“Honestly, in my line of work there is no such thing as a normal day. The way we work is extremely reactive so every day is different”, says BSc (Hons) Fashion Management alumna Miriam Ko as she reflects on leaving London behind to move to Spain and start working for Zara.
As graduation approaches, LCF News will be talking to alumni to hear what they got up to in their placement years and life after London College of Fashion. We start with Miriam, who did her placement at Jaeger and then Asprey before graduating in 2012.
She began as an entry level International MAA at Topshop and over the course of two years moved herself up to a senior position. In 2014, Miriam moved to Spain to work as a Product Manager at Zara.com, she discusses her journey and tips below.
What made you interested in the business side of fashion?
I’ve always been fascinated by fashion and knew this is the industry I want to work in – I just didn’t know what field I wanted to work in. At first the business side was merely what I’ve considered the basic building blocks to a career in fashion. True interest for it only came once I started understanding the broad spectrum of applicability to each aspect; from design, range building, marketing, brick-and-mortar, to the web.
Reflecting back at your time at LCF, what were the highlights and struggles of the course?
The Fashion Consultancy Project was a definite highlight and major learning curve of the course, as it pushed us to think commercially, apply everything we’ve learnt and lured us out of our comfort zones by approaching companies to consult. The experience tremendously helped in becoming more resourceful when hunting and applying for internships and jobs later on.
The struggle of the course was managing my own progression. The curriculum allows for a lot of flexibility and works on a framework of guidelines rather than dead-set rules, so it can be as challenging as you’d like it to be as you set your own standards and goals. It took me a while to fully grasp this concept but in hindsight, nothing could have prepared me better for the industry. Once you start your professional career, there are no rules or grades and you have to manage your own progression.
You previously managed at Topshop, how did you get to that position and what was your role in the company?
I started as an entry level International MAA at Topshop after graduating and worked my way up. I was lucky to have had great mentors and a very dynamic team that taught me a lot. The role of International Merchandising operating a push model is part branch merchandising at a country/region level and part being a brand ambassador, closely working with and training franchise partners on the brand, developing localised product ranges and retail strategies/techniques. This involved a lot of short and long-term planning and merchandise management, as you’re directly impacting trade.
You’re currently an e-commerce product manager for Zara in Spain, what made you leave for Spain, and is it a different working environment to London?
I left for Spain for the job opportunity and yes, it is a drastically different working environment! London is a very international city, to my experience the work environment and management style is predominantly British whereas it’s the other way around here. Whilst the city and living environment is very Spanish, the office culture is international. Zara employs a unique a mix of staff from all over the world, speaking different languages, who all have a differing approach towards management. Working cross-culturally is extremely rewarding as it allows you to learn new ways of thinking.
What does a normal day at Zara like?
Honestly, in my line of work there is no such thing as a normal day. The way we work is extremely reactive so every day is different. I check and monitor sales and plan actions around my analysis. That may be anything from going on research trips, working with marketing or physical stores, changing the web layout or improving the online shopping journey, to developing new product.
What makes you get out of bed everyday?
The thought of endless possibilities.. and my alarm!
We hear you have an interest in tech-related fashion start-ups and work as a mentor/consultant. How did this come about and what sort of guidance do you give to these start-ups?
I’ve been contacted by a Berlin-based consultancy about a year ago and have been working as a freelance industry expert on the field of fashion, e-commerce and localisation ever since, but have also been personally mentoring some start-ups that have taken part in the ‘Startup Weekend’s Global Fashion Battle’ (London round, 2014), where I was kindly invited to be judge. I give guidance on direction on services/products competitiveness, industry relevance and potential areas of further opportunity and improvement for long-term sustainability.
You did a placement year at Jaegar and then Asprey while at LCF. What did you learn that made you ready for the industry after graduation?
The placement year was a great opportunity to prepare myself for the industry as it allowed me to explore different career paths, office cultures and strengthen my C.V. Personal experience taught me that you may think you know what you want but until you’ve actually tried it, you have no real idea. The theory one learns in university and daily office practices are two different things.
Where do you see yourself in five years, is running a private consulting company something you’d like to follow…
With the rapid pace at which the internet, social media and fast fashion are impacting today’s consumer, it is an incredibly interesting time to be working in fashion. A lot is changing, which for companies means they need to adapt. In five years time, I see myself working on exactly that: being a solutions creator to adaptation – whether that’s in form of product within a company, finding new creative solutions in the form of a consulting company, or perhaps building the solution itself in form of a startup.
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