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“We have a responsibility to encourage fashion companies to seek sustainable options across product and production.”

Leadership lessons with Sidney Morgan - Petro, Senior Retail Editor of WGSN


I had the pleasure of interviewing Sidney Morgan-Petro. As Senior Retail Editor, Sidney covers the major trend directions and market analysis for WGSN’s North American content. Prior to joining WGSN, Sidney devoted her fashion career to retail and trend-specific industries, spending two years at trend forecasting powerhouse Stylesight, and four years as Senior Editor at the New York Retail Report. She is a regular contributor to various industry publications and podcasts such as The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Racked, and NPR’s Marketplace.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I initially wanted to work in the magazine industry. I went to college in the age of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and even though that movie painted the industry in quite a negative light, I still wanted nothing more than to be a Fashion Editor. I studied at FIT and interned at a menswear publication which showed me the ropes early on. Sadly, the magazine industry grew smaller and smaller over the years and I segued that editorial spirit into trend analysis instead. I had a college friend that introduced me to the world of trend forecasting and I haven’t looked back since.

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

I had a lot of twists and turns working in this industry, one of which brought me to hosting a lavish birthday party in Macau (not mine) and living abroad in Hong Kong for weeks at a time to plan it. One day I was working part-time at a fashion production company in Midtown, and the next I’m wrangling a certain rapper’s entourage overseas at the Four Seasons. That was definitely the most fantastical and surreal experience I’ve had to date.

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?

Actually that entire experience was one funny ride. At one point the entertainment’s tour manager hopped off the ferry in Hong Kong and asked me ‘What makes you think you’re qualified to do this?” And I honestly replied, “I’m not, but you have no choice but to listen to me or be stranded here. I have keys to your hotel rooms.” He looked at me and laughed and all was good after that. I learned that in times of uncertainty you need to be honest but also authoritative and people will respect that.

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

The people are what make WGSN stand out. I truly adore my work family and have peace of mind coming to work. We all have our stressful days, but overall there is a positive, creative energy surrounding our team and the office in general. I can’t say the same for every fashion company I’ve worked with in the past, so it is something I cherish.


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

Always have something to look forward to. Whether it’s a personal goal or a work goal, make sure you always keep moving towards something that motivates you. Also, don’t skimp on me-time. In the US we tend to be such work horses. If you have two weeks paid vacation, take it!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Many! But three in mind particularly. Shout out to my boss at my internship in college who showed me ultimate kindness and gave me real opportunities to learn on the job, my college friend who landed me my first job interview, and my boss at that job who was my personal mentor for 4 years, teaching me much of what I now know about retail trends.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

We’re prepping for our internal trends’ days presentations in London. The entire company comes together twice a year to present to each other what we’ve been seeing in our regions. It’s a critical part of how we determine our 2 years forecast and basically a week-long learning fest filled with keynote speakers, brainstorming workshops and trend presentations. I always come away super inspired and informed, ready to start a new season.

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

We’ve taken on a major initiative in the past year to deliver sustainability content to our clients. We feel we have a responsibility to educate and encourage fashion companies to seek sustainable options across product and production.


Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

Branded experiences will rise in importance — the store itself is changing. As consumers shift their spend to online, they seek new meaning from the physical store. It will serve as a brand extension, offering less on-hand inventory and more interactive experiences, from product after-care, to tailoring, product testing, lounges, gamification of goods, return centers and related-product services. A favorite example for this — the opening of pedicure salons at select DSW shoe stores. These are two products that go hand-in-hand, summer sandals and polished toes. More retailers will be thinking in these terms moving forward.

Tech will offer seamless omnichannel solutions — which is basically a fancy way of saying we will use tech in-store to ease the return process, quickly pickup online orders in-store and expedite checkout. We have major retailers like Zara and Wal-Mart already implementing solutions for automated returns and in-store pickup, and we’ll increasingly see mobile POS systems (what Apple has armed their staff with for many years) and check-out free shops like Amazon Go, which allows you to skip the cashier and check out directly through your amazon app.

Stores will adopt smaller footprints — we are all aware of the shift towards online purchasing. But this doesn’t mean the death of the store. Retailers are ‘right-sizing’ to strike a good balance between their on and offline operations. This will mean smaller, fewer, and often more urban, stores.

Consumers become walking billboards — and I don’t mean slogan T-shirts when I say this. New smart chip-enabled clothing will allow brands to track when and where a consumer wears an item, gifting them with points based on each wear, or based on the event they are attending. Essentially, if you buy a hand bag and are incentivized by the brand to wear it to Coachella, you will be rewarded for giving them brand exposure. Win-win.

Co-creation will drive product development — increasingly retailers are looking to the consumer to get their direct input on product design. Brands like H&M and Target are experimenting with social media-like apps (and social media itself) to drive consumer polls and interaction directly with design teams. As production becomes more automated, we’ll see these types of interactions impacting what gets produced and where the demand is coming from.


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. 🙂

I wish we could find better solutions for the re-use of furniture. We’re already starting to see the massive influence of the re-commerce community for apparel, with brands like Depop, ThredUp and The Real Real keeping goods in the circular economy and out of landfills. Hopefully this will extend to home goods. In New York I see heaps of perfectly good furniture thrown to the curb every day because there aren’t convenient solutions for removal. This could be a massive opportunity for resale (and charity) if the logistics were nailed down.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I document my retail (and life) travels on my Instagram @sidlouise.

Originally published at medium.com

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