Welcome to a new series where we bring the BoF community even closer together by getting to know some of our key members.
BoF: What is your current role?
Lynda Petherick: I lead up the fashion, luxury and beauty business for Accenture out of London.
BoF: What do you wish more people understood about your job?
LP: The breadth. When people think about large consulting organisations, they make a range of judgements about who we are and how we can support people, but the reality is that over the last number of years Accenture has changed so much. From an acquisition perspective, we own so many boutique [firms]. So when I think about clients in the fashion industry I think about how we essentially pull together all of our boutiques to create a differentiated way of working with people. It feels demonstrably different to working with what they perceive would be the experience of working with a big consulting organisation.
BoF: What is the number one lesson you’ve learned during your career?
LP: I think it’s “don’t assume,” because I think everyone’s circumstances are different and what worries one client and the next client aren’t necessarily the same. You have to get to know and understand them as people, as well as clients.
BoF: What is the number one challenge you are facing in your area of expertise?
LP: I think it’s challenging out there; it’s challenging for the industry. Whether you’re a high-street retailer or luxury brand, those challenges can reveal themselves differently. We’re now at this inflection point around what’s happening politically, environmentally and organisationally, so how do you face up that?
Practically everyone understands that we need to do something differently, but what is the solution? It’s about moving beyond words and into action, and understanding where to start is a real challenge. When I think back to the challenges, it’s about [how] each one of those trends corresponds to your business.
Another [challenge] is synthetic reality. As we increasingly move to virtualised worlds and “having [digital] experiences” where we may not need to look at them directly, we’re experiencing things through another medium. But how do you design for that? Do you have designers from the gaming sector in your technology team, or do you have product designers who are gamers in your creative studio? Where are you designing for, [and] how does that translate?
I think there are a lot of big meta-trends out there. How do you put those pieces together and shape those things — both for your brand but also for your product — in an authentic way?
BoF: What industry shifts are you most optimistic about?
LP: I think it’s starting to change but I think we’re going to see a huge shift in the sustainability space, and what that means for brands and fashion retailers will be different for different organisations. There’s also a trend around “silence is gold” that talks about the question of, getting a perfect moment where [the customer] thinks, “you really understand me, understand what I want.” Because with so much noise, how do you stand out and get your moment perfectly timed?
The other thing linking to that is the concept of trust. Different industries face different trust challenges at different points in time, but in this case when you think about data, is the information you ask for — and hold — about me the data you need? Or is it actually [just] the data you can have? Because in purest terms, if what you know about me is enough to give me that special experience, give me that moment where actually I want to engage with you in the right way, what about everything else? Are you going to be transparent about everything else that you know?
BoF: What topics should the fashion industry be debating more vigorously?
LP: This is a personal one for me. I think it is around what we’re going to do about our product’s end-to-end life cycle. There are many articles that [BoF] has published on the topic of different revenue streams and consumer models, whether you’re thinking rental, whether you’re thinking new-to-me, or the resale market, I think what starts becoming really interesting is the journey of a product and how you make it distinct to the owner in that moment.
For me I think it’s that whole piece around thinking about the product. If you take a handbag — it doesn’t matter what luxury brand you pick — I might own it for part of its life, I might own that product for 10 years. But actually, what is its journey through potentially multiple hands and owners? I think it’s really interesting from a technology solutions perspective, how you can look at the ownership around that particular product and create unique experiences throughout its life. We’re coming in at unparalleled times to be able to join together the experiences throughout the product’s life and ultimately end up going all the way around from the point it was created and envisaged, all the way through to the point at which it’s destroyed.
There’s also been lot of conversation about whether blockchain does or doesn’t play a role in the data repository across end-to-end journeys and that’s obviously raging as a topic. But I think it’s something that’s we’re going to continue to see as the conversation ensues.
BoF: What are you doing differently in your role this year?
LP: What everyone’s craving is having as perfect a view and as long a time to understand the trends as is humanly possible. It’s very different if you’re talking about luxury [versus] high street, for obvious reasons. For example, what you want to know if you’re a high street retailer is the moment when everyone’s going to want to be buying fluffy slippers and the extent to which you can understand they need to be in pink and have a heel of an inch. The earliest possible moment you can get the insight on the trends so you can essentially commence all manufacturing process and cycles to take advantage of that moment but as importantly realise when that moment is passed. That’s the piece that I really feel people are seeking to understand with greater urgency. Because that’s ultimately fuelling the business.
Do you have a question for Lynda?