WORTH STEERING BOARD INTERVIEW: LESLIE HOLDEN

This week we had the pleasure of interviewing WORTH Steering Board Member Leslie Holden. Leslie is the head of fashion and design at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute and has previously had an amazing array of experience within the fashion industry including high-end fashion design houses and over 20 years of experience in international higher education.

He currently sits on the executive board of The International Foundation of Fashion and Technology Institutes (IFFTI) and is a member of the board of trustees for Graduate Fashion Week. We were fascinated to find out more about these industry experiences and discover what he wishes above all to pass onto WORTH Partnership Project participants:

You have had a broad range of luxury fashion experiences but also worked with multiple start-ups and up and coming entrepreneurs. What have you seen to be the biggest difference between these divisions?

Every business starts with basically a passion and a good idea. A passion which comes from a burning desire to create something for yourself and an idea which listens to the spirit of the age and speaks to its customers. Years ago, in the early 90s, a different age, when fax machines were a new mind shifting invention, I was the design director of a small luxury menswear design/manufacturing company, based in Jermyn street in London. Our customers were many of the top end London retailers, and some in Japan and the States. The company was a start-up, although I don’t think we used that term then. And it had been enormously successful in the 80s. The owner/Managing director knew her customer base very well and knew how to communicate to them. Then the gulf war happened, and everything changed. It was effectively the beginning of the end for this company, because the owner refused to accept the changing times. Her passion had gone, she didn’t relate to the new situation, and she couldn’t understand why her formula wasn’t working anymore. When any company large or small, luxury, or high street, forgets that customers are core or the shift in the spirit of the age is a sign to change approach they do so at their own peril. Large companies have more resources, but start-ups are more agile, but both are in existence to make sales. Customers are key.

With your work for the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, why is it personally important to you to provide education and support to the next generation of designers?

In AMFI we have recently made a manifesto to say what we stand for as an education. The first line of this manifesto is that we believe fashion should be a force for good. It is essential today to educate fashion students to not only understand circularity but also to work with it. To integrate it in their work as a natural process. To us there is no debate about this. We have a responsibility to educate the fashion professionals of the future in a way which ensures that they do not perpetuate a business which is one of the most polluting on the planet. As in any business we have our eye on the spirit of the age and the values of our ‘customers’. Our students tell us what we need to do. Sustainability is of course the hot topic of the moment. And in AMFI we are also considering the next big shift which is just around the corner. Artificial Intelligence. The new industrial revolution 4.0, will radically alter the fashion industry, many jobs which we are educating our students for today will not exist in 10 -15 years. New jobs will be there, but how do we train for the jobs we don’t know yet? Just when many universities are struggling to integrate sustainability in their curriculum….BANG…the brave new world. How do we educate our students to be ready for this revolution?

The WOTH Partnership Project brings together creatives from various countries within Europe, with your career experience, how is this important to sustainability of the creative industry?

Collaboration is an essential aspect of sustainability. To achieve this in the fashion industry we need to share with open transparency. Block chain and the mentality which surrounds this innovation is key in setting a standard for the future of our industry. The innovative capital which Europe has within its fashion SME’s is a rich resource which needs to be supported and nurtured. I see the WORTH partnership playing an important role here. Through this support, new ideas are generated, new partnerships are formed, and new insights are achieved. At the end of the day this is an investment in the future of the fashion industry of Europe.

Do you have any advice for the WORTH Partnership Project’s in ensuring they succeed in working together towards a mutual outcome?

Communication is key. Make sure you are all on the same page and everything is ‘on the table’ from the beginning of the conversation. Make sure you are clear about expectations, and all discussions about money are honest and open. Write everything down and share the notes. Make a plan with clear shared responsibilities and try to stick to it. Always try to see the positive, ask your colleague ‘what do you like about this idea? ‘rather than ‘what don’t you like?’, ask ‘what would you like to see more of?’ rather than ‘what do you think is wrong?’. Write a manifesto and share your values. And most importantly enjoy the adventure … Together!

 

Find out more information about Leslie Holden through his profile here

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