Jigsaw’s group production and technical director has honed her flair for pattern and design over 30 years.
What does a typical week involve?
My working week begins on Sunday evening, receiving feedback from the retail team on the past week’s sales. On Monday we get the teams together and, after analysing the sales collectively, we discuss whether to repeat styles, looking at what has worked well or, occasionally, what has not. This week has been focused on autumn 15, as the designers and buyers busily research and develop new styles. We have the important sketch and swatch meeting, which sets out the look for the season ahead. This is the time for production and technical to guide the selection process for the ideal fit and most suitable supplier base.
Here at Jigsaw, we are extremely lucky to have an in-house pattern room. I oversee the pattern cutters, technical team and production process and encourage my team to strive for perfection. There are five people in the pattern room, six garment technologists and two people in production.
What meeting are you most looking forward to today?
A production and technical strategy team meeting, where I’ll present the company’s strategy for the Next three years and recap the figures to date. I run through where we are as a business and where we want to be in three years.
How did you get to where you are today?
Over 12 years I worked with different M&S suppliers (Claremont Garments, Bairdwear and Sara Lee Courtaulds), progressing to the role of technical executive across men’s and women’s fashion. However, I always wanted to work for a luxury brand, and in 2001 I joined Mulberry. It was there I learned the importance of needing the highest standards for fit, detail and quality.
Five years later I went to Karen Millen, working in a dynamic international corporate group. Then I was approached to join Jigsaw. I enjoy being part of a smaller family business where fabrics and suppliers are of the highest standards.
What has been your career highlight?
While at Mulberry, I got the chance to make the bespoke suits and pyjamas worn by Robbie Williams in the video for his 2001 Christmas number one duet with Nicole Kidman, Somethin’ Stupid. Robbie kept the pyjamas, which were made from Mulberry vintage silk fabric printed with steering wheels, as he loved them so much. We were sent over the measurements and every item fitted perfectly, so sadly I didn’t get to fit them on him.
Who is your mentor?
Fay Tear, who was group production director at Aurora Fashions and is now at Karen Millen. She had time for every member of her team, was a great listener and always clear whenever she gave directions.
What was the best piece of advice she gave you?
Always speak to people as you would want to be spoken to and always treat suppliers as your business partners. Their success will be yours too.
How do you see your career progressing?
I have such a great team at Jigsaw and I’m greatly enjoying the challenges of our ever-growing brand, such as understanding the differences of our international partners, increasing our fashion-focused collections and discovering new supplier opportunities. We are gathering momentum, so I’m enjoying seeing how the company will evolve.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I’ve had a hugely fulfilling career creating beautiful products, but this has meant lots of hard work and late nights. Working within technical is like being an architect constructing the perfect-fitting garment. I’ve learned to work hard as part of a team and strive for success in everything I do.
If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
In the future I would like to lecture university students on fashion courses, who often don’t realise there are fields in fashion other than design. We are losing awareness of technical roles like garment technologist, while pattern cutting is becoming a lost art. If we lose a cutter it is one of the hardest roles to recruit, so one of the biggest things we can do is make young people aware of roles in the technical side of design.
- Salaries for this type of position range from £80,000 to £100,000 (estimate provided by Vohs & Co)
2011 Group production and technical director, Jigsaw
2006 Head of technical, Karen Millen
2001 Technical manager, Mulberry
1997 Technical executive, Sara Lee Courtaulds
1995 Technical executive, Bairdwear
1989 Technical executive, Claremont Garments
1987 Senior garment technologist/pattern cutter, Laura Ashley
1984 Designer/pattern cutter, Wallis
1983 Higher National Diploma in Clothing (Distinction), London College of Fashion