Fashion veteran and founder of plus-size etailer Scarlett & Jo Gifi Fields tells Drapers about his 40-year career in the industry, from co-creating the rah-rah skirt to how social media is forcing retailers to up their game.
The first thing I do is look outside my window at the beautiful day. While on my journey to east London, I check my emails and our website and get updates from our suppliers located in different parts of the world. I aim to have a good idea of what’s happened with my brand all over the world in the last eight hours by the time I reach the office at 7:15am.
There is no such thing as a typical week for me. My job is extremely varied and fairly demanding. But over the course of a week, I usually meet with my production team and designers, as well as staying in touch with my suppliers and the half a dozen people who report to me. I also mentor young designers.
Social media has had a huge impact on the fashion industry. It’s a very democratic medium. As well as telling you how you’re doing, it lets you keep an eye on how your competitors are performing. It keeps you on your toes and forces you to give customers a perfect performance and exceptional delivery at all times.
To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to keep things simple. You have to have a clear plan on how to get from A to Z and know your product inside and out. Otherwise it will be hopeless to try and understand all the issues that will crop up along the way. Discipline and dedication are also very important. Even when you’re being forced to make challenging decisions, you should enjoy the fact that you’re in a position to be making those difficult choices.
Some people don’t like the label “plus size”, but it doesn’t bother me. Years ago, it was referred to as an “outsize”, but now there’s an array of more flattering words, whether it’s plus size, curvy or full-bodied. Personally, I like them all. It’s just semantics.
One of the best parts of my job is hearing feedback from customers. Reading the reviews on our social media platforms is such a pleasure for me, as it brings our hard work to life. Realising that our products can change a woman’s perspective on herself and bring her confidence is gratifying.
I’m known for being one of the joint creators of the rah-rah skirt. I worked with designer Angela Stone, who was obsessed with tutus. We decided to recreate the tutu using a jersey material and the rah-rah skirt was born. For me, the creative process always begins with a clever but simple design.
Scarlett & Jo
It’s a very exciting time for Scarlett & Jo. At the beginning of August, we’re going to start being stocked online by Debenhams and we’re also looking at expanding in Europe, the US and New Zealand. In the future, I’d like to expand Scarlett & Jo to include accessories, handbags and beauty. The brand has also been nominated for four awards at the British Plus Size Awards – I’ve been nominated for best person in business – so I’m looking forward to attending in November.
The responsibility of running your own brand means you never really switch off. I tend to end the day with work-related jobs such as reading emails or checking our Facebook page.
MY OTHER CAREER
I’ve given my life to fashion and couldn’t even think of doing anything else. But if I had to choose, I would probably be a teacher because I love being a mentor. Sharing my knowledge is extremely rewarding and it also helps me learn along the way.
2015-present Founder, Scarlett & Jo
1976-present Founder, Coppernob
1983-1987 Founder, Snob
1983 Co-founder, British Fashion Council
1971-1975 Founder, Gingernut
1968-1971 Founder, Ragfreak Clothing
Left school at 16
Interview by Julie Konan