Hi Andrea, Great to meet you can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m a self-confessed party girl who believes that life is all about working hard, playing hard and knowing when balance is in order. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to get into fashion and made no secret of my desire to get to director level as quickly as possible, ensuring that I was absolutely committed and passionate about the job. I love fashion but won’t become a slave to it. I am passionate about sustainable fashion and believe that a woman should know her style and dress appropriately. I am all about timeless fashion over fashion trends. I absolutely love the 50s and 60s where you can witness artists at work. Designers with more originality, taking risks and staying true to their brand ethos. I also love to see fashion from different cultures Indian and Japanese traditional dress being among my favourites. Yoga and Pilates are something that I try to do 3 times a week. During my year off from work I discovered both. I found them to be hugely beneficial for my state of mind, improving my core strength, posture and fitness levels.
You have been working in Fashion for over 15 years how did you break out into the industry?
I studied Fashion design and technology at Manchester University. It was the first time in my life that I had ever been so dedicated to studying. I had never shown any interest in the academic side of school, far too distracted by gymnastics, boys and fast cars. I scraped through both my GCSEs and A-Levels. It was the wakeup call that I needed when all my friends left me for university to study medicine, law and marketing. My dream had always been to become a designer, that didn’t happen! On finishing university I applied for a job as a buyers coordinator at Monsoon. With a view to move into design once my feet were through the door.
I interviewed that week and by the weekend I had been offered a role, packed up my life and started a job in London the following Monday. I hated it. There was no formal training, no structure, I had no idea of whether I was doing right or wrong. Within weeks I decided to turn it around and use the situation to my benefit and decide processes and make decisions that way I felt best. It paid off I became an assistant buyer in 7 months and junior buyer 7 months after that. Monsoon was a small boutique brand when I joined and by time I left 7 years later a huge business with a very different strategy. I was becoming unhappy with the direction and my passion started to falter. My boyfriend at the time encouraged me to work on my CV and go after my next dream. My confidence was starting to drop and I decided now was the time. I had one brand in sight, that was Coast. On meeting with agents they advised that I should broaden my horizons and have other brands in mind. I was prepared to wait. A buying role came up, of course I applied, within a week I was offered my absolute dream job as a buyer for Coast on soft separates. I couldn’t believe it. It taught me to stick with what you believe in.
I see you were a buying director at Coast, how did this prepare you for your role now?
I worked at Coast for 10 years. I started my career there as a buyer and gradually moved up to buying director after 5 years. It came through years of hard work, passion, dedication and commitment as an ambassador for the brand. I kept trying to push myself to move up, take on more, always be the person where nothing was too much trouble. I travelled excessively to Europe, The Far East and America. I was also lucky enough to travel to The Middle East and South America for a mix of supplier, inspiration and store visit trips.
The role was very hands on. I have a tendency to lean more towards the creative side of buying, and therefore worked very closely with the design directors on the ranges from a creative view as well as commercial.
During my years at Coast I also spent some time managing the design, production and technical teams so I gained a much wider experience than just buying. The variety of my role was very much the reason I stayed for so long, in many other businesses a buying director would focus solely on managing the buying function. This variety in role got me ready for my next role at Precis Petite.
After a year off working I started at Precis Petite as Brand Director in early 2016. The brand had become very underconfident and lost its identity within the market. The handwriting was very old and colour palettes very brash. I was brought in to give the brand a new identity, to define its personality and bring it back to life.
As a petite person myself at 5ft 2 inches I was well placed to understand the challenges and desires of a petite woman. You need to consider flattering shapes, prints that don’t swamp the figure. I engaged with a creative agency who helped bring the brand personality and core values to life. This really helps all of the teams to understand who the customer is and what she stands for. Understanding your customer is one of the most important things you should do in retail.
At Precis Petite we are all about style and proportion for the petite woman. We think that it’s important to look and feel your best. We love colour and pattern. And discovering new ways to wear old favourites. We are happiest when we are with our friends & family, enjoying the moment. Our obsession is fit and attention to detail. The customer is absolutely passionate about fit and quality, she has a love of print. We have worked hard to create more beautiful prints with more variety.
Dash is a very casual brand that has been around since the seventies. Dash is all about modern life understanding that a woman’s life can be busy and demanding. The contemporary woman needs clothes she can live her life in. Dash has a positive attitude to life and wants you to live life to the full. We design clothes that express this and suit this attitude to life. Dash is about giving busy women considered, versatile clothes so you have total confidence and a zest for life. My aim is to feminise the brand through colour and print, and bring about a more cohesive and desirable collection.
How do social platforms like Instagram or Pinterest influence your designers?
Instagram and Pinterest have become an integral part of everyday life. Our designers use both every day to help form the concepts at the beginning of the season. We can pull ideas for prints, styling and colour palettes. We also look at key designers, celebrities and bloggers. Its also a great source for real life and ensuring we are in touch with as much as possible that is going on around us. Instagram and Pinterest have really helped to broaden our source of knowledge and inspiration.
What was the best advise that you were ever given and what advice would you give to others wanting to break out into the Industry?
Stay true to yourself. Believe in your vision and stick to it. Try to avoid becoming a yes person, and follow through with the belief of your convictions. Pay attention to the market and understand consumer behaviours. Watch, observe, listen to various conversations around you. No matter which department, you will always learn a lot. Try things, even if you fail you’ll learn. Take risks and be brave. You don’t need to have completed a fashion degree, however a passion and love of it is extremely important. The retail industry requires long hours, therefore loving what you do is an absolute must. Being dedicated and respecting the roles of your peers is something I always tell my team. Each team member has a unique part to play, respect their contribution and pull upon on your skills to create a dynamic high performing team.
We love your Instagram account and see you wearing lots of gorgeous designers what brands do you consider your go to right now?
Thank-you. I do love Instagram. I am a photo fiend, I have about 75,000 photos on my mac. For me looking back through photographs trigger’s memories. My absolute go to brands are Sandro, Zara, And Other Stories and Whistles for my every day. They cater well for my lifestyle and feel age appropriate for me. I have a love for Self Portrait dresses, although sadly due to the success the label is becoming over saturated and copied everywhere. Bags and shoes are my guilty pleasure, most of which are designer.
For bags I adore Celine & Chanel. For Shoes I love Yves Saint Laurent. I believe in bags and shoes being timeless classics that you can wear for years. I have a pair of Gucci shoes that I have owned for about 12 years and they still look as good today as they did when I bought them.
I do love to shop Vintage every now again. I love vintage kimonos, when I travel to Tokyo I love to find vintage silk pieces with distinctive prints. The one I am wearing in the shoot I bought a few weeks back from a pop up store in Farringdon from Furuki-yo-kimono-vintage, she has the best selection of Vintage Kimonos.
Tell us about something you really love and that you would love to see carefully restored, and why is restoration important to you?
My absolute favourite bag is my mini Chanel classic in black. I have never used or loved a bag as much as this. It’s the perfect size for a weekend away, a night out with the girls, I even take it to the club and get a few funny looks, I don’t care! As a result the lambs leather has become a little worn, and the chain broke. I would love to see my bag restored back to its natural beauty. I would like to use this bag for the rest of my life because its classic, its beautiful and I know it won’t date. Restoration is important to me, because I don’t believe in throw away fashion. Invest in something and keep it forever.