Style director and visual merchandiser at women’s premium denim retailer Donna Ida in London.
What does your diary look like today?
It starts with a meeting at 8am to go over the trade and marketing calendar. This is where I update the stores and the head office team on window plans, installation dates and new visual merchandising schemes that will be going in store that week. I then head to our flagship Chelsea boutique on Draycott Avenue to work on the shop floor. Later in the day, I have a quick shoot with our photographer where I’ll style the spring 14 pieces to accompany a piece I’ve written for our blog.
What meeting are you most looking forward to?
I always look forward to styling people who book in for Denim Clinic appointments (Donna Ida’s one-to-one styling sessions for jeans). I love meeting people, getting to know them and helping them find a whole new outfit. What I love most is that I am rarely sat at a desk on a computer.
What meeting do you wish you could cancel?
The trade meeting. I am dyslexic and have always struggled with presenting in front of big groups. In the trade meetings I always get a bit nervous but as soon as I get good feedback it’s all forgotten and I’m back to being the relaxed person I like to be.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started with a course on International Fashion Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and I loved every aspect of the degree because it covered so much, including finance, quality control, production and international communication. While I was at university I started working at Kookaï, which gave me my initial insight into retail. In my final year I started working for luxury retailer Flannels, and it was then I realised it was styling and VM that I wanted to pursue. I moved to London after graduating and was lucky enough to get my job at Donna Ida on my first day here.
I think arriving at the interview in jeans that the store stocked helped, so I would suggest anyone looking to get into fashion should research the company and dress to reflect the brand.
What has been your career highlight?
About two years ago we decided to up the ante with our windows. We had always created cheeky and fun displays but we wanted to go bigger, which allowed me to experiment with different ideas. My favourite was a beautiful window filled with a rainbow of pom-poms to highlight the colourful spring 12 season. We always aim to create the best boutique windows in London so we work on them for around three to six months in advance.
If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?
When I was younger I was so keen to start earning money I went straight into work instead of doing an internship. I regret this now as I think it’s really helpful in the long run - even if you use it to decide what area of fashion you don’t want to go into.
Who is your mentor?
Donna Ida Thornton (owner of Donna Ida) has become my mentor.
She has an incredible work ethic, starting every day at 7am and is so passionate. I admire how she started with a simple idea and had the vision to grow that into the business we see today.
What is the best piece of advice she’s given you?
It’s an old one, but is so true in the fashion industry: follow your instincts. You can apply it to everything - if you have any doubt there is normally a reason.
How do you see your career progressing?
At the moment I’m really enjoying styling and learning so much every day, so I want to continue with that. And the plans for our windows keep getting more exciting each season. Perhaps in the future I would love to have my own business, but it might be in styling or interiors rather than retail.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I would always say to people that working on the shop floor is a great place to start as you really get to understand the retail environment, experience fashion first-hand and gain product knowledge.
- A visual director can achieve a salary of up to £65,000 to £75,000 or more depending on the size of the business (estimate by Success Appointments)
- 2007 Style director and visual merchandiser, Donna Ida, London
- 2005 Sales associate and stylist, Flannels
- 2004 Senior sales assistant, Morgan
- 2003 Sales assistant, Kookaï
- 2003 International Fashion Marketing BSc, Manchester Metropolitan University
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