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Editor's Comment: Let's be inspired by the next generation

Keely Stocker

Talent is ultimately at the core of this industry and, as fashion retailing evolves at a quicker pace than ever before, it is paramount that we invest in and celebrate new talent – the leaders of the future.

That is the ethos behind the Drapers Next Generation event, which took place in London this week. Around 300 first, second and third jobbers heard from inspirational speakers such as Jigsaw chief executive Peter Ruis, Berwin & Berwin managing director Simon Berwin, The White Company clothing director Barbara Horspool and a panel of our 30 under 30 winners from earlier this year (more on this event next week).

Drapers’ 30 under 30 is an indication of how much talent there is out there. From technological entrepreneurs, to talented buyers and store managers, those embracing the changing landscape of retail are the ones that will, soon, lead the pack. This inspirational crowd of young people are ambitious, innovative and have high expectations – and rightly so! – for their career ahead.

Retailers must ensure they are inspiring and educating employees

Fashion is an incestuous industry and, as was highlighted to me at a recent Marks & Spencer alumni event, many of those now in senior level positions have worked across a number of retailers (an extremely high percentage have at some point been at M&S, of course). To keep new talent, retailers must ensure they are inspiring and educating employees, allowing them to continue to build on their knowledge of the industry and advance their careers. 

As businesses continue to evolve in a multichannel world, new skills are required, as I was reminded of this week when I met Lee Lucas, principal of the Fashion Retail Academy. To ensure young people have access to learning these new skills, the academy is launching new courses to incorporate the new skills required in retail businesses. It is not just those working in the industry now that we must inspire, but also those still in school. There is work to be done in education to schoolchildren make aware of the fantastic career path can begin by working in a store – as exemplified by new M&S chief Steve Rowe.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, I wrote a piece back in 2014 asking whether the role of the ecommerce director is a dying one. While those skills are absolutely still required, the role is transitioning into that of multichannel director and more recently, chief customer officer, as well as roles focusing on one of the fastest-growing sales channels: mobile. It is important for retailers to keep abreast of these new roles and how they are shaping the future of any business.

This industry has a range of great initiatives, examples of which we saw this week when the British Fashion Council revealed the latest recipients of Newgen Men, who will now have the opportunity to show at London Collections Men, as well as receiving financial support and business mentoring.

Asos has also launched Fashion Discovery – a competition to support emerging fashion talent. Two winning brands will each be granted £50,000, and an edit of their collections will be sold on Asos.

We must continue to support, inspire and celebrate new talent as these are the individuals that will become leaders of the future and, with the pace at which the industry is moving, I imagine it will be a very different retail world to the one we are in today. Let’s celebrate the Next Generation!

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