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Five Keys to Attracting Design Leaders in the Age of Fast Fashion

Leveraging design talent as a brand evolution strategy is critical for progressive fashion and retail organizations, but how does one attract these key leaders in an increasingly competitive market? Herbert Mines Associates Vice President Susan Merjos shares her extensive experience recruiting design leaders and creative directors to top global brands.

Progressive fashion and apparel companies employ strong design leadership as a key strategy for building or evolving their brand. This has never been more critical than today as Fast Fashion has transformed the retail industry, creating a market where value propositions are increasingly staked on a rapidly changing product selection that consistently reflects both the brand image and customer’s sensibility. Over the last 38 years, Herbert Mines Associates has been the partner of choice for top brands looking to attract best-in-class design talent, giving us insight into how to make a great hire.

1. A Seat at the TableDesigners are concerned about where they will stand in relation to the merchant team. Will they be a valued and respected partner in determining product strategy? A culture of cross functional partnerships will hold appeal.2. Define Brand Image and StoryDesign leaders are looking for opportunities at companies for which they feel an authentic connection to the brand aesthetic and the opportunity to shape and execute the vision for how the brand’s image will evolve. External recruitment of upmarket design talent as a transformation strategy for moderate brands can be challenging, as designers tend to specialize in a particular price point and gender. A nuanced understanding of the various pools of design talent is key to navigating these industry divisions and attracting the desired talent.3. Align on Key Competencies and Culture FitEstablish where the business is headed and what demands will be made of the design leader in contributing to enterprise-level goals. In order to ensure cultural alignment, you may invite the design leader to spend more time with your organization, both inside and outside your office setting, as the recruitment process advances.4. Opportunities for Continued Growth & ImpactA path to a larger role will hold appeal. Highlighting “Big Picture” such as succession opportunities, scale, compensation, and growth is critical to attracting talent with the combination of creative and managerial skills.5. Engage and InspireFor many design executives, inspiration and engagement are a high-priority criteria when considering various offers. You must be prepared to frame the opportunity and its location in terms of its potential for creative stimulation. Make introductions to current senior leaders who can advocate for the company culture and geography, highlight the artistic and cultural venues of your city, and assure candidates of the availability of funds for regular travel and trend tracking.

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