The Fashion Business Uncovered conference gathers entrepreneurs to discuss the future of retail
A gathering of world-renowned entrepreneurs shared their experiences in the fashion industry on Nov. 17 during the fifth edition of the Fashion Business Uncovered conference, hosted by advertising company Sid Lee.
Among these entrepreneurs were Gregoire Baret, a general manager for Aldo Group; Marie-Pierre Bossé, a store manager for the Montreal-based Groupe Dynamite, which includes the Dynamite and Garage brands; and Hugo Thibault, the senior director of global communications and digital marketing for the coat brand Mackage.
According to Megan Munroe, the co-executive director of Fashion Business Uncovered, this year’s event brought together more invitees and speakers than previous years. “The reason why everyone is here is because they want a career in fashion, so we really wanted to pay homage to that,” she said.
Inviting successful entrepreneurs from the fashion industry to speak at these events, Munroe added, is a great way to shed light on the success stories of people in the industry and showcase different perspectives about fashion. “The essence of our event is to educate people who may only have an education in business and how they can apply that to a hobby they are really passionate about [like fashion],” Munroe said. “Our goal is to show that there are so many ways that you can work in the fashion industry that extend beyond just designing or modelling.”
Several of the speakers emphasized how fashion and business are changing rapidly. According to Baret, the main issue now is that retail stores are trying to compete with the efficiency online stores, such as Amazon, provide costumer’s. “It forces the industry to redefine the role of retail stores,” he said. “The waiting time [for customers] has shortened because of offers and commerce. Now, it is normal to instantly get your product, a wider set of choices and instant product recommendations.”
However, Baret said he still believes in the importance of human contact in the consumer’s experience. “Today, despite everything, the physical moments in a retail store are important for giving advice and guidance, as well as the physical contact with the product,” he said. He also pointed out that technology cannot replace face-to-face communication. “It gives you a human side, a point of view where technology cannot replace a seller or a human,” Baret said, adding that these interactions in retail “help to give a supplementary quality service.”
According to Charles de Brabant, the executive director of the McGill University Bensadoun School of Retail Management, changes in the technology and fashion industries are giving companies new ways to grow their business. “The biggest change is in the digital space, from social media to e-commerce,” he said. “It allows certain business models to survive and thrive, because the community is a global community and that’s the way fashion has evolved.”
Despite all the changes, de Brabant pointed out that the fashion business industry still makes a difference in the lives of consumers. “The reason why I love this industry is because it touches the heart, and if you get it right, you make people’s lives happier,” he said. “This is an industry where you have got to show some passion, love and understanding.”
Baret emphasized importance of being creative and bold in business, citing Netflix’s toppling of traditional film rental stores such as Blockbuster. According to Baret, the business idea of Netflix is one that inspires innovation and risk-taking.“Today, if you want to stay relevant for consumers, you need to be bold,” he said. “You need to be brave and you need to be able to take such risks and adapt to new environments.”
As such, Baret advises business students to take risks and to learn from their failures. “We see that in many success stories; the first couple of years were difficult. You need to be able to take risks, be able to adapt, be able to learn from your small and big failures and continue to advance.”
Photos by Alex Hutchins