Four reasons why we must mentor the next generation of talent
By WGSN Insider

If we want our industry to be strong, it is paramount we guide the next generation to success, says buyer and London College of Fashion mentor Lawanda Hilaire

Aug 18, 2015
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When I finished my course at the London College of Fashion 10 years ago, I started my career in the buying offices of one of the UK’s top luxury retailers. This intro into such a dynamic and fast moving industry only made me realise how happy I was with my career choice.

After my visa expired, I returned to New York excited about the new possibilities of the fashion world. My career over the next several years took many turns, from Womenswear Buyer, Menswear Product Manager, to Fashion Director and even consulting for a few trend agencies.

When a friend asked me to be a part of a panel to decide scholarship recipients for a fashion school in New York, I suddenly realised the importance of mentoring and giving back. A lot of students have a false sense of what the fashion industry is and what it takes to succeed. In the last decade, we have seen the fashion industry become a more complex industry – opening up new roles and opportunities for the next generation. Here are four reasons the fashion industry must mentor the next generation:

Motivation: There are various professions within the fashion industry and the recent shift of technology has opened up even more opportunities. It’s important to motivate mentees to think beyond entry level roles and how their current role may change over time. For example, I started my career as a department store buyer now I am an ecommerce buyer. My approach to buying changed and I learned new terms and skill sets.

Development: Interviewing skills and CV writing skills are a must, and they become developed over time. I like to spend time with my mentees before an interview; examining answers to any potential questions, how they should present themselves, and how they should be prepared.

Encouragement: I like to encourage all mentees to explore several areas of the industry, even if it’s not the area you are interested in. A well-rounded buyer understands production, a good designer understands retail math. We have become such a multi-faceted industry that it’s actually not beneficial to stay in your own lane anymore.

Sharing: I often like to share my experiences. I often expose my assistants or interns to supplier meetings they may not normally go to. I like them to hear how I negotiate, speak to suppliers to come up with my end goal. Having this exposure will allow them to develop their own style and way of working.

Often times throughout my career, I didn’t feel focused but when I look back over my CV its quite well- rounded, having both the UK and international experiences. In fact, it’s a lot like the dynamic of the retail realm. A mentor helps with fine tuning a strategy, drive and ultimately helps the mentee realise their fullest potential.

Like what you just read? Connect with Lawanda on LinkedIn.

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