Saturday, 4 August 2012

A Defence of Retail

Fashion is never without its complications. It's a drama-queen of a business, throwing hissy-fits and spilling Champagne all over the place. This blog is a bit about this temperamental state of affairs.

I moved to Manchester three years ago and began laying the foundations for a career in fashion straight away. I would spend my days in the library reading Beowulf and Jane Ayre for my English Literature degree and my evenings were spent debating the relevance of social media in the ecommerce sector and about the need for better credit terms for premium independent retailers at industry B2B events. I would attend shop parties, brand launches; you name it, Manchester was throwing a party for it and I was gatecrashing to bring news and reviews on the carnage and canapes for (and long may I continue to do so, amen).

However, all this changed in June of this year when I stepped out into the real world and after three years of internships in media, B2B and ecommerce, successfully landed a job in Communications for an up-and-coming multi-channel retail brand. It's based in the NW, which suits my current plans to stay oop North and it's a fabulous company. I was and still am, really excited. I get to learn on the job, plotting Marketing strategies, booking shoots, liaising with brands, meeting and pitching to the fashion press. I get to stick my greedy finger in all sorts of fabulous fashiony pies and I'm being paid for it!

But, not everyone truly understands where this excitement comes from as, for some, retail doesn't form part of the fashion industry. I was met with questions like: "So, why are you working in a shop when you have a degree?" and "Doesn't that seem like, a bit of a step backwards?"

Love the old ladies in this shot. (Courtesy of Coop Historian Flickr)

Nothing could be further from the truth, it's a step in the right direction for me. I remember, when I was a wee nipper, living in a tiny Devonian fishing port with a population of around 15,000 people. I remember catching the train to Exeter or to Plymouth to visit the shops because the closest thing my hometown had to fashion was Coop Ladies and Children's Wear (which I once modelled for in a charity fashion show) and a tiny Dorothy Perkins (where I worked during my A Levels). I remember the rush of being in a "big" city and the belief that I had to purchase a grande vanilla latte from every single Starbucks I happened to pass. I remember finally being able to buy Vogue because my local newsagents hadn't heard of it (no, not even when I did the Madonna dance). I remember beginning to get excited about fashion and clothing, this was all because of going shopping. We all come to fashion via the shops and it was at the shops that I made my decision to see what makes the fashion industry tick (and to drink as much Champagne as humanly possible whilst doing so).

Why do some deem retail beneath the fashion industry? I don't know, but I'm certainly not one of them. People can pretend that commerce, consumerism and business are beneath the raw creativity and exclusivity of the fashion elite but their polished Prada pumps are standing on foundations built from retail. Retail is the back-bone of the fashion industry and without it, there wouldn't be an industry.

So, because I must consider the ROI of an email marketing campaign and because I map the sales incurred by what I do on Facebook, because I attach worth to something I do at work when it generates a sale and because I happen to spend a bit of time on a shop floor I am not any less part of the fashion industry: I am the fashion industry, baby.