Felicity Wade

 Creative Design Director at Wade Design Network

Felicity Wade is currently the Creative Director for Wade Design Network with 20 years experience working in the fashion and manufacturing industry. She’s worked for big names such as Elle and Fiorucci, many UK high street companies such as BHS, Mothercare and Fatface as well as holding the position as Global Vice President for Claire’s.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Felicity to help you all gain an insight into the fashion world where she drives her trend & colour knowledge, worked with top designers and travelled  and lived around the world. Through her eyes Felicity she shares her thoughts and expert advice to any inspiring fashion Designer.

Understanding the customer is key.  Sales will give you an idea of what the customers like's but is only helpful to a point, since you're always looking back.  Looking sideways at the competition is useful but understanding what the customer lifestyle is and what they are interested in.

— Felicity Wade

When & how did you get into the fashion industry?
I did a one year foundation at Loughborough, 3 years BA at Nottingham and then a 2 year MA at the Royal College of Art. The BA taught me skills but the MA was invaluable since it involved projects within the Industry and not to mention having a FABULOUS time in London. This led me getting my first job which was with a top end retail group called Elle, which was a bit like Whistles. They also had the UK franchise for Fiorucci, so I was working on ideas for both. My design style was a bit wild then so I was a great fit for Fiorucci.

Tell us more about your company Wade Design Network?
Wade Design Network is a group of designers looking out for each other and are experts in their own field. We’ve won accolades and awards for innovative and commercial developments. I’m not running a recruitment service but I often get asked do you know someone who can do this and whatever.  I put a group of designers together to work on womenswear / kids / accessory project for clients but I also have the flexibility to do Interim roles and projects outside Wade Design Network too.

What’s the average day like for a creative Director?
There’s no average day for a Creative Director! It depends on which part of the season you are tackling and what the issues are with either the WDN or for the client. A Creative Director is accountable for both Trend and Product Development and, quite often researching trends  for a seasons which can overlap with managing the Product Developement for the one before. It’s always varied and busy, which is what makes it so interesting.

What’s your approach to starting a new seasonal collection ?
I look at certain trend services like Peclers. I track what’s happening on the catwalk with key brands and try to work out which one are the most influential for the high street. I keep an eye on Pinterest,Etsy and Instragram  if any celebrities and if they’re  having a moment! I attend key trade shows are very important to see what’s being developed in fabrics, trims, colour, print & inspiring trips to New York, LA, Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo and Seoul on a regular basis. It’s NOT to buy things to copy but inspiring to get out of your box!

How does WND design for your various client base?
Understanding customers is KEY! Sales will give you an idea of what their customers like but is only helpful to a point since its always looking back!Looking sideways at the competition is useful but also understanding what the customer lifestyle and what they are interested in is enlightening. At Claire’s we used to conduct interviews in store in the USA, UK, France, Spain and festivals. We took photos of the customer and asked questions about their likes and dislike, what music they listened too etc and it was really interesting! This approach works for all ages, customer and all product types. It provides us with the forward decisions we have to make and I think too many companies get bogged down and stay in the office, making assumptions about what their customer is likes rather meeting any of them!

Being creative and innovative is massively important, anyone can copy.

— Felicity Wade

What changes have you seen on the high street over the years?
There are significant  changes in high street retail probably the main one is speed to market. Before it would take 9 months to a year for catwalk trends to hit the high street, now it’s weeks or months!  The access to the internet means that customers want what they see on celebrities asap! The retail companies who are good at this are H&M group, Inditex group ,Zara, River Island and Misguided have become very successful but traditional high street retailers who haven’t changed their supply chain processes are really struggling.

What are your top Events do you attend each year?
I always attend Premier Vision in Paris. This is the key show twice a year for fabric, trims, colour & print which are a year ahead from being in store. All key retailers from all over the world will attend this.They also have a big print studio area Indigo which is a great way of discovering new studios.

I also used to go to Pitti Filati (knitwear) Pitti Bimbo (kids) in Florence, Playtime (kids) in France, Bubble (kids) in London and  Magic.

Why are your trips to see your suppliers important?
Trips to suppliers are really important since they help you to understand what they can do and what they can’t. It’s really hard to anticipate this via phone or internet so it’s a lot easier speaking face to face plus, they are also frequently very inspiring.

How do you see global warming and sustainable fashion affecting the industry?
I think the industry needs to pursue much more sustainable environmentally friendly processes. Retailers need to be aware of how the suppliers overseas are manufacturing the goods. This is a very important issue but it can be really hard to manage. Suppliers can sign agreements with retailers, but then to meet delivery dates they may subcontract without the retailers knowledge. This needs tracking via spot checks and some retailers are very good at this and some less so good.

What’s your top 3 essential skills for aspiring designer?
My top 3 are Creativity, being creative and innovative is massively important, anyone can copy. Skill, knowing how to make your idea happen and end up with a product and Focused, seeing the idea through to the satisfying conclusion in a product. All areas of the industry need those attributes. With my experience designers who are like that make a difference, especially on the High Street.