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Pace of change keeps the merry-go-round spinning at full speed

Back to work with a bang this week for everyone in the fashion trade it seems, with one of the busiest weeks Drapers’ newsdesk has contended with.

The start of September is traditionally a time for change, with the summer lull over and people returning to their desks determined to get ahead. This sparks the usual rash of job moves, property deals and commercial activity, which makes it a peak news time for us.

Looking back over the week, our Twitter feed @Drapers and news pages at have been abuzz with news that House of Fraser’s head of womenswear Stephanie Chen is leaving to join Marks & Spencer, Jane Norman is closing its London office and moving its teams to Cardiff, Sir Harold Tillman is reportedly stepping down from his role at the British Fashion Council with Net-a-Porter’s Natalie Massenet taking up the mantle, and trade show Bread & Butter is undergoing a potentially transformational brand reshuffle.

And, of course, people moves usually create a domino effect with the vacated roles being filled by further moves, which means the next six to eight weeks are shaping up to be something of a merry-go-round for the senior roles within the fashion trade.

At M&S, in particular, we are expecting more comings and goings imminently with the arrival this month of Belinda Earl to head up the fashion side of the business. Earl used to work with Chen on the Designers at Debenhams portfolio, and rumours abound that she may bring on board more of her former contemporaries in her efforts to rejuvenate the brand mix at M&S, which has seen a lacklustre performance in recent times.

The question of whether Earl may also bring in some design names to collaborate on some of the future collections has also been mooted, and on menswear too many within the trade are predicting an announcement soon of some key personnel changes, so watch this space.

The BFC move, while officially unconfirmed, is also interesting if not unexpected. The trade has been awash with rumours regarding Tillman’s tenure after his very high-profile exit from the retail market under something of a cloud with the sale of Jaeger and Aquascutum and latterly Allders being put into administration. The decision to appoint someone like Massenet would certainly reinforce the organisation’s fashion credentials.

And finally, the Jane Norman and B&B stories are signs of the huge ongoing turmoil caused within the trade by these tough economic times. We can expect many more companies to unveil structural changes over the latter part of the year in response to the increasing pressures on businesses in the current climate.

Interesting times lie ahead for everyone in the fashion business, that’s for sure – stay tuned!

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