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A view from the top: Jamie Gill

Written by: ICAEW Insights
Published on: 23 Feb 2024

We meet chartered accountant Jamie Gill, who has devised a programme to help professionals of colour from outside the fashion industry break into leadership roles in the sector.


Jamie Gill

By his own admission, Jamie Gill has always been intrigued by the fashion industry. But growing up in a working-class family in a former mining town in the Midlands to Indian parents, he admits that the glitz and glamour of the Gucci campaign lifestyle he aspired to was a million miles away from his reality.

Despite harbouring secret ambitions of studying fashion, Gill decided to express his creative side via a degree in architecture, something that he felt would be more accepted by his parents. “I graduated in the thick of the recession and really struggled, going from one small architecture practice to another. I just couldn't make a career out of it and didn't earn any money.” 

One of Gill’s friends was on a training contract at Deloitte studying the ACA and suggested Jamie might want to follow suit. The creative aspects of his architecture background was embraced by the firm, he says, and also highlighted to Gill how experience of other sectors can make for a more rounded accountant.

“Throughout my four and a half years at Deloitte, working across a client portfolio of luxury goods and real estate, I saw the benefit of being trained as an architect in a financial services firm, and I was able to use my creativity in a professional services environment.” 

At the same time, the growing focus on DEI at the firm – and across the Big Four generally – struck a chord. As a gay man, Gill says the exposure to role models from diverse backgrounds was a huge factor in his decision to come out. 

“When I saw partners, who were gay, and they were leading divisions, that gave me the courage to come out. I didn't do it through my architecture degree. I didn't do it through school. As soon as I was at Deloitte, I felt that I could really be myself. I will always be grateful for that journey.”

Gill’s passion for fashion undiminished, he left Deloitte age 25 and headed to India to turn his dream of running a fashion business into reality, an experience he describes as his real-life MBA.  On returning to London, Gill worked at a venture capital fund investing in fashion and luxury brands, quickly rising up the ranks to investment director. It led to Gill becoming CEO of Roksanda in March 2018, a position he held for over four years. 

“It was that accounting and financial skill set that enabled me to look at the business and say, let's get this into profitability, let's scale this and raise our brand awareness. Coming from an alternate industry, it’s easier to challenge the status quo.”

In September 2020, Gill became a non-executive director of the British Fashion Council, the body  that promotes British fashion designers around the world and the organisation behind London Fashion Week. His remit included a focus on the lack of diversity across the fashion industry. “We could see the world struggle with Black Lives Matter but nobody knew what to do. Nothing was moving.”

His passion for DEI combined with first-hand experience of the benefits of other-industry experience has spawned Gill’s current brainchild - a not-for-profit incubator to increase representation of people of colour in the luxury fashion sector. “We're struggling with representation in the fashion industry and we're also really struggling with succession planning and talent. So, I set up an organisation that addresses the two.”

The Outsiders Perspective sources diverse candidates looking to get a Jimmy Choo-clad foot (other brands are available) in the fashion door. “There's great talent out there from alternative industries that just isn’t visible because they're getting vetoed for not having the industry experience,” Gill says. 

Sponsored by fashion brands The Outsiders Perspective helps candidate to identify and develop transferable skills, and gives them access to industry mentors and industry insight to increase their chances of career success – while also trying to move the dial on DEI across the sector.

“Effectively, you get a crash course in working in fashion and pivoting your skills from the business vertical that you're already in. We'll go through the nuances of what's going on in the industry, the skills you need to transfer to a finance role in fashion. But we want to increase the visibility of highly- skilled talent from underrepresented communities.” 

In January this year, The Outsiders Perspective together with the (Fashion) Minority Report and the British Fashion Council, with the support of McKinsey & Company published The UK Fashion DEI report. It highlighted the huge gulf between the diversity of catwalks, campaigns and consumers and the workforce and decision makers.  

“DEI is often seen as a social impact imperative and rarely seen as an imperative for economic success, yet data proves that those businesses who do embrace it, thrive,” the report says. McKinsey research has found that having a diverse leadership team means you are 39% more likely to financially outperform than those who don’t.

Unfortunately, the industry has been plagued with a lack of clarity on what the leadership trajectory is in this industry, Gill says. “It's not clear how you become a CEO of fashion brand. Historically, it's been very insular. Edward Enninful at British Vogue has really changed the narrative but we need to be running this forward. At The Outsiders Perspective we lay out a strategy for industry of how to do it.” 

Now working with its fourth cohort of fashion industry hopefuls, the organisation has partnered with around 20 household name fashion brands including Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Chanel, and the British Fashion Council. The programme culminates in a speed networking where candidates meet fashion industry leaders and compete for active roles. 

Gill says he’d love to receive applications from accountants who want to work in fashion and that would also meet his objective of professionalising the industry. “The fashion industry contributes significantly to GDP, but because it's creative, it’s seen as soft, fluffy. It’s also true that there’s a high failure rate across the fashion sector because designers don’t necessarily have the business skill sets.

“We need the rigour that accountants bring to stress test the numbers, perform due diligence to enable the creatives to thrive.”

Find out more about the Fashion, Luxury and Beauty Programme for Non-Industry Professionals with The Outsiders Perspective


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