Fashion Insiders Series

Fashion Insiders: Fashion Buyer Georgie Eustace

If you’ve ever wondered what a fashion buyer does every day then this post is for you! Georgie Eustace is a successful buyer at New Look on the jerseywear department. Having been obsessed with clothes for as long as she can remember she’s worked her way up at the brand over the past nine years.

As a fashion buyer Georgie has a ridiculously glamorous life which includes endless trips to places like New York and LA. She told me about what it’s like to see a customer wearing her clothes on the street, about being paid to shop in Tokyo and South Korea and where she gains inspiration for her ranges.

She also spoke about the pressures of constantly buying product that sells and what it’s like when you’re working in China over the weekend and all of your friends are in London at Field Day!

Life of a Fashion Buyer

When did you know you wanted to be a fashion buyer?

I didn’t realise I wanted to be a fashion buyer for quite a while.  To be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted to do! I’ve always been very logical and mathematically minded so I choose to study Economics at Uni. I very briefly considered studying a fashion related degree but I didn’t want to restrict my future career to only fashion and I don’t regret my decision at all (even though I obviously have ended up in fashion!).  

What skills do you feel are key to being a buyer?

There are so many skills involved in a being a buyer that it's hard to narrow it down to a few! Probably first and most important is passion and product eye. You can have all the strategic ideas in the world but if you don’t have the eye for what product you think will be the next bestseller then you won’t make it as a buyer. Listening and teamwork would be next up. You can’t do this job on your own and the team is so important. If you can’t listen to your team and get them on board (and make sure they’re happy!) you’ll be trying to do everything on your own, which is impossible without having a breakdown!

What’s the most glamorous thing about being a fashion buyer?!

The glamorous part is definitely the travel. I’ve done so amazing trips for New Look. I’ve been to New York, LA, Miami and Korea all just to shop for a few days for inspiration and ideas! And I’ve been lucky to do it with colleagues who are all like-minded and have become true friends.

People generally think it’s all glamorous. They think that you have loads of amazing product to choose from and that you can just pick the winners. If only it was that easy! With travel, there are a lot of parts that are very hard work. Working in China for days when you’re jetlagged is tough, and when you’re there working over the weekend and all your friends are at Field Day it can get to you.

What does a typical day look like?

My typical day is in the London office. I like to go the gym before work so I can relax once I’m there, knowing there’s no pressure that I need to leave on time. I will usually have checked my schedule the night before so I know what meetings are coming up. First thing I do is check the sales from the previous day. The best part of the job is seeing your clothes sell and I still get so excited when something new goes out and selling well. Every day I will be multitasking. It’s a constant balance between meeting suppliers and designers to develop new product for the months ahead, but also reacting to current sales and quickly buying more of any bestsellers. If I’m not out at supplier meetings then I’ll be in the office, racking up the product and deciding how much to buy and at what price.

How big is your team?

I’m lucky I have quite a big team. I have four assistants, which I honestly couldn’t live without. I also have three amazing designers. What I love about New Look are the people I work with. I have worked with so many people who have become lifelong friends, have gone on numerous holidays and even lived with!

What have you loved most about being a buyer and what have been your biggest challenges so far?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is the pressure of being a buyer. When I was an assistant, I never understood why my buyer was stressed. I thought it looked easy! But even though I’ve been doing this for years I still feel the pressure every day to deliver good product that everyone will like and will sell. It often keeps me up at night. But I guess that’s just a sign of how much I care, and I wouldn’t be able to do a good job if I didn’t.

How does it feel when you see your product on customers or celebrities?

I honestly love it whenever I see anyone wearing my products. From a girl on the street to fashion bloggers and magazines, I’m happy with them all! In a way it’s nicer when you see a normal girl in the street wearing something you bought though, it’s more real than another Instagram post and I like to think I’m making people happy.

How much do you travel with your job?

I travel a lot at the moment, which does get a bit much sometimes. I go to Turkey every 6 weeks and China twice a year. Sometimes you just want to sleep in your own bed! When I’m there it’s all about product development. In China, we’ll be developing for the season ahead and in Turkey, it will be product for the next month. I spend most of my time there with designers, brainstorming ideas using catwalk images and inspiration from our shopping in Korea to develop new and exciting ranges.

What big trends can we look forward over the next few months?

Trend-wise I definitely think there’s a shift towards colour and print. Recently I’ve been wearing head to toe red but I’m over that now and I’m onto yellow and green. I’m also obsessed with stripes, there are so many new colour variations I want!

How do you find inspiration for your department, what trend forecasting resources do you use?

Most of the inspiration I use for my department comes from our Korea and Tokyo shopping. They are definitely a season ahead of trends. Last year we bought a lot of things that seemed crazy and full-on at the time but now they’re bestsellers and all the high street are landing similar trends! You definitely have to have an open mind.

Has the loom of Brexit, the downturn in the economy and a general push to keep costs down affected your work?

It is tougher since Brexit, mainly because of the fall in the pound to the dollar and the uncertainty it’s caused. It’s meant re-sourcing some products and working even harder to get the product we want into the retail price we want to sell it at.

What ambitions do you have in your role? 

Right now I’m at a stage where I’m not sure what my ultimate goal is. For years I knew I wanted to progress up the ladder and be a buyer and now that I’ve finally accomplished that I’m not sure what’s next for me. It’s definitely an unsettling feeling.

How do you keep a balance in your life? 

It is hard to keep a balance. This is an all-consuming industry and you can’t succeed if your heart isn’t in it. Even if I’m not working long hours I find it hard to switch off. Support from friends and family is absolutely vital. It’s also really important to have friends in the industry, as they really understand what you’re going through.

Ultimately hanging out with great friends who make me laugh is my favourite way to unwind but I do absolutely love a good holiday. We work so hard that we deserve a break and I love travelling and exploring new places.

Fashion Insiders: Anna Berkeley

The next interview in my Fashion Insiders Series, with former fashion buyer Anna Berkeley, has come along at the perfect time for me as I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the changes in my own life since I started out on my own this year.

Anna’s worked in the fashion industry for over 20 years and in that time she’s been a buyer at the likes of Selfridges, Prada, Reiss, Margaret Howell and is now is now a successful style consultant and range planner. I found it fascinating hearing about how she got to this point in her career.

Hearing stories like Anna’s and my own experience of this year has helped me see that life isn’t always a straight path but more like a river that meanders to new places, bringing with it new opportunities. I’ve also been getting very philosophical in the last year or so, in case you hadn’t noticed! Lol!

Fashion Insiders: ex fashion buyer, Anna Berkeley

Hi Anna, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today!

You do a number of different roles in your life - including working as a stylist, fashion writer and buyer. When did you know you wanted to work in these roles?

I have to admit I didn’t truly work it out until my 3rd year at university. I took my favourite subject (history) as I really didn’t know what else to do aged 18! I then did a summer job at Topshop and thought, this is it! I want to work in this world. I had always loved fashion and shopping growing up but never dreamed I could make a living out of it.

Fashion Insiders: ex fashion buyer, Anna Berkeley

Please, can you tell me a bit about your career so far?

Once I had decided it was fashion I wanted to get into I researched all the different roles. I alighted on buying. It really excited me. It was very difficult to get into and I entered sideways as an allocator for Wallis. This sits in the merchandising function, not buying, but was a perfect place to start to learn how the retail world operates. I was basically responsible for sending out the stock, monitoring it and doing transfers. It’s a vital role and I relished the analysis side of things especially. I have to admit I wasn’t very good at it!

I then took a job as a Buyer’s Clerk at Faith Footwear (which was huge then!). Again this was a starter role but I learnt all the grassroots jobs and began to really grasp what made commercial sense. I began to do some buying and then got my dream role as an Assistant Buyer at Selfridge’s department store. I started in menswear and then moved to women’s. I was responsible for the denim room, the casual area and then moved into designer wear and millinery.

It was a brilliant time. I attended all the shows all over the world and had huge autonomy. I then worked briefly for Prada. It was an amazing experience seeing how the luxury market worked and the difference between working multi-brand versus single brand.

I then moved to Reiss to be Head of Buying. This again was a huge learning curve and totally different to all the roles I had had previously. I worked closely with the in house design team seeing sketches and toiles for the first time. I adored that process and the honour of seeing sketch to shopfloor all the way through. By this time I had worked for ten years in buying and was thinking about my next move.  

I took a break and trained as a stylist as I wanted to run my own business and help other women navigate the choppy waters of style! I then got pregnant with my first child and styling enabled me to work around him as well as a consulting role for the award-winning designer, Margaret Howell. I did all their womenswear buying for a few years and then moved to range planning and helping with concessions.

What skills do you feel are key to what you do?

For buying you need to be numerate, analytical and resilient; have strong stamina, be hard-working, good at negotiating and possess a natural eye for the right pieces. Not the pieces you like, but the pieces that the customer wants. Range planning requires many of the same skills but is more analytical. In styling, I believe you need to be a good listener, empathetic, energetic, enthusiastic and kind. You need to be really interested in people and create strong relationships with retailers and clients alike.

Fashion Insiders: ex fashion buyer, Anna Berkeley

What’s the most satisfying thing about what you do?

The wonderful, wonderful people I work with. Being invited into people’s homes and wardrobe’s is a magical thing. Being able to help someone transform themselves or dig them out of a style rut and make them feel better is so rewarding. Finding the right pieces that you know a client will love is very similar to what I enjoyed about buying. Seeking out the best items and using all the knowledge and experience I have gathered over the years feels really good. I never tire of it.

In terms of my consultancy work there really is nothing better than seeing all the outfits you have worked with over 6 months come to life on the catwalk, the campaigns and the company lookbooks. The designers are the real stars but I have a hand in making the range commercially successful and that’s fabulous to me.

What do you do every day? What does a typical day look like?

Every day is different. I could be scouting for a personal shopping session, clearing out a wardrobe, planning next season’s range, looking at toiles or doing a colour analysis.

What advice would you give someone wanting to do what you do?

Immerse yourself in the fashion world. Ask questions and start right at the bottom, with humility, and learn everything you can about the business from all angles.

Where do you go to keep up with current trends?

Stores, Instagram and Vogue.com

Has the importance of catwalk trends changed over the years? Are there other more important influences these days?

Street style.

Fashion Insiders: ex fashion buyer, Anna Berkeley

What ambitions do you have in your role?

To help as many women as possible to fulfil their potential and look and feel great in what they wear.

What kind of satisfaction do you get from your roles? For instance, how does it feel when you are featured in publications you admire or when you work with a client?

It’s a wonderful buzz and I feel very grateful.

Is there anything that has inspired or guided you in getting you to where you are today? For instance a book, tool, approach to life or a saying?

Just do it!

How do you keep a balance in your life?

I have two boys, Sam and Jesse, so being mum as well as running my own business and consulting is really tough sometimes. I love all my roles so I’m incredibly lucky. Yes, I do feel under pressure at busy times. I relax by taking long baths, reading, walking and getting outside as much as possible.

Fashion Insiders: ex fashion buyer, Anna Berkeley

What are this seasons most flattering trends?

Velvet and cord are very flattering next to the face!

What are your top trends for Christmas this year?

I’m still very taken with head to toe velvet, a suit preferably. Or the amazing pink sequin dress by Preen for LK Bennett.

Do you have any tips for Christmas dressing?

Make sure it’s comfortable. When trying on -sit down, stretch, move around, reach up and ensure your outfit doesn’t pull or dig in.

What’s the one thing we should be investing in now for SS18?

Souped-up trainers


Contact Anna via email at anna@annaberkeley.com

Anna's website: annaberkeley.com

Anna's Instagram: @annaberkeleystyling

Fashion Insiders: PR Account Director Maddi Tiscoe

I have to say, I’ve never been very good at getting to grips with the PR side of business. If like me, you want to start getting serious about it then this interview, from my Fashion Insiders series, is for you.

It was a real eye-opener to catch up with Maddi Tiscoe, a PR Account Director, who has been shortlisted as a 30 under 30 young business star and is a finalist for the CIPR Pride Young Communicator Award.

I found out that not only is PR very different to the AB Fab world that many imagine it to be (ahem, definitely not what I thought it was like, no) but that it’s very much about telling stories that create a persona for your brand.

If you really want to start to understand how to promote yourself, fashion brand or otherwise, then read this post as she gave me her top PR tips and told me about the biggest mistakes she see’s brands making time and time again. I learnt a lot from this interview and Maddi’s favourite quote from the economist Theodore Levitt will stay with me as my guiding principle in PR forever more!

Maddi has already had a lot of success in her career so it was great speaking to her about her life as well as her work. She told me about what’s great about living in Cornwall and how throwing herself into a hobby has helped to keep her focussed and relaxed.

Maddi on the front cover of Business Cornwall

Maddi on the front cover of Business Cornwall

Hi Maddi, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.

You’re a PR Account Director for Wild West Communications (sister company to Wild Card in London). When did you know you wanted to get into PR?

My career started after finishing my English literature degree at University of Leeds. I was interested in journalism and acting. What I loved most about my degree, was analysing the story and the period the writing related to - what it showcased about people, personalities, traits; what the author’s point was and the creative license used to make a point heard.

I’ve always been interested in people. I did a hands on two-week internship at a London agency - learnt a lot! That was when the penny dropped for me, realising that PR surrounded me, every day. It was storytelling in the current world, connecting a brand to consumers. Following my internship, I then took part in the company’s graduate scheme, as an account executive. At the time, I remember trying to explain what PR was to my grandma. ‘But your name isn’t next to the article?’ she said. I remember thinking, ‘But the story wouldn’t exist without me.’ I learnt that a good PR story is often when no one can tell ‘PR’ is behind it.

What skills do you feel are key to what you do?

I do think you have to be a people person. You have to be fascinated by people. Working out what makes people tick is at the core of a PR career. Having creative flair is helpful, as well as being able to think laterally. A high level of skill in copywriting is expected at my agency – you have to be able to communicate well. More specifically to me, as an account director - I have to drive the development of strategic, creative, effective campaigns that deliver client delight within budget. I spearhead new business initiatives, support the growth of the business internally and have to showcase a breadth of knowledge across client businesses and wider industries. It helps to be diplomatic and clear thinking. I’ve grown into an effective delegator and negotiator; I have to manage client satisfaction, ensure programmes meet agreed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by keeping my team on track by setting clear targets. I also have to maintain relationships with senior influencers and journalists, generating coverage in return. I really enjoy coaching, mentoring and motivating my team.

Is there anything that has inspired or guided you in getting you to where you are today?

The American economist Theodore Levitt once said, “People don’t want to buy quarter-inch drill bits. They want quarter-inch holes so they can hang up pictures of their children.” I remind myself of this, to remain true to the storytelling of a brand – how does this brand or product make people’s lives easier, happier, better…? You’ve got to find out what it is that your audience really cares about.

More personally, I’m often quite hard on myself. Someone once told me, ‘we don’t achieve greatness without failure’, and this has really helped me turn some experiences into positives throughout my career so far.

What kind of satisfaction do you get from your role? For instance, how does it feel when something you’ve worked on is featured in publications you admire or when you work with a client?

It is the best feeling of satisfaction when you see your idea in tangible print. An idea that you helped create, becomes something permanent. And when you hear that it has helped drive sales or bookings for your client, it’s amazing. I still have those first few pieces of coverage I landed eight years ago. Now that I’m in a more senior position, I get a real buzz out of client satisfaction and out of securing new business too.

Storytelling can help transform a brand’s identity and presence. Its purpose is to create trust from both consumers and other representatives in the industry. To be integral to a brand’s transformation is a real privilege.

Maddi at a  Roos Beach  fashion event. Photograph by  Adj Brown .

Maddi at a Roos Beach fashion event. Photograph by Adj Brown.

You’ve had lots of success in your role; you’ve recently been Shortlisted as one of the 30 under 30 young business stars in Cornwall 2017 and you’re a Finalist for the CIPR Pride Young Communicator Award. What advice would you give someone wanting to do what you do?

Thank you. To do PR, you don’t necessarily have to have a PR degree. At Wild West, we have a team from diverse backgrounds (from social housing to journalism). It will help if you are diligent, have good attention to detail, good writing skills, creativity; if you’re able to multitask, have tenacity (getting on the phone to journalists), if you like people (a lot of this job is about managing people and expectations, especially the more senior you get); it helps to have patience and you have to be a team player…

It’s a dynamic, pressurised and creative environment - you’re always learning. We are always looking to hear from people, for internships to permanent roles.

What are your top 3 PR tips for brands?

Focus on perfecting your product before reaching out to the press. Gain feedback from a trusted pool of people to help you improve your product or service. The last thing you want is to have negative customer reviews early on, as this can be hard to rise back up from. A good quality offering is more likely to get more traction in the press anyway, once word is out.

Photography, photography, photography. More and more articles are becoming heavily image led, so good images are important. It’s best to have a professional do it for you. It can be the make or break of a story. The picture can be the story.

Timing. Some ‘long lead’ monthly publications write three to five months in advance, whilst online lifestyle press can publish something within the hour. You need to be able to keep an eye out on news agenda items to appropriately piggyback off of.

What are the most common PR mistakes you see?

Pitches need to be compelling and creative. Of course you might think everything your business does is the best, but not everyone will agree. Pitches need to be personal, as the media are bombarded with hundreds of emails every day. Keep it short and sweet, and make sure your subject line is attention grabbing.

Research who you are contacting – it’s not about cold calling. They are more likely to engage with you if you are speaking to the right person! No one wants to think they are being told something that has been sent to hundreds of other people. What angle can you offer to a publication exclusively?

You have to be able to grab attention in a paragraph or less. If you can’t, then it isn’t a story. If they are interested, they’ll let you know. This goes for press releases too – the less work the journalist has to do to transform it into a story, the more likely they are to feature it.

If a brand only does one thing to increase their profile what should it be?

It’s helpful to think of your brand as a human persona. Trust will be built if the brand personality is interesting and genuine. Help people see the full picture of your business. Don’t shy away from encouraging customers to tell their own stories about how your business benefited them. Your audience will then connect emotionally with who you are through compelling stories, helping to set the tone for your company.

What does a typical day look like for a PR Account Director?

To simplify the structure of a PR team: as a director, I am the strategist and the account managers and executives on my team are the effective ‘doers’. I’ve worked my way up from account executive level. I find that having that knowledge helps to get the strategy right.

A day in the life can have many guises, from being out at a photoshoot to selling in a research story to the national news desks before 9.30am. Typically, I watch BBC breakfast before leaving the house (its interviews with key opinion formers are fascinating) and listen to Radio 2 on my drive to work; the team sits together and we read out key stories from the newspapers by 9.30am, flagging key articles of interest to clients; respond to urgent client emails, hold internal ‘work in progress’ meetings, have a media meeting with a blogger or journalist to discuss editorial opportunities and press trips, hold client calls or client meetings at the office, publish a blog post I’ve written for the Wild West website, go to a networking event in the early evening to keep in the know with local business movements.

My role is to ensure everything is running on schedule, that the client is happy, that my team are happy. I’m a line manager for two colleagues. I also have set targets for bringing in new business to the company and leads can be generated from networking and recommendations from current clients.

Maddi surfing whilst on her travels

Maddi surfing whilst on her travels

PR sounds really glamorous...

Ah ha! Well, there are quite a few PR myths, and here are some top ones… *image of Ab Fab’s Patsy springs to mind*

1.  Any coverage is good coverage

2.  PR is ALL about press releases and press conferences

3.  PR is just ‘stunts and slebs’

4.  Good products don’t need publicity

5.  Journalists are waiting to be ‘schmoozed’

6.  Media will write what you want them to write!

7.  It’s all about spin, slogans & propaganda

8.  Tell the PR and they’ll tell the media. Simple.

Wining and dining most certainly isn’t enough! Flattery only gets you so far. You have to know your stuff. PRs should pride themselves on knowing the media’s language and how to translate a story for journalists, in a bespoke manner. And it isn’t easy.

What PR really is…

1.  Central to a company & brand communications strategy

2.  Multi-platformed and fully integrated

3.  Reputation building & management

4.  A vehicle to reach a defined target audience

5.  Underpins sales strategy & prompts action

6.  Educates, inspires and entertains

7.  Delivers measurable results & KPIs

8.  Promotes advocacy to drive brand desire

How has social media affected PR?

Technically, social media is an ‘owned media channel’. Driving reach and engagement is key to amplifying content to wider audiences. Working with brand partners and advocates is valuable in driving attention to those owned channels. Paid for elements are coming into play a lot more – the media is adapting to consumers’ changing habits. According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), more than half (52%) of PR professionals now spend most of their time working on influencer relations. And the public have the right to know when an endorsement is authentic and when it is paid-for content. In CIPR President Jason MacKenzie’s words, ethical conduct has never been more critical to PR. It can’t be misleading.

When selecting influencers to work with, it’s imperative to select those that naturally match the brand’s target audience. Their endorsements have to make sense. You can’t be telling them exactly what to say. It needs to be their voice – as that's what their readers are interested in.

How do you see PR changing in the next few years?

The importance of integrity has never been higher. The threat of ‘fake news’ has made journalists and editors challenge their reporters, setting more parameters in place to ensure news is accurate. Actually, the recent rise in reports of fake news has actually elevated trust in traditional media, PR Week recently reported.

The power of video is only going to grow. Having a visual showcase attracts attention – but it still needs to go hand in hand with written content, with a content strategy behind it.

From May 2018, the new GDPR law for data protection comes into effect, introducing new requirements for how organisations process personal data. It will be a duty for PRs to consult clients on these changes.

You’re based in beautiful Cornwall. What’s unique about the brands you work with in that part of the UK?

The Cornish heartland is aspirational. It offers a rich escape and I feel very lucky to live here. It’s said that a ‘food revolution’ has taken place in Cornwall over the past 12 years, putting the county firmly on the map. It’s an exciting time to work with brands that are at the centre of this. To me, Cornwall is an empowering space with real soul. I’ve been drawn to this county because of its natural rewards, from surfing to the coastal walks and café culture – the beach life. There’s so much to see and discover. This culture, attitude and mind-set appeals to many brands.

However, I’m also aware that the county has some of the UK’s biggest social challenges, and I applaud the likes of businesses such as Crowdfunder who actively offer to help fund organisations aiming to drive change in this area.

Maddi competes at a high level in jiu jitsu tournaments

Maddi competes at a high level in jiu jitsu tournaments

Do you feel a lot of pressure? If so then what do you do to unwind?

It is a demanding job and I can feel pressure. But, as I frequently remind myself to get perspective, it is PR not ER! It’s a career in which you never stop learning and it is fast paced. I’ve got better at keeping a work life balance by throwing myself into a hobby. It makes me make my time work hard because I have to leave by a certain time to make it to training. I recommend reading this article featuring Alex Soojung-Kim Pang who is the author of the book, ‘Rest: Why you get more done when you work less.’ He talks about how seriously engaging hobbies are good for you; how ‘deep play’ and serious leisure can keep you focused and relaxed.

I’m a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu purple belt at North Shore Jiu Jitsu in Newquay. Jiu Jitsu is a grappling martial art that uses leverage and positional control with submissions to submit opponents (no striking) and on average I train three to four times a week. It’s mental as much as physical, you learn how to deal with anxiety and overcome adversity. If you can perform when your opponent is trying to ‘rip you limb from limb’, well, then you can work with challenging clients and control your nerves when PR pitching! I’ve trained for almost five years now. It’s not a fad – it takes around 10 years to get to black belt. It takes drive, motivation and perseverance, and it is empowering. I find that It helps me relax my brain by doing something completely different. And you have to leave your ego at the door!

What are your goals in both life and work?

My intention is always to be the best I can be. To be one person, at work and at home. I want to strive to reach a more senior level, to work with a range of lifestyle brands and especially those that want to tap into the Cornish way of life that I have grown to love and understand.

Becoming a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu is definitely on the list! I want to go surfing with my girls more often. To feel more comfortable in the sea. I have such a respect for it. I always want to make the most of what’s on my doorstep with my family.

Follow Maddi’s PR life, telling stories by the sea, @saltwaterstories, @maddicam and at Salt Water Stories

Fashion Insiders: Bon Bride

Many of the women I’ve met on my journey in the fashion industry have gone on to do exciting projects or start their own brands. There are so many of them now that I’m starting to wonder if there’s something about the fashion industry that attracts entrepreneurial women? The industry has always been a place for creative and driven people, surely two of the biggest factors in starting your own business?

It’s really encouraging and inspiring to hear their stories and how they’ve made their own path. Pippa Cooke is one of the women that has inspired me since the start of my career; we were both at Topshop together and she took me under her wing when I started on the same department as her.

As part of my Fashion Insiders series I caught up with her as she is now the designer and founder of Bon Bride, a London based luxury, yet affordable, bespoke design studio for trend led brides.

She told me about how her struggle to find her own wedding dress and how designing dresses for her friends set her on a mission to build a bridge between the wedding dress and fashion industries. If you’re currently looking for a wedding dress then she has useful tips on where to start, including in your own wardrobe.

I’m always interested in how other women manage their life/work balance and especially those that work for themselves. Pippa has found that she no longer works traditional hours and has seen these changes benefit her and her family. She also has encouraging words for those that are taking the plunge themselves and starting their own business.

Pippa at work on one of her designs

Pippa at work on one of her designs

Hey Pippa, congratulations on starting your fab new brand. How much preparation did you do before starting Bon Bride?

In all honesty not very much. I’ve been in the fashion industry for well over 10 years and it was clear to me there were limited options out there for wedding dresses. It was all lace, tulle and bulky dresses. [when I was shopping for my own dress] I just wanted a really simple, beautifully cut, cool white dress with a bit of a train but I couldn’t find it. So, I decided to have one made! And it was this experience that led me to create Bon Bride.

I wanted to create an option that allowed the bride to maintain her own unique style and show a bit of her personality through her dress. Bon Bride is clean, understated and for modern women who still want to have style on their wedding day. It’s definitely not traditional and is inspired by designers like Celine, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent. We use simple silhouettes, fine details and modern fabrics (and less lace). My customer definitely knows her own style and what suits her, she has a certain edge whether that be simplicity or bold statements and I immediately know her tastes and fashion sense straight away!

How did it feel to finally take the plunge and start your brand?

It was about time. I had designed 2 wedding dresses for my friend Kate back in December 2015 and this was my kickstart, however, I fell pregnant and dedicated that following year to my daughter. I had also been offered a job at Harrods as womenswear Buyer which I couldn’t refuse.  But it was my maternity leave which gave me the time and space to think about my own career and work/ life balance and to be in charge so I went for it. Through the amazing world of social media, I had a couple of enquiries through friends of friends who had seen Kates dress and from there I picked up 3 new clients. Since then one of the brides was on the “Love My Dress” blog and from here I have had an influx of enquiries all of which are now orders.

I have just loved meeting the brides, each one so unique and so understanding of what Bon bride is trying to achieve. It’s so reassuring knowing that my vision isn’t just in my own head. 

My biggest challenge so far has been juggling the life/work balance. Sometimes I work best late at night (to my husband’s dismay) but if I have an idea it fills me with energy which I can only burn through getting that idea onto paper. My daughter is in nursery twice a week so I use those full days to really knuckle down and get everything done that needs doing. I also have an incredible husband who comes home from work and gets stuck in with all things Bon Bride, from steaming wedding dresses to creating the most complex (yet amazing) spreadsheets going! He is very business savvy and can convert all of his knowledge and skills into anything, even wedding dresses. Business is business so it all applies!

Pippa on her own wedding day.  Photo Millar Cole  Photography.

Pippa on her own wedding day. Photo Millar Cole Photography.

Tell me a bit about your career in fashion before Bon Bride

I did a fashion design degree at Leeds and stepped into my first job at Topshop at 21. I actually couldn’t believe my luck as Topshop was such a difficult company to get your foot through the door but I managed to secure my first role on Knitwear as BAA and stayed there for 5 years until my husband and I decided to travel the world. I was then fortunately offered a role at House of Hackney 1 year after they launched. This taught me a huge amount about branding, sales, business strategy and wholesale. All of which I then took with me to my last role which was womenswear buyer for Harrods private label “Harrods of London” This is where I really learnt about high-end fashion.

I learnt a huge amount in my previous role and that was purely down to my manager who believed in me and my ideas. I was thrown in at the deep end, negotiating between supplier and our own financial teams but learnt so much from both parties which helps me in the day to day running of Bon Bride.

What skills do you use in this role that you learnt when you were a buyer?

Gosh so many! I would say the most important one being people skills. You absolutely have to be able to adapt to the person and surroundings you are in.  Understanding what your client wants is so important and guiding them through the process is your responsibility. Translating this to pattern cutters/seamstresses is equally important so you have to have that understanding on all levels.

Fashion Insiders Bon Bride

Do you feel more pressure now that you have your own business and how do you deal with it?

I definitely feel pressure and lots of it, but that’s what keeps me going. I have huge responsibility to create and develop each brides dream dress no matter what the budget. I’m a bit of a perfectionist too so even the slightest niggle gets stripped back, re looked at and started again.

Having worked in buying for the last 10 years you could afford to test your decisions and trial new ideas, gauging the market’s reaction but with bridal wear it has to be more than perfect, you only get that one chance but that’s what makes it so special. Absolutely everything I have goes into each dress and if I wouldn’t wear it myself then it doesn’t make the cut!

Do you have any tips for someone wanting to start their own brand?

Absolutely, go for it! Don’t listen or seek opinions from people you don’t 100% trust. People who don’t believe in you or your idea will only leave doubt and uncertainty in your mind which leads to negativity. Surround yourself in like-minded people, there’s lots of us out there, all in the same boat wanting to push a new idea, be self-employed and have that life/work balance so just do it. The sooner the better!

Do you use freelancers/outsource any roles to help with your business?

I have pattern cutters and seamstresses all of whom I trust completely. They have experience in both bridalwear and high-end fashion from Caroline Castigiliano to Victoria Beckham, Tom ford and Mulberry. They are super talented and completely understand what Bon Bride is all about.

Do you have any operating issues that you didn’t face in your previous roles in fashion?

Fabric minimums can be quite difficult but we are using relatively expensive fabrics so usually you find the minimums are much smaller. I have built up such great relationships with the fabric shops in London that they are my go to. They always help find alternatives or fabrics within budgets. The relationships you have with your suppliers are so important. Sometimes negotiating over a few quid here and there really isn’t worth it. I also really want to support small independent businesses too.

I sometimes find it hard when I’m working by myself a lot, like you I’m so used to the hustle and bustle of a buying office.  Do you feel like this and if so how do you deal with it?

Sometimes it’s hard working alone but hustle and bustle can lead to distraction. I get so much done when I’m alone that my working days are 4/5 hours long. I’m so much more productive when I’m alone. It then frees up my time to spend with my daughter or out with friends etc.

I do like to mix it up so I’ll be in town at least once or twice a week sourcing new fabrics, meeting new brides and looking at fabrics together. Or just picking a local café and heading there for the morning whilst I do some sketching! I just love how you can manage your own time and for some reason I do it better now than I ever did before. I’m all for flexi working and flexi hours and I hope that as our brand and team expands this will be reflected.

The Bon Bride collection will arrive in 2018

The Bon Bride collection will arrive in 2018

What can we look forward to from Bon bride in the future?

I’m super excited about the next few months and the future, I have so many new brides who are all absolutely stunning inside and out and together we are creating some really unique styles. I love how open minded they are and how involved they are too with every detail.

We are also working on our new collection for 2018 where you will see some super cool shapes in modern/ technical fabrics, in not just silks and the crepes but also neoprene, textured combined wools with frayed unfinished hems and clean lines.

Ultimately, I want to shape and modernise the bridal wear industry. Its lost in its own world of crazy money and minimal taste. More fashion designers are delving into bridalwear because they know what women want, what they buy and what suits them. There is no need for this current divide between the two industries so really, I want to build the bridge.

Bon Bride mood boards

Bon Bride mood boards

Pippa's sketches

Pippa's sketches

What are your top tips for buying a wedding dress?

My first tip is to look through your wardrobe! Not for the dress but for shape and detail of what you're drawn to. What necklines do you usually wear, what sleeves do you like, do you love a long sleeve or do you love to show off your arms? What parts of your body do you want to show off or keep covered, this is so visible in our daily wardrobe!

My second tip is try on as many evening gowns as you can. Visit Harrods, Liberty, Browns and Selfridges etc. It’s not very often we get to wear a long gown so starting here is a great way to see something on you and get familiar with your body in these types of dresses. This way you then have more of an idea when you go to bridal boutiques, although be prepared for that persistent sales exec who will insist on seeing you in the doily lace, princess cut blancmange! Also, note the price tag as it will no doubt be over budget!

Bon Bride work with clients on bespoke orders and have a collection coming in 2018.

Fashion Insiders: Wonder Wardrobe

The second interview in my Fashion Insiders series is with the lovely Daria Andronescu; a personal shopper and the founder of Wonder Wardrobe. I was excited to talk to her as I didn't know a lot about the life of a personal shopper and always thought it sounded like the best job in the world! Daria didn't disappoint, she told me about living life between Moscow, Milan and Paris and then how she adapted her life so she travelled less. 

Over the past 7 years, she has worked as an international personal shopper, creating wardrobes for clients all over the world. After building her experience and knowledge she developed her own method of building the perfect wardrobe. Daria is now based in Düsseldorf and shares her method via the Wonder Wardrobe; an online video course for anyone who wants to build a sustainable wardrobe of fully interchangeable outfits.

I'm a fan of her, very successful, YouTube videos. Daria shows how to make our current wardrobes work harder; she is passionate about using this approach to tackle the problem of sustainability in fashion. As someone that's scared to death of creating their own Youtube videos, I was reassured to hear that Daria still gets nerves before uploading hers!  

Wonder Wardrobe Daria personal shopper Fashion Insiders

Hi Daria, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.

Congratulations on the success of Wonder Wardrobe. You started out as a personal shopper, when did you know you wanted to work in this role?

Thank you so much! When I decided that I wanted to work in fashion, I started researching different industry jobs and that’s how I found out about image consultant and personal shopper jobs. I thought working with real people privately, helping them to achieve a better image, might be very fulfilling. Plus, you get to shop in the best and most luxurious shops in the world and work with clothes from any brand you want.

Tell me a bit about how you got to this point in your career?

My fashion journey started when I won an internship at Cosmopolitan (Russia) and had a chance to assist stylists in photoshoots. I found that so exciting that I decided I definitely wanted to work in fashion. Then I went to Milan to the Up-to-Date Fashion Academy and studied image consulting for women and men, personal shopping and etiquette. After graduating, I had a chance to get another internship, this time in Milan and in personal shopping, that gave me a huge amount of experience.  After that, I went back to Moscow, where I am from originally, and decided to start a personal shopping business.

Of course, it wasn’t easy in the beginning, so I had to find a job. At first, I was working as a brand specialist in a fashion concept store and was teaching sale assistants about the brands we had there. It was an interesting job but wasn’t creative enough. I’ve also worked for an online shop as a stylist, where I had to dress the models for the photoshoots.

Then, finally, I started to get more and more clients for personal shopping and it became my full-time job. I was working non-stop for 5 years, travelling and living between Moscow, Milan and Paris. Some trips were amazing, some were very tiring. It’s not an easy thing to work with rich Russian clients. Most of them hire a personal shopper just to show off or out of boredom. It just made me feel useless.  At some points, I got very tired and started wondering what else I could do, and how I could evolve professionally. I wanted to do something meaningful, useful and fun and that’s how the Wonder Wardrobe was created.

Wonder Wardrobe Daria personal shopper Fashion insiders

How did you come up with the idea for Wonder Wardrobe?

I was thinking about a way to help more people with their style without having to travel so much. An online course seemed to me like the perfect solution. I already had my own system of building multifunctional and interchangeable wardrobes that I’d created while working as a personal shopper, so I just had to record it and put it out there.

What advice would you give someone wanting to do what you do?

Don’t be afraid to show the world your ideas. If you believe in them, people will eventually believe in them as well.

What does a typical day look like?

My typical day starts with yoga and meditation; it helps me to be more focused and calm during the day. The first thing I do is answer all the new questions and comments from the students of my online fashion course. After that, I work on the next Youtube video or blog post. This includes creating visual content, writing a script, shooting and editing.

Where do you go to keep up with current trends?

I don’t follow trends that much anymore. I just watch the runway shows or seasonal lookbooks and decide for myself what I like and find interesting.

Daria Wonder Wardrobe Stylist Fashion Insiders

Has the importance of catwalk trends changed over the years? 

Trend reports have become so commercialised that I've lost my interest in them. Now I only focus on ethical and sustainable fashion. I like to explore new brands that have a strong and unique identity, interesting ideas, beautiful designs and that innovate in the production process.

Do you have any ultimate goals?

I want to help the fashion industry to become more sustainable and eco-friendly. The damage that fashion causes to our planet is so significant that we can’t wait any longer, we need to change it. I believe that brands have to slow down, stop using unsustainable materials, regulate their suppliers, and get more involved with technology and innovations. On the other hand, consumers also have to slow down and stop buying and throwing away so much clothing. This is where I believe I can help and share my experience and knowledge with everyone who wants to learn how to buy less and wear more. I won’t stop until I see the difference.

What kind of satisfaction do you get from your role? 

I receive letters from my students and youtube viewers where they share how my techniques and lessons helped them to change the way they build their wardrobe. It gives me energy, courage and desire to keep going.

How do you keep balance in your life?

I try to keep balance in my life by letting go of work on the weekends. It’s not always possible, but I do my best to have these days where I can relax, unwind and spend time with my family. Daily meditation and yoga also help. I don’t really feel a lot of pressure, I work alone and can do whatever I want and spend my time how I see suitable. Though I feel a little bit nervous before uploading a new video on youtube. Or sad if it wasn’t successful. Sometimes I start questioning myself and asking if I'm good enough. But fortunately for me, my husband always knows what to say to make me feel better. He is also involved in the Wonder Wardrobe Course and helps me a lot with marketing and advertising.

wonderwardrobe.com