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How I got here: Yohanna Mannelqvist on taking Scandi chic global

House of Dagmar’s international sales manager has come a long way since starting her own underwear label while still at school.

Yohanna Mannelqvist

Yohanna Mannelqvist, international sales manager at House of Dagmar

What does your typical week involve?

During the season I mostly spend my time exhibiting the House of Dagmar collection at our showrooms in London and Paris. I also attend the CIFF and Revolver trade shows in Copenhagen. Throughout these busy times I’m also actively making meetings with existing clients such as Harrods, Net-a-Porter and The Shop at Bluebird, as well as making appointments to meet prospective stockists.

Between selling seasons I conduct lots of research, visit stockists and speak to staff to get vital feedback about the brand. This feedback impacts on re-orders, stock swap and sell-throughs. I liaise with our brand specialist, Lisa Hedlund, who is in charge of all key accounts in London, for her store feedback. 

I try to visit our existing customer stores across the UK as often as possible to stay up to date with the changing retail environment. I also regularly liaise with the eight-person design and production team at our headquarters in Stockholm to get an international perspective.

It’s vital that design and production works from market to market. For instance, particular colours are often more popular in different countries. Our international clients, especially in the Middle East, buy our prints and colours, while monochrome works better in Europe. Feedback is vital to improve the design and product by season per region.

How do you feel your role is changing as the industry evolves?

Technology is a big part of the fashion industry. Our stockists provide us with shopping behaviour data and sales reports through different internal systems in their stores. The ecommerce team in Sweden uses Google Analytics to track consumer behaviour and shopping patterns on our online store. The digital team loves the Google Analytic app Abondo. They also use other programs to track digital, social media and email marketing.

Understanding how customers are shopping in-store and online in a more advanced way, particularly their purchasing behaviour, is vital to introducing the right product at the right time. As a sales manager it is crucial to keep track of these factors.

Social media has really helped with brand promotion. We use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. We don’t really work with product placement, but we are lucky to see amazing bloggers such as Elin Kling and Look De Pernille wearing House of Dagmar frequently.  

What have you got wrong and how did you learn from it?

When you work in fashion I feel like a lot of the time you never feel finished. Being a perfectionist I have really high expectations of myself and my work, which has really affected me. In the fashion industry there’s always something more you can do, but you just have to learn when it is time to let go and get on to the next project. 

What was it like to start your own underwear label?

Underbart was founded with a few friends as a school project in Gothenburg, Sweden, but we decided to continue after the course as the business was doing really well. We found a gap in the market for our cute, girly underwear between high street and designer brands. We started by producing the garments ourselves in Sweden and selling to some multi-brand boutiques in Gothenburg. The popularity was way above our expectations and collections kept selling out in stores. We then started working with Scandinavia’s largest fashion etailer, Nelly.com, which helped us to gain production contacts in China.

I tried to keep up the brand while studying, but it just wasn’t possible. I was living in London and our main market was Scandinavia. It was a great learning experience but, while sometimes I wonder where I would be if I’d continued, there’s no point looking back.

Who in the industry do you aspire to emulate?

Natalie Massenet [executive chairman of Net-a-Porter] is someone I really look up to. She went out there on her own and founded Net-a-Porter. When she launched the website she was really breaking new ground. She was so brave and fashion-forward, and she reshaped the whole industry. I’m really impressed by her.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Always work hard and go above and beyond. It might seem irrelevant, but you don’t know how important an experience might be. Working in a shop or as an intern might not be overly exciting, but looking back I can see how important a step those roles were, especially in helping me to think about a product’s impact on the shop floor. All experience is truly valuable.

What are the key skills you need to acquire to keep progressing up the career ladder?

Social skills are vital. We’re all human and people like to work with nice, hardworking people around them. You’re more likely to be hired somewhere if people actually like you. Also, it is essential to act on your ideas. Having the motivation to follow an idea through is imperative.

How do you see your career progressing?

I would love to stay here and make Dagmar more of an international fashion house. The label is really popular across Scandinavia, but in my capacity as international sales manager I would like to grow the business worldwide. Our main focus is the UK and northern Europe, but we’ve seen a lot of interest from Asia, which is why I am shortly travelling to Hong Kong.

If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?

One day I would like to run my own business, maybe as a fashion business consultant, and work on different projects. I like to work within different areas and brand development would be an interesting field. I love people and creating relationships – that would be a key ingredient in my dream job.

CV

2015    International sales manager, House of Dagmar, London

2013    Head of operations, Muzungu Sisters, London

2013    BA (Hons) Fashion Business, Istituto Marangoni, London

2012    Marketing and events coordinator, Nelly.com, London

2011    Sponsorship manager, Fashion Scout, London

2011    Sales assistant, Acne Studios, Dover Street, London

2010    Sales assistant, Chloé in Selfridges, London

2007    Founder of lingerie brand Underbart, Gothenburg, Sweden

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