Article by Fashion Fix Daily guest writer Sophie Benson.
It’s... it’s not coming home. Mandžukić smashed our World Cup Dreams to smithereens in the 109th minute and we’re all nursing an enormous collective heartbreak. But we haven’t lost completely.
As a nation, we rallied behind the first team that felt truly deserving of our support in years. We were gifted with a group of young men who, on a world stage, presented us with a portrait of what modern masculinity could be. And, of course, we have Gareth Southgate. Gareth Southgate with his calming presence. Gareth Southgate with his gentle yet firm hugs. Gareth Southgate with his quietly inspirational quotes. Gareth Southgate with his waistcoats.
In a world where aggression and ruthlessness are acceptable, even expected, building blocks for success - a world where those who shout the loudest are often given the stage - Southgate’s management style has given credence to a gentler, more considerate type of leadership. For a sport that’s so intertwined with toxic masculinity, that’s no mean feat, and this fresh approach sits diametrically opposed to the troublesome aura of an altogether different industry: fashion.
While fashion is supposedly a woman’s game (not quite, when you look at who the big bosses are, but that’s an article for another time), it still harbours a merciless reputation: harsh Anna Wintour-esque bosses, long hours, personal sacrifice and high levels of stress.
From shop floor jobs to the most coveted design roles, fashion gets a bad rap as an industry only for the thick-skinned, and that claim isn’t without substance. Unpaid interns work long hours, often for uncompromising and unreasonable bosses; propping up labels which would crumble without their free labour. Lower ranking assistants are expected to deal with erratic behaviour and outlandish requests, and sacrificing time with loved ones is considered part and parcel of breaking into the industry.
Of course, not every fashion job is a hellscape of long hours and tyrannical bosses. But the unrelenting pace of the industry and the unique pressures it places upon those within it sit at the centre of the conversation around the link between the contemporary fashion landscape and mental health issues.
If we aren’t the one who’s suffered from burnout at the hands of fashion, we know someone who has. We swap stories about malicious photographers, obstructive clients, 20 hour plus days and pitiful bank accounts. We’ve snuck off for a quick sob away from unsympathetic eyes and wondered whether it was all worth it.
When even the biggest names in fashion, the likes of Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz for example, who have (or had...) teams and assistants and drivers are lamenting the “very, very hard calendar” and asserting that “something has to change”, surely it’s time to rethink?
So, perhaps the fashion industry needs to look to an unlikely source: the captain of the England football team. Eschewing bravado and ego, Southgate’s management style is rooted in humility, hard work and nurturing talent. His holistic approach encouraged family time and allowed players to make their own decisions. Social media wasn’t banned from the training camp but he did proffer some sage advice, “Personally, I’m not sure there’s value to reading comments that come in. It comes back to: what creates pressure, or what creates misery in your life?”
Had a dream about unicorns and England winning the World Cup pic.twitter.com/KhiENnoCqe— Rick Long (@RickRicklong) July 12, 2018
Also key to preparations was dedicated team psychologist Pippa Grange who encouraged the strengthening of team bonds by way of sharing life stories, truths and anxieties. Rather than winning at all costs, Southgate encouraged players to “own the process” and “write their own stories”. He believed in his team but understood completely the pressure they were under and, after the full time whistle blew on Wednesday, he took the time to console each and every one of them. Such is his genuine character, we all knew it wasn’t a front. He wasn’t going to berate them for their loss behind the closed doors of the locker rooms.
For anyone who’s ever misplaced a sample or turned up to the studio late because their Mum was sick or just scraped over their reshoot quota, this level of understanding is the stuff of dreams.
Imagine, a boss who wants to psychologically prepare you for the pressure, not just throw you into it; a boss who understands human error and the need for familiarity, fun and a healthy mind.
Gareth Southgate has given us the gift of a new style of leadership that works and the fashion industry would do well to take note.
Gareth Southgate hugs his wife in the empty stands after last night's match.— John O'Connell (@jdpoc) July 12, 2018
No, I'm fine. Just some dust in my eye. pic.twitter.com/WSwClXSUh4
Header Image Via Soccer.ru