Many of the subjects in our Interview Series are designers. Today's interviewee, Jenni Sutton, is the one who reports on those designers. As Editor in Chief and Creative Manager of Fashion Capital and Fashion Enter Jenni now has her finger on the pulse of the fashion industry—a feat slightly easier when you attend top fashion events in London and Paris.
Despite her now-glamorous career Jenni hadn't originally planned for a career in fashion, but after graduating with a degree in Drama and Theater Studies she switched creative fields. After going back to school to study HND Fashion Design at Walsall Art and Technology College, she found her passion in life.
Ever since Jenni has been working at Fashion Enter & Fashion Capital—two fashion portals operating since 2006 and 2001 respectively. The two online resources help to connect students, graduates, young and seasoned designers, buyers, manufacturers and retailers. In 2006 the two portals joined forces to offer complete business support, including a network for boutiques, fashion event profiles, a representation agency, news, trend reporting, PR services,
mentoring and more.
Jenni was a natural target for our series, and thankfully she said yes because the advice she offered to our readers is as relevant as it is tangible:
After studying Fashion Design I applied for work experience at FashionCapital after researching the company and it’s Director Jenny Holloway. The work experience enabled me to experience all different areas of the industry from retail to journalism to events management. I have now been with the company for six years and am Editor of FashionCapital.co.uk, project Manager of all events, and run the PR Dispensary service all of which aims to support new and emerging designers.
For any of our readers not familiar with Fashion Capital could you explain your company's vision?
FashionCapital.co.uk which is the sister site to Fashion Enter Ltd is a business- support organisation which provides that all-important support and advice to help young businesses succeed in fashion today. There is a whole network of services available offering real support, mentoring, professional advice and seminars to designers. We have two retail boutiques and an online boutique generating sales, production via three units - The Workshop, The Factory and
most recently The Fashion Studio--which all offer pattern making, toiling, first fit sampling, small production and mass production, representation to buyers and retailers and events and a PR service for maximum exposure for today’s talented designers.
What inspired the creation of Fashion Capital?
Fashion Enter was established to continue the work of a six year initiative that was funded by the LDA – The London Fashion Forum which expired in March 2006. Fashion Enter Ltd was created in April 2006 to continue the support for up and coming designers and new business start ups. FashionCapital.co.uk was launched in 2001 as part of the government funded London Fashion Forum; Fashion Enter now own and run this portal for the industry which enables
designers to network which manufacturers, retailers, stylists, photographers etc., as well as gaining invaluable advice on how to run their own label.
What type of education did it take to get you where you are today? And how has your career path progressed over the years?
A university degree unrelated to fashion, then a two year foundation degree in fashion design followed by a work placement at FashionCapital which was so varied it enabled me to determine what areas of the industry I wanted to focus on which has lead me to where I am today.
If you had to describe the business side of the fashion industry briefly to our aspiring designer readers, how would you paint a picture for them?
The business side of the fashion industry is just like any other business. To be successful it takes hard work, determination, business acumen and the right contacts! Business can be ruthless and the fashion industry isn’t any different.
To fully understand the business side of fashion I would get an aspiring designer to envisage themselves as a business rather than as a designer. A designer can be extremely talented and have some of the most innovative and creative designs in the world but without knowledge of how a business operates and how to sell their product it is very difficult to succeed in such a competitive industry.
What is your favourite part of working in the fashion/design business?
Meeting wonderfully talented designers and helping them gain the exposure and recognition they deserve. Fashion Enter owns the fashion event Profile which bridges the gap between GFW and LFW. Profile provides a platform for designers to showcase to buyers and press and the last Profile event, a great success that took place at One Marylebone in November 2011. This was hugely rewarding to see all the hard work pay off.
What is the most important skill and/or hard lesson you have learned while working in the industry?
Being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people gets you a long way in this industry! Networking is key.
What was most surprising about working in the fashion industry?
It is surprising how many designers have very little knowledge on how the industry works and how to run a business. Each year over 7000 graduates leave university with a design-lead degree and many of these have absolutely no idea about how the real world of the fashion industry works. As a result, they fail. This is exactly why Fashion Enter was set up – to help these talented graduates progress onto running their own label by offering that all-important
advice and support.
What school(s) does your company generally recruit new hires from? And, do you accept interns?
We will recruit the right person from any school or background.
Yes we accept interns for all of our locations around London. We appreciate the importance of work experience for those wanting to get into the industry and we can offer real and varied placements so they see what the world of fashion is really like!
Which role(s) in the fashion industry do you think will offer the best career opportunities moving forward? eg. designer, PR, entrepreneur, etc.?
It really depends where the position is and how passionate the individual is about working in that specific role. Sometimes thinking outside the box and using your own initiative can really drive your career forwards irrespective of what you are doing. Roles such as a designer or entrepreneur are much more solitary than for example working within a PR Agency so it is difficult to progress without the key contacts and right people around you. This is why it is
so important to network.
Do you think today's jobs in the fashion industry require more of an artist's touch or business-like ruthlessness?
I think it is important to have an equal measure of an artists touch and business-like ruthlessness. Neither can survive without the other, without any talent eventually you will fail and without any business sense you will inevitably fail, even with the most beautiful designs.
Which skills do you consider to be most critical for a career in fashion?
Depending on the role; business acumen, passion, creativity and talent as well as a willingness to learn and start at the bottom!
What would you recommend for aspiring fashion professionals looking to break into today's fashion industry?
To gain as much as experience as possible and to network! Soak up as much knowledge and experience as you can along the way to making yourreality! And don’t forget, FashionCapital is here to do just that!
Check out more interviews at The Fashion-Schools.org Interview Series.