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Behind the fashion agency: a Q&A with Phoebes Garland


NEWS
Filed by Lucire staff/November 8, 2012/22.56



Photo courtesy Chic Traveller

Phoebes Garland co-owns Garland & Garland Fashion, a leading fashion agency in Sydney, Australia. She is also the Features Writer for Fashion Exposed Online, and was called a ‘Power Agent’ by Ragtrader, while being described by Sacha Strebe, editor of Fashion Exposed Online as ‘immutable’ and a ‘figurehead’. Garland has had an extensive career with over 25 years in sales and marketing, having worked in publishing, advertising and the fashion industry, and has grown sales sections by 400 per cent in her career.
   She has a solid and formidable reputation in all sales and marketing techniques and has a strong commercial knowledge. Garland was also one of the judges of the Spirit of the Black Dress in 2012 (part of L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival) and is regularly invited to speak and comment to various media about the fashion industry.
   My own personal impression is that you can trust Garland’s impressions on the fashion industry. She does it from her heart and delivers in a no nonsense manner. A rare jewel, she tells it like it is and an immensely charismatic person to meet. Garland offers invaluable advice and insight here.—Viviana Pannell, Sydney Correspondent

Lucire: Tell us about your beginnings in the fashion industry.
Phoebes Garland: My husband and I founded our business in 2002 and he has been in the industry for over 35 years. My background has been in publishing and advertising, but we both bring a solid background in sales and a strong commercial knowledge, which is imperative to running a successful fashion agency.

What have you seen working and not working in the past?
Where I see people going wrong in the fashion industry are those with little experience and who don’t understand their customer. Understanding your customer is crucial to being successful in fashion. You also need to ensure you have the customers out there to sell to. Too often I still see a lot of designers and distributors bring out a range with pieces retailing for over $700 with almost no or little accounts to sell to. Or worse, deciding to go into something like ‘kidswear’ because they have just become a Mum, without asking themselves if they can be competitive in the market-place. Do your research before you commit. Also buyers are inundated with so many labels these days, it is important to not underestimate how good the opposition is. Good-quality lookbooks are vital to getting buyers viewing fashion ranges, so much so, it’s a complete deal breaker to our agency. The fashion industry is very slow to understand marketing, but more importantly understand how sales and marketing work together hand in hand.

We would love to know your thoughts regarding the current state of the fashion industry. Without a doubt it’s very challenging selling fashion.
It’s very price-pointed and challenging, but above all the product has to have good design and fit and has to offer value for money for the consumer. We have just finished selling a very good winter season for 2013, so if you know the market you are selling to, and have a very good product, there is definitely still an opportunity to make money to be made in this industry. Sadly, I see a lot of designers not listening if something is wrong with their product, usually by their own stubbornness or ego. It’s important for manufacturers and designers to learn where they are going wrong and fix it so the product is right before it’s too late.

And your thoughts in the future direction that the industry will take, in the face of a constantly changing face of retail?
Retailers have to adapt to the online environment and come up to speed with social media and fully understand the word ‘engagement’ with customers. It’s all about going and finding new customers through online and making the whole process of buying a garment easy for your customer. Manufacturers and designers need to understand that retailers are looking for margin, usually a minimum of 200 per cent to cover costs. So the challenge is providing a good product that retails at an affordable price, which offers the retailers good margin and hopefully good sell-through so you get repeat orders.

What would you like to see happening for the industry?
I would like to see the industry becoming more progressive and practising innovation, through sales and marketing techniques and strategies. Running a fashion business is very challenging, but at same time the industry doesn’t really help itself by not trying new things, evolving or questioning how something is done and whether or not it’s good from a business sense. Adapting to these new retail conditions is imperative.

Viviana Pannell is the founder and designer for Basquesse, a Sydney, NSW-based label, and a correspondent for Lucire.

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