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Drapers Next Gen: Seek out mentors to keep learning, says Coast creative director

It’s crucial to find mentors to ensure you’re constantly learning no matter how senior your role is, Neil Hendy creative director of Coast has advised.

Neil Hendy

Speaking at the Drapers Next Generation 2015 event in London today, Hendy said: “It’s important to try and find mentors in business, whether you are an assistant or design director. It’s always good to find someone you can learn from.”

He cited current Coast chief executive Kate Bostock, who he also worked with for a number of years during his time at Marks & Spencer between 2006 and 2014, as one of his mentors: “She was instrumental in being a mentor, she was great as a sounding board and was there to reassure if I had any concerns, or to help.” He said his role at the high street stalwart exposed him to a lot of opportunities he had not had before.

He added that networking and contacts are essential: “Fashion retail is a big business, but also a small business as you bump into people you know. The more contacts you can get and relationships you can make… it is so important especially the higher up you go as the [career] choices get narrower. A lot of jobs can come from the people you know.”

Coast is now looking to broaden its product range to offer shoppers the complete look, including adding denim, but he stressed the retailer is “not losing its Coast DNA”. “We want to be more reactive to trends, but not a slave to trends, we have our own handwriting.”

He argued that the key attributes needed to succeed in retail are “passion and drive” and said it is good for those starting out in their careers to jump around in different roles to gain more experience and learn about different opportunities.

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