There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. Role Call highlights some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them. For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.
LONDON, United Kingdom — Paula Reed is a content strategy and brand consultant, as well as the director of brand strategy for Boutique 1. After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, with a joint degree in French and German, she began her career as a press officer for Katherine Hamnett, Jasper Conran and Rifat Ozbeh. Reed then moved into the world of fashion journalism, working at The Independent, The Sunday Correspondent and then The Sunday Times, In 1997, she helped to launch Condé Nast Traveller, as style director, before being appointed as fashion director of InStyle, a position she held for three years. In 2004, Reed helped to launch British Grazia, where she remained as style director until 2012. In 2012, she was hired as group fashion director of London department store, Harvey Nichols, before spending two years as creative director of e-commerce site MyTheresa. Reed joined Boutique 1 in 2015.
BoF: Please describe your current role.
I work with brands helping them to figure out how to tell their story in the most engaging way possible. I spent a career as an editor talking to designers, brands and makers: a community I was fascinated by and I earned a living trying to get under the skin of their consumer, in order to connect the two in ways that were both useful and entertaining. Whether it be through creation of content, product or events, or making collaborative connections, my job as a consultant focuses on finding out what makes the consumers heart beat faster and how to tell brands' stories in the most appealing way. I am also director of brand strategy for Boutique 1, a multi-channel retailer that originated in the UAE. I’m helping to establish the business’ first London flagship on Sloane Street.
BoF: What attracted you to brand strategy and consultancy? Is this an area that you’ve always been interested in?
It was pure accident. I spent eight years working at Grazia with not a single dull moment. The offer of fashion director at Harvey Nichols came right out of the blue. It was my invitation to make the leap into the unknown. I wish I could say my moves were part of a carefully laid plan but I have been inordinately lucky to have been given so many opportunities to hone new skills in a world I thought I knew. Consumer journalism is generally focused on end results . Being part of the creative process that gets a brand there is a thrill.
Be curious, be adaptable, be open to new ideas wherever they come from. Be willing to learn from everyone.
BoF: You started your career as a journalist and editor, helping to launch the British edition of Grazia. How did you make the leap to retailers like MyTheresa and Boutique 1?
As my professional universe changed, the unprecedented threats faced by the world of print media that I had always loved also brought opportunities. The skills I had developed and the relationships I had built over 25 years as an editor (which might previously have looked a little niche or specialised) gained applications and relevance. I consider myself a professional mongrel now but the fact is that is also a distinct advantage. Digital evolution has cleared the decks for different skill sets and given people like me a new kind of usefulness. Curiosity and a willingness to challenge the accepted ways of doing things have become requirements in today’s fast moving luxury world and these were the same basic requirements for my job as a journalist.
BoF: How has fashion media changed over your career? What is driving this change?
Of course, digital is the big driver of change. The speed and the limitless reach can feel dehumanising compared to the intimacy of print — that is a massive cultural shift. But essentially it all comes down to the same thing: figuring out what the customer wants and then working hard to deliver that. The language and the tools may have changed. But respect and understanding your audience is still at the heart of success.
BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?
Be curious, be adaptable, be open to new ideas wherever they come from. Be willing to learn from everyone. And be generous: the key to Grazia's success was an enthusiasm to include, share and involve and the payback from that was an impressive lesson.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.