LCF students are crowned winners of the Future Retail Challenge 2021
Tasked with reimagining retail for the post-pandemic world, 4 LCF students have received the prestigious Future Retail Challenge award. Weronika Korczak, Kornelija Riniute and Emilija Gailiute from BA (Hons) Fashion Marketing and Giulia Sampietro from BSc Fashion Management came together to build a brand strategy for a new store opening for chosen brand, 'Cashmere Circle'. The students unpicked a concept for the launch of the store that serves as a physical recreation of the online brand business, showcasing an idea that brought the brand to life. We caught up with some of the team members to find out more about working as a new team.
Congratulations on being crowned winners of the Future Retail Challenge 2021! How does it feel?
Weronika: Thank you very much. It feels truly incredible. I’m really happy that all the hard work that we have put into preparation as a group together with our teachers paid off. But to be honest similar to the moment when we found out that we were selected to represent our university, I couldn’t believe that it was really happening to us and it took me a while to comprehend everything.
Kornelija: I'll be straightforward: having won the Future Retail Challenge made me feel amazing. I was immensely proud of the work that me and my team have done during the previous months and it was like a recognition of the sacrifices and determination of few of us. When you put effort into something you do, you feel satisfied with yourself once you get rewarded. This was one of these moments.
Giulia: It feels amazing! We have invested so much time and effort into this project and it's great to be rewarded. It was an honour to compete against other world-class universities such as the Fashion Institute of Technology - New York, University of Amsterdam - Netherlands, Swinburne University -Australia, ESCP - Italy, MGIMO University - Russia. Overall, I'm so proud of the work we produced and it was an incredible experience that taught me so much.
Tell us – how did your team come together and what were you required to do?
Weronika: It’s really funny because, we were all present in the briefing delivered by Hannah Middleton and after that we somehow found each other over different social medias, like Instagram. Once we had our team, we have started working on the presentation, which included the overview of our chosen brand, target consumer and the initial idea for our physical store. Then we were supposed to deliver it in a form a short pitch, during the selection process in our school.
Giulia: We were from two different courses and year groups but we were both invested in this project. During the summer we worked online with the support from LCF Hannah Middleton, Sanjeev Davidson, Julie James, Simon Hinton, Lucy Wheeler. We learned everything from cash flow forecasting to creating 3D visualisation. Finally, in September we all met for the first time in person in London.
The brief surrounded ‘reimagining retail for the post-pandemic world’ - talk us through your idea and pitch.
Kornelija: I worked as a Social Media Community Development intern at Cashmere Circle since February 2021. It is a start-up company that repairs, revives, recycles and creates bespoke creations from cashmere, or any other natural fibre (such as merino wool for example). The company works following a completely circular model where nothing gets wasted during the process but gets reimagined and diverted from the landfill in many creative ways. This was our chosen brand.
Giulia: Physical stores will always be an important part of the customer experience but in a post-pandemic world, their role has evolved. They need to offer a unique experience that customers can only have in the store. The brand we choose is Cashmere Circle. Our concept for the first Cashmere Circle physical store was based on sustainability and creating a unique experience for the customer where they can learn, buy, redesign, use services, get a drink and overall get that cosy and natural feeling of cashmere. The store design underlines the circularity of the brand and aims to become one of the most sustainable shops in the UK through the use of sophisticated technologies in order to make the store self-sufficient.
There was as particular focus on ethical and sustainable policies within the brief – can you tell us how you highlighted this in your idea?
Giulia: The commercial model is retail, education and repairing. Ethical and sustainable policies are the focus of the operations since the brand is working with local factories and workers, with whom they have already a relationship, to ensure ethical practices are followed. Moreover, the store concept is based on sustainability to support the Cashmere Circle concept that encourages the repair and reuse of yarns.
Did you overcome any difficulties throughout? If so, is there anything in particular that you would do differently next time?
Weronika: I think the biggest difficulty that we have faced as a group was working from home, especially due to the fact that we were all in different countries and had different schedules. But we managed to divide work between us and schedule meeting every few days/weeks to catch up on others work and it worked. For me, but I think that like for most of us, because of the lockdowns, restrictions and learning from home it was really hard to get back into routine and find motivation to start working on something. However, the end goal, in the form of attending the congress and the support form girls and teachers really helped me focused on our project.
Kornelija: As with every project, we had some obstacles to overcome. We were all in different parts of the world at that time because of the Covid-19 and some of us were also working alongside the WRC project. Therefore, it was challenging to find suitable times for our weekly meetings and the level of motivation was different for each of us. Teamwork was quite difficult but at the end we managed to find the solution and finish the report on time.
Giulia: Yes, of course, there were difficulties. Mainly working online and keeping the group motivated. Especially at the start, we didn't know each other well and it took some time to understand our strengths and create roles in the team. However, we were able to manage it by helping each other, meeting frequently and trying to keep it fun! Looking back I wouldn't do anything differently because the difficulties that we encountered were necessary to challenge us to produce this amazing concept.
Why did you decide to study at LCF?
Weronika: I don’t want to sound cliché by saying that I’ve been interested in fashion since I was a kid, but to some extend it’s true. I felt in love with the idea of fashion shows and wanted to know how do they look like from behind the scenes. Hence, when I was researching universities in London back in a high school and came across UAL, I knew it was a place where I want to continue my education.
Kornelija: I decided to study BA (Hons) Fashion Marketing at LCF because I have always wanted to do something that excites me and motivates me. I thought that life is too precious and too short to do something you do not really enjoy, therefore I decided to dive into this course which seemed quite aligned to my interests as well as my future career prospects.
Giulia: I have always been intrigued by the fashion industry and I enjoy using my creative skills to manage and solve problems. Looking into this course I saw that we would cover from sustainability to marketing to luxury brand management. Giving me the opportunity to combine these three subjects. Moreover, I was impressed by the integrated masters that is part of the course and the possibility to carry out a work placement. Overall, London, LCF and the course offer so many opportunities for what I like doing that it was just perfect for me.