LONDON, United Kingdom — Dipping in and out of companies all around the world, first as a management consultant and then as your roving editor, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: while high-performing companies must be able to execute across a wide range of activities, their success usually stems from doing just one or two things very, very well.
Often, these strengths are rooted in a specific way of working, encoded in certain values, behaviours, systems and beliefs, sometimes referred to as ‘company culture.’ According to Edgar Schein, formerly of the MIT Sloan School of Management, organisational culture, once it has taken root, is the hardest thing to change about a company; harder than changing products and services, and harder than changing leadership.
Fashion companies are no different. Their unique strengths vary, but critical to their success is a culture that supports and reinforces their business strategies. So, what are the secrets to building a high-performance culture? And how does culture impact the way people work, and what they achieve together?
These were some of the questions on our minds as we put together our second special print edition of The Business of Fashion, our Companies and Culture Issue.
From the soaring Beijing office tower that houses Vogue China to the original John Lobb factory that produces hand-made, Goodyear welted shoes in Northampton, England, we visited leading fashion companies around the world, meeting creative and business leaders to learn the secrets of their success.
Some, like Tamara Mellon, are just starting to define their company culture, while others like Hermès have a culture that is 137 years old, and still others like Elle (UK) are in the process of cultural transformation.
As Andy Dunn, founder of Bonobos, writes in an essay for this special print edition of BoF, creating a successful company culture depends on “the positive collision of the right people and the right context.”
Nowhere was this more apparent than during an eye-opening company visit in our own neck of the woods, here in London. We zipped down to Battersea to meet with Victoria Beckham and key members of her team to see how the former Spice Girl has built a multi- category fashion business that is growing at almost 100 percent per year.
Sure, her celebrity has certainly helped to give the business a global profile, but ultimately it’s her personal drive, a no-frills, professional culture, surprisingly free of celebrity trappings, and, most of all, a formidable team that have underpinned her success.
Indeed, more than ever, fashion companies are not only competing for market share and sales, but also for talent. My inbox is overflowing with messages from friends, colleagues and contacts from throughout the BoF community looking for specialised talent. It seems every other day, someone is looking for a new head of marketing, or a digital creative director, or someone who speaks Mandarin and English fluently.
Indeed, the findings of an in-depth study we conducted with The Boston Consulting Group, released today for the first time, reveal that a race for top talent will define the next decade for the luxury and fashion industry. Executives report that they are struggling to find talent across the creative, business and technology functions, and nearly two-thirds lack adequate top-management talent pipelines.
But where can leading fashion companies go to interact and connect with top talent on a global scale?
To help bridge this gap between top talent and top companies, we are pleased to unveil BoF Careers, a global marketplace for fashion talent, embedded at the very heart of the fashion ecosystem with seven global partners, based in six countries on three continents: Anya Hindmarch (UK), Ermenegildo Zegna Group (Italy), Lane Crawford (Greater China), LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton (France), The Net-a-Porter Group (UK), Swarovski (Austria) and Tory Burch (USA).
We are also pleased to welcome The British Fashion Council (BFC) and The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), as well our BoF Careers sponsor, McArthurGlen Group to the BoF Careers platform.
Between them, they employ 150,000 people and all of them have posted exciting career opportunities on our new digital platform, www.businessoffashion.com/careers. You can learn more about BoF Careers, and our launch partners, in our handy Company Culture Guide.
We hope you enjoy reading the issue and exploring our new BoF Careers platform, and look forward to your feedback.
Founder and Editor-in-Chief
P.S. Order your copy of The Companies & Culture Issue for delivery anywhere in the world at shop.businessoffashion.com, or visit Browns (London), Colette (Paris), 10 Corso Como (Milan), En Inde (New Delhi), Holt Renfrew (Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary), Lane Crawford (Hong Kong), Le Mill (Mumbai), Liberty (London), L’Éclaireur (Paris), Opening Ceremony (New York and London), and Sneakerboy (Sydney and Melbourne), Wardour News (London), or Mulberry Iconic Magazines (New York).