So What Do Fashion Consultants Do?

Clue: they are not the people posing around outside the shows at Fashion Week

Katherine Fleming

Hailing from: Tory Burch, where Ms. Fleming spent seven years as a designer and launched the brand’s accessories collection. Ms. Fleming began consulting in 2008 to fund her own handbag line and realized she preferred it to design.

Expertise: Helping launch brands, particularly in the accessories space. Creating logos for handbags and hardware, as well as branding and design. “Handbags are the building blocks of any brand,” said Ms. Fleming. “If you don’t have a bag line, you don’t have a place to express what your brand is about.”

Client Base: Tory Burch, Figue, and Diesel, for whom she spends half of the year in Italy overseeing the accessories under artistic director Nicola Formichetti.

Mantra: “Function in disaster. Finish in style,” said Ms. Fleming. “Every season, every company has some nightmare, whether it’s production or a show. Something always falls apart and it’s about problem solving and staying calm.”

Meredith Melling and Valerie Boster La Marque

Hailing from: Vogue, where they spent a combined total of 26 years. Ms. Boster as bookings editor, where she cast all models and oversaw hair and makeup for the magazine’s many shoots, and Ms. Melling as senior market editor, and later fashion director at Vogue.com.

Expertise: Using their editorial backgrounds to help brands create narratives across multiple platforms. The women also introduce clients to what, and who, is considered cool—whether it’s styling a pant for the staff at Theory, or connecting Carolina Herrera to their Rolodex of “it girls” for a campaign. “It’s figuring out ways to explore and expand a vision and identify new faces, from models to bloggers,” said Ms. Boster. “It’s telling a story that should then inform everything from the social media content to the mannequins.” They also styled models Karlie Kloss and Ruby Aldridge for the 2014 Met Costume Institute Ball.

Client Base: Theory, Tiffany, Ferragamo, for whom they styled a campaign for the brand’s Fiamma bag, featuring Princess Melusine Ruspoli, Lola and Stella Schnabel, and Anika Poitier

Mantra: Strive for perfection. The women’s tenure at Vogue informs their work ethic in the smallest of ways. “Our intention is to attend to even the tiniest details,” said Ms. Melling. “We learned from Anna [Wintour] that every little element means so much, down to the punctuation of an email.”

Jenné Lombardo The Terminal Presents

Hailing from: Sean John fragrances and MAC Cosmetics, where for over six years Ms. Lombardo was executive director of global fashion, talent and special events. As other companies began approaching her, Ms. Lombardo realized she would rather work with multiple brands on a consultancy basis.

Expertise: Helping companies stay relevant by building strategic marketing plans that target millennials and Generations X and Y. “I have a sixth sense of understanding the social patterns and habits of young consumers,” said Ms. Lombardo. “If one more brand does something with a skateboard and thinks it’s cool, then they’re not doing their job.”

Client Base: Westfield Mall, Pepsi, Playboy.

Mantra: Collaboration is key. “I feel strongly about brand partnerships and collaborations,” said Ms. Lombardo. “I don’t believe in the lone soldier. We all have to work together to help brands create ideal experiences for the consumer.”

Roopal Patel Roopal Patel Consulting

Hailing from: Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and most recently Moda Operandi, where she served as the executive fashion director before parting with the company in June 2012. While on holiday that summer, she realized her professional experience was a commodity she could sell. “Very naturally people began calling me up and saying, ‘Maybe you can help us with this,’ or ‘Can we pick your brain on this?’ ” said Ms. Patel. Roopal Patel Consulting was formed three months later.

Expertise: Retail. Guiding brands and retailers towards sales goals at a quicker pace than they would accomplish on their own. “It’s a race, and I want to help clients get there and stay competitive in an industry that is always changing,” said Ms. Patel. “Projects I take on must have a retail element involved. I’m forever a shop girl. It’s what I do best.”

Client Base: Joor, a new retail app, the CFDA Fashion Incubator, Prabal Gurung, who sought Ms. Patel’s services for his footwear launch.

Mantra: It’s all about the return. “In retail, there has to be an ROI (return on investment) so you need knowledge of what business is today and how to grow it.”

“I’m a fashion consultant” is the new career claim popping up around the industry since blogging has finally been categorized into those that do (make money) and can therefore claim a seat at the table and those who don’t. Consulting of any kind is a mysterious career notion that has crept into parlance over recent years. Legitimately a thing in banking and finance, consulting, however, in the creative industries casts a suspicious pall over the claimant. “Who are your clients?” “Where can we see your work?” are always the key questions.

Beetling about back stage at shows or setting up angles for the best shot of the runway, genuine fashion consultants are usually far too busy to pose outside shows. Oiling the wheels of the industry’s biggest brands, they work quietly behind the scenes helping companies, even the most traditional ones, navigate new marketing and retail terrain. Mainly former journalists or marketing directors, their skills enable companies to become their own storytellers, authors and “content publishers.”

Click through the slideshow to see how a few fashion consultants we asked describe their day to day.

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