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New talents must think of themselves ‘as a brand’

Pentland Brands’ Andy Rubin tells next generation of fashion talent they must be proactive to succeed.

Andy Rubin, chief executive of brand house Pentland Brands, which owns Boxfresh, Kickers and Speedo, has urged the next generation of fashion talent to think of themselves “as a brand” if they are to succeed in today’s tough climate.

Speaking at Drapers Next Generation Academy, Rubin said delegates must be “flexible” to cope with today’s perfect storm - the combination of market issues including the rising costs of raw materials and labour, rising unemployment and price inflation. “Plan your career and be proactive,” said Rubin. “You must step out of your comfort zone, embrace new technology and seek role models and mentors.”

He added that delegates must have a “passion for fashion and an obsession for product”, but must also understand all disciplines within an organisation if they are
to move further up in the company. “If you can’t read a P&L [profit and loss account], ask someone to show you,” he said. “The great thing about my job is the ability to spot and promote talent. Sometimes I promote people sooner to speed up their progress [if they show potential] and make them leaders.”

Rubin advised business leaders to hire people who are better than themselves. “That way, you make yourself redundant, so you can rise up [further],” he said.
Rubin also called on delegates to understand the key drivers in the fashion industry, including the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). “In this decade, 70% of growth will come from the BRIC countries, with one billion new middle-class consumers by 2021,” he said. “Income growth will double in 10 years in India and China, and in 12 years in Brazil.”

Online fashion sales will continue to grow, said Rubin, to become 16% of all fashion sales by 2012. As for the perfect storm, Rubin said cotton has been at its highest price “since the American Civil War”. He added: “Oil, rubber, leather, synthetics - prices are up for all. Labour costs have risen fourfold in India and China in the last five years. The strong are getting stronger and factories are looking to reduce the number of customers they have to only work with the best.”

Rubin was later joined by other leaders in fashion, who also offered their advice on how delegates could make their way to the top. Erica Vilkauls, brand consultant
for women’s occasionwear retailer Jacques Vert, said young people need tenacity and patience to rise. “It’s also about being really, really good. I took lots of sideway steps in order to become a more rounded manager,” she said.

Andy Rogers, brand director at premium retailer Reiss, said being a good intern is one way of getting offered a full-time job. “If they shine, if they’re good at their job, they’ll often stay,” he said. “I like people in my team who surprise me.”

Kate Barron, operations director at retail recruitment consultancy Success Appointments, said business leaders play a key role in nurturing young talent. “If you can identify talent and feed tasks [to talented individuals], then they’ll shine by themselves,” she said. “It’s also important that leaders remain inquisitive, that they still want to learn and grow. Leaders shouldn’t lead from too far away.”

How to get ahead

Success Appointments operations director Kate Barron reveals her tips on how to reach the top

  • Work hard. About 30% of success is talent and 70% is hard graft. There’s no substitute for hard work.
  • Follow the 24-hour rule. If you’re feeling upset by something that has happened at work, sleep on it before dealing with the problem.
  • A degree combined with industry experience does give you an advantage.

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