Each year, I write a piece that takes a look back at the previous one and a look forward to the one we are entering. I think everyone would agree that the past year has been like no other. I have seen many articles written on the situations we have faced, and I feel it is almost impossible to not regurgitate something that has already been written. This year I wanted to give a perspective on life as well as on the employment market and the Fashion and Retail industries. This Pandemic has created winners, those suffering from some form of anxiety about their futures and those that have lost. Retail and hospitality are two industries that mainly sit on the losing side of this pandemic. However, I firmly believe that the life changing events of 2020 will be exactly that. Life changing.
On one of the rare occasions, many years ago that I came home on a late afternoon I found my son staring out of the window. He was looking at a huge rainbow. He came over excited and said to me, “Daddy, Daddy I want to go to the end of the rainbow as there is a pot of gold there”. It got me thinking and I realized that what he had said, innocently, is the reason why many people get life so wrong. A rainbow is a beautiful thing, there is no doubt about that. You imagine the rainbow as your life with all the different colours glistening there for you to see. Then we imagine driving to the end of it, single mindedly to reach the pot of gold. If we only have that in mind, focusing totally on that pot of gold, we will end with nothing but disappointment.
We will get to the end of the rainbow and all we will find when we get there is rain. Life is about looking at the rainbow along the way, enjoying the journey so that when you get to the end of it you realise that you have already had the pot of gold. It should never be about the destination as ultimately you will never reach your “there”. Every time you reach a goal you will have already created a new “there”. It is the journey that should always be your pot of gold.
2020 has given many the opportunity to rethink their personal journeys and in many cases to stop focusing on the pot of gold that they had been so fixated on. All of us have had a time to look at the future in what should be a positive way. This last year was for many like being given a blank piece of paper and being able to rewrite the future. Don’t waste this, use it wisely and focus on what makes you enjoy that journey the most.
I am an eternal optimist and believe firmly that the lessons we learn in life are there to drive us forward. I believe that there is no such thing as failure, only attempts that produce a clearer pathway to success. I found out very early on in 2020, being exposed to the APAC and Italian market that I would need to look at elements of our business and industry in ways that I had not either done before or had not done for a very long time. It woke me up from a sleepwalk that I wasn’t even aware I was in.
Every situation has negatives and positives regardless of how difficult it seems at the time. Optimism is not about ignoring the negatives and pretending not to see them, it’s about allowing the positives to rise to the surface. It’s about rising to the challenge and focusing on the good that has come out of a difficult situation. Many businesses in our industry have had to focus on elements of their processes that in normal times would have taken years to change. Whether it was supply chain and logistics, ecommerce, or fulfilment, every brand that has been able to sell effectively online or as an alternative to in person, has been able to create new opportunities. Whether it is Harrods personal shoppers on mobile devices and outlets being brought to us from inspirational people like Michael Ward and Laura Brown, or with the doors closed for bars like Dirty Martini, providing a cocktail making experience on zoom with at home kits from Daniel Coffer. All are incredible new business areas that will go on after the pandemic is over and create entirely new revenue streams for those companies providing them.
There have been many practical examples as above and I want to focus on five noncommercial points that I believe should have come out of 2020 and should carry on over into 2021 and beyond.
We have learned to help each other more. In my household we not only had a production line making thousands of PPE masks but also helped to promote and raise funds for a charity called You Donate We Deliver, feeding many of the NHS staff every day. At Elite we have and are sending many computers out to those in need for home schooling. My house and businesses are in no way unique. Across the country people came together and united in a cause to help others. Whether it was checking in on neighbours, delivering or making food or simply making a lot of noise on a Thursday evening to thank the NHS, many helped in any way they could. From this, my hope is that people have become a little kinder. Brands like LVMH & Kering, Provided Millions of Surgical masks to tackle shortages whilst L’Oréal, Bulgari and other brands made hand sanitiser in their beauty and fragrance factories.
There has been and will continue to be through 2021, a large increase of those searching for a new career. It is vital that we treat all of them well regardless of whether your business has opportunities for them or not. Personally, I will always find and give my time to help anyone in this position even if it is with advice. Nobody should simply ignore people reaching out for help. The brands that we work with are extremely focused on helping those that they can. I have seen a number of our clients offering the use of their networks to help people that have been made redundant.
My first lesson for 2021 and beyond, BE KIND ALWAYS.
The situation last year has forced people to rethink. Rethink their businesses, rethink their strategies and rethink the way that they work and communicate. We have all become experts in technologies like Zoom and Teams. Many have hosted, been part of or watched webinars. Our lives have been changed technologically in a way that won’t reverse back to the way it was again. Working from home became the best thing that ever happened for a while, until the sunshine disappeared and suddenly the office was missed. Everyone had to be inventive and find new ways of working and that will continue, without doubt, in the years ahead, long after Covid has passed. There are many companies that have pushed the use of technology to support their business over this period. Brands suchas Burberry and Balmain are using their digital platform to strengthen customer relationships using features such as live-streaming and digital showrooms. We have seen many fashion weeks and shows such as Pitti Uomo successfully transition to online over this time.
2020 has taught many people that it is ok to feel scared. Many people went through anxieties and experiences in 2020 that will have affected their mental state. What is important is that you share these feelings with others. Allow others in to speak about your anxieties and at the same time be there for others when they are in need. There has been so much loss and concern in lives due to illness and in jobs due to redundancies and loss of income and generally in people’s futures. You can still feel positive in the face of adversity. Just make sure that you don’t hide your feelings and be there for others that are in need. Many companies have focused on the health and well-being of their employees, I was extremely lucky to be given inspiration at a group talk with Simon Sinek a few months ago and at Elite we have been very lucky to have help from the incredible Michelle Flynn an inspirational health coach. I know that organisations like Walpole with the likes of Helen Brocklebank and Julia Wooley have been extremely supportive to the luxury businesses in the sector.
BE WILLLING TO LEARN
2020 has also brought us to a place of having to have difficult conversations perhaps like never before. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement was one important factor. The situation with George Floyd and others, brought to boiling point a difficult conversation that was long overdue. Many struggled to have these difficult conversations. Not necessarily because they didn’t want to, but more often than not, through fear of saying the wrong thing or upsetting and hurting those that they aim to help. The concept of unconscious bias and white privilege was brought to everyone’s attention in a way that perhaps had not been thought about previously. Just showing up for the people and asking questions, listening and accepting that their views are THE views is something I have found to be a truly profound moment in the year. Most importantly having the difficult conversations and then ensuring that actions are taken to ensure positive change happens, is vital. I know that there are many individuals and companies pushing to get this right people like Alexa Geovanos Presidentof Chloe US who has helped set up the charitable organsisation Raise Fashion is one of a number of examples.
From a job perspective, learning new skills, coming up with new ideas and being open minded about the future will help all of those going through hardship or unemployment. I had the privilege earlier in the year to sit on a panel with Carol Sommerville, HR Director Luxury at NET-A-PORTER and Keira Genesis, Recruitment & Development Manager at LVMH both of whom are making great strides in their organisations to take action.
We all should take a moment and realise that as are now well and truly moving into a new year not much will have changed. What we can do is see a clear end to the pandemic with the roll out of vaccines, which we did not have this time last year and we know that this will undoubtedly mean a better end to 2021 than to 2020. What we mustn’t do is pretend that from midnight on 31st December 2020 everything will be different as it won’t and as we have seen isn’t. We should be grateful for everything we have, our health, our family, our friends, a roof over our heads and the many small things that you experience every day.
My message for 2021 is as follows:
Be kind, be innovative, be in touch with your emotions, be willing to learn and take chances and always be grateful. Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember to appreciate the rainbow for what it is.