Frame Retail celebrates five years of fashion recruitment

Rachel Smart interview

Rachel Smart from Frame Retail. Image supplied.

Rachel Smart is the founder of Frame Retail, a specialist fashion recruitment agency that’s celebrating five years in business this month. Frame has grown rapidly from a one woman operation to a team of ten with offices in Auckland, Christchurch, and Wanaka. Rachel and her team have extensive knowledge of the fashion industry and have grown a loyal base of clients and candidates from around the country. Part of what makes Frame so successful is their dedication to getting to know each client’s business and culture in detail so they can find the right person for the job who will thrive in the role.

We caught up with Rachel to find out more about how Frame has evolved, how she manages her business and what her top tips are for landing a fashion job?

Congratulations on celebrating five years of Frame Retail. How did the Frame come about and what has the response been like from the industry and candidates to your business?
Thank you. It’s gone so fast. When I first started Frame, it was a consulting agency specialising in franchise, retail and marketing (hence the acronym Frame). This was purely based on my personal career expertise, and because I had always worked in fashion retail it seemed natural for me to align with the niche market. It quickly became apparent that clients mostly wanted support with recruitment, and so two years in, I made the decision to focus solely on that – I haven’t looked back. Frame now stands for fashion, retail and marketing executive recruitment. Candidates and clients alike have been delighted to discover an elevated recruitment agency that supports the fashion and lifestyle industry.

How has Frame evolved over the past five years and how have you seen the fashion industry evolve in that time too?
We’ve grown from being an agency with just me, to a team of ten, including eight account managers and a marketing manager, with three offices across the country. I’ve hired people who come from the industry and taught them how to recruit the Frame way. Our team is made up of senior retailers (national and regional level), HR, apparel design, production, wholesale, marketing and sales. Having this depth of experience has meant we’ve been able to partner with our clients and advise or consult on department structures, salaries, job descriptions and HR issues. We’ve also largely gone digital in our practices, with registration forms and candidate sign ups being online.

The fashion industry has definitely ramped up their online and digital presence. I’ve seen new marketplaces pop up, and brands have slick websites with a strategic digital marketing plan to drive online sales. Their bricks and mortar stores have become an experience to shop in, with things like styling appointments available, tea, coffee or bubbles etc.  It was always heading that way but I think Covid really sped things up.

How do you balance all the different aspects of owning and running a business while trying to grow it in a manageable way?
Firstly, every January I update and evolve my original business plan. This gives me a chance to reflect on past goals, forecast for the coming year and then plan accordingly. I’ve carefully handpicked my talented team, who have proven to be so capable and are able to take on a lot of my overflow work. I also have my own CEO job description which covers HR, finance, operations, marketing and recruitment, which I breakdown and when it’s getting too much, that’s when I know it’s time to hire. My favourite thing to ask myself is “what’s the best use of my time”. It helps me to prioritise.

What are the current trends in fashion recruitment and where are you seeing areas of growth in the job market?
Over the past 18-24 months, there’s been a huge increase in the number of ecommerce and digital marketing roles advertised at all levels, so many that there is now a talent shortage. This continues to be an area of growth in the job market, along with production managers who are versatile and have both onshore and offshore experience.

What are your top tips for finding and landing a job in the fashion industry?
Register with Frame! We send out a fortnightly newsletter with the latest listings. Otherwise, if you are a graduate, be prepared to intern or start out as an assistant store manager and work your way up to head office. If you are an experienced marketer who loves fashion, then perhaps develop a portfolio that reflects your skills, showing they are transferable to fashion. Lastly, be prepared to take a pay decrease if you are getting into fashion for the first time with no prior experience.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Being able to take 6 months maternity leave from my own business. Knowing that my talented team, led by my associate director at the time Bailey Mark, had everything under control and did a fantastic job in my absence. I was so proud of them, and so grateful as well.

What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
Living in NZ, I would say a quality winter coat.

After a successful first five years what are your plans for the next five years of Frame and where do you see your business heading?
I’ve partnered with The Kite Program to develop a wellbeing and development app for the fashion and retail industry, which launches in September. This will be available for brands to subscribe their teams to, offering a 20 week HR program that focuses on mental health awareness, personal and professional development. It’s a world first app and will be available on the international market. It’s a product I am very excited about delivering to the market.

Overall, Frame will continue to grow. I have my sights set on an office in Wellington, Tauranga, Melbourne and Sydney over the next two years.  We will also develop our client consulting services in the wholesale, business, marketing and HR space.

If you’re looking to fill a role at your fashion business or you’re looking for a great fashion role, you can find out more about working with on their website.

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