Monday, June 17, 2024

How I Got Here: R.M. Willliams Head of Product Development

Scott Faulder on his Career Leading
to the Top at R. M. Williams

How does someone who never planned to be a designer become the global head of product development for Australian’s most iconic fashion brand, R.M. Williams, by age 30?

Now aged 32, along with being Head of Product Development & Studio Coordinator for R.M. Williams, Scott Faulder is also the designer of Australia’s Commonwealth Games and Paralympian uniforms, the creative behind the gorgeous outfits worn by Adelaide’s favourite Drag Queens and a Board Member of the South Australian Fashion Association.

His career rise might look meteoric, but it’s been the result of a passion for what he does. He relishes challenges and the progressive accumulation of new skills from each new role he’s taken on.  With only the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else, Scott explains that it’s his positive choices that have made the difference.

Strong Foundations

First Nations Fashion Design

Switching out of architecture at the end of a successful first year of study into an Advanced Diploma of Fashion Design and Technology* at TAFE SA, Scott wasn’t a natural fit. He hadn’t told his family about the switch and his first year at TAFE SA was a struggle. “I was hopeless at it and just couldn’t grasp it at the beginning.” The course included pattern making, garment design and couture techniques. Unfamiliar with a sewing machine he “couldn’t even sew a straight line”. Things were so bad that at the end of his first year, his lecturer cornered him, saying: “Do you REALLY want to do this?”  He knew he did and his lecturer’s comments spurred him on to get on top of things.

He took an interest in the difficult subject of Style-CAD, a pattern making computer program. He persevered, and eventually became the top student in his year to master the program.  When local uniform business Valerie Travers needed someone proficient in CAD, Scott was perfectly placed and took on the role while he was still in his final year at TAFE SA.

First Nations Fashion Design

Meanwhile, one of his flatmates, a local drag queen in need of a new costume told him, “Well you can sew – make this.” And so his side hustle was born, one that continues today, making costumes in his spare time for the love of it.

Finding out about his switch in career only just before his graduation, his family were supportive, especially his mother who constantly encouraged him. Sadly, she passed away unexpectedly last year.

By the time he finished his course, Scott had graduated with the Lecturer’ Choice Award, established his own women’s wear label, Scott and Scarce, had a full-time job at Valerie Travers and was the costume creative for the local drag scene.  

Saying Yes to Every Opportunity

First Nations Fashion Design

Scott sees volunteering for everything that arises as an opportunity to learn more industry skills, even if it means juggling many balls at once.

 “My mum’s encouragement and support inspired me to keep trying and to keep saying yes to everything. That’s given me the fire to make her proud”.

“I did not say no to anything. No job was too small, too unimportant, too irrelevant.”

When an opportunity at R.M. Williams arose as an offshore garment engineer and product developer for men’s shirts, it was something Scott had not done before, but he applied anyway. He got the job.  

First Nations Fashion Design

It was only then, after successfully trading for three years that his successful Scott and Scarce label was put on hold.

Within and beyond his new role at R.M. Williams, Scott took on any tasks that were needed. When the business needed someone to handle corporate clients, Scott volunteered.  When someone needed to come up with Australia’s 2018 Commonwealth Games Uniforms, Scott raised his hand.  He took on the role of Assistant Designer for Menswear that eventually led to the lead role in menswear design. With his designs selling well, he took on the dual role of designer for both men’s and women’s wear. By the time the job arose for Head of Product Development, Scott was well placed. He had strong design skills, a profound understanding of the R.M. Williams customer and knew what sold.

First Nations Fashion Design

“I always said yes to everything and took on more than I needed to. I learnt everything I could about design, garment making, production. I learnt about metal trim die casting to make jean buttons, knowing how yarns are picked and threads transported, I have a complete understanding of the full supply chain and off-shore production.” By the time he was appointed as the youngest Head of Product Development at R.M. Williams, he had already been working with his close-knit team for 5 years.

Embracing Change

Along with the basics, his time at TAFE SA taught him to embrace challenges. He still credits his lecturer with that confrontation that helped him decide to apply himself. Having learnt to deal with the challenge of sewing, the course, and CAD, Scott says he also learnt to embrace change. It’s an attitude that he says has served him well, when faced with changes that frequently arise in the business.

Every Spare Moment

First Nations Fashion Design

Scott Faulder has never seen an episode of Game of Thrones. While his peers may have been glued to the series, Scott was instead famously saying yes to all opportunities, including creating costumes for more and more drag queens. His out-of-work hours still includes creating for the queens, some with a higher profile like Ginger from the US and Aussie Art Simone who both featured in Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

Following on from designing the Commonwealth Games uniforms in 2018, he was also the designer behind the team uniforms for this year’s Commonwealth Games and for the next Paralympian Games.

Already incredibly busy and with a large travel schedule, he was the face of R.M. Williams for the Adelaide Fashion Festival’s sold-out opening night Q&A, celebrating the brand’s 90th anniversary.

And he has also taken on yet another opportunity, having joined the Board of the recently formed South Australian Fashion Industry Association, SAFIA. Bringing his knowledge of the fundamentals of production and a global lens to the challenges of a start-up is something he is “beyond excited” about.

First Nations Fashion Design

Advice for Others: How to Get There

His advice for anyone wanting to become a fashion designer reflects his own successful path. “You really need to go in not just wanting to be a designer. If you are so narrow you’ll miss out on a range of opportunities and experiences that will make you a better designer in the long run. You need to understand the fundamentals and you should get a full scope of the industry.”

“I never thought I’d be a fashion designer. I just wanted to work in fashion. I got lucky saying yes to everything which built up my career experiences.”

*Scott’s TAFE SA course is now called The Advanced Diploma Program in Applied Fashion Design and Merchandising and there are more fashion courses available.

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