Fashion management is exactly what it sounds like — the management of everything fashionable. If you’ve always had a good eye for design and can’t pass a store display without thinking of 10 ways to improve it, you might want to step backstage. As a professional in fashion management, you go behind the scenes and beyond to drive the industry. You set the trends and sell the goods, combining your ability to visualise concepts with a sound business sense. You also have to look the part. In the world of fashion, you have to present yourself with the same panache you promote in what you do.
Floriane de Saint Pierre, a Paris-based headhunter whose clients include Gucci, says fashion managers are hard to find because the job is paradoxical. “If management is a science that can be taught and fashion is about culture, you need to have absorbed all the theory yet have totally surpassed it. Fashion management is about driving a brand with fast-changing products, yet it is also long-term artist management. Managers must be able to envision the big picture yet be obsessed with detail. They need to be rational, tenacious, decisive leaders, yet also passionate moderators and not egoists.”
Fashion management has three aspects to it — design, production and marketing. Design depends on creativity while production and marketing are to do with management. “The creation of a dedicated cadre of fashion management professionals will serve to help designers, who will then be able to focus on the creative aspect of their work and leave the rest to the experts,” says designer Rohit Gandhi.
What do I have to do?
Fashion managers are very often the reason some brands sell more than others. They take certain brands or collections and make them stand out. It’s not just an attractive logo or a good commercial that helps but the most popular brands are the ones that stick with the look that sells and make sure the look is consistently better than the rest, and that’s what a fashion manager needs to achieve. They develop suitable production and manufacture strategies and know all they can about sourcing, purchasing, colour trends and fabric technology. Professionals in this field focus on “the four Ms” — marketing, merchandising, manufacturing and management, especially when dealing with apparel.
Fashion marketing blends advertising, design and business administration as well as a solid understanding of fashion to take a new clothing line and get it the attention it needs to be successful. It means conducting advertising campaigns that target specific consumer groups and appeal to them, always keeping in mind what’s “in” and what’s not. Fashion marketers are the ones with the savvy ideas, the connectors between the designers and the public.
A large part of their job is to do with public relations and organising conferences or seminars to make sure everyone in the industry’s on board and the public is clued in too. A merchandiser has to understand the requirements of the customer and come up with samples tailored to each individual style or need.
What should I study?
You should be a graduate of any stream from a recognised university. For admission at NIFT you should have a degree or diploma in accessory or fashion design from NIFT.
The programme focuses on change and innovation management, IT, integrated marketing, winning strategies, e-business, export supply chain management and retail technologies. You will learn about research methods, the dynamics of the fashion business, market awareness, consumer trends and design influence.
Studying fashion management equips you to handle both the export markets as well as the domestic. Students analyse and test garments in a textile lab, create private-label fashion lines on storyboards, examine and choose the most effective and efficient manufacturing processes, and assess essential marketing and merchandising principles.
The prospects in fashion management are encouraging. You may choose to be product managers, merchandisers, sellers or managers in charge of marketing, communication, manufacturing, sourcing, import and export for the clothing industry. You could just as easily start managing your own clothes line.
You can work in major department stores, clothing companies and footwear, jewellery or furniture retailers. Graduates are employed by apparel manufacturers, designers, wholesalers, importers and many of the major independent retailers.
Students with a masters in fashion management could expect an average salary offer of Rs 3.42 lakh per annum. Indian and international fashion brands, merchandising majors and top retail companies have shown interest in taking in fashion management students at entry and mid-level management positions.