For the graduates of 2020, the already competitive and ferocious fashion industry has taken a hit due to the pandemic.
We are beginning to see in the press the effects of the coronavirus on the industry as businesses financially cut back in order to stay afloat.
Earlier this month Ted Baker announced that 500 roles across the UK would be cut in an attempt to save £6 million by 2021, resulting in around 200 job losses in its London HQ.
Sportswear giant, Nike, declared they would be “shifting resources” to reinvest into higher prioritised areas, such as digital. They reinforced the fact that job cuts would be made, not to save costs, but to redirect funds back into the company. Nike aims for digital to account for 50% of its business, suggesting fashion jobs aren’t cancelled, just redirected to the world of AI and virtual couture.
Now, we haven’t written this article to scare all of you readers with the dream of working in luxury fashion, rather to help prepare you. In the UK, around half of fashion graduates manage that jump from university to the fashion industry (under usual pre-pandemic circumstances). Fortunately, fashion degrees provide transferable skills, from discipline to creativity, increasing employability across a variety of alternative sectors.
The fashion industry is moving at an extremely rapid pace, and surprisingly enough, brands are still hiring, just not in the areas you may be applying for…
Based on research by The Business of Fashion, the following highlights the roles which fashion brands are looking to fill now… and will continue to fill in the future.
VIRTUAL SHOWROOM DESIGNER
As a result of the global lockdown, jobs which once required lengthy journeys and expensive plane tickets can now be successfully fulfilled virtually.
Fashion buyers have adjusted to using online shopping tools like virtual showrooms, consisting of interactive digitally rendered spaces where shoppers can browse luxury samples online. Companies are beginning to pop up all over the world suppling to the demand of luxurious and innovative virtual showrooms. Exceptional digital design skills are a highly desirable quality in the industry, with the ability to provide buyers with an interactive and slick experience that is in rivalry with the traditional physical showrooms.
As much as we love price reductions as consumers, from a brand’s point of view, it is a serious way of minimising profits. The pandemic meant fashion brands were left with colossal amounts of unsold stock when stores went into lockdown. When stores reopened, trends and seasons had changed, causing brands to cut prices in order to make way for new collections which were already on their way. Industry leaders are beginning to reconsider how products are designed, planned, manufactured and sold.
With inventory management, traditionally retailers based their stock decisions on pre-planned budgets and trend forecasts. However recent circumstances have highlighted the flaws in this out-dated strategy. In its place, automated inventory management services will be introduced which coordinate stock using data driven models that will predict demand with higher accuracy.
Strong analytical skills and the power of interpreting and managing metrics will be crucial to preventing overstock of this level from occurring in the future. A role in automated inventory management will require employees to have high organisation skills and an understanding of the relationship between stock management and external variances such as localisation, cultural and demographic differences as well as trend forecasts.
CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY PROFESSIONAL
Since the arrival of social media, it has become a platform for brand scrutiny. From customer complaints to workplace inequalities, individuals have used the platforms to shine a light on the accountability of global companies. The recent and ongoing antiracism protests elevated conversations around injustices that are experienced throughout the world’s largest fashion and beauty brands.
With businesses making public pledges to do better, we may see a rise in brands looking to corporate responsibility experts in order to ensure complete elimination of racism and social injustices within the workplace. Brands must effectively reflect on the dynamics of their workplace culture, ensuring their internal structures reflect their outward-facing content.
Work within this sector requires a deep understanding of the fashion industry as well as expertise in social, environmental and governance issues. Approaches must be adapted to suit specific cultural and social contexts while maintaining the idea that any strategies will be seen from a global perspective.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EXPERT
With brick and mortar retail closing their doors back in March, customers turned to e-commerce to fulfil their shopping needs, resulting in an overwhelming fluctuation of online orders and returns.
A combination of e-commerce traffic, supply chain disruptions and furloughed employees shined light on the importance of having an excellently trained customer experience team. It is believed that the workload of online customer service will soon be taken over by artificial intelligence, meaning resources must then be realigned so that human interaction is still part of personalised online shopping experiences.
This necessity also extends to physical retail as stores begin to reopen and fight back after online retail dominated the market over recent months. Proactivity is the crucial skill which customer experience managers must possess in order to anticipate problems as well as creating solutions. Deep connections and tailored services create a shopping experience which will drive customers back through the (virtual) doors time after time.
Computer generated imagery became an innovative source of creation during the pandemic as content had to be crafted through new means of art. AI and CGI however have been gaining popularity over recent years, with brands using CGI in short films and editorials as an impressive creative technique. It appears that the technique is here to stay, with digitised versions of in-person productions becoming increasingly popular, take the CGI covers of Vogue Taiwan and Paper magazines for example.
While a background in computer graphics is valuable in the CGI fashion design industry, what is more important is the possession of a strong creative vision to support the technical demands of digital rendering. Broad organisation skills are also a necessity, with aspects such as lighting, set design, composition and styling being planned and confirmed from the very beginning of projects.
Hopefully, as you read this blog, you have a lightbulb moment as you see a way in which you can adapt your career plan to suit the future needs of the fashion industry. Don’t see these changes as a massive tidal wave you’re watching from ashore, and absolutely don’t see this wave disrupting and destroying your future plans, instead take control, and see it as a wave to ride.
by Lauren Dodds