June 2018

Drayton’s Ian Pickett, talks high streets, high fashion and high tech....

“Stella McCartney and Karl Lagerfeld still set trends. But Google’s Head of Fashion is now, probably, fashion’s biggest influencer. ”

Senior Partner Ian Pickett talks high streets, high fashion and high tech and how Google is helping millennials to find that perfect little black dress.

Ever had one of those moments where you wished you’d given your shoes an extra coat of polish, or ran the iron over your shirt a second time? I feel a little bit like that when Ian Pickett starts talking about Google’s Head of Fashion. But, luckily for me, Alex Lowe, the executive in question, does not step into Drayton’s London boardroom and start to give me the onceover.

Ian simply brings up his name when discussing a recent networking event Drayton ran. And, once he starts talking about it, Drayton’s Senior Partner can’t stop. ‘We had a fascinating presentation by Alex Lowe, who is Head of Fashion at Google. Just the fact that Google have a Head of Fashion is intriguing. Fashion shopping, he said, has now become as spontaneous as convenience store shopping. We've already moved from doing one weekly big food shop to doing numerous trips to convenience stores and, it seems, the way millennials are buying clothes is exactly the same. Only they’re doing that through their mobile phones.’

Ian taps the screen of his own iPhone with a finger to underline his point. ‘Lowe was saying that people will Google something on their phones – “little black dress,” for instance – and the answers will dictate where they will go and buy it. They might buy online, or they might look at opening hours and see what's open. They want it straight away. It's almost as if now isn't soon enough. That’s one of the things I love about my job, having to keep on top of all that’s changing in the sectors, like retail, which we specialise in.’

My original plan for this interview was to cover everything Drayton are doing over the next six months. There’s plenty to discuss. The company are expanding rapidly and have just moved to a new, bigger, London office in George Street, Marylebone. And they’re growing the business further – moving into other sectors by hiring more key executive search specialists.

But, once Ian starts talking about the challenges of the retail sector, he can’t stop. ‘So, in the course of this dinner,’ he goes on, ‘one of the things that struck me is that if you are a traditional fashion retailer right now, and you're not on this bandwagon of convenience fashion – creating the kind of instore environment and experience that facilitates this immediate online purchasing – then you are already at serious risk. Because what Apple did for tech with the Apple store the same is now happening with fashion. And proactive brands like Nike are already well ahead of that particular curve. They don’t just design stores. They design brand experiences. ‘

Drayton too, it seems, have planned well for the future if current levels of business are early indicators of a level of prescience and insight. ‘Recently, we have been asked to pitch for more MD roles, ‘says Pickett, when I ask about Drayton’s current 'busyness', ‘than I think we've ever been asked to pitch for before .We have positions across the whole of the country at MD level. In fact, I would be amazed if there are any other recruiters in the UK that have as many Food & Drink MD roles as we have.’

I glance at my watch. An hour’s flown by. But I already have more than I need for my article. Think it’s time to go home. Do a little browsing. Start Googling easy-to-iron shirts.