With the rapid rate that fashion trends are introduced and collections are released, it can be a unique juggling act keeping up with it all. Thankfully James Boston of FashionSource.com.au has mastered the art and feeds are veracious appetite for the latest and the now.
Fashion Exposed Online recently caught up with him to ask about the history of Fashion Source, common misconceptions of the fashion industry, and what his take his on the current retail environment and whether it is as `dire’ as reports make out.
James Boston is the Managing Editor of ATF Magazine, Editor, Publisher and Founder of Window Furnishings Australia, Online editor fashionsource.com.au,textilesource.com.au, and most recently Editor, Publisher and Founder of OR Magazine. Narrowly avoiding a career in finance, James has spent the last decade watching, analysing and writing about the Australian TCF industry in both his own publications as well as a number of mainstream titles.
How did you start fashion source? Was it always something you wanted to start up or did you fall into it?
Fashionsource.com.au and Textilesource.com.au were started in 1999 by my father, who at the time was the editor of our print publication ATF (Australasian Textile and Fashion). He saw the value of web publishing for industry long before many others and also saw the benefits of having a supply chain database online. I didn’t have any plans on getting involved in the business, but when my father fell ill eight years ago, and had to stop working, I was asked to come on board. I went part time with my degrees and despite eventually finishing them, gave up my planned career path in Finance to enter the world of fashion business.
What are some of the common misconceptions about the fashion industry?
From an outsiders point-of-view, that the industry is about catwalks and parties. This is probably only the case for a very small part of the industry and even then it only makes up a very small percentage of working life. In reality the life of a fashion label is one of a constant battle. There are very few barriers to entry in this industry and as a result, there is a constant stream of new labels being released.
The retail environment is being tagged by mainstream media as `dire’ with major chains reporting serious losses in revenue – what is your take on the current climate? Is it as `dire’ as the media make out?
If you look at the long term retail trends, clothing retailing is basically on trend with retailing as a whole over the past ten years. The problem (for some) is this is well below its peak in 2008. There was a brief rebound with the stimulus payments, but since then sales volumes have retreated back to long term levels. The problem for the large bricks and mortar retailers is that they built their businesses on the assumption that this amazing growth experienced during the mid-2000s would go on forever. As a result, high street retailers signed onto hundreds of retail leases in order to increase turnover and grab market share. At the same time, you had a consumer who learnt to shop online and when the dollar rose, suddenly the retail margins of the high street retailers were exposed. What we are seeing now is a fundamental shift in the way fashion retailing works. I believe that anyone who argues against this is just putting their head in the sand and get particularly annoyed when I hear large retailers and department store bosses blaming anything (the internet, the dollar, interest rates, a carbon tax that hasn’t even been legislated yet) for their poor performance while ignoring the fact that their business model is not sustainable.
What is the best part about your job?
Seeing up-and-coming designers succeed in a tough industry and a tough market. There are some incredibly talented people in Australia and I love seeing unique design rather than copies of overseas product on our racks. Unfortunately, due to the conservative nature of Australian consumers and retailers these sorts of success stories are often few and far between.
What advice do you have for aspiring designers looking to break into retail and gain new accounts?
Wholesaling can be difficult, but if you want to follow this path you will have to work hard. The fashion industry is notorious for poor and late payments, so factor this in when you are looking at your cash flow for a year. If you can afford it hire a publicist as often retailers can be quite fickle if they haven’t heard of you before. If you are going to exhibit at a trade event like Fashion Exposed, don’t just expect new accounts to walk up and place orders, make sure you organise appointments with retailers you would like to work with before the show.
Why are events like fashion exposed and premiere vital to the fashion industry?
They provide an excellent platform for the industry to do business. People come to these shows ready to do business or look for new suppliers.