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How I got here - Beverly Barnett

M&L Harris’s sales manager has spent almost 24 years at the fashion agency after a chance meeting.

What does your diary look like today?

As we’re out of season my diary is pretty free. However, I have a long list of clients who I’m targeting to make appointments for the pre-collections, which are coming up in a couple of weeks. And I’ll also be planning future appointments abroad – because we show a lot of our collections in Milan and Paris. I look after most things that go on and have several people asking me for all sorts of things. Payment problems are a daily feature and all that has to be put to bed before deliveries go out.

What task are you most looking forward to today?

Getting my teeth into confirming appointments with the main department stores for one of our new collections, which is quite a prestige collection – Derek Lam.

What task do you wish you could postpone?

Sorting out people’s payments, having to ring people up, and worrying that they might not get their orders.

How did you get to where you are today?

I left school and did an executive training course. Then being promoted to an assistant buyer really put me on my career ladder. I then got involved with PR, which I loved. My next move, going into the production side of fashion for French Connection and Nicole Farhi, was exciting and totally different. After that I went to work for a big US buying office, which was a huge undertaking. There were times where I’d have to get up and make a speech about what was happening in the accessories market in the UK to 200 people; it was nerve-wracking but taught me a lot and gave me confidence. Dealing with the chief executives of big US department stores was a good experience too because they are tough cookies. From there I went to work for a four-store womenswear indie called Viva in north London. I thought that was a good time to get out of the rat race, but being stuck in a shop wasn’t for me. While I was there I met the owner of the designer shoe shop next door, who introduced me to her sister, Liliane Harris, owner of wholesale agency M&L Harris, and that was it. I’ve been here nearly 24 years.

What has been your career highlight?

The opportunity to travel, see amazing places, experience factories, learn about fashion and meet all sorts of people, from the heads of Bloomingdale’s to people in the factory.

Who is your mentor?

Liliane Harris has been great to look up to in how she’s built a successful career. She’s taught me a lot.

What’s the best piece of advice she’s given you?

Always be positive, give everybody an opportunity, and be nice. Having a good reputation is really important.

How do you see your career progressing?

Perhaps consulting, but I like to be part of a team, so I do see myself staying here.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t get stuck in a rut. Be open to trying new things. Don’t sit tight thinking things will happen for you – you have to make it happen.

  • Salaries for this position range from £35,000 to £55,000 plus commission (estimate provided by CVUK)

CV

1989 Sales manager, ladieswear, M & L Harris

1988 Assistant to managing director/assisting buyer, Viva

1985 Ladies’ accessories production manager, French Connection/Nicole Farhi

1982 Accessories and menswear merchandiser, international buying office, Associated Merchandising Corporation (AMC)

1979 Press officer, Army and Navy Group/Chiesmans

1973 Assistant buyer/in-house PR, Harrods

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