The Industry in Conversation with Terry Mansfield CBE

19th July 2014

The last meeting of The Industry welcomed the illustrious Terry Mansfield CBE, consultant and director of the Hearst Corporation (ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Company), through the doors of the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design.  Terry’s first words to the theatre packed with fashion professionals, eager to lap up every ounce of wisdom from his close to four decades in the industry, were simple, humble and emblematic of the great man himself: ‘I have really come here today to talk about you and not me. It is you who represent the future.’

He then went on to list the stages of life as ‘Learning, Earning, Returning’ stating that now that he was at the age of ‘Returning’, he was very keen to do so within the creative agencies. His dedication to such a cause could be seen from the very beginning of the talk with his decision to participate in a role reversal and be interviewed by one of his mentees, Naomi Barling, a situation which he excused himself to the audience for, admitting to a sea of chuckles: ‘Pardon me, I’m terrified’.

From then on members were regaled with his consummate wit and masterful storytelling as he took the room back through his childhood, recalling how his dream to enter the world of media first began during a school trip to a local newspaper: ‘I walked home that night with tomorrow’s newspaper under my arm and I made up my mind to become a world famous journalist.’

This dream could have been shattered when, informed of young Terry’s decision, the Head teacher straight-facedly said ‘I don’t want to be critical of your plans for the future but it might be an idea to be able to read and write before you decide to become a famous journalist’, yet he was not deterred.

As well as an unswayable resolve, Terry revealed that from his days watching street performers as a child to now that he has always been ‘very affected by creativity. If you are creative you have to do it; you cannot not do it. It’s in your DNA’. He realised about halfway through his career that while he was never going to be a famous journalist, he had a talent for spotting those who were good at what they did and were, like him, ‘uncut diamonds’. He utilised this innate ability to find Editors which others would never have given a chance but who would turn out to be powerhouses in their field. One of the many was the infamous Rosie Boycott who he controversially installed as the UK’s Editor to Esquire and who ensured its salvation.

Terry acknowledged that ‘we are incredibly creative in this country’ but that the most important thing today is for young people in this new ‘digital explosion’ is to be multi-skilled: ‘I think to be young now is wonderful. My only regret is that I haven’t invented a way to be young again. The versatility of your lives can be extraordinary. You have to be fast and multi-skilled and whatever is happening, you’ve got to be there.’

Not only is presence and resourcefulness of huge import to Terry, the protection and enjoyment of creativity is paramount to success: ‘Creativity is all about having a good time. If you’re not, you won’t be making very good work. If you are, you’ll be amazed at what you’re producing’.

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