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A day in the life - Suzanne Bailey

Mothercare’s head of design started out in buying but is now overseeing the retailer’s growing fashion offer.

What does a typical week involve?

My weeks vary depending on where we are in the season. I could be reviewing the new collection for the spring season for the girlswear range one day, preparing trend presentations for the future season the next, or working with my team looking at colours, graphics or designs. We could also be out at the shops or meeting print studios, getting ready for the new season. I do a lot of travelling too, whether it’s inspiration shopping in LA or visiting our factories on development trips. I also could be meeting any of our franchise partners across 59 countries, so there’s plenty to keep me busy. My weeks change all the time but this makes the job more exciting. The team can be working on three seasons at the same time.

What are you most looking forward to this week?

We are presenting our spring 15 trends this week, so as a design team we have been busy pulling together the research and direction we want to take our collections, to present to our product and sourcing director Philippe Dayraud. It doesn’t get more exciting than at the beginning of a new season, when all our designers are involved in researching our trends. We take our inspiration from all the trend resource services, as well as attending seminars and fabric fairs.

We look at all the catwalk collections and constantly review what’s trending for kids. It can be chaotic at times but the design room is buzzing with passion and creativity.

What task would you like to postpone?

The nature of design is that you can’t really postpone anything - it’s so fast-paced that you really can’t put anything off. It’s more about prioritising because you’re juggling so many different things.

How did you get to where you are today?

I got my first break in buying as a temp at Next in 1996. From there, I’ve worked my way through the buying roles in every area of childrenswear, both at Next and then Mothercare. My role then changed and I began working alongside both buying and design; more recently, focusing purely on design. My buying background combined with my love and passion for product has helped me to lead the design team. I’m also really lucky to have such a talented team. A strong team means everything.

What has been the highlight of your career?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing as we have had so many great launches over the past few years. The collaboration with Myleene Klass was a new and exciting time at Mothercare - we launched the first Baby K collection in November 2007 and at the time we were one of the first retailers to launch a celebrity design collaboration. The collection is now in its 12th season and sold in 22 countries around the world. In August 2012 we launched Jools Oliver’s [wife of chef Jamie] collection, Little Bird, which has brought in new customers. Oliver had always wanted to design a children’s collection and had a genuine connection with Mothercare through the clothes her mum had dressed her in as a child, so the collection features lots of 1970s-inspired prints and motifs.

Becoming head of design has been really rewarding too as it’s focused my passion for product, detail and design. I also love working with passionate and creative people and seeing new talent emerge.

Who is your mentor?

When I was at Next as a temp, I was given the opportunity of starting a career in buying by Kate Bostock. At the time she was the childrenswear director. She saw something in me and I will always be thankful to her for that.

What’s the best piece of advice she’s given you?

To believe in and see the possibilities in people. And to trust your judgement.

How do you see your career progressing?

I love my job and the role is fairly new even though I’ve been at Mothercare a long time. I want to enjoy the here and now and do an amazing job.

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

It’s all about passion and hard work. You can achieve anything if you believe in yourself. You have to love your product and have the ability to understand how you can turn your vision into a reality.

  • Salaries for this position range from £75,000 to £100,000 (estimate provided by Success Appointments)

CV

2014 Head of design, Mothercare
2010 Head of product development, Mothercare
2008 Head of buying, Mothercare
2007 Buying manager, Mothercare
2005 Senior buyer, Mothercare
2001 Buyer, Mothercare
1996 Buyer’s assistant, Next

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