Executive positions in fashion are some of the most coveted of any industry. Forbes reported in 2012 that the top executives at the world’s largest fashion companies were earning an average of over $5 million a year. Ron Johnson from J.C. Penney earned over $52 million in 2012, while Angela Ahrendts was earning over $24 million every year when she left Burberry in 2014. With fashion executives in such high powered and high profile positions, one might wonder if they require unique skill sets and technologies to perform their roles.
The answer is not a simple yes or no, and executives in different companies will rely on different skills and technologies to effectively manage and motivate their organizations. To best understand the relationship between technology and industry executives, it can be helpful to look at three unique challenges that fashion executives will face within their business.
- Fashion executives must effectively manage and lead creative talent.
- They must understand and perform risk management in fashion and/or retail.
- Executives often need to find a way to work within a quick response business system.
Fashion executives have the task of working with creative thinkers who have different needs than others within their organization. Lead designers and creative directors can benefit or suffer from technology, depending on the circumstances. One way where technology could drive creativity could be in the form of new tools. 3D scanning is a technology being introduced to the mainstream by companies like HP, and it allows custom fitting and design to be carried out virtually, regardless of the individual model or body type. It can open the doors for innovative creations. Adam Selman used HP’s Sprout exclusively for his most recent showing at the New York Fashion show. Executives need to weigh up the cost benefits of any new technology, but most importantly they need to determine whether such technology will help or hinder the creative process in their organization.
The creative process isn’t the only area where executives will find technology to be beneficial. There are many aspects of a fashion executive’s role that aren’t dissimilar to other industries. Risk management is one example. Executives and their teams have the task of ensuring that key risk indicators and other triggers are identified, and incorporated into a comprehensive risk management framework. Because of the complexity of some organizations, incorporating technology through risk management software is often the most effective form of risk management. Companies like Thompson Reuters produce industry leading risk management solutions that can be adapted to work within any industry.
The fashion industry is often described as a quick response business. The market is fickle. Consumer wants and needs can change as quickly as fashion trends themselves. This kind of dynamic environment means that executives and their staff need to be in constant communication with their market, while also collecting valuable metrics. Technology plays an especially important role here. While an executive doesn’t need to be across every market shift or every influential review or fashion prediction, they do need to implement the tools and systems to make such information available to those in relevant positions. This could mean creating new roles in online media management, or simply providing the systems and network infrastructure that the wider business needs to communication with, and observe the market and influential figures outside of the organization. The key here is information, and technologies like the internet and social media are key to gathering information in today’s marketplace.
While it is impossible to describe a single technology solution that would fit every fashion executive, it is clear that technology plays an important role for executives who are driven to motivate and enable key figures within their organization. Just as technology can advance fashion as a product, it also forms the backbone of fashion firms on an operational level, and will likely become increasingly critical as both the industry, and the available technology progresses.
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Photo: Digital Fashion Conference