In the world of luxury, everybody wants to be different, but guess what? Nobody knows how to achieve it. During his visit to the London College of Fashion (LCF), Andrew Richard Jennings, a global retail executive, introduced us his key to success. And believe me, this “student of retail” knows a thing or two about fashion.
Andrew started off as a Debenhams’ trainee, and worked his way through buying, advising, and operations up to the CEO. He tasted the different flavours of fashion markets in Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Canada, where he developed his successful formula. The rule number one: BE PASSIONATE, the rule number two: be relevant. Knowing your customers and the competitors allows you to stand out. Personalisation as seen at Burberry, Gucci and, traditionally, Anya Hindmarch plays also a significant role. The customer seeks exclusivity, individual approach and unique experience. Brits have also shown a love for their local suppliers with sustainably sourced products being favoured more than ever before.
Per Jennings, customers are the super beings who hold all the power and brands must listen to them, identify their needs and co-create their lifestyle. In today’s digitalised world, retailers must react in the wink of an eye, otherwise they go bust. Companies such as BHS or Austen Reed ended up in the “retail graveyard”, being replaced by business which, interestingly, have no stock and operate directly with their clients, such as Uber, Airbnb or Amazon. What used to be about 50-70 years long lifespan has now shrunk to 20 years max. And brands need to attract the new generation to maintain their revenue. Some create contemporary fashion to connect with the young audience, some, on the contrary, restore their history, think Selfridges and the Shakespeare’s edit. Nowadays, a piece of clothing is not enough. We want more!
Fast-fashion keeps expanding at a breakneck pace, whilst slow-fashion lags, with brands being manipulated by the unsustainable trends and adopting the “see-now, buy-now” schemes, as described by Vogue. Designers are like journalists. They must always pay attention to the latest trends and know exactly what is happening worldwide. As Garry Player says, “the harder you work, the luckier you become”, and Andrew adds, to always keep a vision in mind. Take the Primark’s founder, Arthur Ryan, who always does his own markdowns. Crazy, you might think, but worth it. Staying true to the vision pays off.
Modern brands represent energy, competence and fearless attitude towards innovation, captured through their campaigns and social media. The decision-makers are talented and passionate people who are not afraid to embrace change and to challenge stereotypes, that is what Andrew calls the “human souls on fire”.
We are shifting away from bricks and water, focusing more on leisure and stories behind the brands. However, there is still a lot of “garbage in, garbage out”, and the generation of us, the design managers, should find a smart solution to this problem right now.
In Conversation with Andrew Jennings, Global Retail Executive, 24 October 2016, LCF, http://events.arts.ac.uk/event/2016/10/24/In-Conversation-with-Andrew-Jennings-Global-Retail-Executive/
Conlon, S. (2016). See-Now, Buy-Now: What Have We Learnt? [Online], Available at: http://www.vogue.co.uk/article/see-now-buy-now-what-have-we-learnt [Accessed 29/11/2016]
Niblock, S. (1996), Journalism, 1st ed., London: Blueprint.
LinkedIn, (2016). Andrew Jennings [Online], Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-jennings-6ba70b11 [Accessed 30/11/2016]
Player, G. (2016), Gary Player Quotes [Online]. Poole: BrainyQuotes: Available at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/garyplayer101939.html [Accessed 30/11/2016]
Selfridges & Co (2016). Shakespeare Refashioned, Available at: http://www.selfridges.com/GB/en/content/article/shakespeare [Accessed 28/10/2016]