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Guest post: Executive MBA (Fashion) Director Jonathan Gander on Fashion Entrepreneurship

EMBA panel shot April16
EMBA panel shot April16

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Published date
15 April 2016

On Wednesday 13 April London College of Fashion’s Centre for Fashion Enterprise hosted an excellent panel debate on Entrepreneurship, the challenges of incubation and the decisions facing the fashion entrepreneurs who are building their practice and brand.

EMBA panel shot April16

Panel members from left to right were:
Richard Hughes-Jones, Entrepreneur Coach and Associate Lecturer at LCF
Judith Tolley, Manager at the Centre for Fashion Enterprise
Danielle Romeril, womenswear designer
Holly Fulton, womenswear and accessories designer
Linda Roberts (Chair), Director of Business & Innovation at LCF
Matthew Drinkwater, Head of Fashion Innovation Agency at LCF
Laura Emsell, Business Development Manager for Fashion and Beauty at John Lewis
Toby Meadows, Fashion Design Market Entry expert and author of international bestseller “How to Set up & Run a Fashion Label”

From their differing perspectives, the panel shared their views and thoughts on current and possible future practice of fashion entrepreneurship. As is familiar with creative entrepreneurship we heard about the crucial ability to do two sometimes opposite things at once! So yes… listen to advice, and seek the views of others yet also know when to reject what others say and do your own thing. To use your creative expression and passion to shape design decisions but to also realise that saleability is important. To recognise the power of the fashion calendar, yet not get stuck in it. To write a plan with forecasted cash flows, yet be ready to tear it up once the action begins. As Matthew, Toby and Richard all argued, today is an amazing time to be a fashion entrepreneur the rules have been ‘unpicked’ and the fashion space is more open to new ideas, radical revisions of business models and the creative contribution of technology.

Listening to the discussion and in particular the contributions and reactions of the designers Holly and Danielle, I couldn’t stop thinking how the choices, options, paradoxes and the new freedoms being described and referenced, offer more opportunity but also, necessarily, more risk. My favourite definition of risk is that ‘more things can happen, than will happen’. In the emerging fashion entrepreneur landscape it is definitely the case that more things can happen…which means more opportunity for the wrong things to happen. Yet risk is more than a relationship between options and outcomes. Risk has to be felt, experienced and sometimes endured. In the opening exchanges of the panel the willingness to take risks was a feature of what it means to be an entrepreneur.  If that is the case then courage is just as necessary.