10 things I learned at Drapers’ Next Generation Event 2017…

What is Drapers Next Generation??

The event is designed for people in the early stages of their careers within fashion – from newly hatched graduates all the way to management level, first, second and third job stages. It’s an action packed schedule with talks from up-and-coming talent across the industry, sharing their secrets and experience which has progressed them to their current positions – to leading figures looking back at their career highlights. It’s a roller coaster of fashion-inspiration and exciting discussions set in London’s Euston Square.

How often do you get to hear a CEO tell you what they would go back in time to tell their twenty-something-self?!

Ok so it’s that classic”Best day ever” and we missed it – grrrrreat..

No worries- I went to town with my note taking – like Hermione Granger without magic and an out of practice writing hand. Now I’m serving up all of these wisdom nuggets to share.

There’s a vast amount of information to eat up so let’s break it down:

1…… Be realistic with your timings.

Don’t expect to go from 0-success in 2 years.

You need some good experience on board before you can make your way up to the top – and that takes time. When asked what her secret was to becoming CEO of East – Erica Vilkauls said: “Patience.”


I remember heating up a certain fashion-designer’s soup because she apparently didn’t know how to use a microwave. We all have to start somewhere. 

(Allowing yourself some extra time for the tube always helps.) Obvious maybe for some, but I learnt that the carefree: “I’m only 5 mins away”, doesn’t cut it in front of a 30min tube ride. Something I take for granted in Manchester… 

2. Celebrate the small wins.

Like when you do make it on time! It’s easy to focus on the big things and get frustrated when they don’t seem to be happening fast enough. By congratulating yourself or your team around you on the small things, it’s a feel good boost to keep working towards the bigger goals. Who doesn’t need some encouragement along the way?!

(My waxer is brilliant at this…)

3. Find yourself a mentor and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. 

I literally asked someone for advice in the jacuzzi the other day.  We kind of know each other but we’re in completely different roles and businesses – I was surprised this didn’t even matter. An objective viewpoint can sometimes make all the difference to guide you towards making the best decision for yourself. 

4. Don’t underestimate the power of branding…

When the Marketing Director says he doesn’t like the word ‘Marketing’, I was confused. Really it’s the push tactic nature of marketing which Simon Lee at Matalan has a problem with. He described how his career has been concentrated on helping brands to create a world for their customers to become a part of – the “pull tactic”. The Leeds-born-advertising entrepreneur drew us into his world, speaking about his adventures state-side; flashing the Justin Beiber -Lara Stone campaign on screen #MyCalvins, and regaling the impressive campaign results in his down-to-earth, not your usual-director-like-style. His drive to innovate brands like Matalan, is what the CEO of Jack Wills would call an acknowledgement of brand as a living breathing thing.

5. Obsess about the customer you want to sell to..

So this sounds creepy. It’s also quite necessary. It’s easy to get lost in other brands’ campaigns sometimes working in marketing – dreaming of copying campaigns which are actually irrelevant to the customer you’re trying to reach, just because they look pretty. Knowing more about who you’re targeting to makes it easier to connect and understand what they’re going to want to see.

6. Have a broader approach to your role. 

A few years ago when I started, fresh on the scene and terrified by the never ending office space, it was great that I had a manager who really guided me through every step of the way. I wanted to learn everything, but he was often the safety net which helped me avoid doing tasks that I didn’t yet feel confident enough to take on. The support was amazing but it was only really when he left – 6 months in, suddenly I was forced to take on a lot more responsibility and had to step up to what he had been working on. The jump paid off. This experience really taught me the importance of doing the job you’re aiming for, before it’s given to you on paper.

7. Use social media to get instant reactions.

I love the idea of social media now influencing product designs and buyers. It makes sense to have a conversation with your customers about what they want before you place massive orders. Social media platforms’ advertising revenue is also soaring. It’s not just paid for advertising, it’s brands themselves recognising the ability to use their presence to connect with their customers in the fastest way – building a targeted audience and influencer network. It’s much more personal seeing one of your favourite bloggers wearing a new brand.

8. Be resilient. Be positive.

Easier said than done when a bird shits on your head, just minutes before an interview (this happened to my friend last week!!) She’s always a positivity inspiration outside of work- so I know she will have bossed her way out of the mess! It’s so easy to just whinge whinge about stuff, but after a while it takes it’s toll and it makes it so much harder to keep pushing for the things you want. Oliver Proudlock said inspiring his team behind Serge DeNimes is key: “Always be positive and full believe in what you do….no one is going to be able to sell your brand better than you.”

And for those less positive days – bird shitting or otherwise, its important not to just have a mediocre day. If you’re going in – do it properly, have a terrible day or have an amazing day.


9. Establish what makes you unique.

Understanding your strengths but also your weaknesses, and being comfortable with those is key for Negin Yaganegy, Net-a-porter/YNAP’s eccomerce director. Weaknesses aren’t typically dwelled upon during this type of event. So it stood out to me in a way that was powerful and showed a strength towards being confident in what you are not. That self-awareness is integral both at a personal and brand level. It can define what your focuses should be for your customer, rather than trying to be everything to everybody. We all know a social chameleon, and they’re often hard to trust, just like an everything-brand.


It’s lucky we weren’t playing a drinking game for every time this was mentioned… I wouldn’t have made the after-event drinks!! Draper’s next generation event is like a testimonial of RISK TAKERS. Everyone mentioned it because it’s so important – yep saved the best until last.

Taking risks also comes with making mistakes. To quote Erica Vilkauls again: “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not learning anything.” I’ve constantly been afraid of making mistakes – not speaking out in case you say the wrong thing in a meeting. Well, time for that to change! Life is too short, and there’s so much to learn, so bring on the mistakes!

And finally To wrap up – if you want to attend next year’s event (hellaaaa yeah!), keep a look out for the application for 2018 on Drapers.

Thanks so much to Drapers and headline sponsors Matalan, for making the day so good – keeping us going with coffee, lunch, snacks, and topped off with wine and canapes – the perfect toast to end the day, and kick off some networking!



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