From Head of Client Sales at Conde Nast to Chief Partnerships Officer at global fashion search platform Lyst, Jenny Cossons has over 20 years of experience in the fashion and digital industries. Looking fabulous in a 3.1 Phillip Lim dress and Saint Laurent platforms we’re not surprised to hear that Jenny is passionate about fashion and the empowering qualities she believes it can bring to an individual. We sit down with Jenny to talk fashion and tech, from the changing landscape of luxury fashion to the values she looks for in new hires and advice she has for women in the industry.
You’ve worked in the fashion space for over twenty years now. How have you seen it change over time?
The greatest change I’ve seen has been in the last five years, particularly within luxury fashion. Outside influences have forced change – the rapid growth of businesses like Amazon, Net-a-Porter and the development of the smartphone have fundamentally changed how everyone looks at retail. Previously it was a foregone conclusion that a consumer would come into store, there wasn’t such a focus on what they needed, now brands have to really listen to the customer and their demands. Amazon has also been key in shaking up the industry. If a company doesn’t do same day, or next day delivery, customers now think they’re crazy. Prime is being used as a verb! I like how I now work for a company where transparency to the customer is key – the main role of Lyst is to deliver from want to wear – helping them find exactly what they’re after. With over 12,000 partners onboard we’re in a strong position to do this.
What core values do you look for when you’re hiring for your team?
When I started at Lyst three years ago, I had to grow a team from one to fifteen in under six months. I’d say there are three core values that I looked for then and that I still believe are fundamental if you want to be successful in this business;
1) You have to be smart. One of our values we call ‘Humble Trusted Owners’ based on intelligence and the respect that you have to give people to be able to make their own decisions. There are people from all areas in this business; engineers, data scientists, fashion buyers… there’s a lot of knowledge there and people need to be given the freedom to do what they do.
2) You need passion. Anyone that’s worked in a start up environment will know what that means – you eat, sleep and breathe the business and so ultimately you have to love it otherwise you’re going to burn out.
3) Adaptability is key. This is a fundamental skill that is important no matter what industry you work in. You need to be flexible, able to move quickly and keep up. You won’t succeed in this industry if you rely on structure.
What advice would you give to women in the tech and fashion industry?
I guess this is true for everyone but specifically for women, one of the things we’re conditioned not to do is to ask for things. I remind my team that no one is going to hand you anything. If you feel you’ve earned it then you have to ask for it. If you don’t ask for it then you won’t get it. Be vocal, with a respectful tone. Something I’ve certainly found over the last three years – be adaptable, flexible, don’t be set in your ways. If you look at the most successful businesses – Google, Apple, Amazon – they’re moving, innovating, change is always embraced.
How important are clothes for you in a workplace environment?
If you took a poll of everyone that worked at Lyst it would be unanimous that I like to dress up! I remember the first week I started here a friend said to me that, now I was working for a startup in Shoreditch, I’d be wearing converse by the end of the month. No way! Three years on and I’m wearing Saint Laurent platforms! I’m so lucky to work in an environment where I can wear what I want to wear. I love our partners and I love what their clothes can do – they can make you feel empowered and amazing. You can showcase how you’re feeling and what you want to present to the world through clothes – that’s all price points and all types – and I think that’s a great thing to be able to do. I definitely get some crazy looks sometimes but I can live with that!
Who are you most excited about in the fashion space right now?
That’s a really hard question, I love everyone! I’m excited about Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior and I’m happy because we’re partnering with 24 Sevres which means that I can actually buy Dior online. I personally love her and think if I met her I’d faint right in front of her! What she did at Valentino was awesome and I think she’s got a great talent, great outlook. I’m excited to see what Raf Simons does at Calvin Klein. It’s such a cool, iconic American brand and as an American I’m always pro finding that innovation and that movement. Gucci’s killing it right now and I love the idea that Marco Bizzarri hired from within. Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent is doing so well and I love their CEO Francesca Bellettini. She’s so badass and inspiring. I’m desperate to win the lottery and buy those slouchy glitter red boots!
What inspires you day to day?
It sounds contrived but I’m really Inspired by life! If I’m going to be on this earth for a definite time I feel I’ve got to keep up and keep moving. I’m inspired by my kids, they have a very specific style and way of looking at things. I learn more from them day to day than I ever thought I would. I think working in a young, thriving start up I’m very lucky to have a thirteen year old son who tells me everything about everything! I’m also constantly inspired by the area of London I work in, Shoreditch. It’s hipster heaven and it’s really fun to see how people interpret style in this area. It’s a very different vibe from where I used to work in Mayfair, equally stylish though.
Do you have a work/life motto?
Anyone who’s worked with me will know that one of my signature phrases is ‘simmer down’ which reminds me to calm down, things aren’t that bad. I still live by my high school motto which was ‘look sharp, feel sharp’ which is an internal mantra for myself. Lastly Oscar de la Renta’s quote is printed on my notebook, ‘if you rest, you rust’.