Having worked in the highly competitive fashion industry for the last 20 years, I am proud to be in a place now that allows me to pass my knowledge onto potential future stars of this multi-billion pound industry. I was honoured to be nominated for the Women of the Future Awards, in association with Shell, as it has given me the opportunity to share my own experiences and opinions on the industry as well as voice my aspirations for the continued success of the George at Asda brand, which is heavily linked with my passion for nurturing the talent of tomorrow.
During my time in fashion I have witnessed the changing platforms and changing nature of the industry. I have first-hand experience of the difficulties of making a name for yourself and landing that all important first fashion job. I believe it is important to look up to role models and gain inspiration from others who have carved themselves successful careers in fashion - I was very fortunate to work alongside and learn from George Davies at the very start of my career. What I absorbed from him has set me on the road I am on today. I feel very privileged that I could now be seen as a role model and a mentor for fashion's future generation.
To me, students of today are the emerging talent of tomorrow and the life blood of the fashion industry. Their ideas and talent is fresh, current and will only continue to grow and develop given the right support. We have a responsibility to nurture that. There is a great range of courses and opportunities out there and as retailers it is important that we support and guide fashion talent along their career paths. I focus a lot of time on helping the next generation - not those who just want to work in fashion design but in roles across the industry - be it in marketing, merchandising or buying.
In 2011 my work as a mentor to young people and graduates led George at Asda to become the saviour and title sponsor of Graduate Fashion Week (GFW), something that we will continue to support in 2013. The opportunity to be a sponsor for what has become an incredible platform for emerging talent was one we could not refuse. We're extremely proud to be part of what is an integral event on the fashion calendar and we're very much looking forward to our third Graduate Fashion Week as headline sponsor in 2013.
Besides financial support, we're focussed on supporting students and graduates as they progress their futures. 20,000 students leave education each year with fashion related qualifications and there is a whole raft of opportunities in the industry, a lot of which they haven't considered. We are committed to offering experience, support and insight which students will be able to tap into. This year we offered 63 roles in the business, spread across work experience, work placements and full time roles to new graduates. As well as this we offer the George Retail Foundation Degree in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University. Of course, as Brand Director, this allows me not only the opportunity to give something back to the industry that I am so passionate about, but also ensures George maintains ahead of the fashion game. Working with some of the best up and coming designers in the industry keeps the brand fresh, up to date and relevant.
I'm striving to put a real focus on design and getting this ethos right at the centre of our focus and strategy so it's one which champions our creativity and powers our business. As part of our dual investment in supporting the talent of tomorrow and dialling up our own fashion credentials we have some exciting plans for 2013 with new talent at the core.
It is my aim through initiatives like GFW to get the George brand recognised for being a pioneering and exciting one. George clothing is not supermarket clothing, it is a fashion brand that happens to be sold in a supermarket. Through this I want to change the face of fashion retail as the first career choice for the brightest young creative stars of tomorrow. By involving the brand with Graduate Fashion Week, and beyond I hope to demonstrate the breadth of roles within the fashion industry, particularly within retail and to offer opportunities to young people who dream of a career in this wonderful industry.
Fiona Lambert is a shortlister of the 2012 Women of The Future Awards.
The awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday 20 November and is hosted by Real Business in association with Shell.