An eye for trends took MiH Jeans’ director of design and development from English literature into the world of denim.
What does a typical week involve?
MiH Jeans designs four collections a year, so I repeat tasks every three months. Depending on where we are in the season, I work on new design concepts or develop denim washes, fit prototypes or prepare the latest collection. We have a laundry room on site where we experiment on garments and raw denim with sandpaper, paint and glue to produce new effects. I also work with our denim factories in Italy and Turkey, as they have the tools to try out new effects. Every two to three weeks, I travel to review developments at the mills.
I meet with the design and development team weekly to check progress. Before a new collection launches, MiH Jeans founder Chloe Lonsdale,
the merchandising team and I edit the line. Then Chloe and I work with a photographer and a model to shoot our lookbook. Autumn 15 has a relaxed Polaroid style and we decided against retouching.
Which meeting are you most looking forward to today?
I’m planning our autumn 15 campaign photo shoot with a stylist, which takes place in January. This is just one of many meetings until the day of the shoot. It’s exhilarating to see the finished concept for each collection come to life.
What task do you wish you could postpone?
I’m not fond of doing my expenses. I have to do it every few weeks, as I travel to our denim laundries and factories regularly.
How did you get to where you are today?
After graduating, I worked as a design consultant and forecaster at London trend consultancy JLD Intl in 1999. My job was to give clients like Arvind [Indian textile manufacturer] and Raymond [India-based fabric producer] insights on fashion, textile and colour trends. In 2002, I applied for the role of designer at Bloch [an Australian dancewear manufacturer]. They liked my eye for design and figured they could teach me the practical side.
After two years in Australia, I returned to JLD Intl. Suzy Radcliffe, founder of British denim label Radcliffe Denim, approached the company to help her develop a range of jeans. In 2004, as part of that collaboration, I was seconded as head of design for Radcliffe Denim.
While still at JLD Intl, I studied pattern cutting and garment technology at London College of Fashion. I then joined MiH Jeans as head of design and development in 2009. At that time, there were just two of us in production. Now I manage the five-strong design and development team.
What has been your career highlight?
The sustained growth of MiH Jeans over the last couple of years has been incredibly challenging and gratifying. It’s rewarding to see how a British denim brand is becoming more internationally acclaimed [overseas stockists include Harvey Nichols in Istanbul and Hong Kong].
If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?
I’d like to have worked in a denim laundry. In 2008, Spanish textile finishing company Jeanologia offered me the chance to train at their headquarters in Valencia for a month, but I declined as it would have meant leaving my job at JLD Intl.
Who is your mentor?
I’ve been fortunate to work with Dennis Jansson [denim designer at MiH Jeans], learning a lot from his dedication.
What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
Whether you are on the commercial or creative side of the business, put the work in, don’t ever stop pushing and have confidence in what you’ve done. If you don’t, no one else will.
How do you see your career progressing?
It’s not too often that you get a chance to contribute to the development of a brand, so I want to be there for everything we have planned, such as expanding MiH Jeans’ concessions and potentially launching standalone stores in the future.
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Learn everything you can about denim and see jeans being made in a development laundry, factory or denim mill. UK-designed jeans are a niche market, so be prepared to look for jobs outside Britain and travel to places like the Netherlands or the US.
- Salaries for this position range from £50,000 to £65,000 depending on team size (estimate by Le Pont)