Kyrk MacMillan

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Starting out working in the Paris Fashion Week at the age of 17, GCU alumnus Kyrk MacMillan has lived and worked worldwide. He is now the Commercial Director of Wood Wood, a Danish apparel and lifestyle brand founded in 2002 with six stores in Denmark, two in Berlin and a new London flagship. Throughout the years, Wood Wood has collaborated with renowned global brands such as LEGO, Nike, Barbour, Disney, Adidas and many more. Here, Kyrk talks us through how his degree at GCU aided him, his early career, and advice for graduates.

What inspired you to follow your career path?
I knew before I started at GCU that I wanted to explore the international fashion industry. I am passionate about premium and luxury goods. I like to work with creative people and specialists, from design to production and all other functions and consider how and where we take that to market. The best luxury and premium brands are fully aligned at all touchpoints of their business. Early in my career, I was given advice that I have used as a mantra ever since. “You need to live and breathe your values” – if you want people to consider you as you want to be considered and to trust your integrity, then you need to be assured of what you stand for and make sure you live it.

How have your qualifications aided you in how your career progressed since graduation?
In my role as a Commercial Director, many of the challenges are not only about setting a path but also making sure that the people you need to walk it with you do so. This can often be about clearly structuring ideas or correctly framing arguments – a lot of that comes back to the basics of studying.

What are your memories of University?
My time with the masters allowed me to ‘join the dots’ of my interests and passions and also gave me guidance on a path forward. It was a great opportunity to meet and learn from an international group and also lead to me meeting my then-girlfriend and now wife. 

How have you found it moving around different companies in your field of work?
I have been fortunate to live and work around the world. Before the pandemic, I travelled in excess of 200 days per year, which at the time was tiring however given the current limitations on international travel, now seems like an enormous amount of lost freedom. From all that travel and meeting new people, you gather a huge amount of influences and information and the trick is to disseminate that correctly to staff or others within the business. Personally, it’s important to feel a sense of achievement when you reflect back on your time in a business and be able to have a sense of what you brought to the table and how that became tangible and hopefully, successful – but it should never be nostalgic, you need to keep learning and growing as there is always so much competition.

What is your greatest professional achievement?
It’s difficult to say; however, I would say that this past year has been one of them. Not only did we face the pandemic and all of the realities which that brought – cancelled orders, customers facing closure, reduced revenue – but we also undertook some large-scale projects and re-built full departments and teams to set a path for growth; which this year looks to be in the region of 25%. Given the external factors outwith our control, I believe that we have made the correct choices and used this period to streamline. 

What current projects are you working on, and what impacts do/will they have?
Over the past 12 months, we have implemented a new partner network globally to make sure Wood Wood partners with the correct retailers and helps define an international presence, which adds to the brands relatively large awareness in local markets. This is a multi-faceted project as I work closely with design and production to make sure what we bring to market is aligned to where we want to sell/be positioned and, of course, make sure the team and all touchpoints are pulling in the same direction. We are also optimising all operational procedures as we need to be able to deliver on the growth we are targeting.

What challenges have you faced, and what have you learned from them?
There have been many setbacks along the way, not only in my current role but also in the past; that’s part of the journey. Telling the story of the brand and our new product developments when we cannot physically see customers makes the process of gaining new accounts and hitting the targets we set for ourselves exceptionally difficult at the moment. We have focussed, therefore, on building our digital assets and investing in tools that allow each individual product to be shown as well as possible via a screen. Premium/Luxury goods still and will always be about tactility and tangibility, so missing this key part of the process has been a challenge.

How do you want to integrate your experiences in Scotland with the work you do in Denmark?
I still try to come home to Scotland as much as possible. As a Motherwell fan, one of my biggest thrills was seeing one of our products (from my former company) being worn by a young guy in a pub in Motherwell ahead of the Scottish cup final a few years ago. That, to me, was a real highlight as it showed that we had managed to take an industry that people can often feel as quite distant and make accessible and desirable.

What is a topical subject happening in your industry which you are passionate about, and how are you working towards it?
The apparel industry is in a state of change. We are dealing with a huge amount of pull factors, and we, as most businesses, are trying to navigate what that means for us both strategically and operationally. We have both the drive and requirement to grow. However, we are working to ensure that we do so in the most sustainable manner possible. In Scandinavia, the topic of sustainability targets are perhaps even more prominent and evolved than in many markets and are becoming a requirement to enter industry events such as Copenhagen Fashion Week. The Covid pandemic has also disrupted the cycle of deliveries and discounts, and therefore brands are having to adapt their business models to contend with oversupply and reduced demand in many markets. Despite the undoubted challenges of the pandemic period, it has challenged us to become more agile and dynamic in how we think about our business which, in itself, can be extremely productive.

What advice would you give current students and new graduates?
Put the work in. Both when you are at university both also after graduation, it’s so important to constantly build your knowledge base. That’s what separates candidates during interviews, no matter the level – it’s about what else you bring to the table above and beyond the job specification. People like to work with interesting and rounded colleagues, and they bring so much to businesses. Find people to learn from and people that can inspire you, even if it’s only in a small way that you believe will add to your knowledge or skills.