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Fashion's hat tricks

Leeds-based agent Jayne Wynick joined her family's company, Escott Fashion Agency, in 1983 when it bought millinery group Escott Hats. Today, occasionwear brand Cattiva accounts for 75% of Escott's business, alongside own-label millinery and womenswear labels Peter Martin and Red by Eugen Klein, which was new for autumn 07

You are the third generation of your family to become a fashion agent. Was there an expectation you would go into the industry?

Not at all - I really didn't want to. I worked at the company as the tea girl during my school holidays and Ifound itboring with the long gaps between seasons. My brother andsister aren't in the industry and mygrandfather was horrified that Iwanted to give up my safe 'job for life' at the bank and go into the rag trade.

What changes have you seen in the industry?

My grandfather was an East End rag trader and when he started in Leeds he was part of a core of agents and family fashion businesses in the city. Forward order was just starting - before that, it had all been quick turnaround stock buying. Our custo-mers used their half-day closing to do their buying for the next week, so we saw people more regularly. It's coming full circle now. This is a fast-changing industry and you have to adapt.

Cattiva still has quite a traditional look. How much longevity do you think that holds and how will it change in the future?

It's only traditional in the sense that it caters to the mid-market. Women of a certain age love Cattiva, whether they are size 6 or size 26. But certainly its movement is towards older women looking for a younger style of dressing. Whatever changes we make to update the colours and prints, the cut and fit of Cattiva will stay the same. What makes it special is that when you put a real woman's body inside the clothes, they come alive. We are one of the fewbrands where models don't do our clothes justice. It is important that we don't ever change the brand's essence.

What has changed at Cattiva since it was bought by Slimma Group in 2005?

One of the biggest things was that we started working in pounds rather than dollars, which meant we were able to drop our prices by 15%. Our schedule also faltered for a couple of seasons, sowe readjusted back to the US system of showing in June and delivering in December for spring 08. We are too early in the season to exhibit at trade shows, but our 160 stockists seem happy to visit our showroom in exchange for the earlier delivery.

Has the mainstream market been neglected by the high street?

Completely. My customers, for instance, couldn't just walk into River Island or Topshop and come out looking and feeling how they want to. But there are great opportunities for those customers at independent boutiques - it's like having a personal shopper. Our boutiques are doing a great job, they have an excellent price structure and a good mix of merchandise, especially for special occasions.

How are millinery trends determined?

There used to be a Millinery Colour Council that decided all the trends; it seemed that they bore no relation to fashion at all. At Escott, we helped pioneer the concept of dyeing hats to match specific colours and now we design and make hats to co-ordinate with the ranges we stock.


What is your biggest fashion weakness?

Shoes. You can get abit blase about clothes working in fashion, but shoes are different.

Best fashion moment?

My wedding dress. In an era of lace-curtain types it was beautiful applique satin in very bright white and I loved wearing it.

Worst fashion moment?

At a 40th birthday when I dressed as a schoolgirl, looking about as young as my two daughters, with my arm in a bright pink plaster cast after falling off a quad bike.

Who is your industry icon and why?

Giorgio Armani. I love his tailored clothes and think he is amazing.

What would you be doing if not fashion?

I'd probably be a dance teacher. I used to do ballet and jazz dance but Ihad to stop when I injured my ankle.

Where do you shop?

I shop wherever I end up, often in my customers' stores. Other than that, I usually go wherever my daughter tells me; she's my style adviser. So it's Karen Millen, Coast and the Limited Collection at Marks & Spencer.

What are you reading?

Philosophy interspersed with chick lit.

Who is your style icon?

Audrey Hepburn. I know every-one says that, but it's true.

Who is your pop idol?

Billy Joel, though not to look at.

Who is on your mobile's speed dial?

It is very telling that work is higher than home on my speed dial.

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