The fashion industry has a reputation for being highly competitive, and rightly so. Not only are brands big and small competing for attention online and on the runways, but professionals hoping to work in fashion also need to prove their skills to land jobs.
Roles with the most well-known brands are particularly difficult to secure, and holding on to one of these jobs can sometimes be even more difficult.
But our guest today has earned his place in fashion marketing and continues to impress with his innovative approach to marketing and communications.
With an academic background in fashion marketing, Ferdinando De Michele established himself in the fashion industry by coordinating large, complex live fashion shows and events.
Brands took notice, and De Michele was soon working for Gucci as a Strategic Communications & Public Relations Specialist.
Following work with numerous agencies and brands, De Michele is currently Communications Specialist at SKIN&CO North America. In this role, he creates and manages digital campaigns, leveraging his previous experience in influencer marketing, overseeing collaborations with more than 1,200 carefully chosen influencers and celebrities.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with De Michele about some of his key skills, working with world-famous brands, coordinating live events, influencer marketing, and more.
If any of our readers are hoping to make their way into the fashion industry, especially on the marketing side, there's some incredibly valuable information here, and even for the layperson, De Michele gives a fascinating look at how this industry operates.
Something we should mention right at the start is that fashion marketing takes a strategic mind. Every fashion brand, no matter the size, is in direct competition with a huge number of other industry players.
Even the largest brands in the world with universal name recognition have to plan their marketing efforts carefully. One wrong move could have ripple effects for years to come. Similarly, savvy marketing could elevate a brand's public image in the eyes of millions.
Fashion industry marketing professionals have to know the market and their target audience extremely well. They also often need to research how comparable brands are executing their own marketing strategies.
De Michele confirmed that strategy is key to marketing efforts for any fashion brand, and for successful businesses in general.
"When I work with a client or brand, I need to focus on the type of strategy we want to pursue. For any type of business, it's essential to have clear ideas about what needs to be achieved, and consequently, my work involves being strategically minded for the success of the client."
Even those who may not consider themselves to be strategically minded can still put in the time and effort to craft a brilliant strategy, but having a natural inclination for strategy is definitely a benefit for anyone hoping to take on marketing challenges at the professional level.
But perhaps even more important for the fashion industry marketing pro is a dedication to staying organized.
For years, De Michele has worked at the highest tier of the fashion industry, and he made it very clear that coasting through the work simply isn't an option.
As he notes here, the industry doesn't slow down and wait for anyone to catch up. Things are constantly moving, constantly changing, and only highly organized professionals can stay on top of it all.
"The fashion industry is extremely hectic, where the unexpected is the order of the day. It's very easy to get lost, confused, and make mistakes. I consider myself an extremely precise and scrupulous person. Being organized is a quality that you learn with time and experience, and once you learn it, everything becomes much simpler."
Even small companies have a lot to handle, and the workload increases exponentially as the company itself grows.
With that in mind, imagine just how complex things become when a company's scope and customer base are many times larger. The largest brands have to operate on a global scale, requiring their teams to stay organized and in sync every step of the way.
For many fashion industry hopefuls, it's a dream to work with one of the biggest brands in the world, adding to a decades-long history of style and success.
But it's important to understand what this work actually entails and just how intense it can be to actually work in these kinds of high-level environments.
Needless to say, the standards at these companies are extremely high, and employees are expected to meet those standards every day. But for those who are up to the task, there are plenty of rewards, too.
In De Michele's experience, accepting a role at one of the industry's biggest brands was thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
"I remember my first day at Gucci was a mix of fear and excitement. When you work with one of the most famous brands in the world and collaborate with colleagues who have way more experience than you and meet people like Anna Wintour, you can easily feel intimidated. The pressure is overwhelming, especially during Fashion Week where everything has to be perfect and impeccable."
There's no room for excuses in these companies, and anyone setting their sights on roles with these ultra-famous companies should be prepared to perform at the highest level.
Influencer marketing is far from a niche strategy these days, as arranging sponsored content with the right influencers can mean reaching millions of people, numbers that rival ads on major TV programs and events.
For the fashion industry, influencer marketing can be an especially good fit. Fashion is inherently visual, and many current social platforms are almost exclusively visual.
But when marketing major brands, as De Michele does, it's not as simple as striking a deal with an influencer who has X number of followers.
De Michele spoke about some of the key considerations when executing an influencer marketing strategy for a brand.
Most important, of course, is what the brand wants to achieve: what they want to say and who they want to reach.
From there, specific influencers are considered based on their ability to reach the desired audience.
"Influencer marketing is such a fine line, and we always need to understand what type of target we want to achieve and work with the influencers that are closest to that target. Only with this approach can we be sure about the results. It may seem easy, but you need to have strong experience in the world of influencers and marketing strategies to get the results you want."
Missing the mark, even only slightly, could lead to a failed campaign or, perhaps worse, negative branding for the company in question.
It should be clear by now that top fashion brands are extremely careful with all branding efforts. Branding is very closely tied to their industry reputation, and a fashion brand that's suddenly seen as outdated or behind the times could lead to a series of negative knock-on effects.
On the flip side, successful influencer marketing can allow a brand to connect directly with a certain audience.
De Michele also has extensive experience coordinating live events. He served as an Event Planner for Nino Lettieri Haute Couture and has participated in numerous fashion shows and events as a Communications Specialist.
Of course, these events are an extension of marketing, but planning for and managing these events is a completely different kind of challenge.
While preparation is a major component, many decisions have to be made in the moment, especially when plans change.
As for the most challenging aspect of working these events, De Michele had this to say.
"The most challenging part of working on an event is planning, controlling, and coordinating all the stakeholders, starting with the vendors, the choice of location, and then continuing with the guest list and the press. Organizing an event requires great professional preparation, but above all, it takes excellent problem-solving skills."
Even with detailed planning, unforeseen events and changes are inevitable, forcing event coordinators to think on their feet and keep everyone happy.
Before we close out, we would like to share the advice that De Michele offered to aspiring fashion industry professionals, especially those who are considering careers in fashion marketing and communications.
Importantly, De Michele addressed the transition from university studies to real-world work scenarios and maintaining energy and enthusiasm even when things get tough.
"My advice is to enjoy the university experience to the fullest. Once you start working, you will be able to understand how much those rules learned in books are very different from everyday working life. You have to be patient and get involved. Don't give up! Always do your best and don't be afraid to be creative. Creativity is a fundamental element for those who want to work in marketing and communications."
Consistency and creativity get rewarded. Try to keep in mind why you wanted to work in fashion in the first place. The work might not look or feel quite the way you expected it to, but it can also turn out to be more exciting, more challenging, and more satisfying than you expected, too.