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Stefanie moved from her hometown in Austria to study MA Fashion Retail Management at LCF. After completing her course in 2014, she's been gaining experience in various aspects of this field and is now working in trend forecasting at the global futures agency Stylus. In this interview she tells us more about her time at LCF and her ambitious plans for her career.
Why did you decide to enrol in the MA Fashion Retail Management course?
After my bachelor's in economics and a diploma in womenswear I was working as a visual merchandiser and stylist in Vienna. I look for my next challenge and after extensive research I settled on MA Fashion Retail Management, as it sat right at the nexus of my interest; shop design, international management, trends and fashion. The fact that it was part of UAL and located in the centre of London was a major factor for me.
Why did you choose to study at LCF? What attracted you to this university?
To start with, UAL has a strong international footprint, it carries a certain level of prestige and is well known within the creative industries globally. Secondly, the diversity and internationality of its peers was immensely important in my decision-making process; learning from different cultures and backgrounds made it highly valuable for me beyond the classroom. Lastly, studying within the city centre of London and learning from accomplished teachers and industry collaborators made it an almost obvious choice.
Which topic did you explore for your Masters project?
My Masters project was about the amalgamation of content and commerce and what challenges and opportunities content providers face when they enter e-commerce. I graduated in 2015 and, at that time, content providers were heavily invested in ways to monetise content (i.e. making things they wrote about shoppable). I was investigating opportunity spaces for publishers, which was obviously a great conversation opener for expert interviews.
How did you find the research process?
As a research addict, I loved every second of it. From scoping the topic to finding interview partners, I really enjoyed immersing myself into the topic and becoming an expert in it. What I struggled a little bit with was how to bring everything together and narrowing things down, but I had a great course leader who was an immense help during that period.
What advice would you give to potential students who would like to enrol on this MA?
Clarify what you'd like to do AFTER the masters, formulate your ambition. The MA in Retail Management is a specialisation, but also a super interesting and contemporary education for everyone who wants to become a fashion retail expert - ranging from merchandising, buying, design, etc. Definitely, identify the doors it should open for you ahead of starting.
What have you been working on since finishing your course?
I am an innovation curator, insights journalist and opportunity mapper working in trend forecasting at Stylus. I specialise in defining, analysing and predicting the intersections between technology, consumer behaviours and retail. Dissecting all aspects of retail engagement from digital commerce, tech that enhances the shopping experience, new commerce models and brand communications to spatial design trends. I am loaded with up-to-date consumer lifestyle developments, design trends and contemporary insights on how to create next-level consumer engagements.
For you, what's the best thing about your profession?
I love what I do! I get to scout and curate industry-shaping innovations and start-ups that revolutionise commerce. I need to be on top of what's going on globally on a visual, brand and cultural level. I'm a research geek so that is the perfect thing for me - I love to know what's going on. Having the opportunity to marry my interests with a job that requires me to produce reports about the latest trends really makes me appreciate what I do.
Any exciting upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I'm moving back to Austria and I'm currently in the midst of setting up my freelance trend consultant career.
What are your plans for the next few years? Where would you like to see yourself professionally?
Working and living in London was an unbelievably great experience - to me, it represents the beating heart of the creative industries in Western Europe. I now want to take all that gathered energy and sprinkle it all over the exciting places I aspire to work across: Amsterdam, Vienna, Berlin, Barcelona...wherever it takes me in empowering creatives with insights and business intelligence support.
Also, having seen so many start-ups flourishing in the last couple of years as a trend scout and editor, I'm thinking about launching my own retail business rooted in sustainability, ethical buying with the spin of having smaller, not-so-known brands rotating on a monthly basis - almost like a 'village of pop-ups'. Also, being the woman of many trades, I'd love to have my own brand someday, the ultimate outlet for everything that I've learned in the past ten years. Exciting times ahead!