The womenswear market has always been a highly competitive sector and several key fashion appointments over the last few weeks indicate how retailers are planning to stay ahead.
Last week, the appointment of Peter Ruis, former Jigsaw CEO, as managing director of international at Anthropologie was exclusively revealed by Drapers.
This follows the news of the return of Fiona Lambert to the fashion industry as managing director of business development at River Island and Emma Alexander’s appointment as fashion director of Shop Direct.
What strikes me about these appointments is that retailers are confirming the need for individuals with fashion product expertise as part of any senior team. We were starting to see a trend of industry making top-level appointments from outside of the sector: Alex Williamson as CEO of House of Fraser, Sergio Bucher at the helm of Debenhams and Jill McDonald as managing director of clothing and home at Marks & Spencer were the most prominent.
And although there is an argument that fashion retailers need a shake-up, it cannot come at the expense of product knowledge.
New ideas are required, restructuring will take place and more agile strategies will be implemented for retailers to keep up with the pace of change – but, ultimately, fashion will always be about the product.
As the UK market becomes more and more saturated, retailers are seeking to evolve into other clothing categories or tap into new customer segments to expand their offer and appeal to a varied but clearly defined audience.
Alongside a robust strategy, this demands the right product to be targeted at the right customer base – as well as the individuals with those specific skills to lead it.
Ruis’s move to Anthropologie is a smart one, as it sits in the level of the market that he knows best, but allows him to develop the international success of the brand as the turbulent state of the UK market is only set to continue as Brexit decisions are made.
The success of any fashion business involves a mix of skills, but it will always require product people to sit at the heart of it and I imagine we will be seeing a few more industry names returning to the sector over the next few months.