London always has and always will be the fashion capital of the UK with the majority of our home grown brands, retailers and suppliers basing themselves in the centre point for cutting edge fashion. Meanwhile in the North, London’s little sister Manchester has been developing her own style and given birth to some of the UK’s most prominent fashion success stories.
Once a regional hub for sportswear, many global brands now choose the North as their home for their European HQ’s. Manchester is also well known for its thriving High Street supply base of fashion importers who have expert knowledge when it comes to translating trends into fast fashion.
In recent years, with the phenomenal growth of the online sector, Manchester based brands have started to use their expertise and knowledge in order to serve the demands of the fashion hungry consumer, successfully carving their own niche for fast fashion. This entrepreneureal spirit has lead to the birth of some of the fastest growing and most sought after names in fashion e-comms being born such as Missguided and Boohoo.
Due to this, Manchester is now being termed the “Silicone Valley” of the UK as more and more fashion ecommerce businesses are born here. Distribution is a key element of any retail or wholesale business and having Manchester as a base makes great sense – positioned in the centre of the UK and backed by the city’s vibrancy, culture and and cost effective living it’s easy to see how Manchester is becoming the preferred location of choice in the ever evolving digital age.
This in turn has opened a wealth of opportunity for those seeking a career in fashion. It is no longer essential to have to head to the bright lights of London to kick start your career in fashion. Graduates in the North now have major fashion forward brands on their door steps offering roles in design, buying, merchandising, technical, marketing and e-comms. Salaries are competitive with London and your pound goes much further!
Having recruited in Manchester for over 15 years now, I have seen the industry evolve enormously and experienced the shift from manufacturing to importing, and now into online fashion with some Northern home grown brands combining their deep seated heritage and British manufacturing roots with the digital age – Private White being an outstanding example of this.
Another Mancunian success story are Native Youth. “Designed In England For The Native Youth”, this menswear phenomena have grown dramatically and have presence around the globe despite them being launched only a few seasons ago.
So what experience do you need to work within a fashion.com environment and role?
As a Designer - it’s more about your handwriting. Ensure your handwriting has synergy with the online brand you are coveting. You need to have visual evidence that you understand the brands philosophy and DNA and this should be displayed in the form of trend boards, colour palettes and range line up in CAD form – even taking the time to carry out a SWOT analysis isn’t a bad idea – it shows that you get what they’re about. Something else to bear in mind is range planning – online fashion is a 24 hour, 365 day a year business and whereby traditional retail is split into seasons, in an online fashion business trends are reacted to almost instantaneously – planned stories are introduced over the course of the year with frequent range injections.
In Buying – you need to have experience gained within a volume driven, fast fashion environment and understand the psychology of the online consumer. You also need to embrace the culture of a 24 hour trading environment and not be afraid to put the hours in. Commercial and innovative you need to be in tune with catwalk trends, instinctively seeking out new product opportunity that will convert in to best sellers. Strong negotiating skills are a must and you will be an effective relationship builder – particularly from a sourcing point of view.
As a Merchandiser – Your role is less about planning and more about core trading in the world of online. You will need to have a successful career gained with a retailer with a strong online presence. So if your knowledge is more around stores, make it your mission to gain experience around how online differs. Specific experience in ecomms isn’t always essential however – a good solid background within retail will stand you in good stead.
In Garment Technology and QA – versatility and range knowledge is key – the more garment category experience you have the better. And the ability to work accurately in an exciting, fast moving environment is essential.
As a Graduate looking to enter the world of ecommerce, whatever your vocation it is essential to stand out from your peers in this highly competitive sector, therefore placement experience gained within fashion e-commerce is essential. Most businesses have an undergraduate / post graduate internship scheme and would love your help! Offer your services for free in holidays and gain as much experience as possible.
Additionally, with the massive growth of this sector a whole new wave of job titles within fashion have evolved from Social Media to Ecommerce Managers, Digital Marketing and SEO.
So despite the rain in Manchester, the future really is very bright when it comes to developing your career in fashion – just don’t forget your umbrella!
Four Seasons Recruitment is a specialist Fashion recruitment consultancy with offices in both Manchester and London. If you are looking for a career move within fashion then please visit our website www.fsrl.co.uk