Head of design for accessories & swimwear, Debenhams
What does your job involve?
I devise, create and edit the product design direction for the womenswear accessories division of Debenhams. This comprises trend research, producing visuals to illustrate new concepts or products, managing the creative direction for the division and working closely with other internal teams such as marketing, press and online.
What skills do you need?
A passion for fashion and a background in design for handbags, shoes, jewellery, swimwear and scarves, as well as a keen eye for print, colour and detail. You need to be able to identify a new trend and have a creative yet commercial mind.
What do you like and dislike about your job?
The variety of working across such an array of brands and products. The daily nature of a busy design studio and buying office is fast paced and exciting. It’s satisfying seeing 2D product come to life and seeing sales figures come through. The only dislike is the number of meetings versus pure creative time.
How did you get to where you are today?
I specialised in accessories design at college and did internships at Bill Amberg and Paul Harnden Shoemakers, learning to draft patterns and make samples by hand. I gained design experience working in the Far East at suppliers to the high street, before going into design on the retail and brand side.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
I’m very proud of the fact that Debenhams is number one market leader for the whole accessories sector, according to [research firm] Kantar WorldPanel Fashion. Launching all the new brands like Mantaray, H! by Henry Holland, Beach By Melissa Odabash and Jonathan Kelsey for our Edition label, expanding the business by moving our brands into further product categories, and working with designers such as Henry Holland, Jonathan Kelsey, Jasper Conran and Julien Macdonald.
What is your ambition?
In the short term I want to focus on getting new brands on board and to expand our choice with own label and Designers at Debenhams collaborations. In the medium term, who knows, a design directorship would be nice. Longer term my secret retirement dream is a little gift/coffee shop in the Malvern Hills.
How do you intend to get there?
Good old-fashioned hard work, working closely with the amazingly talented people here at Debenhams.
What three words sum you up?
Enthusiastic, creative, strategic.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Approach finding your first job as an investment. While studying, offer to work for free (or very little) in return for work experience, spend time researching and targeting the right people and companies, and be unique and creative with your approach.
2006 Head of design for accessories and swimwear, Debenhams
2001 Accessories design manager, Marks & Spencer
2000 Consultant senior designer, Reiss
1999 Senior accessories and footwear designer, Katharine Hamnett
1996 Handbag designer, Acompany
1994 Handbag designer, Nancy Fisher
1993 Freelance design assistant, Bill Amberg
1990 HND in fashion accessories design, London College of Fashion