As part of the upcoming Inspired Festival, we spoke to BCU’s very own Fashion Business lecturers Sophie Johnson and Laura Arrowsmith. They tell us all about their inspirations for creating their charting podcast, The Fashademix Podcast, as well as the most surprising aspects and how they find motivation to keep going.
Media and communication graduate
What motivates Sophie and Laura?
We all have moments where we inevitably struggle and feel down. Sophie and Laura find that having outlets like their podcast is not only a positive distraction from what is going on in their own lives, but they find voicing their opinions and venting about topics they are passionate about is therapeutic.
They both find that being stagnant is boring so they are motivated to keep growing, something which they acknowledge is a positive when it comes to being lecturers as they always want to keep learning more so they can educate their students further.
With a friendship dating back to their own time studying at university, both lecturers express that their motivation for working on the podcast is each other.
“I’m shy. It’s ridiculous because I’m a lecturer but the thought of public speaking terrifies me, yet I do it anyway. I wouldn’t have done it without Sophie, and I think there’s so many things that I wouldn’t have had the confidence to have done either. I feel like she brings out the better side of me” - Laura.
What has been the most surprising part of making the podcast?
Creating The Fashademix Podcast has presented its hosts with many surprising factors. For Laura, getting to number three on the iTunes chart by their sixth episode was completely unexpected as she thought it would take them at least two years to reach such a feat, and so their success spurs them to keep going.
Similarly for Sophie, she didn’t expect the podcast to take off and do so well. The whole experience has taught her to trust what she believes in, trust what she knows, trust that her voice does matter, and that people are interested in that.
Another big shock for them is the amount of people who agree to guest on the podcast despite it being new, with even the vice president of the fashion company Reiss in the USA (who also happens to be Sophie’s former manager at Topshop) planning to come on the show.
What inspired them to create the podcast?
There are several avenues from which Sophie and Laura found inspiration to create their podcast, with their key inspiration coming from their desire to build their profile within the university. The show has a two-way approach – it helps with marketing for the university, but it also helps to build their own reputation in the industry to help them get recognised.
In academia, it’s crucial for lecturers to be at the forefront of research and conversation around their subject matter so Sophie and Laura felt they needed to be in the media and commenting on things to create a strong reputation. Their end goal is for a listener to come onto the Fashion Business course wishing to be taught by them.
“You want to get your name known further in the university; you don’t just want to be a payroll number in a department somewhere. You want your head of institute to notice you, your head of faculty” – Sophie.
Although there are people in the market who are doing fashion podcasts, Sophie and Laura found that these people only talk about fashion or marketing - there isn’t actually anything from an academic perspective. The odd episode that Laura listened to of somebody speaking academically she found hard to connect with.
“I found it quite dull and hard to connect. To me, that doesn’t have a click through rate. I’m not wanting to be a returning customer” - Laura.
To modify this, both lecturers were inspired to make a podcast that is casual yet informative. As Sophie and Laura have different opinions on things, they successfully manage to balance ideas and feedback off each other, and this is something they find works really well.
“We just feel like we can be a voice for people, especially because we’re not just two random girls that like fashion - we’re both educated around fashion, we’ve both got experience. That’s the unique selling point of the podcast because we’re talking from experience and expertise, not just gossiping about retail and fashion” – Sophie.
Advice for upcoming graduates
Graduating through a pandemic can be a daunting experience for students. With a great emphasis on working on the projects you love, Sophie and Laura encourage graduates to embrace everything around them as the skills gained by students during the pandemic mean they are more resilient, more adaptable and they will be better at crisis management, ultimately increasing their employability.
As big advocates for mental health, Sophie and Laura stress that although there are positives and negatives to everything, everything is a learning curve and where there is room for a learning curve, there is room for growth.
With such an incredibly successful podcast under their belt, both lecturers/hosts have broad visions of what’s next, with the ultimate goal being to feature on TV. Similar to the Inside Missguided: Made in Manchester documentary produced by Channel 4, they would love to have a film crew follow them around university, see them lecture and film them recording the podcast in order to increase their presence in a fun way.
“That’s like years down the line, if it ever got to that, but if stayed as a podcast and we made that impact in higher education, and in colleges, that would be amazing” - Sophie.
They also wish to broaden consumers’ mindsets and connect more with their audience and with the industry by doing tours around colleges and universities. They would also like to host webinars to discuss not only their podcast but to talk about fashion in terms of fashion business as people at college might not be aware that there’s more to fashion than just design.
With a great team at Brum Radio at their backs, the team have discussed increasing the international growth of The Fashademix Podcast as they have entered the charts in countries outside of the UK, such as Norway, Australia, Ireland and the Netherlands.
“If we keep going and we grow in the way we want to, I think we might come under that category of an influencer with purpose where we can educate people, we can teach people, we can hopefully inspire people” - Sophie.