'It just felt like it was a tactic to kick the can': The Outsiders Perspective founder Jamie Gill on the diversity challenges impacting the luxury industry

The chair of Luxury Law Summit London on his drive to make the 'highly networked' luxury sector more open to talented people from diverse backgrounds

Jamie Gill Photo courtesy of The Outsiders Perspective

Jamie Gill, founder of The Outsiders Perspective, talks about the diversity challenges in the luxury and fashion industry and how his initiative is helping expand the potential talent pool. Gill will be chairing Global Legal Post’s event the Luxury Law Summit London in June.

What was your motivation for creating The Outsiders Perspective?

“I was asked to join the board of the British Fashion Council in September 2020 on the back of the Black Lives Matter movement. At that time, most industries including fashion and luxury were trying to up their diversity efforts by hiring diversity and inclusion leaders, setting up steering committees and sending out press releases to say we’re on top of this issue. But then when I looked to see what was really happening, it just felt like it was a tactic to kick the can. There are some grass-root initiatives that are happening to engage marginalised communities and get them thinking about a career in luxury and fashion. But those efforts have a very long-term lead time before you would see any tangible change. So The Outsiders Perspective was born out of a need to create an immediate practical solution to the diversity issue – it is as much a talent initiative as it is a representation initiative. There is no obvious training ground in fashion and luxury so where do you look for talent? Where do you get a smart finance director who can run a fashion and luxury brand? So we scout them, train them up and teach them the nuances of the industry and then start matchmaking them with our brand partners for a potential career.”

What are the biggest obstacles that people from under-represented groups face in the fashion and luxury?

“Like many desirable industries, but particularly fashion and luxury, there’s no obvious entry route if you’re not connected – it’s a highly networked industry. So if you’re not connected, it's really hard fundamentally to get your foot in the door, especially at a junior to mid-level. The industry has historically been quite insular and hasn’t welcomed outsiders, and that’s not racially motivated in any way, it’s just a byproduct of that insularity and a lack of an access route for new talent. That is why a lot of brands are partnering with us because they see they can get access to a talent pool that they wouldn’t have had access to before, while candidates see an inroad into the industry without having to start again at the bottom.”

How have you seen luxury brands adjust their approach to diversity since setting up The Outsiders Perspective?

“Most brands are recognising the need to reflect their customers operationally and the benefit of new perspective in general. In six months of launching, we’ve got 20 leading fashion brands onboard, including Victoria Beckham, Burberry, Mulberry, Chanel, Versace and Jimmy Choo. So the list is growing. They just see it as a practical, immediate solution to source smart talent. That’s why it’s landed because there’s an output to engagement with us – it’s not mentoring for the sake of mentoring. We’re not a CSR initiative, we’re a business solution.”

How does diversity sit within the broader ESG goals at luxury businesses?

“Climate is number one – the conversation around sustainability has been understood for some time now. With diversity, we’re closer to when the conversation around sustainability was happening about seven or eight years ago. Back then sustainability was considered a great to have but we still need to just do the basics first, and that’s where people are with diversity today – it needs to follow a similar path. The fashion and luxury consumer is super diverse. That diversity might be represented in ad campaigns but it is not represented in the people who are actually operating these businesses.”

You are chairing the Luxury Law Summit in June. What are you looking forward to most?

“I’ve known about the Luxury Law Summit for years so I’m really excited to have been invited. I think the law firms and brands who are going to be in the room can really support The Outsiders Perspective initiative and understand the business case for representation as well as the fairness point. So it’s definitely an audience that I thought could really understand the conversation and take it forward. I’m also really interested to understand the broader thinking and insights about where we are with ESG and sustainability today and what we need to be thinking about to get ahead of the curve.”

Luxury Law Summit London takes place on Tuesday 13 June. Click here to read the agenda and here to book your place at the summit. For sponsorship opportunities, contact [email protected].

Get to know Jamie…

How did you get into the luxury industry?

“I’m a creative at heart, I studied architecture and so I have always had an appreciation of design. Naturally brand has always sat closely with design and that’s why brand and luxury has always been an interest of mine. I’ve always bought into the ideology of what that luxury lifestyle could be. My own career trajectory has been a weird and windy avenue, I trained as an architect and then became a chartered accountant, before moving into venture capital and running a fashion and luxury brand.”

Given your architecture background, what is your favourite building?

“My favourite building has to be St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Every time I look at it, it just still takes me away. The intricacy and the beauty and the consideration in symmetry and form of material and scale, and its prominent position in London. We’ll never create anything like that again. I have an appreciation for modern architecture but the level of investment and structure that would be needed to actually create St. Paul’s again I find fascinating.”

What is your favourite luxury item that you own?

“That’s a hard one. I think it has to be one of my watches. I’ve got a particular Breitling watch that I got for my 21st birthday and still feels brand new. It’s got a bright electric blue dial face on it. It’s discontinued now so every time I wear it, because of the unusual colour face on it, everyone is like, what is that?”

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