How I Made It: Jacamo's Big Boys How I Made It
We caught up with Martin Roberts, Head Of Buying, and Ben Bisco, Head of Digital, at Jacamo Menswear, for their best advice on how to get into the Fashion industry through two different avenues – one in sales and the other in marketing.
AAC: What did you study at university and where?
MR: I went to Liverpool John Moores University in order to study for a BA Hons Business studies degree.It is safe to say I enjoyed the social side of University life a little bit too much in my 1st year which resulted in me having to re-take the year! I subsequently buckled down and walked away with a 2.1 in the end!
BB: I studied at The University of Bradford, where I chose to study a degree in Interdisciplinary Human Studies. It was a mixture of many ologies, including sociology, philosophy, and psychology.
AAC: Why fashion? Was this a chosen career path or something that you sort of fell into?
MR: The travel element without a doubt sparked my interest. I had always wanted to travel but did not have the finance to do it and the backpacking experience never appealed to me. I saw this as the ideal way to see the world. On top of that I had always been interested in fashion even though I had no set education in this field. Therefore I killed two birds with one stone and got paid for it! The buying role had always interested me from studying the category within my BTEC and Degree courses. I originally liked the idea of being a toy buyer, but after completing my degree I attended a careers fair at Manchester University and ended up on a stand run by Great Universal Stores (now owned by Very). I started to talk to the girl on the stand, she persuaded me to apply for the graduate scheme for the mens & ladies’ buying department and the rest is history.
BB: Actually my first job was as a filing clerk before I started getting interested in the world of digital marketing, joining my first agency in 2002. The rest is history. I’ve worked in both agency and client-side digital marketing, so have learnt a lot from both sides of the industry! I graduated during a recession so I temped at a few places for several years. I then went in to a media agency as a PPC manager in a time when digital marketing was still very new. After a few years it got to the point where I was heading up a team of 30 and digital was growing as an industry, and rapidly. After this, I went on to work in Digital Strategy, both in client side and agency side, before entering my current position as Head of Digital at Jacamo.
AAC: What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done so far within the job?
MR: My real career highlight has been being involved in Jacamo from the very initial concept 8 years ago. I had been the buyer for the younger menswear department for a couple of years, and after growing the department to a reasonable size it seemed to hit a glass ceiling. It was a very exciting yet frustrating time – no matter what brands or product I introduced, I could not make substantial increases in our customer demand. However, I was convinced that what I was doing with the product and the new brands that I had managed to secure was right. I knew that if we managed to create a brand that was purely targeting a younger menswear customer, we could be successful. I subsequently presented my ideas to the Board. They (thankfully!) agreed that they thought there was an opportunity there to pursue, and Jacamo was formed! It was incredibly exciting being involved in the launch of a new menswear offer, and even more exciting to see that the potential for a younger menswear brand is actually so much more than what I anticipated.
BB: When I first came in to a digital role, it was all very basic and new. Google had not been around for long and clients were still unsure about it all. I was there to see it all change, and grow with it. It was great to see the team grow as well as the digital space; the possibilities for clients started to grow and more opportunities occurred. The industry is forever evolving, which is very exciting.
AAC: What is the most enjoyable element of your work?
MR: I love product and I really enjoy the buyers presenting their ranges to me. Nothing beats seeing the sales figures come in on a line that the customers buy into. I still get the excitement from travel whether it is getting on a plane to LA to look for ideas for next seasons range or travelling to Dhaka to sit down with the factories and place orders. You experience so many positive (& negative) situations, people and places when travelling and it definitely makes you a more rounded person.
BB: Whilst my main remit is of course digital, the most enjoyable part of my work is the opportunity to work across integrated communications within the business, which makes my role very varied.
AAC: And the biggest challenge?
MR: Managing people. Everyone is different and therefore there is no one set rule on how to manage people. The old adage of “treat people like you would like to be treated yourself” just doesn’t hold water. You need to adapt your management and communication style dependant on the individual.
BB: One challenge I can think of is the fact that the market as a whole is very competitive. As an industry, we have to keep one step ahead because there are many competitors in the market, so we have to ensure our ideas and strategy continue to be current and innovative.
AAC: What does a typical day look like for you?
MR: Early start! I am always in the office by 07.30 and after the best cup of tea of the day I check through the daily sales for the departments and the retail stores. I still get the excitement of seeing what the customers have been buying into. Mondays are very much focused on trade, with a series of meetings reporting on the previous week sales and actions on how we can drive sales over the forthcoming weeks. It’s a really collaborative approach in what can be done. Each week will really vary from one to the next which really makes the job enjoyable. This week for example I am more office based putting together the initial thoughts for the menswear strategy for next season. But next week the highlight will be flying to LA with the buyers in order to look for new product ideas and trends.
BB: A typical day involves me attending meetings, liaising with our agencies and directing people across everything from website architecture and content, to social strategy and various acquisition channels (SEO, PPC, Display, and Affiliates.) Essentially, running a team, and making sure that we stay ahead of all things digital!
AAC: What is the most important piece of advice you can give to aspiring students who want to work in the fashion industry?
MR: Be prepared to work long hours, boring jobs and hard work. The long hours never seem to go away but the jobs improve and there’s so much potential in this industry!
BB: Perseverance is key. It’s a very competitive industry, but a fulfilling one. Do your research, build up a portfolio, and where you can, get work experience or even voluntary work. Communication skills are crucial in most industries, but in fashion, personality is also important. It’s your chance to shine at the interview, so make the most of it!
Jacamo is a men’s clothing brand with a difference, aimed at young men and with a special catering for those of a taller persuasion. Here’s their guide to nailing the dress code for an interview!
By Jack J Collins, Editor, AllAboutCareers.com
Image courtesy of Jacamo
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