When you’re recruiting, will you go High Street or Haute Couture ?

Finding the Fashion Recruitment Agency / Consultancy That’s Perfect for You: 6 Crucial Questions for Businesses and Candidates.  

Deciding which recruitment consultancy to support your business or career with can mean the difference between landing your dream job, finding the perfect match for your business or it can be like fitting a square peg in a round hole. Businesses and Candidates alike need recruitment agencies that are dedicated to delivering their goals and ambitions. This means the recruitment agency must be about people first and foremost before it is about KPIs and targets.

So, how do you decide which Consultant or Agency to work with? Does the size of the agency matter to you? Do you go ‘ready to wear’ with a big-name corporate recruiter? Or do you build a bespoke partnership with a specialist, whose services are tailored to precisely fit your business? How do you find a recruiter that answers all your questions and supports your next career move?

Our Founder and Managing Director of Outside the Box Recruitment Charmain Gyles-Ferguson has over 25 years of experience in the fashion industry; collecting an extensive list of contacts and knowledge along the way. She’s here to provide the practical advice and wisdom that can help you navigate luxury fashion recruitment with six crucial questions answered by OTB.


1 – How Do Recruitment Agencies Like to Work?  

Does your agency want to hit targets or build relationships? The two aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, the better grasp an agency has on its client’s brand and its collection of candidates, the more equipped it is to hit those targets.

So, partnership is key.

With their partnerships, an agency can really get under the skin of their clients and their brands. Likewise for candidates, the more they can get to know their consultant, the better position they’re in to send you into an interview fully equipped and confident that you can get the job. In the era of Covid, meeting face-to-face has been challenging, so Zoom/Teams has become the ‘new face-to-face’. This is still better than having correspondence over the phone – putting a face to a name makes a world of difference. It builds that trust and shows they’re willing to go the extra mile for you.

Can you work with your recruitment agency the way that’s most convenient to you, and which best serves your business, OR are you forced to work the way your recruiter prefers?

For candidates, is your consultant introducing you to roles as a continuation for your career or are they really putting you up for a job they are more interested in filling to make their commission?

Luxury fashion is a competitive, fast-paced market. Nevertheless, for businesses, candidates, and recruiters alike, failing to put in the groundwork, learning and understanding everyone involved in the process can just make the process longer and more complicated than it needs to be.

Take it from Charmain: ‘Getting to know a luxury or premium fashion business, means getting into the structure of the company and the DNA of a brand, their image and individuality, attitudes and communication style. We aim to get a comprehensive feel for the culture and values as well as a detailed appreciation of what’s happening today and for the future.’

As the ‘client’, it is easier to have a single point of contact at your recruitment agency – that’s natural because it’s convenient. But it’s not the way larger agencies are organised.  They have different consultants for different specialities but because you prefer a single point of contact, your requirement gets filtered, and you are forced to work their way through different consultants. The result? More consultants involved in the process, the risk of miscommunication, gaps to misunderstand the brief and personality fit, and the potential for the best candidates to fall through the cracks.


2 – Can Large Agencies Keep a Secret?

Can you be completely confidential with your agency? Do you trust them to operate with discretion and treat the confidential information you give them with the utmost respect?

The larger the agency, the greater the potential for confidentiality breaches.  When a recruiter in a large agency takes a brief which is confidential, they’ll share it across the whole business. They will, of course, mark it as confidential, but they need to share it in order that all recruiters can submit candidates for the role, and meet the business KPI’s. Now several more people know about the role and sooner or later, someone talking to a candidate may accidentally name the client or identify the role; and to what cost to the client?

Charmain says: ‘In a competitive market, trust is critical to any recruitment process. You’ll share confidential information with recruiters – it’s unavoidable. In a boutique agency however, that might be 3-10 people in close contact with one another, but in a corporate agency, it could be substantially more, all eager to meet individual and corporate KPI’s. The fewer external professionals you need to entrust with that ‘warts and all’ picture of your organisation, or the decisions you’re making on expansion or rebranding, the better.’


3 – What’s the Difference Between Boutique and Corporate Agencies?

Boutique agencies can deliver the single point of contact you need, with all the knowledge and expertise to directly service opportunities at every level across your organisation.

Corporate agencies might be in a better position to produce a larger, quicker turn-around of vacancies, and this might be what you’re looking for. Nevertheless, it isn’t necessarily a positive.

They can also suffer from a lack of continuity in the client/recruiter relationship due to their higher staff turnover. As a result, all that knowledge about your business will leave with the departing recruiter.

Charmain notes: ‘A niche agency builds industry knowledge, contacts and connections across the world of businesses like yours. For example, Outside The Box Recruitment brings 25 years’ experience in the luxury fashion and premium brand sector to its clients, an unparalleled level of market intelligence, insight, and a solid reputation for sourcing the best candidates for the job. That knowledge and experience adds value to your organisation.’


4 – How Do You Make the Most of your Brief?

The more detailed the brief, the better the success a recruitment agency will have in securing the ideal candidate. Your brief should go far beyond the job title, location and salary range. It should also include detailed background information on the business, structure,  the team etc.

Corporate agencies will accept a superficial over-the-phone briefing. They will sift through a large amount of candidates on their database. Of course, a wider pool is a bonus, but they might not truly know their candidates beyond the information they have on the screen.

This means it can be difficult to deliver the high-skilled employee and prestige of service luxury fashion demands. This wastes everyone’s time and slows down the process.

This is where a boutique agency is in the best position to get to grips with a brief. They have time to get into the nitty gritty and discover the specific information they know they can pair with their ideal candidates.

Take it from Charmain and how she handles briefs: ‘I like to meet the decision maker, and gather the brief directly from them, then meet their departmental/ managers /  teams. I ask searching questions about issues and challenges within the particular store / office or team. That way I can ensure the brief makes sense. I’ll also be frank in advising my clients if I believe their expectations are realistic or where I think a brief needs revision. That’s where the partnership and trust comes in.’


 5 – Who Does All the Work? 

Larger agencies will do a broad electronic pass across CVs, searching for keywords. They’re likely to present everything they find to their client – because it meets their KPI’s to present quantity over quality.

But in the digital world, it’s not the volume of CV’s that demonstrates an agency’s competency, because any agency can readily access candidates in volume and online. What counts is the screening process the agency performs, based on their specific knowledge of the industry, client’s brand, and the nuances and criteria of the opportunity in question.

So, both candidates and businesses will want to consider how much time the recruitment agency can realistically commit to them. That’s because the true value of an agency is not in presenting many candidates, but the BEST candidates. Would you prefer to spend ten hours in interviews or three?!

Charmain asks: ‘How valuable is your time? Are you happy to pay your agency for a large number of CVs, or do you want to work with the agency who takes the time to understand who you are and what you need, and saves your time by offering you only the best – and the best fit?’


6 – How Has Covid-19 Changed the Face of Recruitment? 

We’re all tired of talking about Covid, but now that we are adjusting to our new normal and

fashion seasons are returning, it’s worth assessing how Covid has changed recruitment and what you should consider in the future.

For larger agencies, managing resources, staffing, office space and other overheads put a huge squeeze on their operations and services. For boutique agencies like OTB, 2020 was still an incredibly challenging year, but because we were able to quickly adapt to operating remotely

the process of down-scaling was nowhere near as challenging as it was for larger agencies.

The fashion market and economy are changing before our eyes, accelerated by the effects of Covid and the lack of international travel. With an escalation of digital and online E-commerce, businesses are considering how they can shift the balance back to delivering personal instore service to their local clients until international travel is fully operational. Businesses need to be flexible and knowledgeable about the demands of both.

Covid-19 remains a real and potentially destabilising threat. That’s why, again, the best preparation you can invest in is a partnership, time, commitment, and transparency with your agency. When times are tough, you want to know they’ll do all they can to support you. Furthermore, you need an agency that has adapted to the changing Covid landscape.

Fortunately, OTB was in the position to maintain those partnership we’ve fostered over years. Check out our A Day in the Life Of with Charmain, she goes into more detail about how Covid changed the face of fashion to ‘our new normal’.


Final Thoughts: 

By now, you probably have an idea of the key takeaways you need to consider when you’re looking for a recruitment agency:

  • Find an agency that is dedicated to building a partnership more than one committed to KPIs and quick turn-over. Especially in the luxury fashion sector, it will be your best investment for the future.
  • Go with an agency that’s the right size for you. Large corporate agencies might be the best fit for the scale of your business. However, if you want a focus on quality over quantity, boutique agencies have the time and tight-knit team ready to serve your brand, preserve confidential information, with a high calibre of well-prepared candidates.
  • Make your brief the best it can be. It empowers your recruiter and helps to make the process simpler and faster.
  • Find an agency that can adapt and prepare for what the future holds. Think about their size, operations and how much time and transparency they’re truly willing to provide.


Outside The Box Recruitment: 

Charmain Gyles-Ferguson is Founder and Managing Director of specialist recruitment agency & consultancy Outside The Box Recruitment, which focuses on the global luxury sectors of fashion, fine jewellery, beauty and lifestyle. With two decades of experience in the luxury sector, Outside The Box Recruitment is a thriving boutique agency with a partnership approach to recruitment and headhunting. Clients include Hermes, LVMH Group, Richemont Group,  Zimmermann and Gabriela Hearst.


Candidates at all levels meet with our Senior Consultants who have extensive industry knowledge. In a detailed interview, they’ll be challenged to think Outside The Box, but will never be pushed into a role that isn’t suitable, just because it’s a live opportunity.


To recruit for your luxury or premium fashion brand, or discuss your next career move, contact Charmain on 020 7169 3000 / 07815 939515


Please follow and like us:
Visit Us
Follow Me

A few words about the article author


Add Your Comment