Barbara Nicolini and Paola Occhipinti are not just two names written on the cover of the latest book about working in fashion, but they were also the reason of an outstanding gathering of interesting figures working in the industry: Beatrice De Grandi, a young and bold entrepreneur in the fashion e-commerce, Tom & Bart, the creative spirits behind Les Hommes, Corrado Masini, the CEO of Moschino, Jean Luc Battaglia, Managing Director for C&A Italy, Valeria Vantaggi from Vanity Fair, Adriana Zerboni, headhunter, Luisa Sarpi, Gianfranco Ferrè ex première and the two creators of Le Pandorine bags. Not to mention the authors themselves, respectively a fashion & luxury headhunter and journalist for magazines like Amica, Glamour, Marie Claire and Io Donna. Is this list long enough?
Yesterday evening the two writers presented their book at Egea Library in Milan, “Trova subito lavoro nella moda”. Their idea was to create a practical and exhaustive guide for the people willing to work in fashion & luxury, providing useful insights through little stories of professionals. Why? To demystify the disinformation and the mystery surrounding this fascinating industry, but what they did was much more. Thanks to their speeches and the stories of their special guests they shattered the old boring cliché that the fashion industry is full with superficial and snobby prima donnas, and they proved that DNA, humility, determination and most of all passion are here the key ingredients to succeed.
“I like to see how people behave, I like to test the approach. Spontaneity is fundamental, and the first impression is extremely important. When you talk about yourself with experienced professionals just be yourself. Do not fake your DNA”. This is Masini’s special advice from his incredibly heterogeneous background: after Hugo Boss, a knitwear firm, a denim firm, Diesel, ten years at Armani, fast fashion at Pinko and then Geox, he landed at Moschino, that he loves especially for being the highest expression of irony and eccentricity in the fashion panorama. Mr Masini had the strongest message of humility: the first thing he does in a managerial position in a new company? Visit the stores during the weekend, talk to the warehouse workers (a lesson he learnt from his special “on-field professor”, the king Giorgio Armani). This is something key in the fashion industry: in order to be a good manager you must feel and touch the products, you must understand your customers and the market, you must plunge into the core business without any reservations regarding your role. And what better than a first hand experience?
Jean-Luc Battaglia from C&A, instead, gave us his keys for success in fashion: creativity and sales. No product, no brand. No sales, no product. Sales are such a relevant aspect for the fashion business that Mr Battaglia strongly advises every potential manager not to disdain an experience in a store or boutique, which he deems to be fundamental in understanding the industry.
That sales are the engine of the fashion machine was also proven by Beatrice De Grandi’s experience. At the early age of 19, while studying at Bocconi University, she had an original intuition. Once she was confronted with the amazing constellation of Italian artisans, she quickly realized that their quality was not given justice. She then decided to create an e-commerce platform in order to merge those little realities with something bigger, to give them a voice. That’s how VIBE was born. Looking for artisans willing to collaborate was not easy, but the most challenging task was exploiting e-commerce in a successful way: being recognized in such a midst requires an appropriate campaigns and investment in social media and instruments such as google ads, which are no less important than devoting time and money to traditional stores. Now Beatrice is expanding quickly with an enviable formula of hard work and determination, and presenting shortly in London, New York and Dubai with a temporary shopping partner.
The book is a powerful collection of small pills like those, that can be a source of advice, inspiration and guidance. Particularly passionate is the story of the sweet Luisa, who tells almost wistfully her past work experience as Gianfranco Ferrè première. I strongly suggest to read it to all those looking for self-empowerment and motivation, and it also contains some useful advice for drafting a CV and conducting a successful job interview.
Finally, some hints for the near future from insiders in the industry: the success of e-commerce is going to consolidate, but retail will still remain a milestone. Nowadays, the trend is clearly focusing on e-commerce, but people will come back to stores, they will start looking for store experiences again. According to Corrado Masini, the big brands are already reversing back and planning to invest in that direction. What can a manager do then? Again, I would like to close borrowing Mr Masini words: “a good manager swims against the tide. Ethics and willingness to work hard always pay back in the long-term.”