Virginia Grose is one of those people who always looks effortlessly glamorous. Meeting her in Claremont Gardens on a bitterly cold day to talk about her new book was no exception – Virginia oozes style. It’s probably something to do with her 40 years working in the fashion business. The course director of Fashion Business
Virginia Grose is one of those people who always looks effortlessly glamorous.
Meeting her in Claremont Gardens on a bitterly cold day to talk about her new book was no exception – Virginia oozes style.
It’s probably something to do with her 40 years working in the fashion business.
The course director of Fashion Business Management at the University of Westminster, has just published her second book, A Practical Guide to the Fashion Industry: Concept to Customer. It’s sure to be gobbled up by eager undergrads wanting to impress tutors and potential employers with their knowledge of the industry. It’s also relevant to others too, says Virginia.
“This book is aimed at anyone who wants to go into the fashion business – at any age actually because it is an overview of how the business works. But it was designed with first-year undergraduates in mind, or anyone who may have a lot of business background but who wants to understand how the fashion business works.”
This is the second edition in the Basics Fashion Management series. The first in the stable, Concept to Customer, was published nine years ago and was translated into Portuguese, Mandarin, Arabic, and Italian – with an American edition for a different audience. It is now a very different world, says Virginia.
“In the last nine years since I wrote the first edition the industry has changed a lot,” explained the Elmbridge Avenue resident. “The way we design product hasn’t changed, the process of making garments, designing garments and manufacturing garments is the same, but the world has changed around it.”
Subjects covered in this full update with new international case studies, interviews and attention-grabbing images of the catwalk, prêt-à-porter and couture, range from context and concept, product development, retail strategy, manufacturing, the supply chain, branding and marketing, social media, sustainability and storytelling – the cogs which turn this vibrant, multi-million pound, fast-changing, global industry.
Virginia, who has lived in Surbiton for 14 years, said online was now an extremely important player. Those who offered a ‘phygital’ presence (physical and digital) had to make their offering far more exciting. But whether it be online or on foot, product development, content, and understanding the lifestyle of the customer and what they might be interested in was key.
“The storytelling behind a brand is also more important. If you tell your customers where things were made, who made it, and more about the history, they really like to engage.”
Sustainability was now embedded in the fashion industry.
“Thankfully people are waking up and taking notice because we have to move from a linear economy in the fashion industry ie one which begins and ends, to a circular economy where we reuse, recycle and we don’t regard waste product or waste material as something that we throw away.”
Virginia, whose first job in the business was doing Saturday and summer holiday work in a Jaeger concession at House of Fraser in Manchester while she was a fashion design student (“I learnt so much about yarn, fabric and customers”), said you had to be ruthless and dedicated to carve out a career in the industry.
“Ruthless – not in a nasty way – but you’ve got to know what you want to do. I always say to students be really focused, and don’t give up because it is a tough industry. I think you have got to be quite confident and believe in yourself, which isn’t always easy, but if you’ve got talent just go for it.”
The lecturer, who became an academic after doing an MBA, had already forged a successful 20-year international career at Courtaulds Textiles. She then became a consultant for various brands including a cashmere manufacturer in Hong Kong before developing a career in education.
Virginia is currently in discussions with her publisher about a new book on cashmere fashion as well as researching a PhD into creating a sustainable supply chain for cashmere in the UK.
She is also working as a joint author on her third book – this time about fashion supply chain management.
“I still do a lot of mentoring of fashion brands too,” she explained. “I have a great network of people in the industry that I talk to – you have to, you can’t run commercial courses like fashion business management without being networked.”
A Practical Guide to the Fashion Industry: Concept to Customer (Basics Fashion Management 2nd edition) is published by Bloomsbury, RRP £21.99.