RACHEL FOX
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One Week at the Superdry Head Office

During Graduate Fashion Week in London 2018, I was approached by a Superdry representative. After our chat, I provided my email address and was emailed back with the contact details of an individual in HR. I was working last summer so did not have time for a placement, however at the start of 2019, I emailed again to enquire about work experience at the head office during this summer break.

I was lucky to be accepted straight away and was set to be part of the marketing department for a five day placement; however as a result of movement in the teams within the organisation they could no longer accommodate me. Having said this, it was rearranged for me to go into different teams for a couple of days each. 

I travelled down to Cheltenham, a place I had never visited before, on the Sunday, in preparation for starting the working week. I stayed in a hotel round the corner from the office which made it very convenient to get in each morning. Living three hours away from Cheltenham meant that commuting was not a feasible option for me.

I previously assumed that all head offices would be in London, or at least a large city; however Cheltenham may be small in comparison but was beautiful, with multiple parks and gardens. This is somewhere I can imagine myself working in the future, outside of a busy city, but still surrounded by shops, activities, greenery and the countryside. 

Despite the change of plan, I was very happy with the new teams I was placed in as it gave me the opportunity to experience different creative areas and gave me such a broad perspective of the roles that are available in a Head Office environment. Furthermore, it helped me to compare and contrast each area and allowed me to have a better understanding of the type of job I could see myself in most in the future. 

The Head Office spanned a vast area but from the street, it was only obvious that the Reception and restaurant was owned by Superdry. I was shown at least 8 buildings that house the different departments, many of which go back further than can be seen and are deceivingly large inside. It is really like a mini complex on adjacent sides of the one street. 

On Monday I was placed in the Photography Studio, Tuesday was Digital Design and the rest of my week was in the Visual Merchandising creative team. Although I had a very limited time with each department, it was enough to see an average day in each and helped me to understand the roles and responsibilities that are required. 

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STUDIO

My first day was in the Photography Studio which is an area that I have had very little experience of. I was in the small videography team for the day; shadowing two of the members in particular, providing me with a day-in-the-life insight into their team projects and operations. 

My morning consisted of observing Morgan work on Instagram Story edits and 2D design for the ‘Back To It’ back to school collection 2019 and their promo stories for their A/W ‘19 Superdry Sports range. I was taken through the basics of Adobe After Effects, especially in terms of applying copy onto already edited and colour graded footage. The aim was to create synergy across all of the moving image stories to ensure it was clear stylistically and that they all were promoting the same collection. The focus was on the position, opacity and effects of the copy.

I now have a greater awareness of time frames, baselines and the graphs to illustrate this as well as simple effects such as motion blur to allow the animated copy to look more dynamic. Morgan also showed me the mini briefs he is given for all of the projects and how he logs his time and progress into the deadlines. Some of the stories were in response to feedback and therefore a redesign was needed to fit the new requirements. I found it very interesting seeing a brand Instagram story come together, especially how they make the call to action stand out from the rest of the copy. For example, he gave the ‘Swipe Up’ text a bounce motion to emphasize the interactive element and link of the story. 

In the afternoon, I sat with Zoe and gained a behind-the-scenes insight into how an e-commerce product shoot is staged: the styling element, model direction and the different shots and framing captured. It was not only a static garment shoot for the shop section of the website, but also to capture fashion videography, ten second e-commerce clips. This would be used to complement and add an organic element for the consumer so they can get a more realistic feel for the garments’ texture/material, movement and overall fit.

Zoe sat down with me and explained her editing process on Adobe Premier Pro of their short clips, including selecting, cropping and composition. These could be then resized on the same platform to be suitable for a range of social channels. I found it fascinating how Zoe combined her wide angle shots with her close-up details; she ensured she had a single movement in both formats so that she could crop sections together to smoothly go from a wide shot to a close up of a similar action. The aim for these was to ensure the narrative/story flowed, rather than cutting between random clips. For example, if the hood of a coat was put up, it cannot be down again in the next shot if the model didn’t place it down herself. 

I was surprised how dynamic the shoots were; the shots were rapid, with a single take in each quick change of position, before transitioning onto the next piece, with help from the makeup person and the in-house stylist. This just showed me that professionals aim to get it right first time to speed up the whole process. 

As a result of the shoot finishing ahead of schedule, Zoe spent time explaining the basics of her filming equipment. This included the optimum ISO, F value and shutter speed for different situations. After this, I was able to experiment with the different settings and play with a camera and gimbal which allows the rotation of the camera about a single axis. I had a try at panning shots and rotating the camera around a static product. Lastly, I was given a quick overview of basics of Premier Pro including how to organise files, cropping and selecting clips, different effects, colouring and title layers. 

I definitely need to practice and experiment with both of the software that I was exposed to for the first time, but I found it very beneficial to be shown one-on-one the basics so I have a good idea of where to start.

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DIGITAL DESIGN

Digital design is responsible for the creation of elements for Superdry’s websites in 28 different countries. I now understand that individual elements are designed before setting them live, rather than creating it as a whole. As well as this, they create the ad banners and affiliate links that appear on third party sites.

To give me an overview of design techniques, I completed a few activities at the start of my day. These included Pixactly, looking at pixel sizes, Kerntype, the spacing between letters and another one based on experimenting with coding. 

Creative Types was another test that I took; I came out as a Maker creative type. This outcome explained my personality perfectly: strengths of focus and dedication, untapped potential of taking creative risks and finding joy and play in the process. Other attributes include always wanting to solve the problem, striving towards personally meaningful goals, driven by tangible results and being the quiet type.

After this, I was given a short brief to work on for the rest of the day. My task was to create a Superdry email newsletter suitable for a laptop/tablet. I designed a newsletter to promote the top picks for the summer months, paying close attention to the composition, layout, copy and spacing between the individual elements. I wanted to ensure there was a consistent colour palette across the whole outcome and include relaxed copy-writing to mirror the Superdry brand tone of voice and image. 

The feedback on my final Photoshop was positive and what I had created would be something they would send out to consumers themselves. Following this approval, I sliced the design into sections and exported it and then imported into Adobe Dreamweaver. This is also software I had never come across before. Working on building my actual newsletter in Dreamweaver gave me a basic understanding of coding. I successfully uploaded my images to the template, changing the sources and updating the links through to the website and social channels. For example, where the copy says, ‘Shop Now’, the links take the consumer through to the appropriate sections of the site, making purchasing convenient and quick.  

I really enjoyed taking my email newsletter design from the basic template to a fully linked and functioning outcome that would be effectively ready to send out to consumers’ emails. Coding is a skill that I had never previously experienced, but I believe I now have a greater understanding of the terminology and symbols. 

Lastly, I was taken by the team to a ‘Huddle’ meeting where individuals from different departments share what they have achieved and/or give updates for the week. The aim is to allow the whole company to be kept in the loop with technological advancements, new starters, revenue and turnover values and future happenings and changes. This was a great insight into the business as a whole and the relaxed but inclusive nature of the business. 

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VM

I was thrown into the Visual Merchandising design team with a ‘Huddle’ hour-long meeting where deadlines, actions and changes were discussed. The main changes were around their model for the four sub-brands and core Superdry brand with greater focus on their style choices: sports, vintage, streetwear and minimal.

 I worked with Des, the Senior Creative Global VM Manager on five mood-boards to illustrate the VM visualisations for each of the style choices, focusing on A/W 2020 so Des could pitch them on the Friday. The mood-boards included inspiration, props, mock-up, considerations, layout and rough costings. This was whilst working to a budget of £2,000 per style. I found it very useful with Des having separated a large board into sections so we could both clearly see what was needed to create the full narrative.

 My role was therefore to research, source and cost all of the elements needed to create style choices VM. Des had a vision in mind and my task was to find the appropriate props for these. For example, for the Superdry Sport sub-brand, I sourced and priced up a fridge and the energy food and drink to fill it – I used a rough sketch to help me plan the quantities needed and placement. This was as well as appropriate books to go on the display, imagery for the walls and recipe cards for each sport; the aim was to create a more holistic approach to sport and therefore a more interactive in-store experience. I was focusing my attention on yoga, training and running.

For the Superdry core brand, I was again tasked with researching the accessories to build the VM outcome. This had a contrasting aesthetic to the natural sporting interior; largely a look inspired by Americana and which had a more rustic feel. Elements that I sourced included globes, tarpaulin sheets, baskets and crates, artificial plants, rugs, whisky and vintage maps of America. Other themes that were the central focus for the other boards were minimalism/paired-back, vibrant and neon signage, industrial, vintage and heritage.

I had never really done any sourcing or costing before and therefore it was another learning experience for me to get involved in. I have created mood boards, but never with a clear plan of what they needed to cover and display. I will definitely take the initial stage of sectioning with pieces of paper forward as it really helped me to stay focused on what was needed, rather than wasting time researching less important elements. It was similarly great to work with an individual who is bringing such fresh and innovative ideas into the business and who has such a clear vision in mind.

The mood-boards were a lot rougher than I would usually create; I like to produce a digital only, perfectly aligned and visually pleasing, yet clear, layout. However, going through this process has shown me that in industry, immaculate boards are not needed to get the picture and message across. In many ways, a rougher looking board suggests it is a work in progress and therefore one that is open for constructive feedback. I also enjoyed the physical element of pinning the pieces together on the large board to create the full picture. 

The second day entailed printing and cutting everything found from the day before. The individual images were used to compose the five boards for the Style Choices, ensuring all of the imagery was complementary so that the picture was clear and did not include anything that would juxtapose and therefore confuse the desired aesthetic and style. Pins were used initially to position the elements, only sticking them on when we were happy with the compositions. 

We also needed to focus on creating a consistency between each board, making sure elements were in the same position across all, as well as paying attention to the general layout. Formatting pricing into a unified table was another task, similarly considering the small details and the items that could be used within the interior to cement the theme. Screen-capturing the suppliers for each element would aid the buying process when everything was approved.

During the pitch, Des focused largely on the texture, lighting, architectural structure and key deciding features for each board. He similarly spoke through the key considerations and rough intentions for each. This provided a real insight into what goes into the building of a new season, as well as how to connect with the consumer and portray the garment designs and theme comprehensively.

I found it fascinating over hearing conversations around the design process of the garments and accessories, including the colour ways, details and quality considerations, as well as what they consider would be the start pieces. I also witnessed some of the individuals creating artwork with graphics tablets which was equally as fascinating.

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Overall I enjoyed each area that I had the opportunity to experience. As I expected, I felt most comfortable in the Digital Design department as layout and composition is an element that I like focusing on. This week has confirmed the areas that I can see myself working in in the future, as well as eliminating a few roles that I do not think I would be as strong in, videography being one of them. Likewise, I now have a whole new body of contacts that may be beneficial in the near future.

It was such a fast-paced week for me and I really had to push myself out my comfort zone to get involved as much as I could. It was a completely new environment as I have only ever had experience in growing businesses, never a global established brand like Superdry. Having said this, I did very much love the dynamic of working within a large scale setting; there seemed to be a wide range of opportunities to get involved in creativity. Everyone was so welcoming and open to helping me and providing me with advice. The experience was very valuable as I have built on my exciting skills which I will take into my final year and beyond. 

Rachel 

PlacementsRachel Fox