Catherine Cole is the Chief Executive Officer of MOTIF, the only global fashion education platform that connects professionals around the world with the skills and industry expertise they need to transform their business, lives and careers. Based in Hong Kong, Catherine has over 20 years of experience working with multinationals and start-ups across Asia in business development, marketing and strategy roles for companies such as Samsung, Evergreen International Airlines and RacingThePlanet. Her passion is at the intersection of technology and education, especially as it relates to lifelong learning and upskilling in industries as dynamic as fashion.
Recently Denim Focus coordinator Pranta Biswas talked with Catherine Cole, CEO at MOTIF, where she talked about MOTIF’s Background, journey and challenges. For our readers, the conversation is drafted below.
Pranta: Could you please give a brief about this new knowledge platform MOTIF?
Catherine Cole: MOTIF is the only global e-learning platform dedicated to fashion and apparel professionals. We offer practical online courses taught by expert industry practitioners, resources and a community for our users. The motif.org platform now offers over 30 courses covering a wide spectrum of critical topics in the fashion supply chain with more on the way. The courses cover fundamental and technical topics around Fit & Sizing, 3D Implementation, Fabric Fundamentals, as well as business and commercial topics like Apparel Costing and Supply Chain Fundamentals. Most courses are self-paced and can be taken anytime from anywhere within a professional’s busy life, however, MOTIF has just launched a new series of live virtual Masterclasses so learners can interact in real-time with an instructor. All courses are affordable and practical, directly relevant for any industry professional’s job and all learners who complete a course receive a digital certificate to showcase on their CV or LinkedIn Profile.
Pranta: What inspires you to start such innovative platform?
Catherine Cole: Founded in Hong Kong, MOTIF is the brainchild of global apparel technology company Alvanon, who recognized the industry was facing a serious future-of-work issue. Between the progressive loss of hard technical skills due to the retirement of the last generation with production floor expertise, and the lack of nextgen digital and technological skills, the industry is both failing to preserve heritage and core skills and to get ready for Industry 4.0 and sustainability imperatives. In order to bridge this acute skills gap, MOTIF was born, and spun off from its parent company in 2019 and also raised US$2m in investment from The Mills Fabrica.
Pranta: How are you helping student who pursue courses from you to start their career in apparel industry?
Catherine Cole: All the MOTIF courses are taught by industry practitioners and aim to give students practical knowledge that they can directly apply in their jobs. Most of our topics are not covered in a University or other school curriculum but instead are complementary and provide the fundamentals from a business and operational point of view. These courses are a great way for newcomers to the industry to prepare themselves for careers, whether on product development teams, merchandising or sourcing teams in brands or retailers but also a great way for anyone joining a vendor or factory to shore up their skills on industry key topics so they can work with confidence.
Pranta: What Kinds of challenges do you face?
Catherine Cole: Cost and pressure for growth are still major industry drivers and much of the pressure falls on the factories or upstream in the supply chain. Upskilling and reskilling need to happen throughout the supply chain, across the industry as a whole. Unfortunately, when times are tough, training budgets often fall and companies forego a chance to invest in their people. We see a select group of large brands and small enterprises that continue to invest in their people and these will be the companies that are best-prepared for future disruptions.
Pranta: How are you expecting future of such knowledge based learning platform?
Catherine Cole: What makes us unique is our vertical expertise – we are a hub for apparel and fashion industry expertise. So while there are plenty of other e-learning platforms – public and private, we provide a community for individuals to come and interact with others across the supply chain and learn from practitioners. We are the go-to place for learning from experts around the globe. Our plan for 2022 and beyond is to work with industry partners to expand our library of content and also enhance our community features. We hope to bring more training opportunities to a broader range of production markets across Asia. Our current ideas revolve around some exciting new courses that we are exploring. Some that may involve VR-enabled factory visits for professionals that don’t have an opportunity to visit a production floor. We are also exploring some country and region-specific training around strategic sourcing markets where we will work with governments to deploy. This is a hot topic given the current trade wars.
Pranta: Any message to the industry / potential learner?
Catherine Cole: Our industry is changing so rapidly and will go through so much disruption over the next decade due to sustainability and 3D development imperatives that individuals and companies can’t be complacent. The best thing newcomers and industry veterans can do is make sure their arsenal of skills is well-stocked. We all need to embrace continuous learning with an open mindset.