Fashion careers of the future

Sunday November 27 2016

The future of fashion lies in careers that require an exciting mix of technology, creativity and education. Only the keen will adapt. PHOTO | AFPA

The future of fashion lies in careers that require an exciting mix of technology, creativity and education. Only the keen will adapt. PHOTO | AFPA 

By CAROL ODERO
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The Business of Fashion recently compiled a list of fashion careers of the future. While the focus on the West, they are quite relevant for the Kenyan market and keen minds. The future of fashion lies in careers that require an exciting mix of technology, creativity and education. Only the keen will adapt.

Personal stylist

This is a rapidly growing side of fashion locally and very much a preferred way to get into the industry. A decade back, this did not even exist as a career. Now stylists are considered the new power brokers in Hollywood and clothes literally make the woman. Michaela Erlanger, Lupita’s stylist, is now one of the most sought after stylish in Hollywood, consistently making The Hollywood Reporters’ list. This year she was in the top three.

Training is done on the job with existing stylists such as pioneer Connie Aluoch. Even bloggers like Silvia Njoki and Nancie Mwai started out as stylists. Despite the fact that stylists deal with fashion and need to have style, their skills with people count as much.

Relationships are established through reputation and through trust with suppliers, vendors and designers, a rich network of sources and an industry that understands the role of influencers and how this all translates into value for money.

Globally, there are styling firms that have designed algorithms to help style large groups of people online with a personal touch. Firms that teach software engineers and data scientists how stylists think.

Data scientist

Harvard Business Review called this “The sexiest career of the 21st century.” To start off, there is a dearth of fashion data in Kenya and East Africa. If you have the skills to read, analyse and interpret data, you are needed. Making numbers tell a story is fast becoming invaluable in pretty much any field and fashion is no exception.

With institutions like HEVA Fund slowly gathering data and gaining insight into the industry. The number of TED Talks discussing the joys of data are increasing as is the availability of data science classes online. 

3D printing engineer

 It is obvious tech is no longer the future of fashion. It is the reality. It is also considered the bridge between creativity and tech.

What 3D printing does is it minimises manufacturing waste, it allows the consumer to co-create with brands when they share ideas, and the designer can use it to visualise the end result without having to draft patterns and use fabric to create a prototype. If spatial intelligence is your thing, meaning you have the mental ability to design and flip images in your head in 3D, this is perfect.

Fabric research and development

In Kenya, the odds are in our favour. We are on the cusp of a textile revolution with the rise of textile mills and investors ranging from the government to India pumping money into textiles.

Add up institutions such as the Technical University of Kenya that train students on textile design, engineering and manufacturing, and amp it up by adding technology and exchange programmes to places like Ethiopia, India, West Africa to the US and UK and it is obvious this is a recipe for thriving.

Keep in mind green fashion where organic cotton and bamboo can be used to make fabrics. If only someone could convince students designing textiles, that their job will be as rewarding as being a designer who walks down the runway at the end of a show. Studying textile science or textile engineering is fabulous too.

Consumer/fashion psychology

In the era of Influencers who does not want to understand why people buy what they buy when they do where they do.

This is such a new field of study. The London College of Fashion is offering an MA Psychology for Fashion Professionals and MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion. Or study at the Fashion Psychology Institute.

Understanding the mysterious workings of the consumer mind allows brands to come up with strategy, allowing retailers to zero in on their client base and enhance the shopping experience.

This knowledge informs things such as the floor layout, packaging, advertising. So far, the best way to get into consumer and/or fashion psychology is through behavioural sciences: neuroscience, sociology and anthropology and studying psychology itself.

While this is not designed to discourage creatives from venturing into what has now become the expected path, fashion designer, stylists, photographers or bloggers, it is meant to open up the minds of other professionals to see how to leverage on fashion. There are many sides to fashion, and there is more than enough room for every imaginable skill.