Interview: Paul Wakefield, Marketing Edinburgh
Ex-cop keeping Edinburgh’s fashionistas in order
For five thousand retail thrill-seekers the opening events at Edinburgh Fashion Week could not come soon enough. Demand for tickets from the public has been high and the shops have welcomed an opportunity to do something a little different.
And if the crowd gets a little tetchy, there is one man at the helm for whom handling big public events are all in the line of duty.
Paul Wakefield, one of the organisers, is more used to fending off angry and violent demonstrators than coping with the rather more gentle surroundings of the catwalk. Mr Wakefield spent nine years in the Metropolitan police working as a riot cop.
“I got a few punches and kicks, nothing too serious,” he says.
As a member of what is officially known as the Territorial Support Group he was called out to handle public order events and that meant donning the riot helmet and protective flak jacket, though he jokes that he has no fascination with “dressing up in uniform”.
He says: “I do like to look smart and, yes, fashion is interesting. What I wear is important to me, but that’s it!”
Originally from Surrey, the 42-year-old moved to Scotland for personal reasons, living and working in Perthshire for 11 years in a variety of roles, including corporate events and property. He spent some time as marketing manager for Bell Ingram, the chartered surveyor. Now he lives in Craiglockhart and, as head of marketing and commercial at Marketing Edinburgh, he is in the thick of helping to run the city’s first-ever fashion week.
Not to be confused with the Edinburgh Fashion Festival, a showcase for designers held in July, Fashion Week is retail led. Marketing Edinburgh and Essential Edinburgh are partners in promoting it under the This is Edinburgh campaign which is backed by a £1 million two-year package, funded by the two organisations and Edinburgh City Council.
This is Edinburgh was launched in response to the disruption caused by the tram works, a gesture of goodwill and support for residents and city traders who suffered during the long period of building and road digging.
Mr Wakefield offers a wry smile when reminded that it abbreviates to TIE which was the same acronym for Transport Initiatives Edinburgh, the company that collapsed after failing to deliver the trams to its original deadline and budget.
That irony aside, the campaign has been successful in helping to change attitudes among residents towards the city, many of whom had become disillusioned with the constant upheaval. A survey revealed that shoppers were returning in large numbers.
“The results have been phenomenal,” says Mr Wakefield. They showed that 96% of those surveyed were proud of the city and were more likely to visit the centre than previously. This has been reflected in figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium which shows footfall is 3.5% higher than the UK average and well above the 2% target. Retail sales are also 3% above the UK average.
Apart from helping overcome frustration and anger among the city’s residents, the campaign is seen as a big step towards healing the divisions between the city council and the retailers. Almost 40 stores are taking part, some holding mini-shows of their own. They are all involved in a city-wide discount scheme.
Among those taking part are the big stores such as Debenhams, Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser, along with national chains including River Island, Tommy Hilfiger, Next and Vans. The show is also a stage for the boutique shops such as Fabhatrix, Jane Davidson and Kakao by K.
Choreography is by Scotland Re:Designed, and drinks have been provided by Pickering’s Gin, one of the new generation of distillers that have set up in Edinburgh.
“The time seemed right for Edinburgh to stick its neck out and do something special,” says Mr Wakefield. “It is a fantastic opportunity and we believe it will go very well.”
Edinburgh Fashion Week runs until 15th March
Photographs (top) Paul Wakefield. Above left: models Mika Kailes and Lorna Brown.
Pics: Vizualedinburgh www.vizualedinburgh.co.uk