Nigel Oddy, Chief Executive Officer of House of Fraser, was the first Inside The Industry guest of 2017 at London College of Fashion, where he discussed his dynamic career spanning over three decades.
Led by Director of Business & Innovation at London College of Fashion, Linda Roberts, a full capacity audience heard how Nigel started his career on the shop floor of a Warrington store to the CEO of the multinational powerhouse that is House of Fraser today. The evening began with one of Nigel’s favourite quotes, ‘Every grand oak tree starts as a small ‘acorn’. Success is available to all, however it doesn’t just happen’.
The charismatic Cheshire-man told the crowd that “promotions don’t just arrive. You need to work hard and sacrifice a lot” if you want to succeed. And no matter how an individual is committed to a career path, “you need a team to succeed. It then needs to be blended together, and diverse”.
Nigel used the evening to encourage students to collaborate with each other, and not to go at thing’s alone, as a team is the backbone of success. He also used the evening to discuss how globalisation and technology has changed the industry over three decades.
Technological advances and the rise of social media has had considerable affects on fashion, Nigel explained. “People can’t wait 18 months anymore for a collection. They want six collections a year, I can’t see fast-fashion disappearing anytime soon”. He also cited this as one of the main reasons why many of the UK’s biggest stores have closed recently, failing to adapt to change is why many retailers are struggling today.
During his 23 years with Marks & Spencers, Nigel explained how the industry used to look to America for ideas and inspiration – now it’s South Korea or cities like Copenhagen. He also acknowledged that the UK is no longer a manufacturing nation, instead, one of innovators and designers, and he believes we are world class in those areas.
Other manufacturing changes that are shaping the fashion industry is the rise of China. He said, “We use to look to China 15 years ago for manufacturing, now we have to look further afield to South-East Asia or Turkey”.
Nigel closed his presentation with a list of advice to succeed in the industry:
- You need to be passionate about your ideas as YOU are the idea.
- You need to know everything about the competition. Research the market fully.
- You need to have determination as there will be lots of mistakes and setbacks.
- If you believe in your idea and work smart, you will succeed; don’t be discouraged.
- Be prepared to make sacrifices.
- Perseverance and staying focussed are key to success.
- The more solid the foundation the more chance of success.
- Constantly challenge yourself.
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