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A day in the life of Sunny Phillips

Committing to one company has taken H&M’s global head of visual merchandising all the way to the top.

Sunny Philips

Sunny Phillips

What does your typical week involve?
One of the most fun things about my role is the diversity of tasks, responsibilities and people I meet. In a typical week I could be brainstorming ways to optimise our collection and campaigns with our central creative team in Stockholm, which designs our window set-ups. We always start with the collection and focus on the garment. We look at current trends in fine art or interiors, and then layer them with the specific campaign message. In the visual team it is our responsibility to package all these components into one clear message that is both aspirational and inspirational.

Which meeting are you most looking forward to today?
Today we see the final unveiling of the Alexander Wang window in our workshop. This is the preview of campaign windows for the autumn 14 Alexander Wang x H&M collaboration, due to launch on November 6.

Which task do you wish you could postpone?
The only part of my role I don’t enjoy is the administration. Lucky for me, it’s the smallest part.

How did you get to where you are today?
I started at H&M as a visual merchandiser in the Covent Garden store in 2001. I loved the fast pace, seeing new garments being delivered every day and experiencing the customer’s reactions to our visual merchandising first hand. I became interested in coaching when some of the sales advisors I worked with in store voiced an interest in visual merchandising. I started training new visual merchandisers in my store and working on store openings throughout the UK and Ireland.

In 2008, I became head of visual merchandising for the UK and Ireland, based in central London. During this time, I collaborated with the regional teams in Scotland and Ireland on marketing and merchandising to create a commercial package for the UK market. Together we developed the store experience, rebuilding stores and retraining visual merchandisers.

After three years I knew I wanted to work in a global management role, but realised I needed to experience bigger challenges day to day in order to develop. This led me to a career change in 2011, when I became HR manager for the UK and Ireland. While different to my previous roles, the principles of setting a strategy, working with a team and getting results were essentially the same. The biggest lesson I learnt was creating a talent strategy that brings people into the core of the business. After eight months I was given the opportunity to work in my dream role as global head of visual merchandising, which meant moving to the H&M head office in Stockholm.

What has been your career highlight?
The UK launch of H&M’s Jimmy Choo designer collaboration in November 2009 was one of the first times we had such a large-scale pre-launch event in our Regent Street store. The customer response was phenomenal. The collection consisted of shoes, clothing and accessories for both ladies and men. It was the first H&M designer collaboration to focus on shoes and bags.

How do you see your career progressing?
My main focus for now is on improving the H&M store experience through inspiring windows, styling and inviting garment presentation. One amazing thing about working within the H&M group is that there are so many opportunities in different countries and within the different brands including premium womenswear brand & Other Stories, contemporary fashion label Cos and young fashion and streetwear brand Monki.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I’ve always been ambitious. At the beginning of my career I was sometimes frustrated I wasn’t progressing fast enough, but my advice would be to listen and act on feedback. Work hard and focus on where you can create the biggest leverage.

If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
I would love to share my knowledge and experience, so I would be interested in teaching fashion students, either in the UK or internationally.

CV

September 2011 to present Global head of visual merchandising, H&M

December 2010 to September 2011 HR manager UK & Ireland, H&M

2008 Head of visual merchandising, UK & Ireland, H&M

2007 Head of interior visual merchandising, UK & Ireland, H&M

2001 Visual merchandiser, H&M

1998 BA (Hons) Fine Art Drawing, Camberwell College of Arts

1997 Foundation Fine Art, Maidstone College, Kent Institute of Art & Design

  • Salaries for this type of position range from £80,000 to £100,000 (estimate provided by CVUK)

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