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Role Call | Rosanna Falconer, Business Director

Rosanna Falconer, business director at Matthew Williamson, says having "a group of like-minded peers is crucial. It stimulates your mind and expands your vision."
Rosanna Falconer | Photo: Victoria Adamson
By
  • Kati Chitrakorn

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 — Rosanna Falconer is the business director at Matthew Williamson, a new role that coincides with the brand's pivot to become an online-only, direct-to-consumer business. After graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in modern and medieval languages in 2007, Falconer joined the team at the British Fashion Council as a digital marketing executive, and launched the social media platforms for the BFC and London Fashion Week.

She joined Matthew Williamson as head of digital in 2012, spearheading the brand's digital strategy, including the launch of social media and re-launch of its website and e-commerce, before becoming communications director in 2014. In 2015, Falconer was promoted to business director. She was also included in Drapers magazine's 2015 '30 Under 30,' an annual list spotlighting the next generation of leaders in the retail industry.

BoF: Please describe your current role.

I am the business director at Matthew Williamson. This year, the business has pivoted to an online retail model, moving away from wholesale and bricks-and mortar — and I sit at the heart of this new set-up. My role touches all areas of the business, from online sales and communications strategy, to the collection buy and customer relationship management.

I also work alongside the team that work with our licensing partners, such as Osborne & Little wallpapers and Linda Farrow sunglasses. We have eight active license agreements in place, so an important part of my role is to be aware of the full spectrum of the business, other than the clothing we produce ourselves. The aim is to have a website that offers a whole ‘world of Matthew Williamson’ within six months, with full integration of these lifestyle elements from our licenses.

BoF: What attracted you to Matthew Williamson, and the role you're in now?

A role at Matthew Williamson was always my career goal, from the moment I saw Kate Moss and Jade Jagger on the cover of The Times back in 1997. The aesthetic struck such a chord with me — pure joy in a sea of minimalism.

My current role is a natural progression as part of the new business plan. The results and insight gained from the launch of our digital strategy, and my subsequent development into overseeing communications as a whole, meant that the foundations were in place. Our 2014 e-commerce sales were up over 200 percent year on year, while this year is set for 40 percent annual growth. Digital marketing has given us the means to reach a global audience with an undiluted, pure message.

We are the largest fashion brand on Pinterest with 1.1 million followers, having launched only this time last year. Meanwhile, current customers interact with Matthew in the comments on Instagram — and e-commerce has brought us new customers, often through interactions with customer service on a social post.

Digital marketing has given us the means to reach a global audience with an undiluted, pure message.

BoF: As Matthew Willamson undergoes major transitions — the brand has closed its flagship store in London to re-focus on a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business — what does rolling out its digital strategy involve?

The crucial requirement for a digital strategy (and, I suppose, any business strategy) is that it must be constantly evolving. It needs to be agile and reactive to the business’s needs, customers’ demands and to developments within the economic climate. A first step is to know the brand’s identity inside out. Without this, you cannot begin. Tone of voice, creative vision — to communicate this with consistency across a multitude of platforms takes time and planning. It no doubt helped that I was a long-time fan of the brand (to the point of obsession!) so I landed on my feet when starting out.

Like any business, we have developed and changed with the times. You must constantly observe and react accordingly. A digital strategist always has a close eye on statistics — whether traffic, retweets or sales. They all dovetail. A laboured sign-off process can break a lithe digital plan: the moment has passed by the time the decision makers reach a consensus. We have what we call a "square" of speedy communication between the company founders, artistic director Georgie Macintyre and me, so ideas can progress at the speed required today.

BoF: As business director, how is your role changing? What forces are driving this change?

My role has changed significantly in the last year, growing and adapting to the needs of the business. Next year, we are growing the range of branded products in the luxury lifestyle and interiors arena, with stationery, activewear and furniture soon to launch. The breadth of the brand portfolio will change and my skills will need to be applied accordingly, though I can’t say I will ever be an expert in interior design advice — I will leave that to Matthew! The products may be new, but the DNA at their heart is the same now, as in 1996 with Matthew’s very first collection. Coincidentally, it was called ‘Rosanna’s Eden.’ I like to call it fate!

BoF: What have been the most pressing challenges and what are your priorities?

Like any commercial business, my first priority is obviously sales figures. The joy of our independence, growing online database and wide social reach means we can adjust and adapt our strategy each month to reach targets.

There is no denying that the closure of the store and end of our global wholesale portfolio meant a reduced brand presence in the traditional sense. A key strategy solution for this year was to make the remaining physical presence all the more special, memorable and personal. At our showroom in Queen’s Park, customers book an appointment to meet a personal shopper with an edit for their tastes or upcoming events. They can look through our archives (every catwalk collection is displayed in a room nicknamed the ‘Rainbow Room’). The studio is also here, so customers can see the inner workings of the brand. It helps that Matthew is often here to hitch up a hem if needed, too! Meanwhile, our work with multi-brand aggregation sites like Lyst and Orchard Mile takes the brand to a new audience.

BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do? What tools should people have?

First of all, a degree in this specific field is not necessary. My time at Cambridge equipped me with an analytical mind and strong communication skills, but it was my work experience outside of term-time in marketing departments that equipped me for my first role at the British Fashion Council.

An ability to adapt and learn is paramount. When I started my career, I barely had any technical experience but learnt from helpful (and patient) developers at the BFC’s web agency, or late nights spent in front of YouTube tutorials.

People often say it’s all about contacts in fashion. I would say a group of like-minded peers is crucial. It stimulates your mind and expands your vision. #FashMash — the group I co-founded with Rachel Arthur, a business journalist who specialises in fashion and technology, to unite pioneering minds in fashion and tech — has been an invaluable sounding board for ideas, as well as a source for new contacts and recruits.

There is also the old adage that the industry is made up of show ponies and work horses. For me, it’s a balance of knowing when to work like a horse at your desk until midnight, and when to put on a gown and get out there. Meeting people keeps you inspired and puts everything at your desk into context. I rarely go to an event where I don’t meet a new customer or potential collaborator. Of course, it helps that the clothes themselves are a talking point — an impactful outfit means my work is usually a conversation opener!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

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