As the speaker at the Fashion Collective event, Thierry has a lot of great advice to give to budding fashion designers. Candice Wu picked his mind.
What do you do?
So, my name is Thierry Bayle, and I’m the founder of Global Fashion Management. I’m here to help fashion brands and retailers have a more profitable business, so I focus on the business side of fashion, bringing 25 years of international experience for them to be able to understand how as a designer you need to become today, a business designer.
How did you get into fashion management?
Well, a French company decided one day that they needed a general manager for their UK operation and because I was speaking English and was educated partly in the US when I was young and then I lived in Singapore and travelled Southeast Asia, so all my education, as well as my living experience after graduating from my business school, was in English. So, I started here 5 years, turned around the operation, and then they told me, “Okay Thierry, it’s time for you to go and open a US office.” So, I went to the US to open a US office in New York, and that was many years ago. In the meantime, basically, it was really working with brands and retailers from young designers to establish brands because I was fortunate to work with people like Calvin Klein, DVF, Moschino, Versace, and many others.
“IF YOU WANT TO IMPROVE, HAVE A MEASURABLE GOAL EVERY TIME”
What was your inspiration to get into fashion specifically?
I think what’s really exciting in the world of fashion is the fact that every six months you have to reinvent yourself. Except, that now that H&M, Zara, and some others have decided to speed up and the time to market has actually become very short today, it’s more like 4-6 times a year that you have to reinvent yourself, so the key challenge is creating, setting up, and managing a fashion brand. It takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and the challenge today is since nobody knows, since the day the fashion industry has become much more complex and unpredictable, who is going to be helping you to act as a kind of sounding board. The critical thinking that you need to revisit the way you think and work, that’s my job, and today, I will open more questions in your business than your staff or yourself will. That, I guarantee.
What’s the biggest misconception or mistake you see in young fashion businesses?
150 people I had in collective seminars in one to ones. 0%. 0% of those people were able to tell me how much money they were giving away in discounts. It takes one minute to calculate. I’m going to ask you two numbers, and I’ll be able to tell you how much they are giving away in discounts. Somebody had 20 stores and she couldn’t tell me. Just to show you that we lack proper training in the fashion industry and at retail even more. That’s why we need you to work on the creative side and somebody to work on the business side. They’re going to be lucky one month. They’re going to be lucky one year, but long-term, it’s not going to be sustainable.
How do you see things differently to designers?
What you read is not what I’m going to see. You’re going to see a red flag, and I’m going to see a green flag. You’re going to see a green flag, and I’m going to see a red flag. An example. We will give you a space in our showroom. I said to the designer, “Are you happy with that?” “Yep, that’s exactly what I want,” she said. “Did you give them a brief?” “No.” You need a brief. If you don’t give them a brief, it means that what you want is exactly the proposal. It’s impossible. It’s impossible. They say they’re going to give you a space in their showroom, and you’re happy with that. Is that correct? Can you improve that sentence? “No, that’s exactly what I want.” Does she tell you how much square metres she is going to give you? “No.” “Does she tell you in which area of the showroom you will be?” “No.” “Did she tell you that if another designer gives her $10,000 whether or not you will have less space in the showroom? Can you confirm that with me? “No.” That’s what’s going to happen to a lot of those designers. Today it’s too complicated. People don’t know how to spot the good advice from the bad, but that’s my job. People don’t know what they want. If you want to improve, have a measurable goal every time.
Should CEOs be business-minded or fashion-minded?
We have to get people to open up and make sure that, yes, it’s a creative world and yes, you should maybe fire the CEO if he doesn’t know the difference between burgundy and red and he shouldn’t be the one making that choice either, (it’s the designer). But at the same time, we’re in it to make money or else there’s no sustainability.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future in the next 3 years… I’m looking to connect with 10,000 young designers and provide them with the business side of fashion. So, my next step is building an online fashion academy. Why? Because I’m always sad to be able to see so many young designers who are borrowing money from family and friends, sometimes mortgaging their place and losing it all. It’s 6, 12, or 24 months, and sometimes, it’s not because of their fault but just because not everybody is going to be honest with them. You’ve got to make sure that you’re well surrounded, and you know the big challenge is… I love some of the quotes that Tom Ford gives. He said, “Remember, your customers do not need your clothes, so you’ve got to give them a reason why they need to buy you.” He also said, you know, you’ll have to find a business partner and make sure that you stick with them, and together, you will grow because you need the business side, absolutely. Today, just having a creative product, it can be 15% of success. The rest is going to be your processes, your quality and time of delivery. It can be your ability to invoice and to collect money. Today, the digital side of the business today is going to be about retail. There’s a real lot of challenges about retail.
Find Thierry online: http://www.globalfashionmanag ement.com/en/
Images by Ian Clark