Fashion, drama, art, music, TV, publishing are all creative industries, they all make a valuable contribution to the economy, and provide jobs. But this sector is one that is often not taken seriously enough – it’s labelled fluffy, airy-fairy and arty-farty.
In education the arts are often considered a ‘easy’ option. It was no surprise that a recent survey found that more than a third of schools have made cuts to arts education in the past five years.
But what had our MD Debbie springing out of bed in outrage this week was Radio 4’s Today programme presenter John Humphrys’ observing: “Sciences are going to get you a job, doing art is probably not going to get you a job.”
The recent figures from The Creative Industries Federation, an independent UK-wide organisation that represents creative businesses say otherwise:
The stats speak for themselves. Fashionizer is part of an artistic industry and we are a skilled and qualified team. We have qualifications in fashion, textiles, communications and marketing, and we all celebrate the fact that we are working in a constantly changing, relevant and inspiring environment.
Technology is an integral part of our work at Fashionizer, and all our team know it. They work with it every day – whether that’s creating patterns on a CAD system or using integrated databases to manage our processes. Just look at the processes that are involved in developing our fabrics, or our project on recyclable and biodegradable fabrics. The reality is that the creative arts don’t sit in their own furrow, untouched by maths, engineering and chemistry. If they did, they would not be as successful as they so clearly are.
Time to think again, Mr Humphrys?
The annual Global Wellness Summit always provides us with some food for thought – and this year we’re taking that literally. Living a Well Life is the theme of the summit, which begins on October 8th, and will be exploring all aspects of what makes us feel good – and that includes what we eat.
It will be our MD’s fifth summit, but when Debbie first started attending, it was called the Global Spa and Wellness Summit. The change to focus on wellness has been a conscious one: it represents a shift to the holistic approach to well-being: physical, psychological and environmental influences as well as individual and collective responsibilities.
That’s not to say that spa treatments are out of favour - breathe a sigh of relief - rather it’s a recognition that these treatments are one aspect of a bigger deal in which well-being is a 24/7 job, from taking care of our sleep to what we put on our body and what we put in it.
With the Global Wellness Summit being held in Florida this year, we were interested to see that the USA is top of the list of countries that are the most enthusiastic meat-eaters (no surprises there). In second place is a surprising Kuwait, with the barbie capital of the world, Australia, coming in at third.
The UK was 30th, a stat that’s borne out by our own staff. Our non-meat eaters are motivated by a whole range of reasons, from animal welfare to the dangers of eating too much red meat and an aversion to the taste of it. A fair few have seen how a change in diet can have dramatic effects: our resident part-time vegan is now enjoying renewed energy levels after deciding to limit her meat intake to the weekend and eating plant-based foods in the week. The key, she says is not to stress about it: if she fancies a steak once in a while, then that may be because her body is telling her she needs it.
Nutrition and diet will be part of the programme of lectures and events at the Global Wellness Summit, alongside sessions on wellbeing and technology, genetics and new concepts in beauty therapy. We’ll be expecting a thought-provoking update from our MD.
International Woman’s day is a cause of celebration and interest for us here at Fashionizer. Not least because 85% of our workforce are women.
A whole year has passed since Ruth Cadbury mentioned us in the House of Commons as an example of a company that has a creative approach to employing people, particularly women. We have been delighted that the past year has given us the opportunity to practice further what we preach. We have grown our team over the last year to offer flexible working opportunities to our new Marketing Director Katie who joined us part time in February and Avril our Projects Manager, who manages three children at home, as well as Fashionizer’s production.
We asked both Katie and Avril to give us their feedback on the difference working for a women-run SME and how this impacts on their work-life balance.
Katie notes that apart from a significant change of culture between the dynamics of working in an SME, versus large corporate organisations she has worked for previously, there are other differences in the attitudes of a majority-female environment.
Avril notes “being able to work close to home is very important to my children’s well-being. As a working parent, you are governed by after school and breakfast clubs to care for your children whilst you work. Having a workplace close in location allows me time in the morning with my children and a chance to connect with the school.”
“Being in an environment with like-minded parents and women, make the responsibility of having to explain the challenges faced and multi-tasking that much easier. My husband works away from home during the week and rarely has the task of juggling work and family life, his experience is like many men I have worked with, who are often hard-pressed to understand the complexities and stress placed on working mothers. At Fashionizer I enjoy working in an environment with such diversity of women in terms of ages, culture and experience which makes for an interesting days work.”
We also do have three male employees who work part time, although they do not juggle work with looking after small children!
We are not surprised that Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has just topped the list of companies that people in the Middle East hospitality business would most like to work for.
For many customer-facing companies, their sole focus is on keeping their clients happy, because without them, you don’t have a business. That’s what brings in the profit, after all. But can it all just about the cash?
Consider the recent scrutiny around UK businessman Philip Green and his handling of the sale and subsequent failure of the BHS chain of stores. Much of the criticism has been around the impact on and treatment of staff.
On the other side of the coin, there is Four Seasons, a company that invests in its staff and sees them as an asset, supporting its teams and rewarding internal talent. Take the newly appointed President, Hotel Operations, EMEA Simon Casson. He’s a great example of how the company recognises the value of ‘growing their own’. Simon’s promotion is the culmination of 27 years working for Four Seasons in various roles across Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
Everyone knows that the success of a business is enhanced by the happiness of the employees and part of that comes down to how they feel in what they are wearing. Which is why we dedicated 1,000 hours of fitting and altering to ensure that staff not only looked good but felt comfortable in their uniforms.
Our professional relationship with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts goes back six years, and what has always worked for us is a shared vision of the best way to achieve a common goal. It’s about trust and an open attitude to solving challenges. Don’t get us wrong, team Four Seasons aren’t pussycats. They are tough, fair, focused and have high standards.
This holistic approach to business embraces the idea that motivating and enthusing everyone involved in a project achieves the best results, keeps staff retention high and celebrates creativity. Who can argue with that?
There is no doubt that business ethics continue to be a hot topic. Check out any big business’s website and it’s a fair bet that they will have a page that announces their sustainability and ethical policies.
But what does business ethics actually mean? Technically, it is a voluntary policy that can be adopted by a company, and is a policy that has most impact on the supply chain. Practically, it means ensuring that your own workers and those of your suppliers are paid fairly, work reasonable hours and in a safe environment.
But it’s one thing to manage your own office, and quite another to keep an eye on what a company is doing over the other side of the world, which might be where your suppliers are based.
With fashion brands there has been much attention on where, how and by whom the garments are manufactured. The case of the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh in which more than 1,100 workers were killed when the building collapsed on them brought renewed focus on the working conditions in third world factories. The disaster, in April last year, is the subject of a BBC2 documentary this coming Monday (This World: Clothes To Die For, BBC2, 9pm), in which survivors tell their story (pictured).
The difficulty for both business-to-business and consumer-based markets is where price is the driving factor. As a B2B company we have first-hand experience of this: customers want to know that their uniforms are produced within the right working environment, using fabrics that have been created to a high ethical and quality standards. We’re mindful that even in the developing world this is becoming an issue: note the case of the Chinese school children who were excited to wear their brand new school uniforms only to discover that they were toxic, and not in a Britney Spears way.
Here’s the rub: paying workers fairly means that it’s going to cost more, because suppliers have to pass on that cost. What’s more, in order to ensure that a factory is operating ethically, you need to monitor it frequently, and that means investing time and cash in visiting your supplier.
We took the decision to manufacture in Europe 20 years ago, because of the assurances around quality. But we are under no illusions: proving a transparent audit trail when order quantities may be small and your company may not be your supplier’s largest customer is a challenge, especially for SMEs.
We are watching with interest a case that is currently before the European Court of Justice: a Danish childcare worker has lodged a claim of discrimination on the grounds that he was sacked for being fat. The test case throws up the question of whether obesity should be considered a disability, and that has consequences across many industries.
Naturally our thoughts turn to our clients, who, throughout the globe, employ people in all shapes and sizes, most of them in customer-facing jobs, and all of them needing uniforms. Depending on which way the ruling goes, their staff recruitment policy will perhaps have additional complexity.
Image is a big part of the spa and beauty industry, and as a result there is an increasing focus on wellbeing, diet and fitness, creating additional pressure on spa staff who are promoting good health as part of their job to look as though their evening meal consists of lean white meat and a salad rather than double burger and chips followed by a whole cheesecake. Spa managers may argue that health workers need to look like healthy workers.
But it’s not all about the numbers. You can be a large size, but not necessarily overweight. When we moved into the US market, we had to increase our size range to accommodate the larger body types to take account of the diversity in ethnicity and therefore body shapes in the country.
Against that is the recognition that not everyone is size zero – and there is plenty of debate to be had over whether the pursuit of the smallest, skinniest figure possible is as unhealthy as being severely overweight. And would it be right for a company to encourage or discourage that?
Whichever side of the tape measure you’re standing on, the outcome of this case will definitely have implications for recruitment policy as well as for existing staff, especially across image- and health-based businesses.