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Are You Too Old For a Career In Retail?

We're back with our Q&A series, Ask EDITD. This week, career advice. You asked us about industry education and how to get into fashion. We found answers.

We’re back with the second round of question-answering in our Ask EDITD campaign. If you missed Part One, it’s right here. This week we’re tackling the questions you had around careers in the industry and education. We hit up our Rolodex and got advice from the top.

Q: I’m currently a master’s student in finance, but just like many others, I’m really interested in trend analysis in the fashion industry. I’m guessing passion, eagerness to learn and some fashion taste are essential? What other skills do I need to get an internship in this sector?

EDITD Answer: Since you can’t learn passion on the job, it’s definitely key to come with that. You can always get an understanding of the retail sector with experience. As far as fashion taste goes, that’s subjective!

For a better take on this question, we asked two of the industry’s leading educators to open up about the essentials needed on the path to a career in the industry. As it turns out, analysis was something they both felt was a valuable asset. So hey, a master’s in finance is already a great start.

“At the heart of agility is information and its analysis to spot a new opportunity or trend,” says James Clark, Lecturer in Fashion Management at the London College of Fashion.

Echoing his thoughts was Karinna Nobbs, Programme Director & Senior Lecturer Digital Fashion Strategy at the British School of Fashion.

“Research and analysis are critical to look at competitors and trends to see where gaps in the market are. One needs to have a balance of right brain and left brain skills and be able to harness creativity whilst thinking about the return on investment and leanest method to get your product in your customer’s wardrobe.”

Karinna also believes there’s a second set of imperative skills, the ability to communicate and negotiate. “[These are] necessary for working with any type of stakeholder, whether it is the end consumer, a bank manager, a creative agency or a potential supplier,” she says.

James also stressed that working in fashion requires the ability to see beyond yourself. “The critical skill is a holistic ability to instantly make a judgement that considers the whole chain of activities, not just your own activity within the retail supply chain,” he says.

That sounds like a pretty potent mix to us! We’ve got a team with diverse backgrounds in things like statistics, design, buying, merchandising and engineering. So if you’re worrying about having nothing to contribute, don’t! It’s just a matter of finding where and how you fit in. And while we’re on the topic, we’re always looking for good people on the EDITD team if you’re interested.

Q: How old is too old to start a retail career?

EDITD Answer: Like Aaliyah said, “Age ain’t nothing but a number.” And our experts, London College of Fashion’s James Brown and British School of Fashion’s Karinna Nobbs, agree. We asked them if there’s an age limit to beginning an education in fashion retail.

“Absolutely not,“ says James. “Fashion retail is fast-paced and highly uncertain and is not for the faint hearted, however the ability to make objective decisions for a target market requires depth of thought and often plays to the strengths of professionals who have seen cultural and business change and have insight into the evolution of fashion retail business models.”

Karinna wholeheartedly agrees, saying, “You are never too old to get into retail, and for anyone wanting to start their own retail business, I always recommend getting shop floor experience as a way to understand and interpret consumer behavior.” She encourages that doing a course or a degree is a “brilliant way to change careers” but suggests looking into the full array of options.

”Look at the short and online courses that most universities offer before you commit to a degree, as this will help you get a taster of specific retail options. Getting internships and secondments if your income allows it always looks good and helps build your contacts.”

And a final bit of handy advice from Karinna: “Join retail and fashion groups on Linkedin to network and increase your knowledge of industry issues.” Ahem, EDITD.

Encouraging words from the industry educators. Anyway, Karl Lagerfeld can’t even remember when he was born, and he’s still churning out the hits. We think you should jump right in!

That’s it for this week’s installment of Ask EDITD. We’ve got more answers coming next week. As always, if you’ve got a something you’ve always wanted to know, or have never understood, about the apparel retail industry ask us!