Editorial: Riches from the rag trade

The glitz and the glamour; the taffeta, the tantrums and the tiaras; the model's staple diet of Marlboros, black Lavazza and devil's dandruff ... To an outsider, the world of fashion is a strange business, with all sorts of weird behaviours and rules. And the financials are often very odd indeed: loss-making fashion houses kept alive by angel backers or by perfume sales and spun-off brand extensions rather than the threads themselves.

by Matthew Gwyther, mt editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In the UK, we're good at the creative side of fashion. We turn out graduates who go on to design for all the world's big houses. But creativity alone has not led to commercial success. With the exception of Burberry and Paul Smith, we lack serious players on the international scene. The London fashion business remains a cottage industry when compared with the LVMHs, the Guccis, the Pradas and the Armanis of global renown.

That's why Kim Winser has arrived to lead Aquascutum out of genteel obscurity.

With 20 years at M&S under her belt, followed by a vigorous shake-up at Pringle, Winser knows the meaning of the bottom line. This is why her Japanese bosses hired her. She's very likeable and full of energy, as I found when I tagged along for the interview in her smart Regent Street lair. I was impressed and, worrying that the shop seemed lacking in till action, I even bought one of Aquascutum's shirts - at full price, which must be a first for a journalist.

Talking of a shake-up, we're stirring up a hornet's nest with our survey this month on the differences between managers and technical people. I've always suspected they were born on different planets - and the arguments about the gulf between the two have been rehearsed since well before CP Snow's The Two Cultures. Despite being a layman, I've always been fascinated by science and technology, to the extent that I even went off and did an A-level in biology at evening class after my English degree. Heavy-duty tech stuff seriously stretches me and I'm lucky to have a Number Two here who answers questions on everything from MRAM and XML to RFID and utility computing.

No, like the arcane world of fashion, tech is a lost world to me. When I sat the A-level I was awarded a D grade. But I did it in a year, never completed my homework and fell foul of a illustrated question on the workings of the inner ear in which I labelled everything 'tympanum'.

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