Harrods Fashion Director Helen David visited Regent’s University London on Wednesday 6 April 2016 to share her wealth of experience with over 100 students.
Speaking with Niki Richards, programme director for Regent’s MA Luxury Brand Management course, Helen covered a variety of topics including buying and merchandising, and the latest challenges facing international retailers and those aspiring to work in fashion.
Her comments included:
“Some websites have cashed out, hosting thousands of brands rather than a couple of hundred really cool brands. I'm more of a bricks and mortar person. When you walk into Harrods your mood instantly changes because it’s such a magical place. Our responsibility is to keep it this way.
“You can buy a Gucci handbag online, so why choose to visit Harrods? It’s because we've created a certain ambiance, a look, a feeling of excitement. I like being part of that and connecting directly with our customers.”
On luxury retail
“A few years ago luxury retail was about having the latest ‘IT’ bag, shoe and jacket. People looked a bit like clones. This culture has come to an end and now everyone wants their own individual style.
“People are less interested in seasonal offers. They want to invest more in one item, but it has to be special and last for a number of years.
“Social media has rather ruined the excitement of new collections. It used to be that only a few people would see collections before they hit the floor six months later. Now the entire world sees everything online five minutes after a show finishes.”
“Health and wellbeing has become a vital element of the luxury fashion sector. Taking care of yourself has is a key part of the way people dress and active-wear has become a big part of Harrods’ offer.”
On career development
“Internships are invaluable, as is a solid understanding of finance. A CV showing someone has spent their holiday in Ibiza doesn’t compare to an internship that really impresses. Working with big names makes a difference – a summer at Selfridges followed by one at Harvey Nichols lets me know someone has been through a tough selection process.
“When someone joins my team, at whatever level, I meet with them. By their second interview question a lot of young people ask how long it will be until they will get promoted!
“This is a real put-off as I think ‘you haven't even done your first job yet.’ In a first interview I would refrain from asking ‘how long until you become the managing director?’ – it comes over as arrogant. Talk instead about how a career path might develop.
“When I get people who come in early, work late, offer to help if someone's off sick, take pictures of ideas at weekends – that’s when I see emotional intelligence and a positive persona at work.”