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Stephen Rector: “Here Are 5 Things You Need To Succeed in The Fashion Industry”

The amount of waste that the industry produces has to be reduced. While currently it appears that the majority of consumers don’t seem that interested in waste reduction, I truly think we will be hitting an inflection point where brands that are reducing waste will be rewards with a bigger share of the consumer wallet. […]

The amount of waste that the industry produces has to be reduced. While currently it appears that the majority of consumers don’t seem that interested in waste reduction, I truly think we will be hitting an inflection point where brands that are reducing waste will be rewards with a bigger share of the consumer wallet. I also think consumers are looking at great quality and longevity of their purchases so they aren’t buying as many items.


As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Rector, Founder & President of Bakertown Consulting. Bakertown is a boutique retail consultancy advising new and legacy brands during a time where the retail industry is under significant change and disruption. Stephen has a vast experience in both brick & mortar and digital retail spanning both the USA and China consumer market. He has a successful track record of building fashion brands from the ground up & is approached often with challenging dilemmas emerging brands might have and providing solutions for these problems.


Thank you so much for joining us Stephen! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ihave owned my consulting company for two years after a long history of working at specialty and department store chains. While in management at major retailers, one of my favorite aspects of being a leader was helping my team solve problems. So now with my consulting business, I can do this all the time and enjoy seeing my recommendations turn into revenue growth for my clients.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

I think the most interesting thing that has happened is the new network of people I have met since starting my own business. Sometimes when you work for a major corporation, you can become very insulated internally and not realize who else and what else is out in the industry. I have met so many great people who have been supportive of what I am doing and value them very much.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I am going way back to the beginning of my career in fashion. I think a mistake I made early on was understanding the internal politics of major retailers. I needed to do a better job of finding mentors for myself within the company to move up the corporate ladder faster. I take what I didn’t do and always remind young professionals about building their networks both inside and outside the company they work for.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes Bakertown stand out is that we have the expertise and education learnings of “traditional” retail but also understand the fast changing nature of the industry as we enter this “new retail” stage. Therefore, we can help both struggling legacy businesses as well as be very helpful in mentoring and stewarding new startups that need to understand the possible landmines that occur when you are running a retail business.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

To thrive in our industry you really need to have a passion for the business. The passion could be about design, or color and trend. Or, the passion could be numbers and managing a P & L as well. But if you don’t have the passion for what you do, “burn out” can and will ultimately happen.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Within the industry, I have enjoyed mentoring young professionals just starting out with their careers at either big corporations or at start-ups. I hope my knowledge and expertise will help them grow and will also mentor the next generation of retail leaders over the next several years and decades.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

Confucius said “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” This has so much truth in the fashion industry. People tend to overcomplicate the easiest thing which leads to customer frustration. If everyone would put the customer first in every part of the decision making process, fashion brands could be more efficient, more popular and more profitable over the course of time.

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

While the Chinese consumer base has grown significantly over the last 20 years, India is going to be the next country with expected explosive growth. While companies have had to develop China specfic strategies to better cater to the need of that consumer, global brands will also need to develop strategies just for India as well.

Transparency through the supply chain of the fashion industry will continue to be a focus and I think will be a big part of any companies overarching strategy for growth. More consumers want to know where their goods are made and companies must not hide behind a curtain without risking losing sales and customers.

What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. When someone says “I have a passion for fashion” it seems very cliché — however, you do need passion to do well in this business. This is a grueling industry, long hours and usually you start from the bottom. But if you have the grit and determination, you can success.
  2. When working for a brand or your own brand, having a vision of your target customer and not deviating from that target customer is so important. It is critical to have your customer be a part of every decision you make.
  3. Having a strong balance of trend as well as the basics of running a business will help your brand grow. While accounting might not be your favorite part of the job, at least having some knowledge will prove beneficial for the future.
  4. While data is very important in the fashion industry, everyone still needs to remember that there is an emotion to make a purchase. When someone is buying a dress, that is an emotional purchase. So a blend of the art and science is very important when building a collection.
  5. When thinking about trends, be focused on the future — while using history as inspiration is appropriate, successful people in fashion are looking not just one year out — but two years out as well in what people will be wearing.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

The amount of waste that the industry produces has to be reduced. While currently it appears that the majority of consumers don’t seem that interested in waste reduction, I truly think we will be hitting an inflection point where brands that are reducing waste will be rewards with a bigger share of the consumer wallet. I also think consumers are looking at great quality and longevity of their purchases so they aren’t buying as many items.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Do not get frustrated over things that are out of your control. If something goes wrong, find a solution and not just complain about it. Be positive and good things will come to you!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn is the best place to find me but people can also checkout our website https://www.bakertownconsulting.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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