The College of Fashion and Design hosted their fifth Fashion Forum on April 18th which explored the impact of e-commerce and social media on the fashion industry, where consumers are reinventing the way they shop and buy. The fashion world, from the top fashion houses to emerging fashion entrepreneurs, have taken the digital runway by storm by using the latest technology to attract their target audience and convert them into customers. Fashion brands that fail to adapt to these new channels risk being pushed out of the spotlight.
Experienced moderator Ms. Alia Fawad, Director of ITP Live, one of the largest contributors to Fashion Media in the Middle East, highlighted the challenges and benefits of the online media with two esteemed panel members.
Katya Kovtunovich, designer, journalist and CEO of her eponymous fashion label, started her career as an intern at British Vogue. She moved to Dubai in 2010 and started her own business two years later. In 2015 she was invited to represent the United Arab Emirates at Expo 2015 in Milan as a designer who put the country’s Bedouin textile heritage on the modern fashion map.
Katya emphasized the importance of identifying your target market and then choosing the right media channels to reach them, “Focus on the right audience and find the right method to reach them,” she noted. Customer service is also crucial to success in the online world. Small companies need to reduce the amount of costly returns by creating designs that are easy to fit and photographs that clearly represent the product. She stressed that entrepreneurs should “always under-promise and over-deliver.”
“Do not limit yourself to one sector, country or region, diversify your market and try to reach different parts of the world” was Katya’s advice to the student audience as a way to mitigate potential business risks associated with regional economic downturns. Networking is also critical to exchange talent and experience.
Rosemin, founder of RR&Co. Bespoke Luxury Management, the leading consultancy firm in the Middle East, specializing in the Luxury Fashion Industry has recently become a digital influencer and has worked closely with the world's leading brands including Tom Ford, Gucci, Burberry and Juicy Couture. Rosemin inspired the CFD students by explaining the importance of internships. Students must “be ready to start somewhere small and work your way upwards.” She also commented that it’s crucial to be “like a sponge, absorb everything and be adaptable to the way the environment expects you to be.”
She confessed that although she is currently very successful, she has had her share of failures as well. “Embrace failure, never give up”, she encouraged the students as the way to develop their skills. CFD faculty member, Nessrin Shaya, agreed with Rosemin “fashion students need to read and be aware about the trends around the world to maintain relevancy.”
CFD students were highly engaged with the speakers and benefited from their advice. First year student in the Diploma in Fashion and Design program, Latifa, commented, “the forum helped me to understand the effect of e-commerce and social media on the fashion industry. By listening to the speakers, I can see the ways that both large and small enterprises are using e-commerce to grow their businesses. Such a forum and fashion talks are really enriching and eye opening for us as students and I am happy to participate in them.”