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How a Canadian Fashion Icon Provided Insights for Global Marketers in any Industry

A man walks down the street and sees two fifty-dollar bills lying on the sidewalk. He pauses, thinks for a moment, looks around and sees nobody, and finally picks-up one of the bills and merrily continues along this path. Now to most people, this would seem to be an absurd decision. Why would anyone leave half the value lying on the sidewalk? Well, I ask the same question of anyone who pays tuition to go to classes at Ryerson without taking advantage of all the other value the school environment has to offer.

On March 19th I took advantage of the opportunity to listen to Barbara Atkin, Vice President of Fashion Direction at Holt Renfrew, and one of the many successful and talented guest speakers that have come to Ryerson as part of the MBA Winter Speaker Series this year.

I am currently completing my MBA and launching a new business – a B2B venture with environmental sustainability at its core. So I asked myself beforehand, how on earth could one of Canada’s foremost experts on fashion from a company nearly 200 years old have any relevant insights to offer me? My question the next morning was: Was there anything Ms. Atkin said that was irrelevant, even in my own very disparate pursuits? The answer was no, but let me explain.

When the slides-and-speak presentation began, the iconic hot pink Holt Renfrew brand was front and centre, and Atkin began speaking about global trends. I wondered if I what I would hear next is that shorts with tuxedos and Spanx for men were the global fashion trends I should be aware of. But what I actually heard next was a detailed and well-presented analysis of macro trends and the importance of spotting and reacting to them. One by one, as Atkin detailed each trend, they all seemed applicable to my studies and business plan in ways I would not have thought of beforehand.

Of course, global trends are a snapshot in time, and the underlying message that Atkin repeated was the ever-changing landscape, and takeaway number one for many was read the news and stay current.

According to Atkin, there are seven major global trends that affect almost all businesses, brands and consumer behaviour. These trends include some that are obvious – technology and Big Data, branding and the need for more transparency, and corporate social responsibility. Sure enough, I nodded as Atkin presented, thinking – I’ve got these nailed, no problem.

But some of the other trends Atkin discussed were eye openers – the wellness revolution, the blurring of gender roles, accelerated celebrity culture and consumers desire for limited editions. It was in these areas that I was provided with some invaluable insights for my own business – realizing that in some cases my business is properly aligned with the trends, but I had no plans to present them in a manner that supports my brand and business. Those plans have since been adapted.

So at the end of a long day of work, and a evening of studies, I left campus for the long-drive home, happy and satisfied that I was headed in the right direction – not just geographically – but with two fifties in my back pocket.

Kevin Moroney is an MBA Candidate (2014) at Ryerson and and owner PaxNatura Limited, an company and initiative to make film and television production greener. You can follow him on Twitter @GreenScreenz and connect with him on LinkedIn