia and India. This has so far reached 25,000 women. The company has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2015.

It has also been expanding a youth programme called This Way Ahead, which offers job training and internships to disadvantaged young people in New York and San Francisco.

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