Fashion

Secrets of Success: You're Not Alone

Today, as I was reading the truly excellent OpEd piece on the Business of Fashion site, I was reminded of what always struck me as the stupidest series of questions I almost invariably got when I was a C-level advisor talking with a new client. Here are the two versions of how it went:

Version 1:
Executive: Have you worked in our industry before?
Me: No.
Executive: Well, we're different.
Version 2:
Executive: Have you worked in our industry before?
Me: Yes.
Executive: Well, we're different.
Do you see a pattern here?

The thing that continued to amaze me - and does until this day - is the provincialism and insularity of each industry or company. Everyone thinks that what they're experiencing is different from what everyone else is experiencing.

They're wrong. And if you think that way, you're wrong, too.

Sure, there are nuances that are industry or company-specific. In fact, they're function-specific, if you want to get down to that level of detail - which, eventually, you do.

But to think that you're living in some sort of vacuum and can't learn from other industries about how to get over and beyond humps and hurdles is not only short-sighted, it's dangerous.

Granted, each industry goes through its own version of a set of problems that the industry has to solve for itself. Those within the industry that learn and grow fastest and best are the winners. The laggards either stay that way, have to work WAY harder than before to catch up or go out of business whether through M&A (if they're lucky) or closure.

What's always worth watching is how each industry is addressing, embracing and integrating the challenges it faces. That arc is your lesson.

That's why the Business of Fashion OpEd was so important. It talks about how the "businessmen" in both fashion and media have taken innovation out of fashion. How, by corporate ownership industrializing design to the point of sameness (for which read blandness), real creativity is either threatened, gone or only coming from the really courageous designers or those outside the mainstream industry.

Innovation is everyone's job in every industry and sector. From small, almost unnoticeable tweaks in how you do business to new product or service launches that change the world (or at least your industry), innovation is key to success.

So why wouldn't you read a piece focusing on the threats to innovation written about the luxe industry and fashion, in particular?

If you're smart, you would. In fact, if you intend to succeed, you will.

Don't be insular. Don't think you're different - at least not at first.

Start by knowing that others - before you and currently, in your industry and out - have and are facing the challenges that you face. Then be open to learning from them.

If you do, eventually they'll be learning from you.
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Who Watches the Watchmen? (Business of Fashion)

Market Opportunities and Ethics - a Fascinating Juxtaposition

Just for the fun of it, take a look at two different articles in today's New York Times.

One is on the growing market in plus-sized clothes for women.  The other is on the expanding debt-relief industry.

Both are market opportunities.  In both cases, companies are looking for - and finding - new ways of making money.

Sure, there are challenges.  But what a difference.

For the fashion industry, it's figuring out how, with the increased costs of materials and the logistics of inventory storage, they can make adequate margins.  They will undoubtedly find a way.

For the debt-relief industry, it's figuring out how to keep one step ahead of the regulators as too many of them take advantage of a suddenly-needy population looking for answers.  They're finding ways, too.

Market opportunities are great things - and you always want to be on the lookout for them.

What you don't want to do - unless you want the sort of suntanned, well-lubricated description given in the latter of the two articles - is trade your ethics for a quick buck.

It's not good business - especially if your trajectory ends up being jail.