Another great meetup from Liverpool Girl Geeks. The atmosphere is always so important at these kinds of events, and Liverpool Girl Geeks always manage to create a welcoming, positive vibe.
This time, the meetup was held at Avenue HQ, a coworking space at Mann Island, with drinks provided by the venue hosts. Liverpool always strikes me as such a beautiful city, with lots of surviving period architecture and a proximity to the sea.
We heard from a panel of four speakers about their experiences working in fashion and beauty tech. Fashion and beauty are not industries traditionally associated with high technology, but there are several notable companies making their mark in this area.
For example, Missguided is a Manchester-based brand that uses ecommerce to deliver popular fashion to its customers. They began online before eventually opening a bricks-and-mortar store, which is the reverse of how most brands have done it.
Marie Adams, Insight Analyst at Missguided, says, “Missguided used to be focused on fast fashion but now we’ve moved towards more tailored outfits. The brand has changed.”
Liverpool-based Shop Direct had to completely change their business model to stay competitive in a market where it’s digital-first. They used to distribute print catalogs to customers to advertise their products.
Image: A very full audience at the meetup
Impact of social media on fashion and beauty
Now, Lorna Kenright, who is Senior UX/UI Designer at Shop Direct, says, “There’s been a massive shift and there are no more catalogs and there are no more seasons in fashion. It’s all been affected by social media and how consumers can find whatever fashion they want, anytime.”
Llara Geddes, Head of UX at beauty e-tailer Beauty Bay, adds “Social media had a huge impact, and especially vloggers. Customers now tell you what they like and and dislike.
“Companies are at the mercy of customers in the ecommerce landscape, with customers who expect seasonless shopping. Fashion has been democratized and street style has taken over. You can shop the catwalk even as the show is happening now.”
Starting your own company
Anastasia Kenyon founded her own company Palette at age 24, connecting make-up artists with one another and enabling people to book a session. She’s still only 25 and has already been named one of the most influential people in Manchester.
Anastasia says, “There can be bitches in the fashion industry. I met with a group of women who seemed excited about Palette, and then I found out that they took my idea for themselves. At first I was really upset, but then I realised that nobody can build something in the same way that you would do it.”
Image: Audience and panel, via Liverpool Girl Geeks
Innovations in digital
The fashion and beauty industries are embracing digital and there are many innovations currently afoot.
Anastasia says of her company, Palette, “We’re looking to bring in Artificial Intelligence to improve our software. Our booking system also requires a lot of work to get right, which I’ve had to embrace as a non-technical founder.”
Llara says, “Developing technologies impact how consumers find your company, including the fact that soon many people will no longer want to be typing in words. Search is becoming a lot more visual and we have to welcome it.”
“We’re focusing on improving our user targeting,” adds Marie. “For example, by using geotargeting to speak to our customers in their native language. Software can help us translate copy which we would previously have had to use lots of expensive language translators for. Now, we can automate the bulk of the work and use our translators to refine the final copy.
“We can also use better software to build an email campaign, which our marketers would have made to make nine copies of manually. Now we can focus more on the stuff that matters.”
The skills gap
Despite the fashion industry being dominated by women, IT roles still remain stubbornly male. One good solution to the problem is to hire internally, and provide an existing employee with the training they need to cross over into a more technical role.
Shop Direct has also partnered with Liverpool Girl Geeks in order to address the pipeline problem, or a lack of qualified women applying for available roles.
Change starts in school with how science and engineering are portrayed, or even earlier, from the toys given to babies and infants.
Llara says, “Children don’t understand the digital landscape or the varied roles available. If somebody doesn’t know about something then they can’t be expected to do it. Many digital jobs didn’t exist when we were in school, including mine.”
Image: The panel [left-to-right Kate, Marie, Llara, Anastasia]
Making a career change
Many girls or women may be trying to make a career change into the fashion and beauty industry, but struggling to know where to start.
Llara says, “If you’ve picked fashion or beauty tech as a career, try to get your foot in the industry in any way you can, even if your initial job role seems unrelated to the field you want to work in. It’s more about who you know a lot of the time, so you want to build connections. People can be surprisingly generous with their time.”
“Keep an open mind and know your skillset,” says Lorna. “If you’re looking for a new role, approach companies directly ask about internships.”
Marie adds, “Try to take the confusion out of job role names, which can be really varied. Companies call the same job by different names. Also, take advantage of all the free resources out there to help you upskill yourself.”
Anastasia says, “Show passion and approach startups, who are always in need of new people.”
Getting started in any area of the tech industry must include attending events like the ones help by Liverpool Girl Geeks. They are a great way to meet people, learn new things and build your confidence.
You can find lots of events on Eventbrite or Meetup, and you may even make some new friends.
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