Why the former record exec and current UK and Ireland country manager at The Masai Clothing Company traded music for Danish fashion.
The first thing I do when I get up at 6.30am is make a cup of tea. I live 20 minutes from the office in Fulham, which helps as I like to get an early start. As UK and Ireland country manager for a Danish brand, it’s important I look at my emails early on as Denmark is an hour ahead.
During the week I like to spend time visiting our 370 accounts across the UK and Ireland, such as the Fenwick group and Browns department store in York, as well as smaller independents like Bridge in Solihull and Shirt Sleeves in Newark, Nottinghamshire. The Masai Clothing Company has 12 standalone stores in Denmark and over the next three years I definitely think the team will be looking at creating a standalone presence in the UK.
We also have six showrooms nationwide: three in London, one in Manchester, one in Glasgow and one in Dublin, all looked after by our own salespeople. We have four selling seasons a year, meaning we start selling autumn in early February to mid-March, winter in April to early May, spring in early August to mid-September and summer in October to early November, with each selling season lasting five weeks.
Outside the selling season, I don’t like to see salespeople in the showroom. We have six or seven “Masai Days” each season, which is when our salespeople spend a full day in a customer’s shop getting to know their business and customers.
Part of my role involves overseeing the team of regional managers. We have one who looks after London, one who takes care of East Anglia, one responsible for our major accounts, the West Country and South Wales, another who looks after the north of England and North Wales, one who manages Scotland and another in Ireland. I regularly travel to their territories to exchange ideas and compare trade from one selling season to the next. At the end of the selling season we get a comprehensive rundown of sales made to our different customers, helping us analyse which stock is popular with which account.
I expect my salespeople to know their territories inside out. Sometimes, however, it can be frustrating if we hear from an indie that they want to stock Masai and there was an opportunity for us to have approached them ourselves a year ago.
From our 600-piece collection prints are always really well received. I think shoppers like the generous fit and colour co-ordination. Also, layering really is the name of the game with our products. Our key pieces for autumn 15 include a bouclé jacket and a grey spotted jumper, while for spring 16 linen/cotton wide and cropped culottes have sold well.
I speak to the team in Denmark every day to update them on the progress of the UK and Irish market. I also fly over to Denmark eight times a year to catch up with the team and a further four times a year to see a presentation on the latest collection from the sales team.
I brought Masai to the UK seven years ago. The label was founded in 1992 by my former colleague at Danish mainstream womenswear brand InWear and Danish menswear brand Matinique, Hans Rye, and his sister Nina. I met Hans when I was working as a general manager at the company in 2008 and he was sales director. I went to Denmark to meet Nina Rye, where we discussed the UK marketplace and opportunities for the brand.
I already had experience of introducing brands to Britain as in 1979 I brought InWear and Matinique to the UK. At the time, I was working as an A&R (artists and repertoire) man for Warner Bros, but I used to wear Matinique. I saw an advert in a newspaper that the label was looking for a UK manager and I thought: “Why not?” I travelled over to Denmark to speak to brand founder Niels Martinsen and we took it from there.
Along the way I have learnt that it’s important to be open and honest and to listen. You need to have the courage to put all your cards on the table. So if a customer comes to me and says they’ve not had a good sell-through from a product, I want to listen to them, find out why and then react.
The last thing I do at night is look at my emails. I try to switch off and chat to my wife, Ros, who’s an architect, and I love to watch sport, especially any time my football club Fulham is playing.
I’d be a pilot. My dad used to fly a Spitfire in No 6 Squadron and then he started flying other planes. He was even offered a job flying a jumbo jet, although he didn’t take it. I have had some lessons, but I’m definitely not at my dad’s standard.
2006-present Country manager, UK & Ireland, The Masai Clothing Company
1998-2006 Country manager, UK & Ireland, IC Companys
1990-1998 CEO Europe, Liz Claiborne
1987-1990 President, InWear/Matinique
1979-1987 General manager, InWear/Matinique
1974-1979 Marketing manager, Warner Bros