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Flexible Working in the Fashion Industry

Written by

Laurent Piffaut

Posted on

December 1, 2022

Why did I leave my corporate career in fashion to start a new business?

I am Laurent Piffaut, one of the three co-founders of Dweet, the first talent platform dedicated to the fashion, beauty & luxury industry.

I often get asked what prompted me to pivot away from 18 years of corporate experience and develop a completely new platform that facilitates flexible working? The simple answer is that I believed in the need for a working (r)evolution. And also I had my own, what Oprah calls, ‘aha’ moment.

I love working within the fashion and luxury sector as I find that companies are very client-focused, creative and fast-paced. You operate in a very selective and demanding ecosystem, selling products and experiences that bring joy and pride to the lucky few purchasing them. It can be glamorous and exciting but what truly makes it special for me is the people I find myself surrounded by. Super creative, innovative and excited individuals form a critical part of this creative world.

However as with any industry this sector comes with its own challenges. Fashion is not known for its nimble approach to internal structures. We are not like tech or finance. We do not pivot very easily. Management can sometimes feel a bit traditional and hierarchical and I’ve seen many talented people have to compensate for a lack of structure and resources. Or conversely I found myself stuck within an excessively red taped bureaucracy, making hiring additional resource or trialing a new way of working… difficult. This is so frustrating in an environment already stretched in trying to deliver an effortless dream.

For me the idea of flexible working was born during an intense period at a well established fashion brand. As Global Retail Director I was overseeing a team operationally throughout Europe, Asia and America. On top of our day-to-day we were also opening a new store in Los Angeles. This venture was consuming a lot of time and energy from my team. At the same time we were dealing with a crisis at our Madison Avenue store where a senior member of staff had to leave on very short notice. Already at capacity we were scrambling to deal with this unforeseeable and quite stressful situation. I started getting frustrated at what seemed like long lead times and complicated recruitment processes to find someone who needed to start immediately.

Luckily a colleague knew someone who recommended a very well qualified contractor, smoothing the gap in NYC. It was a hole that was skillfully plugged and we ended up hiring that individual on a permanent basis. But I was left thinking about what would have happened if we hadn’t miraculously found this person. Where would we go if this happened again? If it happened in Europe? In France for example there was not a community you could turn to in these types of situations. For very junior staff there were temping agencies but for fashion specific mid- and senior-roles no clear solution existed.

Why do we need to change the way we work & hire in the fashion & luxury industry?
As humans we are the unpredictable part of the businesses we work for. We go on sick leave. We move countries or find a role more suited to our career progression. There are planned absences such as maternity leave but also flash-in-the-pan emergencies that need to be dealt with.

This is especially true in an unsettled post-pandemic world. Our ways of working have shifted. The pandemic has forced brands and talent alike to consider remote working. Some employees realised they wanted more freedom and flexibility. Some employers found that their work could be organised more efficiently. The economic uncertainty of lockdowns also made some businesses think twice before hiring permanent staff. Access to on-demand skilled workers suddenly became more appealing.

Also not everyone wants to stay with a company for 20 years, taking 4 weeks annual holiday and retiring when they are told the time is supposedly right. I didn’t. I wanted to watch my daughter’s dance recital or take some time off to move house and help the kids settle into new schools. At the risk of sounding trite, work life balance became a key focus for me. Life is not made up of free-standing quadrants. Work becomes intertwined with various other commitments and after 18 years I was ready to pivot and be my own boss. People have always been my passion so the idea of Dweet was natural for me. As was joining forces with my now co-founders Eli Duane and Andreas Asprou. Three heads are definitely better than one with this scope of work and innovation.

We believe flexible working has the power to transform brands and enable people to live life on their own terms. An interactive expert talent marketplace dedicated to the fashion and luxury Industry allows brands to scale their teams on demand and also makes sure that whoever enters their workforce has a stamp of approval from people in the know. Basically our platform means people are working ‘smarter’. And that’s what flexible working is all about. If fashion and luxury brands are scared to dip into the freelance pool I would like to reassure you – it’s not about changing the work itself. It’s about revolutionising the way we work. That’s the difference.

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