UEL recently hosted a Roundtable on Fashion Entrepreneurship as part of their Fashion & Textile Symposium 2016. I was honoured to be invited as a member of the roundtable and pleased to see a healthy attendance of about a hundred students and lecturers, including the Dean of the School of Arts & Digital Industries, Professor Simon Robertshaw.
The link between the four of us on the roundtable is our involvement with Petit Tribe. Speaking on fashion design was Joanne Jong of Yulan Creative; Sophie Fawcett shared her knowledge of marketing and social media; and Felisa Kennard contributed on finance, law and business structure.
After we each introduced ourselves and spoke about the experience of running our own businesses, our moderator Kent Le asked for our views on the fashion students starting their own labels straight out of school. We all agreed that experience with other companies before launching into entrepreneurship is invaluable.
Each of us outlined what graduates should look out for to pave the way into their own businesses. Of course talent is important, but soft skills, dedication and an awareness of the practical aspects like finance, production schedules and retailing are also crucial.
Felisa Kennard explained the nuts and bolts of starting a business, listing different business structures and the advisors needed to cover law and accounting, even if it means calling in favours from friends and relatives.
The theme of balancing inspiration with perspiration came out a few times – hard work and being personable need to complement creative inspiration. In a job application, getting the name of the right person to contact, tailoring the cover letter and then following up with a phone call will make a world of difference. Further down the road, producing a first collection isn’t enough. Joanne Jong detailed how the press, buyers and investors won’t look at a label until it has survived 2 or 3 seasons, so it’s vital to plan that far ahead.
During the question and answer session, students asked about the best way to approach social media and PR and Sophie Fawcett encouraged them to make a noise using Instagram, not to wait for things to be defined and produced but to show inspiration and creative process as they happen.
Textile designer Rhianna Sizeland, who is currently working as a technician at UEL, gave each of us on the roundtable a beautiful silk scarf of her design, packaged in a lovely UEL-branded black box which we are happily showing off in the photos below.
I’m looking forward to my next public speaking engagements: the next one is in May, when I’ll be speaking with art and design students at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College about career progression.