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Ben Lee

Womenswear designer, River Island

What does your job involve?

I oversee women’s casual jersey, which includes all graphics, print, embellished and embroidered products. I’m responsible for silhouette and graphic concept, development and final approval from initial research through to production.

What skills do you need?  

Naturally, a charming personality and a positive attitude helps. You have to be able to adapt to new trends on a regular basis and know what is commercially viable for the high street. If the River Island girl won’t wear your product down the pub or to go meet her new fella, the chances are it is not for the mass market. High street fashion is incredibly fast paced, so the ability to stay calm and never lose sight of your customer is key.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

Seeing your product being worn by people, whether it be in the press, on the high street, festivals or on a night out is a great feeling. It is really rewarding to see the final product after so much design development and hard work. I enjoy travelling for production trips overseas to amazing places. There isn’t much I dislike, however, working for a high street retailer can have its frustrations as our product has to be commercially viable to the mass market. I would love to spend more time designing some amazing pieces or something just a little bit crazy. I do get this opportunity for the press shows, but I’m restricted to doing it just for my jersey department.

How did you get to where you are today?

Lots of hard work and determination to succeed. I was fortunate enough to land a great job straight out of university designing for Abercrombie & Fitch. I don’t think I would have got it unless I had put in the hard work during my sandwich year during university, where I spent time in Brussels and New York learning about customers and brands.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

My mother was invited for a meal with the Queen and Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace. I couldn’t let her go wearing any old dress, so I designed and made her one for the evening. The Queen commented on it, saying how nice it was. I think I was more proud that my mum, who considers herself a ‘savvy’ dresser, actually wore one of my creations.

What is your ambition?

To be respected among my peers for the things I have done and plan to achieve. I would love to one day be creative director for my own label.

How do you intend to get there?

By always being one step ahead of everyone else.

What three words sum you up?

Driven, creative, positive, charismatic. OK, that’s four words.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Do a year in industry as part of your university course. It is an invaluable insight into the world of fashion. 

CV

2010 Designer, River Island

2009 Freelance designer, New Look

2008 Junior designer, Abercrombie & Fitch’s women’s jersey graphic tops, Ruehl jersey graphic tops

2007 Assistant designer, Ruehl women’s jersey core and fashion tops

2006 Men’s outerwear design, American Eagle Outfitters

2005 Girlswear design and graphics design, C&A

2004 BA in Product Design and Development for the Fashion Industries, London College of Fashion

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