Interviewing the Interviewers: Drapers Editor Keely Stocker

One of the privileges and joys of journalism is meeting and interviewing truly inspirational people.  The new digital age has meant this privilege has now opened up beyond professional journalists, with some of the most thought-provoking interviews now conducted by numerous industry thought leaders in addition to our most respected journalists.

In NDA’s Interviewing the Interviewers series, we caught up with some of the best interviewers in our industry, from journalists to independent content creators, turning the tables to find out what makes them tick.

Keely Stocker, Editor, Drapers and BSME Editor of the Year, has worked at the title for over 13 years ago. She leads the magazine, website and the publication’s events.

What is your biggest hope and your biggest fear for the retail industry in 2019?

The fashion retail industry is facing hugely challenging market conditions due to a mix of factors – impending Brexit, changing consumer habits and the multichannel shopping mix to name just a few. Businesses that are not set up in an agile way will risk getting left behind in an increasingly fast-paced industry.

However, we are seeing some great examples from those that are reacting to change quickly and strategically and the results prove their success. Fashion businesses that have great product, know their customer and stay true to their brand will ride the storm and prosper in 2019.

What was your biggest personal industry highlight of 2018?

Winning Editor of the Year, Trade and Professional at the BSME (British Society of Magazine Editors) awards. It was very unexpected but a real honour. The Drapers team and I have worked incredibly hard to make the brand current, relevant, informative and inspirational to the fashion industry across multiple channels (mobile, desktop, print and live events) and it was fantastic to be recognised for that. 

Who was the most inspirational person you interviewed in 2018 and why?

A lot of my personal conversations with retail leaders are off the record as I strive to build honest relationships to really understand what is happening in retail today – the challenges and opportunities that are presented and what Drapers can do to support the industry it represents.

In terms of Drapers interviews in 2018, I get inspired by so many of them! It was great to interview such a mix of industry leaders from young, innovative businesses such as Depop, Never Fully Dressed, Gymshark, Rixo and Hype to luxury power players leading the sustainable agenda such as Kering and VF Corporation, to established businesses such as Pentland and Adidas alongside fantastic independents such as Jules B who won lifetime achievement at the Drapers Independents awards last year.

What one retail technology are you most excited about this year and why?

I’m really excited to see the evolution of AI, particularly in fashion. We’ve already seen initial use of the technology from a range of retailers in the last 12 months including M&S with the launch of visual search and the Yoox Mirror Service which provides customers with access to its avatar, and Levi’s virtual fitting room. Yoox also used AI to support the launch of its in-house brand 8 by Yoox, which is a really interesting development.

What was your favourite ad or digital experience of 2018? 

At the 2018 Drapers awards, Miss Pap won Best Marketing campaign of the year for The Living Wage Wardrobe – an initiative to drive sales by selling items for the equivalent of the national hourly living wage.

It was done at very little cost and worked really well for their audience. We are also increasingly seeing fashion retailers using influencers as part of advertising and marketing campaigns to drive sales – PrettyLittleThing, Boohoo, Primark and Oasis are just a few examples of fashion retailers taking this approach.

What is the buzzword or phrase you’d like to ban forever? 

Omnichannel. There are multiple channels that should be integrated and work together to provide single product and customer views, but channels should still be treated differently to ensure each has an optimum proposition for its audience.

Who’s the one industry figure you’d most like to interview you yet haven’t? 

I have a few! Lord Wolfson (CEO at Next) is incredibly private but has had such a successful career and has some very strong opinions at what the industry should, and will, look like in the future – so although we do speak to him regularly, I’d love to have more time to get his opinion on the future of the industry.

It would be great to interview Mike Ashley (owner, Sports Direct/House of Fraser) to delve into his approach to acquisitions and find out what he is up to next!

Virgil Abloh from a designer perspective would be fantastic and Angela Ahrendts, who has had such a successful career in the digital space. Will.i.am would also be fascinating as he is a real technological pioneer and I love the work he has done to support underprivileged kids to develop digital skills.

How could someone persuade you to interview them and what would put you off completely?

We are always looking for innovation in fashion businesses and an angle that we feel others can learn from – whether that be in terms of technology, strategy, culture, product or business operations.

They have to be able to prove it is a viable business with a clear growth plan and an interesting story.

The main thing that would put me off is if they hadn’t properly done their research into Drapers beforehand. Yes, we are a fashion publishing brand but it’s important to recognise that we are an industry publication. We strive to be the voice of the fashion industry and to support those that work within it.

I want Drapers to be an essential resource for the latest fashion industry news, delving into the stories that matter, analysing what has happened, what it means for the sector and how it will impact fashion businesses. 

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