My favourite black trousers from Whistles SS10
Last night I honoured an invitation extended by London College of Fashion (of which I am an alumnus) to sit on a debating panel to discuss whether women can succeed in the world of fashion. My fellow panellists were Jane Shepherdson, CEO of Whistles, Zowie Broach one half of Boudicca and Danielle Scutt. The debate was chaired by Professor Penny Martin, who also happens to be the editor of forthcoming new womens's magazine The Gentlewoman (from the same publishing house as Fantastic Man). We had a full house of eager students.
You might think, as I did, when I first heard the topic for discussion "yeah of course women can succeed in fashion, fashion is mainly a woman's arena." I was wrong to think that. When I relayed that thought to Rebecca Munro of LCF she batted the below back at me.
"The talk is timed to coincide with Women’s Enterprise Day on November 18th, which is part of a national campaign, Global Entrepreneurial Week UK (identical weeks run globally) and is all about celebrating successful female entrepreneurs and business leaders to inspire our students (the majority of whom are female) to take risks and be confident in their careers choices. Although I agree women are a dominant force in fashion – the majority of shareholders and CEOs are male and many women in fashion (like many other industries) have experienced some sort of discrimination during their careers. Of the 4.7 million UK enterprises, only 15% are led by women which I think is one reason why we have to encourage our students, especially our female students, to not be afraid of setting up businesses and turn their skills into money making enterprises."
Very interesting, no?
ANYWAY. The debate turned out to be lively, compelling and I found it genuinely inspiring. Jane Shepherdson had a lot to say. All of it very telling. Here are a couple of her choice comments. All food for thought.
ON HOW SHE GOT TO THE TOP...
"I had to buy my own business to be a CEO; that's how hard it is to run your own company in fashion."
ON THE GLASS CEILING...
"I came up from buying and merchandising to become a CEO. At Arcadia Group 95.5 per cent of the buyers and merchandisers are women. But when you go upstairs to see who is running the business, it is all men."
ON HOW TO SUCCEED...
"Be single minded. There will be shit, deal with it. Think "I'm going to show them". Do it your way. Accept confrontation."
ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WORKING WITH WOMEN TO MEN...
"Women work harder and spin more plates. They tend to be more collaborative."
And while we are on the subject of Ms Shepherdson, here is more from the SS10 collection of Whistles.
The fashion junior at large put these on her wishlist for SS10.