Studies suggest that around 7.6 million jobs in the UK are at risk because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Jobs within the wholesale and retail sector, as well as the arts sector, are most vulnerable. Coincidentally, these areas are where most design students hope to find jobs upon graduation. While the situation is somewhat bleak, and undeniably worrying for graduates, a future in fashion isn’t impossible. We spoke to three major fashion recruiters about their forecasts for the job market, as well as their advice for those still looking for employment at this time.
Like many of us, recruitment agencies have all seen a sizable change in the way they work during lockdown. Emma Davidson, Managing Director at international fashion recruitment agency Denza, is now working alone while the rest of her team have been furloughed. “My job has slowed down as most of our clients have put jobs on hold,” she explains. Instead, her work is now almost exclusively digital. “I am trying to keep on top of the emails from candidates who have been made redundant or are worried about their position when they return to work.”
“US and UK listed companies have put everything on hold and taken short-term cost cutting measures.” – Valentina Maggi
Valentina Maggi, Director of design practice at Floriane De Saint Pierre & Associates, has had a similar experience. “US and UK listed companies have put everything on hold and taken short-term cost cutting measures.” Valentina’s team is instead focusing on other areas of their consulting services for which they are now seeing increased demand. These include: “evolving organisations to fit with the new paradigms, redefining roles and [finding] new types of talents.”
Perhaps the most urgent question for fashion graduates right now is whether or not companies will still be hiring post-pandemic. No agency is able to give a definite answer to this quite yet, although Emma admits hiring has undoubtedly slowed down. For example, one of her team’s luxury clients has reduced its search for six graduate employees to just one. “I think for a while there will be fewer full-time jobs all round and freelance work will be more competitive.” She explains how budgets that had been set aside for new hires have been cut to recoup losses elsewhere in these businesses, while other companies have already adapted to smaller team sizes due to the furlough scheme.
“The internship is usually a way [for design houses] to choose a future junior designer to integrate, so it is – I think only for a short time – penalizing for them.” – Céline Toledano
Céline Toledano, fashion educator and Partner at headhunting firm m-O Conseil, agrees that the pandemic has complicated things for graduates, but believes such complications will not last long term. “The internship is usually a way [for design houses] to choose a future junior designer to integrate, so it is – I think only for a short time – penalizing for them.” She explains that the trainees are incredibly useful to the fashion houses with whom she works so, once the industry has stabilised, she predicts they will need to re-hire these young talents.