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A day in the life: Niels Van Rooyen

The creative director of niche outdoor and hunting brand Holland & Holland on how passion has guided his career.

What does your typical week involve?

We start with a briefing every morning because we work to a critical path, with timings by date and month. Then we go into creative mode and discuss designs, manufacturing and production. We only do very small collections, working with materials such as cashmere. And 70% is produced in the UK. I oversee the whole of retail as well. It’s quite a job and I can only do it because it’s a passion. Right now I’m at the Safari Club International trade show in Las Vegas; it’s a wonderful platform to promote Britishness and our collections.

What meeting are you most looking forward to today?

My meetings with the US agents, in which I’m looking to promote Holland & Holland. I love explaining what we stand for and what our philosophy is - it’s got to be useful and it’s got to be practical and it is very limited edition.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Meeting the critical paths set and ensuring a healthy bottom line. Of course product is central to that so right now my biggest challenge is getting the right team in place - such as managers to look after the wholesale, corporate gifting and visual merchandising streams of the business - to free me up to focus on the creative and the design side. It’s so important to have a good team that complements one another’s skillsets.

How did you get to where you are today?

I’m South African born with an English mother and a South African father. I began my career working at a number of retailers in South Africa, where I specialised in sportswear, high-end fashion and menswear.

I wanted to learn about the luxury end of the business, so I moved to Europe in 1986, where I joined Alfred Dunhill.

What has been your career highlight?

My highlight is to see the collection sell and the excitement of the public’s response to it. The brand had become too fashion forward before I rejoined in 2007, but I’ve since turned it around.

And to see all of the old customers return is such a highlight, because it is a very niche market and like a club really. We are a destination retailer and not high street, so to be able to crack that nut and achieve the set budget is an incredible achievement.

If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?

I would have loved to have been a game ranger in Africa.

Who is your mentor?

His name is Alain Drach and he used to run Holland & Holland as managing director from 1991 to 1998. He knew style, he knew luxury, he knew price point, he was a black-and-white man and he inspired me completely. Coming from South Africa, it was very different working for a luxury company in Europe and I learnt everything from him.

What’s the best advice he’s given you?

Be focused and believe in your product.

How do you see your career progressing?

I’m 60 years old and having such fun and in a wonderful place, so I’m not planning to retire. Right now we are growing the business in the US and my aim is to take the brand in a more commercial direction, which means promoting our [non-technical collection of clothing designed for] before and after shooting.

  • Salaries for this position range from £100,000 to £250,000 (estimate provided by CVUK)

CV

2007 Creative director, Holland & Holland, London
2004 Retail director, New & Lingwood
2001 Retail sales manager, Holland & Holland
2000 Personal and corporate shopper, Holland & Holland
1998 International visual merchandiser manager, Holland & Holland
1991 Store manager, Mayfair flagship, Holland & Holland
1986 Store manager, St James flagship, Alfred Dunhill

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