Interview with Lauretta Roberts of WGSN

I met while she was the editor of Drapers. She’s friendly, smart, knowledgeable and loads of fun, everything you expect a true fashionista to be! Since I met Lauretta she relaunched Drapers and now she’s doing the same at WGSN. It takes a person with tremendous vision and knowledge to create a successful relaunch and I really wanted to know how she does it.

What was your first fashion job?
Ooh, technically I guess it was when I was a sales assistant at Next in Covent Garden in the early nineties. I did it to fund my masters degree (I studied languages). I worked on menswear and I really enjoyed it. I learned how to do made to measure and I was particularly good at selling shoes; I always managed to talk men into buying a better pair. They’d always start looking at the ones with the synthetic sole and leave with a pair of handstitched leather ones. I never set out to work in fashion specifically though, much though I loved it, I wanted to be a journalist and I eventually came into fashion via that route.

You’re Digital Development Director at WGSN, what do you do on a daily basis?

Right now, it’s a lot of meetings, which is not normal! We’re on the cusp of relaunching the site and so am spending a lot of time with our technology integrators and editors to check on progress. It’s very intense. Going forward it is my job to help identify and implement new features and services that WGSN can offer – that involves a lot of talking to customers and the many specialists we have here – and I already have a list as long as my arm for things to do after the launch of the new site. It’s not all necessarily site related; in parallel to our relaunch project I am working on the establishment of our first Global Fashion Awards, which take place in November in New York. That’s pretty exciting! I love doing events.

With so much free information on the web about trends why are trend companies like WGSN relevant?
I get asked this a lot and I understand why, but there is simply nothing that you can get online for free that compares to WGSN. We have hundreds of industry experts feeding into our site (most free sites or blogs are just the view of one person, who may well be very credible, but they are just one person). Our specialists have industry expertise and experience in everything from colour to knitwear to lingerie, as well as denim, textiles, kidswear, menswear, womenswear, retail strategy, visual merchandising; everything really!
These specialists are predicting consumer, retail and fashion trends up to five years out. Many of the trends you see on the catwalks and at trade shows have already been called by WGSN, so if you’re waiting for the catwalks to see what’s going on then you’re already behind the curve.
Plus, we’re a global force, we have contributors in dozens of countries scanning the stores, streets and scenes for inspiration and information. Even if you argued that you could get some of that information elsewhere (such as catwalks for instance), our analysis of it comes from the eye of an expert who has worked in the industry and has had to translate that kind of information into a saleable and desirable product, so you can really trust their view.
And I haven’t even got started on the thousands of downloadable CADs, prints, graphics, palettes, brushes and fills. Our motto is inspiration, insight and action. We show people what is going to happen, explain what it will mean for them and then give them the tools to do something about it.
You just can’t get all that for free online no matter how many hundreds of sites you visit.

You were editor in chief at Haymarket for 10 years. What does an editor in chief do?
Yes, I was. I was looking after a group of titles for the print media market and I loved it. I had editors report in to me and my role was to focus on ensuring the quality of content across all channels but also developing new opportunities. I worked on launches and relaunches and we licensed some of our brands internationally. That was what the role meant for me and am not sure if that’s typical of all editors in chief, as some of them are only focused on one title.

I was really happy at Haymarket – it’s a lovely business – but then the headhunters for Emap and Drapers came calling. Combining my twin passions for media and fashion was a prospect that was difficult to resist.

As an editor in chief what was your biggest challenge?

Same as it is now really. Too much to do, not enough time in the day. I’ve somehow always had jobs that have involved juggling lots of different things and it’s hard to sustain the pace, but I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d be bored!

In 2007 along with its website you relaunched Drapers and created the Drapers Etail Awards. What was the most interesting aspect of your work?
You can see a theme there can’t you? Launches and relaunches, plus the online aspect of fashion has always held a great deal of fascination for me so I’ve been lucky in having been able to launch products in that space. WGSN relaunch will be the biggest by far. I just like to do create new things or rejuvenate existing products – it’s exciting and challenging and it’s always a collaboration between different groups of people and that’s very rewarding.

What is your favourite shop?

That is hard because I have many for different reasons (I’ve just started to blog about them at, but I need to spend more time on it as it’s very early days).

When it comes to who gets most of my money I would have to say; it just speaks to me in terms of aesthetic and price point, and I can shop from my desk, which I often do when I’m having a tough day! Or, indeed when am having a good day or mediocre day…!

If I had more money I’d spend it in Matches. I lived in Wimbledon for 10 years, where the original store is, and I watched it go from being a nice local boutique to a fashion powerhouse with an international reputation. And I just love Tom and Ruth Chapman; they are so energetic, innovative and customer focused.

I’m a big department store fan too and I get a surge of excitement when I go into a good one; I love Selfridges and Fenwick and I really wish someone would pick up Printemps and put it in London. Am nothing short of obsessed with French brands; always have been a total francophile.

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