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How I got here - Helen Whitehead

Rare London’s online fashion planner/merchandiser on how to get your foot in the door – and keep it there.

What does your diary look like today?

I’ll be heading to the studio to shoot pieces from the new collection. It’s a busy day as I’ll be shooting all five brands: Rare, Opulence, Paprika, Coco’s Fortune and Thirty Four Disciples. We recently launched an accessories collection, so I’ll be incorporating these within each shoot. It’s pretty full-on but exciting. I enjoy being on set. On a usual day I work on figure reports, merchandise the website and I’m constantly on the lookout for new, upcoming models.

What task are you most looking forward to today?

I’m looking forward to seeing all our new lines styled and on the models. A lot of hard work has gone into developing each and every style by our designers and buyers.

What task do you wish you could postpone?

Some days I wish I could stop time with emails – it’s difficult to get through them all in one day, especially when I’m shooting. Getting distracted isn’t good when you have scissors, pins, dresses and shoes in your hands.

How did you get to where you are today?

I’ve always been interested in the fashion industry. Working within a model agency for many years it felt like a natural progression to move to an established fashion company.

What has been your career highlight?

Seeing Rare London grow, and being a part of two launches, Coco’s Fortune and Thirty Four Disciples. One particular highlight from my career was where I managed backstage for a Vivienne Westwood show. That was cool.

If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?

I’m happy at Rare London and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. My role is varied so I learn new things every day. All I’ve done and achieved in my career has got me where I am today.

Who is your mentor?

I have two. John Pinnington, head of ecommerce, for initially recognising my talents, and head of marketing Paula Green. Both have guided and developed me in the areas I had most confidence and interest.

What is the best piece of advice they gave you?

Paula has worked to change the look of Rare London. We are still known for our partywear but have a cool, indie look now. When styling shoots I always keep this in mind.

How do you see your career progressing?

The company is growing every day. We’ve opened offices in China because of this. I hope to develop my role with the creative team and becoming the studio manager is where I’m hoping to be in the near future.

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

Ideally look for an internship, as you may need to work for free or little pay at first. Give 110% and get involved in any projects you can. Don’t turn away any opportunity to get your foot in the door even if it’s not exactly what you want to do. Show interest and drive as it can be competitive. And do it all with a smile.

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

Hands down, photography. Developing and producing a story with photography can make or break a brand. It’s not just about taking a picture, there is so much more involved.

  • Salaries for this position range from £30,000 to £50,000, depending on experience (estimate provided by Handle Recruitment)

CV

2010 Online fashion planner/merchandiser, Rare London

2010 Head model booker, Pulse Model Agency

2003 Office manager/booker, Pulse Model Agency

2002 Graduated Fashion BA, Liverpool John Moores University

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