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Naomi Ngei

Senior designer, Merc

What does your job involve?

In the design team [at young fashion brand Merc] we do multi-product designing. We split the range and I’m responsible for shirting, jerseywear, accessories, polos, sweats and printed T-shirts. We work by range, looking at what pieces we need, and build the collection from there, taking into account key trends and colours. Merc has been around since 1967 and has a distinctive ska/mod look, but coming from River Island I’m very fashion led, so my job has been tweaking and updating that aesthetic. 

What skills do you need?

I did a three-year fashion degree, which helps a lot because you learn a range of skills including pattern cutting, draping fabrics, what happens when you wash certain fabrics and how to sketch on a computer. Vocational experience is really important too, and gaining lots of placements will help give you the skills you need.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

I love designing for a British brand, and one that has a more considered, tailored aesthetic. There isn’t anything I really dislike but there are never enough hours in the day to create all of the designs you want to produce. We work against lead times and only have so much time to get the designs ready.

How did you get to where you are today?

My work was showcased at Graduate Fashion Week and that really helped me, because all of the agencies and retail directors attend looking for new talent. I had an interview with River Island the week before graduating, and got the call to say I had the job the day after I graduated. It also helped that River Island could see I’d taken time to do work placements during my degree for the likes of Ted Baker. Working at such a commercial retailer helped broaden my skills and taught me how to adapt, and also showed me where I wanted to go next, which was down a more tailored route. Finding someone who believes in you and having the right personality – friendly, confident and outgoing – is also really important.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

I had a few promotions in a short space of time at River Island. That and becoming the senior designer at Merc, which is something I always wanted to do.

What is your ambition?

To listen and learn from my directors and to constantly improve as a designer, bringing fresh, new ideas to the menswear market.

How do you intend to get there?

By looking at catwalk shows, seeing what’s in the shops, being aware of what the competition is doing, attending trade shows and by keeping my finger on the pulse.

What three words sum you up?

Ambitious, creative, hardworking.

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

Gain as much work experience as possible. Doing two to six weeks at a brand that you aspire to will really help, and then while you’re there make sure you get to meet the right people. Some places might not take you, because there is competition even at that level, but the persistence will pay off in the end. 


2011 Senior designer, menswear and womenswear, Merc

2011 Designer, men’s jerseywear range, River Island

2009 Designer, men’s jerseywear casual range, River Island

2006  Junior designer, men’s shirt range, River Island

2004  Assistant designer, men’s casual shirts, River Island

2004 Graduated from University of the Creative Arts, Surrey

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