Transcript: #MathsTrainsBrains - Kellie Hush with Eddie Woo

Watch this video at education.nsw.gov.au/everyday-maths.

Transcript

- Hey, I'm Eddie Woo. This is Education Live. We're talking about Maths in the everyday world and it's a great delight for me to be here with my friend and fashion expert Kellie Hush. Kelly thanks for joining us today.

- Hi Eddie, how are you?

- I'm fantastic and just really glad that we get the opportunity to speak with you about how Mathematics is part of the work that you do every day. Before we start talking about that, where are we right now?

- We are in Carla Zampatti's design studio, and we have the machinists behind us who are actually making a dress, which is going into the new collection. So, Spring Summer 2020.

- Fantastic.

- So they'll make the sample and Carla will approve it. But before that, the pattern was being made by Nam in the background who's the Head Pattern Maker. Then Carla will try it on. She still loves to try everything on and then she will approve it. And if she loves it, then we'll go into production. And probably eight to 12 weeks. We'll see it in store.

- Amazing. It's a great journey from idea, inception all the way to actually being on store floors. Now it's great to understand what's happening here, but I wanna know a bit more about you, Kellie. You've been in the industry

- Too long

- For long enough now that you've got many, many different hats that you've worn in the fashion space. Could you give us a bit of a sense of your trajectory through this one and the different roles you've taken on in there?

- I started my career in the media. I always wanted to be a Journalist, but I worked out pretty quickly that I could combine two passions, which was Fashion and Journalism. So I entered into Fashion Journalism and ended up being Editor-in-Chief of Harper's Bazaar, which was the best job in Australia, in publishing. And then I left there and launched a retail business which was exciting. Very different to what I'd done for two decades but learnt a lot. And I've worked with Carla as well on her business. So I've been able to use that Journalism and that Fashion career to go into other things which has been great.

- It's amazing. Now--

- Diversity

- 100%. Now, speaking of like the nuts and bolts of fashion. I'm looking at some of the designs over here and I'm trying to understand from a mathematics standpoint, like the geometry here, it's kind of, you know, we've got these flat fabrics and you know, we've gotta wrap them around this three dimensional, unusual shape, a human body. And it's even hard enough mathematicians talk about trying to take the world. Which is just a simple round sphere and how challenging it is to turn that into a flat surface. Can you tell us a bit about trying to do that in reverse with a garment like this?

- Oh no, I can show you. Well, I think you know this is the final garment. So this is a sample that is in the new collection but basically it starts out like a piece of paper which is the pattern. And then that's the collar, right?

- Right, so this is how it fits on.

- That's how it fits on. So it gives you a sense, you cut the fabric to that. But I suppose this even looks crazier?

- Yeah, where's that gonna fit?

- It's the sleeve.

- Right so this is on the shoulder?

- Yeah.

- Oh, I see how it fits on.

- So that... But again, because the arm is not flat, has to wrap around.

- I see.

- And I think too, it's important to say this is like a size eight. So we sample in a size eight, which is the smaller size, takes less fabric. But yeah it's the smallest size we make. And then obviously a pattern for a size 12 and a size 14 will be--

- Scale up from there?

- Yeah.

- So there's a lot of thinking about proportions and ratios and measurement in that, right?

- Oh exactly. And that's, you know, quite often. Fashion studios like this will have a fit model as well. So everything is fitted on the same body every time and Carla has done that for a long time. So, you know, the size eight is Carla's bigger. So if you look like Carla Zampatti then you're a perfect size eight.

- That would be very handy. So I'd love to know. I mean, you mentioned before, you know, going into Media Journalism and the owning a business and what that was like. I imagine there's a lot of mathematics to actually make sure a business is profitable. Can you talk to me a bit about the challenges you've met there and how Mathematics has helped you.

- Mathematics is like, you know... I think I've said this before. I wasn't a great student when I started out at school, but Maths is everyday in fashion and you don't realize that when you first start out, you just think it's beautiful clothes and talking to designers and in my case, I was a Journalist. I was all about the words, but it's not true. I mean, everything that you do in fashion is about Mathematics. It can be the store floor. So you need to know how many garments you need to have on that floor, what you're going to sell through, how to be profitable, to the pattern making, 'cause that's all measurement obviously. And you have to get it precise, if you don't get it precise and then your garment comes in, it might not fit. So then you have a whole collection of garments that don't fit properly. And I know designers that have done that where a whole collection has been terrible because the fit's not right. So everything that you look at, there is some element of mathematics in it.

- And just going back to something you said before, you know, when you mentioned like a store floor, sort of something triggered in my brain. Just thinking about it's area obviously the bigger your store is, the more you have to pay in rent and other costs. And then I'm thinking about, you know, your staff. And then I assume a lot of the materials might come from overseas. How do you factor all of that into working out profit and loss and all the rest?

- You need a very big spreadsheet. We talk a lot about, in fashion about landing costs. So a garment, so something like this, it's like, okay, how much did the fabric cost? How much do the buttons cost? How much does the lining cost? How much does it cost a warehouse? How much does it cost to get it into store? How much does your staff cost? And you have to put all of that into a budget and then work out, what do you have to sell this jacket for, so that it's profitable? So it's, I mean, you might look at this and go, "Okay, it's a thousand dollar jacket", but where does that thousand dollars come from? And if you sell something to just cover your material costs, you're going to go broke. And that's the reality. And that's why opening a store is so difficult because every square meter is worth money. And you've gotta put that even with staff. If you have a really big store, you've gotta have a lot of staff and that eats into your profit.

- Absolutely. So they're all part of the overheads that are part of your bottom line. So I'm really interested, you know, when we think about someone, you know, who is at home and they're thinking "I do maths, "I answer some questions. "I try and get the right answer." You're talking about having this enormous spreadsheet. And there is no right answer some way that, Oh this is correct. What's what's the process been like for you as a business owner to try and say, "okay, I'm trying to solve a problem. "I've got, you know, this season that's coming up. "I wanna make sure that I make this amount of profit and I stay afloat." How do you, what's the thought process behind you know, trying to get, you know, a decision about how much stock you're gonna have or how many lines you're gonna have this season. How does that work in your brain?

- Oh, it's difficult. And I think being conservative, I think you need to be a little bit conservative when you're starting out. 'Cause obviously you'd like to put everything into the store as well. Like you want everything. You want your customer to be able to buy anything they want. But the reality is, again, is you can't do that. So quite often a designer will start out and there will be 50 designs in the collection. But once you start looking at what really is going to make sense and you know, profit-wise or what you can sell through or how much the fabric is going to cost. And that kind of makes you decide what goes into that collection. What's going to go into store. But there is a lot of back and forth and I think there's a lot of learnings along the way. So I think when you do start a business, you have to be very conservative to start with. And probably do your research as well. You need to look at what your competitors are doing. So if they've got 10 pairs of jeans in their collection and 15 jackets then you should probably be thinking about 15 pairs of jeans and 10 jackets and not doing 30 pairs of jeans and two jackets. 'Cause I think you need to have a look at what other businesses are doing to be successful.

- That's amazing. 'Cause you mentioned before, we can often have a fairly romantic view of, you know, particularly going into such a creative pursuit, but you've really got to be able to marry both of those together. And I guess a lot of successful businesses in fashion kind of have that as a... They've got someone who can crunch those numbers and understand that, right?

- Yes. You need a very good financial manager when you're a creative person. There's nothing wrong with being totally creative, right? And if that's that's your thing. But you need to have someone in the business who has a business mind. Because the reality is, you need to be a good business person to have a successful business person. And a lot of fashion businesses run from season to season. So you will sell through your collection from Spring Summer, and then that will fund your Autumn Winter collection. So Spring Summer doesn't work, Autumn Winter is going to be a disaster.

- [Eddie] Of course.

- So I think, the really successful businesses like Sass and Bide and the Zimmermann brands, which are really successful Australian businesses. I mean, Carla Zampatti has a business mind and a creative mind. She's one of those rare, rare people.

- What an incredible thing to have them both in the same mind.

- Yeah, a lot of businesses have that. That finance brain and that creative brain. And it's a perfect fit.

- Which I think also sort of emphasizes that creativity and technical knowledge and expertise really has to have collaboration in it as well, right? That so many of us... It's pretty unusual to be like Carla and have that all in one. So we've gotta be able to work together with people who have that skill, right?

- Yeah and you have to be able to listen. Because if your finance manager is saying, "If you make that dress in the most expensive silk "you can find in Italy "and you sell it for two and a half thousand dollars. "When most of your dresses are only costing $500. "You can't, you can't do it." And you're like, "well, I want to do it." "I'm telling you now it's not going to sell." And then you do it, probably won't sell. And then you've got all those dresses for two and a half thousand dollars.

- What do you do with them? Bit of a financial disaster?

- It is. It is. And that's why sometimes you need someone to say no. The commercial reality of doing that doesn't make sense for the business. And that's about survival. Fashion is very much, you know, it's a tough business. So you do have to be financially savvy.

- Absolutely. And I'm thinking about, you know, everyone back home who is trying to think about how they're doing maths and you know, it's like, "Oh, I just want to get the right answer "and then move on with it. "I got a tick that's enough." But actually what you're saying it seems to me is, you're gotta be able to communicate that as well, right? Now, I just wanna come back to, you said, you know, Media Journalism is what you wanted to launch into. What's it like running a magazine, being the Editor-in-Chief of something like Harper's Bazaar. Which like you said, amazing job. What kind of skills did you use in that role?

- I needed to be a Business Manager. It's a creative job but you also need to be financially savvy. I mean, people look at a magazine and they think, "Oh beautiful pictures, lots of photography, "amazing models, great journalism." But the reality is, is that I have a budget for every single magazine, you know. For a big issue it may have been $60,000. For a smaller issue it may have been $25,000. And within that I have a hundred pages or I have 200 pages. So there is a dollar value put against everything. So we have these amazing meetings where we have these crazy creative ideas and then it goes into the budgeting stage. It's like, "okay, well, we can't really shoot that in The Bahamas "because basically the flights there for the crew "are going to kill our entire budget." So it is that we have that, you know, you have that beautiful ability to come up with crazy ideas and then sometimes most of the time gets narrowed down because of budget restraints.

- Mmhmm, now, it's amazing. I mean, I think about, yeah, you know, opening up a beautiful spread and thinking, you know, every single page, the numbers have been crunched in the background to make sure that every single one plays its role. I'm sure whoever was designing that particular story would have loved for twice as many pages, but there's a reality there. And when you think about marketing, advertising and the rest.

- Yeah. But you know, I used to be a little bit cheeky. So I spend a lot of money one month knowing I could save it later along. So then my finance manager would be like, "Kellie".

- "What have you done Kellie?"

- I'd be like, "Don't worry. I'll send it in the back of year."

- "I've got a plan."

- "Yeah, I've got a plan." That December issue, there's gonna be no money. I'll just be really creative. I might be on the cover.

- Well, I suppose when you have a face like yours, Kellie. I guess not everyone has the privilege of being able to do that.

- I wouldn't do that to my team.

- Now, thinking about everyone who's viewing and who perhaps would love a career in the fashion industry. And you've come through, you know, like you said, not enjoying Mathematics particularly when you were at school. Do you have any advice that you could pass on to everyone who's watching along about what their attitude to Mathematics should be if they're heading into something like fashion or other creative industries?

- Stick with it. I think you also don't have to be in the A, you know, the A-class, that's really important. I think you really need to stick with it because I think I was in year 11. I was like, "I don't need it. "You know, I'm great at English. "I'm really good at drama." You know, I was getting A's in everything I did other than Maths. And it was like, "I'm gonna get rid of that "so that my report card looks perfect." But the reality is, is I needed maths. And as soon as I got into the workforce, it was like, I just wish I'd stuck with it. And probably took the pressure off myself and dropped down a class where it was a little bit easier for me. And I think that's really important. Maths is so important. And it didn't matter how many times my Math teacher said, "There you go." It's a mental block. My math teacher said to me, "Just stick with it. "You will need it. "Even, you know, a home loan and things like that. "You'll need it." And I'm like, "Oh, I'll be fine." But you do need it. There is Maths in every day and everything that you do, even in a creative space, you need to be good. At least have some knowledge of Maths. You don't have to be brilliant, but you need it.

- That's such an important message. That Mathematics sounds like it's an essential tool to every day. Kellie, thank you so much for your time. It's been a pleasure and thanks for everyone tuning in. Have a good one guys.