Young talent is the vibrant soul of the fashion world. Risk-taking individuals with bold new perspectives are what keeps the industry fresh and innovative. Yet too few of these new talents are fully prepared for the many obstacles they will face as they enter the job market.
As creatives, designers are focused first on their materials and creative process usually leaving little time for researching and developing the business acumen required to make those creations a profitable business that will sustain them. Managing their business and forging strong connections with the right people in the industry is an exhausting task that few designers enjoy and even less can master, however the fashion industry is a networking community and to be successful in it you must engage it.
It’s difficult to know the full extent of what it takes to run your own business until you are actually running it. One of the best ways to understand this process is by watching and learning from the entrepreneurs who are successful in your area. By studying their day-to-day management of their business you will learn how to manage your own hours, pricing, sales and investments. Developing and documenting a systematic approach to your processes will not only allow you the ability to examine those processes and make improvements but also to present your business fluently to potential clients and investors.
For designers who are just starting out one of the first obstacles after graduating is finding well paid jobs in their field, made all the more challenging by the current financial situation. Although the €326 billion global fashion industry is one of the most important sectors of the global economy that creates jobs and clothes for people all over the world, employing over 25 million workers in over 100 countries, latest economy reports show that global unemployment rates are higher in 2013 and are expected to remain at elevated levels for many years to come. Labour markets have been affected by the slower-than-projected economic recovery. Employment growth slowed down in 2013 across most regions and global employment grew by a mere 1.4 per cent in 2013 – broadly unchanged from 2012, but lower than in any year of the pre-crisis decade. Employment growth deteriorated in every geographic region except South Asia and North Africa. Indeed, it was the strong acceleration of employment growth in South Asia that helped keep global employment growth stable in 2013 compared with 2012. There were 31.8 million more unemployed persons around the world in 2013 than in 2007, prior to the onset of the global economic crisis (graph). On the basis of current macroeconomic projections, the ILO expects little improvement in the global labour market in 2014, with the global unemployment rate ticking up to 6.1 per cent and the number of unemployed rising by a further 4.2 million.
Lauren Dyer, senior design consultant at Denza International in London, said: “There is no doubt it’s a difficult time, particularly as some universities have dramatically increased their intake of students (some courses have trebled in size) yet the volume of jobs available has not followed this same pattern. However, students must try to remain upbeat with a positive attitude and must work on setting themselves apart from their peers. Ways of doing this would be to make sure they have industry work experience (either as part of their course or during university holidays), make sure their portfolio is kept up to date with new projects after graduating, and by registering with as many agencies as possible. They should also keep their options as open as possible in terms of company type and location.“
Most successful Fashion Houses offer internships to graduates although finding one that will pay you fairly for your labour is another challenge of it’s own. They claim to offer a hands-on education of the industry but in practice many interns find these unpaid internships are not the educational experiences they were promised and accept that they will likely be running errands or fetching coffee. Infamously sued by an unpaid intern, a well-known fashion house has been accused of using their interns as a free workforce for as long as they can stick it without any real possibility of a paid job in the near future. The intern involved says she accepted the internship because she saw ”almost no other way into the fashion industry…I quickly realised I was being exploited. (But) How could I confront my employer at the time when they held all the cards to my future in the industry?“
According to the Department of Labour (UK), giving unpaid interns work that doesn’t provide an educational experience is illegal and regardless these tasks don’t do much to help interns grow or experience real work in fashion design and production.
The most coveted opportunity for new designers is to host their own collection at Fashion Week in the hope of receiving recognition and sales but to reach this stage requires some years of worthy experience, financial backing and industry support that will allow you to present your work with a level of quality deserving of the buyers time. Already fashion week’s designer lists are exceeding capacity and editors and potential clients simply cannot attend every show leaving new designers in the low priority list as commitments and obligations to bigger names take the spotlight. Many emerging designers will even decide against investing in a decent website or photography to spend more money in producing the product which then often sits unsold. This leaves new talent on the sidelines unseen, frustrated and holding a large bill for a collection that couldn’t fulfil it’s promise of a return of revenue.
Speaking about this year’s London Graduate Fashion Week, Willie Walters, BA course director at Central Saint Martins explains “Students who make it this far with us are obviously technically skilled, but they are also incredibly focused on the career they have chosen. There is so much to learn and master during their time with us… They are prepared to sacrifice their private life in return for their passion.“.
In response to this pressure PR company KCD announced an alternative strategy when they launched their Digital Fashion Shows site in February 2013, opening up a new alternative for designers to gain exposure not limited to the hectic 7 days of Fashion Week. “It became necessary to respond to our client’s request to open the platform’s doors wider for greater exposure,” said Rachna Shah, KCD Digital’s managing director.
There are also a variety of new space lending and funding schemes popping up to offer talent a chance to compete. In September last year Giorgio Armani lent his show space to emerging designer Stella Jean who was among the winners of Italy’s Who Is on Next? competition in July 2011 and introduced her first men’s wear collection at the last edition of international trade show Pitti Uomo.
“The new generation of Italian designers needs our support. It is for this reason that I continue to make my theatre on Via Bergognone available to them” stated Giorgio Armani. “Stella Jean will be the next designer to organise a fashion show at the Armani/Teatro, and I hope this experience brings her luck.”
In November 2013, LVMH announced its first-ever Prize for Young Fashion Designers aiming to reveal and support young fashion designers. To help them develop their creative work, LVMH will give winners: A grant of 300,000 euros and personalised technical and financial support for a 12-month period. This support covers all the areas of expertise that are critical to a young fashion brand such as intellectual property, sourcing, production and distribution, image and advertising, marketing, etc..
There are other decent funding initiatives on offer though the awards themselves are usually limited to one main winner and so the competition remains fierce. ( more on funding coming soon )
For too long there’s been a general acceptance of the crushing difficulties young designers must face despite their importance to the industry and it’s only in these recent advances in online presences and open funding campaigns that we find the solutions emerging. This new trend in Fashion is one that will allow all talented and hardworking designers a more equal opportunity to showcase their creations and earn their rightful place in the industry they love.
The world is changing daily so stay tuned to the Fashion Spyder network and keep challenging the rules.
groups/public/—dgreports/— dcomm/—publ/documents/ publication/wcms_233953.pdf
eu/statistics_explained/index. php/Clothing_production_ statistics_-_NACE_Rev._1.1
life-style/fashion/features/ future-style-of-london- graduate-fashion-week-2296695. html