It's a wrap for the #MustHave16 Fashion Design Competition

That's a wrap for this year's #MustHave16 Design Competition, hosted by Art of Fashion.
The competition is demanding of the emerging fashion designers who participate. They are required to submit a sketch and a sample. In addition, they must go through the 5 phases of starting a brand: including building a social following and marketing strategy, working with retailers to ensure their design meet customer's needs, and selling their design in-store.

"It is a challenging competition, but it is a challenging market for emerging designers", says Jennifer Pilkington, Managing Director of Retail Assembly, who is a competition sponsor. "The hard work pays off, as the designers have a real world toolbox at the end of the competition."

This year the competition offered mentorship and feedback from a variety of industry experts including Laura-Jean Bernhardson, CEO of multi-store retailer Fresh Collective, Elle Bulger of Pinch Social, Jennifer Powell of Hart and Galla, and Donna Bishop, founder of Green Beauty and FGI Board Member.

Browse the video playlist below and congratulate our winner Bulgun Puteeva of Bulia

When organizational benefits outweigh the personal costs

Giver's wanted 

It is widely accepted that corporate culture determines a business success, or at the very least, employee turnover. There are a bevy of management and organizational leadership books that highlight a variety of telling factors, and qualities organizations should strive for. 

Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, has a simpler way to determine a businesses success within the corporate culture framework: do you have a culture of 'givers'?


Organizations benefit when employees freely contribute their skills and knowledge to others. These companies operate as high-performing intelligence units do: helping others, sharing knowledge, and making connections without expecting anything in return. 

Takers operate on the opposite end, offering as little as possible to get what they want. Takers will help when the personal benefits exceed the cost. Does this sound like anyone you know? 

Matchers are somewhere in the middle - as are most organizations. These are collaborative companies. Matchers tend to seek out people they trust, regardless of expertise. Givers will often count on help from the most qualified person. It is the level of expertise sought which is the differentiating factor in Matchers and Givers. . 

The simplicity of the research and theory is attractive. Although work behaviour, relationships, and culture are much more complicated, the culture of givers does provide an easy check on who your teams are made of - and a fairly simple plan: 

  • Hire givers
  • Reward givers
  • Foster giving and help-seeking

A word of warning: the expression 'one bad apple spoils the bunch' seems appropriate based on Grant's notes. "Over time, employees anticipate taking-behavior and protect themselves by operating like takers or by becoming matchers". Having an idea stolen, or being taken advantage of can make even the most generous team member a bit weary. The emphasis on givers is perhaps for good reason in Grant's plan. 



The leadership lesson here is a tried and true one: "if you want it, go and give it". 

In 1985, a film company facing financial pressure hired a new president. In an effort to cut costs, the president asked the two leaders of a division, Ed and Alvy, to conduct layoffs. Ed and Alvy resisted—eliminating employees would dilute the company’s value. The president issued an ultimatum: a list of names was due to him at nine o’clock the next morning.

When the president received the list, it contained two names: Ed and Alvy.
No layoffs were conducted, and a few months later Steve Jobs bought the division from Lucasfilm and started Pixar with Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith.
Employees were grateful that “managers would put their own jobs on the line for the good of their teams,” marvels Stanford’s Robert Sutton, noting that even a quarter century later, this “still drives and inspires people at Pixar.” 

Kering’s (formerly PPR) brand video

 With the new year, of course, brings new goals.  Some of you are thinking about new employers and the role they play in your training and development.  As we were talking about this around the office, we remembered this video from Kering, which was absolutely beautiful.  Enjoy for the second time. 

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#GoFurther this year and take control of your own (or your team's) professional growth and development.  Our online courses and workshops spark new ideas for retailers, make new connections, and improve business. Subscribe today. 

Marc Levinson's 'The Box'

‘The Box’ is an interesting book about an unsexy innovation - the shipping container.  Levinson, an economist, examines the box’s effect on the supply chain and global economy – it in effect, changed the way the world did business.  ‘The Box’ is a fascinating read for anyone in the business of moving product – Enjoy!  

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Our Supply Chain course is launching for 2014 on January 27.  Stay updated via the form below, or sign-up for our Newsletter.

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The most important question to ask in retail

Source: Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images North America

Source: Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images North America

"People have to walk through the store to get to my office, so if someone's come in here for an interview, I will ask them, 'What didn't you like?'"

- MIchael Gould, CEO Bloomingdale's



These are not only the most common questions we hear (and ask) in retail, but they are together the most important.  Retail is a business, but what is primary to our results is our customer's perception of us, of our stores.  


There are few retailers who will ask "What didn't you like?" directly to their customer.  The reasons vary, from not wanting to highlight anything negative to lack of resources to take a 'meaningful' feedback sample.  Sometimes its difficult for customers, who don't speak retail, to articulate that which is off-putting - customers may simply recognize that they didn't enjoy something.  While we would argue that feedback from even one customer (usually taken informally from a sales person) is valuable, there is another avenue for these questions. 


Whether its an employee coming for a corporate job interview, as is the context Michael Gould mentions it, or a sales rep or colleague meeting up with you, these two questions are one of the best ways to solicit honest feedback.  Corporate teams (buyers, marketers) are often too close to the product and strategies to objectively see what the customer sees in-store.  


"What did you like" will help you to identify what stood out positively about your in-store experience.  If you can successfully determine WHY it worked, doing more may be a prudent business decision.  "What you didn't like"  is equally as important.  


Objectivity and perspective are the hardest things to maintain, particularly in an industry where we are all passionate and invested in the results.  To seek feedback on the execution of your strategy, buy, merchandising or marketing is one of the easiest and effective things you can do to improve your performance - and your customer's experience.  


Retail Assembly is a mission-driven organization.  We have the globe's best retail professionals who have vetted and contributed to our courses and workshops.  Improve sales, profit, productivity, and customer perception - subscribe today.   

Coach's new coach

My passion is for brands with heritage.
— Stuart Vevers

The windmill of creative directors keep turning in the fashion industry.  Earlier in the year Reed Krakoff, COACH's creative director, declared he would not be renewing his contract with the company, indicating he wanted to concentrate on running his namesake brand.  It has now been confirmed that Stuart Vevers, former creative director of Loewe, has been appointed the new creative head of COACH.   


"My passion is for brands with heritage.  Throughout my career, every brand I've been drawn to has a strong heritage, " Vevers told Vogue UK.  Brand heritage often is combined with modern references, youth and pop culture in his designs, which brings a certain authority and relevance to each citation.  With a design career which began with Calvin Klein in New York, Vevers moved to Milan to work with the venerable Laura Moltedo of Bottega Veneta and eventually grew to become head of accessories.  At Givenhcy, he created the "Pumpkin" handbag, and took on both mens and womenswear at Mulberry - and designed the "Emmy", "Aygness" and "Mabel" handbags.

COACH's new CEO, Victor Luis, praised Vevers: "Stuart is recognized as one of the world's leading accessories designers.  His passion, leadership skills and broad luxury brand experienced focused on leather goods, uniquely qualify him to lead the next chapter of COACH."  




Christie Lohr

Excellence is our goal. So simple, but whatever I do, that’s always in the back of my mind.
Photo credit: Priscilla Locke

Photo credit: Priscilla Locke

Christie is the founder of Style Nine to Five, a fashion career site, which feted its third-year anniversary this month.  With core values including excellence, and an emphasis on work ethic, it's no wonder she is able to juggle each one of her professional passions.  Christie also manages a fashion blog with a professional wardrobe component, is the fashion expert for CTV's morning news program, and is expanding the Nine to Five brand to include Beauty Nine to Five!  



"To always help others and never stop reaching new goals"  



"Both industries are very visual and hands-on.  They compliment each other, they can both make you feel beautiful."




"Don't expect to walk into your dream job right away.  Work harder than the next.  Be nice, intern, and get hands on experience in your ideal industry.  Always thank your interviewer after an interview.  Don't be afraid to ask for what you want, you'll be surprised at how many yes's you'll get. "




"There is always something new and exciting!  [Professionally,] it's easy to start as a sales associate, to get your foot in the door.  Once you work hard and have proven yourself, retail opportunities  grow into dream positions like visual merchandising, management, marketing, buying - the list goes on!"



"Hearing job seekers find a great opportunity through Style Nine to Five, and employers telling me how excited they are about finding their new hire."  




"Style Nine to Five and Beauty Nine to Five are still doing amazing things, and more hard-to-find jobs are posted.  I'd love to design my own small collection also! "



"My new Samsung Galaxy s4, Carmex lip balm, Vega shakes to start my day, salty green olives from Whole Foods, hikes and friends"