The Apprentice Does ‘Fashion Shows’

This year’s season of The Apprentice has been a real treat so far…

A few weeks ago, we had the event-based task (which the show includes every year), which I reviewed in depth here. And for the first time ever, this season has included a second task which applies directly to my expertise, so as you can imagine, I thoroughly looked forward to last night’s episode.

Last night was all about the fashion industry, and in particular – working with up-and-coming designers (which I have done a lot of through various fashion design initiatives I have launched over the years), arranging a fashion show, organising a magazine shoot, pitching to fashion magazines, and most importantly, selling to buyers (the tricky part).

Funnily enough, this month marks the four year anniversary that I first stepped foot in the fashion industry. It was December 2013 that I had finished organising my first ever two-night fashion show for five independent designers, which was due to take place at a venue called ‘Fire London’ in Vauxhall for two nights…

I had only launched that business (Creative Industry United) 7 months prior, yet I managed to convince Wowcher to list it on their website for two days. It just shows you what is possible if you put your mind to it, and if you put the hard work in.

So moving on, what are my thoughts on tonight’s episode?

Firstly, the teams met at Somerset House, which is where my friends over at British Fashion Council are based – an iconic building for the fashion industry. However, the BBC production team chose Kent House and the Oxo Tower (which are high-end venues in London) to host the shows – not what I would personally choose for this type of thing. It was an odd choice to say the least.

During the designer selection stage, it wasn’t made clear to the viewers which buyers from which brands would be attending the shows. I wonder if it was made clear to the teams? If not, that was a fatal error on the BBC’s behalf, unless they wanted to create a risky situation for the candidates, and if that was the case, it would have made this task extra tricky.

I would have asked about the buyers first, before choosing which brand and price point to go with, as typically, buyers only attend shows that fit into their target demographic and price point.

Also, I’m not sure where the magazine shoot slotted in to this task, as it didn’t seem to fit in with the sales strategy, or impact the final decision in the boardroom. The entire fashion industry is built on PR, so in a real world situation, that magazine shoot would be part of the brand-building and sales and marketing strategy.

Disappointingly, I was expecting a large part of the task to be about organising the show itself, but it seemed like a lot of the work was done for the teams by the BBC production team! In my opinion, the shows looked a bit basic and low-budget (are the BBC cutting their production spend?). I would have rather held the shows in a lower-priced venue and used the money on lighting and décor!

Oddly, there were no lights, the music seemed quiet, and it was a bit odd that both PM’s had to put on a running commentary during the runway shows which is something I have never seen before!

Certainly, through my years of putting on shows, and through attending them over the years, I have learned that it’s all about the show.

The lights, the décor, the seating arrangements, the shape of the catwalk (whether that be zig zag, or so on), and the music all play a huge part in propelling the featured brand, which ultimately adds to the effect of encouraging buyers to make orders, as we’ve seen at London Fashion Week year on year.

So was Jade’s decision a bad one? It’s hard to really say, because it wasn’t clear what buyers were attending, and if she knew that or not. If it was a mixed bag, then yes – she took a risk, which didn’t pay off. If she was faced with buyers in her demographic, then she certainly messed it up, not to mention that she got the designer (Helen’s) brand name wrong.

Another mistake was not negotiating a discount.

Typically, the entire retail and fashion wholesale industries are built on ‘the more you buy, the cheaper we’ll do it for,’ which is why outlets like Primark always win and stay on top in the market: cut-throat, competitive pricing which only fashion-fashion, mass-market retailers can achieve, and this is why Joanna got it right and won. She went with the more affordable range.

I was quite shocked when Jade got fired, as she seemed to do well in the other tasks, but I guess considering the rivalry between her and Joanna, it was good to see their feud finally be concluded. I’m sure Jade wasn’t happy about losing to her rival! I think people thought Jade would win, but bullies never do, do they? They always lose in the end.

I think that this task is a good demonstration of how tough the fashion industry actually is. It’s a glitzy-and-glamorous industry on the outside and it doesn’t require any qualifications to get involved as a career, yet there is so much more to it than people think. It’s a fierce, competitive market that is not only challenging for the designers and the retailers, but for the people that want to work in it.

My personal reflection is that whilst Joanna did well, I don’t feel as though the show got it right. The show itself missed so many important elements and it was a bit disjointed, which is a shame, because it could have been so much better. Once again (just like last time), do I think I would have won? Through years of industry experience, and through working with hundreds of designers…