Luxury fashion consultant David Jones tells Ana Santi his vision for the future and how the industry has changed over the past 30 years.
How did you become a consultant for the luxury fashion industry?
I started as an apprentice for a coat company in St Albans, Hertfordshire, called WO Peake. I trained as a tailor but when I returned after doing national service I went back as a cutter. When Aquascutum bought the business, I became general manager and quickly moved up the ranks. I was there for about 20 years before I was headhunted by Wallis and became group manufacturing director. It was a great opportunity to get involved in retail at a time when there was very little else around, other than Carnaby Street, Biba and Mary Quant. After about 12 years I decided to become a consultant, something that didn’t really exist in the late 1970s.
How does your work now compare with 30 years ago?
Designer John Galliano was one of my first clients but nothing of great significance has changed since. Maybe there is a bit more balance now as marketing has been incorporated into some fashion courses, but most people still only think about the business element of fashion when they require it. I always tell people to think about a career, not just a job. That’s why my message for people starting out is ‘always get involved in the industry’. During my career, I’ve been a member of The Clothing and Footwear Institute, which is now The Textile Institute, president of the Clothing Designers and Executives Association and part-time pattern cutter at the London College of Fashion. My fear is that we over-produce designers and that people don’t understand the breadth of opportunity in the industry.
You’ve experienced several downturns during your career. How does the current one compare with previous recessions?
It feels different from the others. I do believe that every business manager needs to run his or her company uphill. You have to evaluate every decision on a cost-effective basis. I would love shops to have four clearly defined seasons. We all know that winter now ends on Boxing Day, so the consumer waits for the markdowns before buying anything. We need to get back to that habit of having winter stock in October and selling it out at the end of January. We can’t control the weather but we need to control margins. I don’t think all these markdowns are associated with a depression. They happened last year and consumers are used to it now.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a project with Portobello Business Centre [www.pbc.co.uk], where I run a fashion management course, offering 10 new start-ups a year-long mentoring service at no cost. I’m looking for candidates now. It will start next year and be financed by the London Development Agency.
Where do you think the future lies for the luxury industry?
I’m a stickler for service and that’s the future. People have to enjoy the whole experience and for me that’s luxury, not just luxury of product. I also think buyers should give up just five minutes of their time to a designer, even if it was an open door policy at the start of the season where designers could show buyers their work. If buyers could just offer some positive criticism, it would really open doors for new blood.
David Jones is a freelance luxury fashion consultant
Who is your fashion icon and why? Coco Chanel. When I was working for Wallis, we would reproduce shapes from catwalk shows at Paris Fashion Week for our Pick of Paris range, and the Chanel suit was one of the most technically difficult garments to do. But we managed it.
French designer Gabrielle Bonheur ‘Coco’ Chanel was born in 1883 in Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, France. She opened her first shop in Paris, selling raincoats and jackets, but was forced to close it soon after. Undeterred, Chanel went on to open another shop selling hats in Brittany, France. In 1913, she introduced women’s sportswear and opened a second store in Deauville, France. But Chanel was most famous for designing simple, yet elegant clothes, taking fabrics such as jersey and upgrading them. She was instrumental in creating the image of the1920s flapper and the iconic Chanel jacket, with its intrinsic design and construction details that distinguish it from any other tailored jacket. Chanel died in 1971, aged 87.