Could you please describe your role at WGSN?
I lead the content and consultancy teams, looking after overall strategy and making sure we're producing the very best reports and analysis for our clients.
Some industry insiders were rather surprised when you moved to WGSN. As the Guardian noted, it is not the type of high profile consumer offering in which you made your career to date. How challenging has this transition been for you? How has this new role changed you?
It's been challenging in as much as there has been a lot to learn, but one of the reasons for leaving The Huffington Post was for a new challenge. I heard a great quote from the CEO of a large American publishing company recently, who said as soon as you think you're 75% brilliant at your job, it's time to search for something new to learn. That resonated a lot. I'm definitely not 75% brilliant at this job yet; hopefully I'm getting there. I think the role has changed me in that I have to be far more organised with my time. I'm travelling a lot, and that can take a huge toll on relationships and friendships unless you plan the time when you are at home really well.
What's the most useful thing you learned while working for Marie Claire and The Huffington Post?
That you should never underestimate the importance of brand, and people's perceptions of it. It can count for an awful lot, and the best way of building it? Amazing content. You can come up with the world's most exciting marketing campaign, but if the content isn't there to back it up, it'll be almost worthless.
One of the company's plans is to create lifestyle-related content that targets a broader market. Could you talk to us about this? How will you differentiate your product compared to other media outlets?
WGSN Insider is a new site we've launched that anyone can read, even if they don't subscribe to WGSN, but it's still focused at people working in the fashion world and creative industries. We're not aiming to compete with consumer media brands but I felt strongly that because we had access to all these amazing individuals, and so many titbits of insider info, it was time to share this information more widely. All our analysis, insights and reports still sit firmly on our subscriber site, but this lifts the curtain just a smidgen on what it's like working for a company such as WGSN.
Which markets are you focusing on at the moment and why?
In terms of regions, China is increasingly important to us, as well as India and Latin America, so I'm focusing a lot of my efforts in working out how we can best serve those regions. From a topic basis, our Think Tank section, which reports on big consumer trends and insights, is flying at the moment, so I'm really interested in how we can expand and build on that.
What are your three biggest headaches at the moment?
Bad Wi-Fi at trade shows. It's very hard to do on-the-ground reporting when we can't post anything! No Wi-Fi on planes. Actually, scratch that. I quite like no Wi-Fi on planes—it's the only time I get to read fiction and catch up on bad films. The weather. What on earth are you supposed to wear to work when it’s boiling hot one second, and freezing cold the next!
When it comes to your everyday business life, what kinds of tools, applications, or services make your life easier?
It's beyond boring, but 'Notes' on my iPhone is the only way I remember anything. Popsugar Active and Movement for Modern Life are both great for exercise when I'm stuck in hotel bedrooms.
What's on your daily reading list? Any great business books you'd like to recommend?
I'm not a big reader of business books, although Tony King, who sits on the WGSN Advisory Board, gave me a copy of In Pursuit of Elegance by Matthew E. May, which I loved. As a general rule, for work inspiration, I look to websites like Fast Company and Quartz.
What is the biggest setback you have faced in your career and how did you respond to it?
The biggest setbacks have usually had to do with personal criticism. However, after a while you realise that this doesn't really mean anything. In fact, if you're not being criticised, you're not being noticed!
I recently interviewed Renzo Rosso and he said that by the time most trend reports get delivered, these trends are already happening in the real world. What are your views on this?
Every trend has an arc, and different brands need to work out where in the arc they want to sit. If you're edgy and adored by early adopters, you'll want to take risks and jump on trends early in their cycle. For more mainstream brands, if you adopt a trend too quickly you'll be too far ahead of your customers and, ultimately, that can hurt your bottom line. As a trend forecaster, our job is to predict trends before they happen, but also as trends break, work out which ones are just fads, and which ones have longevity. It's a mix of art and science, but more than that, experience. We added up the years of experience within the content team at WGSN earlier this year, and it's more than 700 years! That's a lot of knowledge.
A great number of fashion and retail companies have embraced content marketing in order to boost their sales. Who would you say is doing it right?
Asos is great at this. Melissa Dick, their former editorial director, created a brilliant magazine that stood as a must-read in its own right for Asos' target market, irrespective of the brand behind it. Mr Porter's Journal makes great weekly reading too—I love their travel features.
Do you feel that retailers are in risk of saturating the market with this explosion of content?
In an age when it's the consumer who decides what they read and where, I actually think it's pretty hard for anyone to saturate the market with content. It's a fairly simple calculation: be lazy with your content, or make it too overtly commercial, and consumers will place their loyalties elsewhere. Digital audiences are notoriously fickle, so you find out fairly fast if your content is flying or flopping.
What are the next trends when it comes to fashion-related content marketing?
A greater focus on specific audiences. A lot of the content marketing coming from fashion brands at the moment feels too scatter gun in its approach. Who's your target audience? Where are they consuming media? What are they passionate about? Those are the three questions for brands to ask themselves before jumping into content creation.
With brands becoming publishers and publishers stepping into retail sales, how do you see the relationship between media and retailers developing in the future?
I don't think the endorsement by a consumer title—whether print or online—has lost its value. Although I do think this is often more about the journalist or editor, rather than the title itself. As an example, anything Sali Hughes recommends I want to buy, and it doesn't matter if she's writing in the Guardian, The Pool or on her own website. But retailers are a lot smarter about how they use the media, and in return, media outlets are having to up their game.
What are your business priorities for the next six months?
Building WGSN into a daily destination for ideas, insight and inspiration, as well as a resource and tool for specific dates in the design calendar.