Last week FAD were delighted to welcome John Francis – Company Director of Paul Smith – as guest speaker at the October INTO Fashion masterclass. Hotly anticipated, it was one of the most packed mentoring events yet.
The INTO Fashion programme supports creative graduates who have trained in fashion, but find themselves stuck in low paid work, unable to progress in their chosen career. The program of mentoring along with the masterclasses helps them to make the most of their skills and experience and move forward into more fulfilling, better paid jobs.
Having been with Paul Smith since the very early days John covered the company’s growth from a small shop in Nottingham, open only twice a week, to one of the world’s most recognizable English brands. He stressed the importance of hard work, good people skills, working your way up, and a willingness to diversify. “Everybody wants to be a designer, in this industry there are so many other roles beside that. In particular here in the UK we are in desperate need of pattern cutters.”
John shared both his and Paul’s unlikely routes into the industry. He also spoke about how to survive and get the most out of low-paid, interim jobs. Both he and Paul Smith started out working in retail. John advises seeing this period as a time to perfect your people skills, and build relationships within the company. To survive the daily grind, and not lose focus, he recommends taking two days a week to be creative and do what you love.
The floor was opened to questions and John offered his opinions on e-commerce, surviving downturns, the international market and more.
When asked what advice he would give his 16-year-old self John answered, “Work hard. Be determined. Don’t let people grind you down. And don’t give up!”
A huge thanks to John for finding time in his busy schedule to speak to our INTO Fashion recruits. If you are a graduate struggling to move forward in your fashion career, are based in London and would like to participate in the INTO Fashion programme read more here.
The INTO Fashion programme is made possible thanks to funding from The Trust for London. For the latest updates on this project follow FAD on twitter @fadcharity #INTOFashion.