Learning from her experiences gave lingerie brand Wolford’s senior key account manager the skills she needed to succeed.
What does a typical week involve?
I begin the week by collating figures across our nine UK store groups, including House of Fraser and Harvey Nichols, which contain more than 60 doors, two shop-in-shops and two soft corners, which are small areas with two or three fixtures and maybe a hanging rail. The previous week’s figures are used to analyse sales, sell-throughs and missed opportunities, such as stock that may not have been in store and missing product lines.
I meet with managing director Angela Blundell to discuss sales figures for the business year to date. We talk about what’s required to be in line with our figures, from the past week and month totals going forward. We update each other with any exciting developments, business opportunities, how the collection is evolving and responses we’ve had from buyers on seasonal trend collections.
We also consider the positioning of the brand within a department store and opportunities to expose Wolford on different floors, for example by using our tower fixtures to position trend styles on the womenswear floor, as most of our product is sold in the lingerie department. These changes could be made over the next month, during the season or six months to a year. We also brainstorm ideas concerning brand development, such as store promotions and in-store advertising.
I’m also in continuous contact with department store buying and merchandising teams. We work closely on sales for both seasonal trend pieces and continuity product. Continuity styles are replenished weekly or bi-weekly and divided into three categories: ready-to-wear (bodies, knitwear, skirts and trousers), lingerie and hosiery.
How do you feel your role is changing as the industry evolves?
I think I could expand our existing etail accounts, such as Asos.com, by increasing the number of styles we supply or expanding into its ready-to-wear category. We are also in the process of developing new etail accounts. On the product side we are constantly evolving and I need to communicate developments to our different accounts.
What are the three defining moments of your career?
I believe that developing personally and professionally very quickly within the industry has had an impact on my career. My first job was as a receptionist for wholesale company Jacqmar. While there I was promoted to working in the stockroom and then assistant sales manager within six months. I worked on Parigi mother-of-the-bride, Parigi Soir eveningwear and Alternative smart separates, which would wholesale to independents and multiples.
Another highlight was getting the job of product manager for the mainline Strenesse Gabriele Strehle collection, diffusion line Strenesse Blue and accessories in 2000. I was in charge of the German brand’s UK and Ireland wholesale distribution. For the role I went to the Strenesse Blue fashion show at Milan Fashion Week each season from 2000 to 2003 and invited UK buyers from independents and department stores to the show. I would then hold buying appointments at the brand’s Milan showroom.
Working with Wolford has been instrumental to my career. Learning about product development within hosiery and lingerie has been incredible. I’d never worked with hosiery before, but I did have some experience working on very small lingerie collections, which were sold within Strenesse Gabriele Strehle and Strenesse Blue.
What have you got wrong and how did you learn from it?
I did not always make great career choices, particularly when I started out. During the early 1990s, the industry was experiencing difficulties due to the recession, which affected a lot of the businesses I worked for. I made poor choices with these as I was impressed by the product and did not think about the future of each business as much as I should have. I believe I have learned from past experience and feel I’m now in a much stronger position.
Who in the industry do you aspire to emulate?
Vivienne Westwood has been a huge influence on me throughout my career. She is an amazing designer and person. She truly believes in her brand and her country. She also values women
of all shapes and sizes, emphasising the shapely female form.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Work towards your dreams and passion, believe in yourself and work hard. Learn from others around you with experience and soak up information. Be open to constructive criticism and advice, and be forthcoming with ideas and creativity.
What are the key skills you need to acquire to keep moving up the career ladder?
A good understanding of the fashion business and your particular role is crucial, as are excellent communication skills to ensure you can build great relationships with your team and your customers. All that is in addition to being conscientious and working hard.
How do you see your career progressing?
I would love to develop even further within Wolford, taking on more responsibilities. There isn’t a specific role I’m looking forward to, but I would like to head a larger team, say 15 people, as opposed to the 11 in my current team. I would also love the opportunity to oversee wholesale for the UK and Ireland and become more involved with the overall growth of the brand within the wholesale division.
If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
I have always quite liked the idea of being a stylist, meeting interesting and fun people. I think I have a strong understanding of what women want. I would ideally like to style a combination of celebrities and businesswomen who have a disposable income, but don’t have the time to shop.
2013 Senior key account manager, Wolford
2011 Divisional manager, south and all key accounts, Olsen
2004 Self-employed consultant to wholesale designers and companies
2000 Product manager, Strenesse Gabriele Strehle
1999 Manager, southern England, Matinique
1996 Accounts manager, Modeleman
1993 Product manager, Outlander women’s knitwear, Leslie Fay UK
October 1988 Assistant sales manager, Jacqmar
July 1988 Stockroom worker, Jacqmar
May 1988 Receptionist, Jacqmar
1984 City & Guilds, Theatrical Make-Up, Wigmaking and Hairdressing, London College of Fashion