Fashion Industry Insiders: Sarah Penny, Fashion Monitor
By Carlene Thomas Bailey

For our new WGSN series we’re interviewing industry powerhouses to get their reflections on the magic of fashion and the changing state of the industry.

May 24, 2016

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Sarah Penny, editor of Fashion and Beauty Monitor

It’s an exciting week this week at WGSN HQ, as we gear up for the Futures Summit and Awards show – with an incredible roster of fashion industry experts joining us to discuss the trends that will change the fashion industry over the next 15 years.

Ahead of the Summit we’ve caught up with our speakers to ask them how they climbed the ladder and got their incredibly impressive job titles, how the industry has changed and what the fashion industry of the future will look like.

Meet Sarah Penny, Editor of Fashion and Beauty Monitor for UK and US:

sarah- fashion monitor

Q: Hi Sarah, tells us a bit more about what type of industry resource Fashion Monitor is?

We’re a PR and marketing insight tool for the fashion and beauty industries. We started as a contacts database, but we’ve expanded into the US and the beauty market. We’re also a news resource and industry events calendar, and most recently, we’ve moved into insight marketing, by launching our influencer index – I like to think of it as like Tinder for matching influencers and brands.

Q: And what was the career journey to your current role?

I originally started in book publishing 12-years-ago, after working at teen magazines J17 and Bliss. I started back when the digital side of publishing was just a CD ROM in the front of a book – amazingly, that was only about 10-years-ago! I had a natural interest in digital, and ended up forming part of an ad-hoc digital department for the publishing company. I was also increasingly freelancing in fashion journalism, and did catwalk reportage at London Fashion Week for a number of different publications. Then four years ago, the job came up at Fashion Monitor, and that’s how I ended up here.

Why do you love the UK fashion industry?

Well, there’s so much going on! Fashion brings a hell of a lot of revenue into this country, and there’s a wonderful mix in the UK of creative designers juxtaposed with people who are doing some great stuff commercially. I particularly love sourcing and surfacing under-the-radar brands because I think a lot of bigger brands can learn from their creativity.

We also have an amazing high street – when I’ve been abroad, I’ve heard people rave about it! We might take it for granted, but other countries, like Japan, for instance, just don’t have the middle ground of accessible fashion that the UK high street has.

How do you feel the fashion industry’s doing at the moment?

I think fashion’s had a bit of a wakeup call recently, what with all these changes to the traditional show schedule, and the ability to instantly buy what’s on the catwalk raising so many questions. Are we going to have to bring manufacturing back to the UK, because we no longer have the lead time to get the production done overseas? What does see-now buy-now mean for long-lead publications? If products are being released as soon as they come off the catwalk, then by the time the long-lead publication comes out they’ll be irrelevant. It’s a temperamental time to be in fashion, but it’s exciting. It’s good to have change.

Who are your standout designers?

In terms of creativity and commerciality Sophia Webster’s got it down to a tee. You only have to see one thing from one of her collections and you know straight away that it’s one of hers, which shows she’s established her own identity – so impressive for a young designer.


Ashish is another incredibly creative, tongue-in-cheek designer who succeeds commercially. With every collection, you can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with next. I remember for SS14, he made supermarket carrier bags entirely out of sequins, blending the ‘cheap’ with beautiful craftsmanship, and creating a strongly UK-centric commentary.  

Every editor left that show with a smile on their face.

WGSN Futures, London: Interested in finding out about WGSN Futures, and getting your hands on the last remaining tickets? Head here.

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