Dedicated followers of fashion

Yves Saint Laurent – the “master of couture” as he has been called elsewhere on this website – died earlier this week, which has made everyone in the world of fashion very sad. However, we’ve decided to buck the trend and be very happy. Not because we’re heartless swines on Student, but because we’re inspired by the legacy that Monsieur Saint Laurent has left behind and excited by the new talent that is coming through, particularly here in the UK.

One place where that blossoming ability is plain for all to see is Graduate Fashion Week, which starts on Sunday. To get everyone in the mood we spoke to Caryn Franklin, the fashion expert and television presenter, and Richard Bradbury, CEO at River Island. Both will be on hand at the Careers Clinic, running on Education Day (12 June) at GFW.

Why did you want to get into fashion?

Caryn Franklin: I didn’t, I was all set to join the Army! But after a short visit to see what it was about, I realised I had made a big mistake and quickly got interested in art college instead. I had always made my own clothes but my family background wasn’t creative, so I never dreamt of doing anything in fashion.

Richard Bradbury: I fell into a job working in a menswear store to cover some expenses over the summer holidays. I then got into a job as an assistant manager at another store and thought, well, I can understand this business, I can understand what people like and why they like to buy clothes, and I’m really enjoying it. It was a really natural step.

How did your career get off the ground?

CF: At college I was never in my own department, I was always documenting what was happing in the fashion department. It was so much more glamourous and interesting. When I left college I phoned up my favourite magazine, i-D, and asked to work there; I stayed for six years and became fashion editor.

Going to i-D meant that I could go out all night to loads of clubs with a photographer and take pictures. I just got so interested in the people that I lost myself in their world. I began to do free research for TV because no one knew anything about young British designers, and spent the next 12 years presenting the BBC’s Clothes Show.

RB: After the assistant manager role I got an interview and a job working for the merchandising manager at the head office of another menswear company. In hindsight, although it wasn’t the plan, it was great grounding, because I did everything! I was in the warehouse, helping with the buying, you name it; whatever needed doing you just got off your backside and did it. Then I went to join the Burton Group. I got a job as a merchandiser because I had good experience by this stage, and then I was able to flip over into buying.

What do you do now?

CF: I have a massively varied day. I can be compering a crowd of 17,000 – as I was in Hyde Park for the Playtex Moonwalk last month – doing external assessing and lecturing for colleges, writing for magazines like Eve and i-D, consulting for various high street brands, and then there is the odd bit of TV.

RB: I work with the team to do the best job for the customers. I get involved in all aspects of the business and it’s about making sure all the parts gel together.

What excites you about the industry?

CF: I love glamour and excitement, I love creativity, I love the people and, of course, the precious, precious things!

RB: It’s all so different; there’s always a fresh challenge. It’s great to be working with a lot of young talent the whole time – that’s one of he most rewarding things, actually. You sit down with the guys who have just joined us a few months ago and they’re coming up with products that are going to be on the high street in a few months. It’s great.

What are the challenges of the profession?

CF: Nobody is saving lives in our world and I don’t subscribe to the idea that fashion is as important as it thinks it is. I am constantly looking for a chance to feel I have made a contribution so that my day has been about something more than frocks. Being a patron of Beat (the UK eating disorders charity) and co-chair of Fashion Targets Breast Cancer gives my work meaning. I value working in education too. If I thought it was just about hemlines I would have to kill myself!

RB: I often go and talk to graduates who are coming through and I think they’ve got a really tough task, because we are producing too many graduates and there aren’t enough jobs for them. Getting a degree is probably the easiest part of your career.

How can young people get into fashion?

CF: Know your strengths and market them to the right person; don’t write a “Dear Sir” letter and hope for the best.

RB: Find out about the business: go to the shop, talk to the people in there, do some research on the web, look at how people dress and decide how it all fits. Do your research, then come up with an original way to communicate what you have: make your CV stand out, make somebody smile. We’re looking for someone who’s a bit fresh, a bit original and is going to fit into the team.

What do you think about Graduate Fashion Week?

CF: It’s a fantastic event – there is no other like it for graduating students. It focuses national and international employers on the wealth of creativity we have here.

RB: It is a great chance to showcase work: we’re offering people jobs during the event if we’ve not seen them before. Our guys are down there walking around the stands and they’ll come back and say, I saw something that was really interesting over there, let’s go and have a chat to them. Lots of other people are doing that too. Hopefully we’re going to turn up the next Stella McCartney or Julian MacDonald!

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