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Leading PrettyLittleThing's design direction


PrettyLittleThing design manger Chris Parnell says he works hard with his team – and then parties.

Chris Parnell

Chris Parnell joined womenswear etailer PrettyLittleThing (PLT) as design manager in 2017, having spent the previous five years learning his craft at rival brand Missguided.

He is responsible for a team of nine designers and oversees all of the brand’s collaborative collection, which have included tie-ups with US influencer Kourtney Kardashian, model Hailey Bieber, rapper Saweetie, pop group Little Mix and singer Ashanti.

PLT’s retail prices range from £3 for a bandeau crop top to £100 for a fake fur coat. The etailer’s revenue rocketed 107% year on year to £374.4m in the 52 weeks to 28 February 2019.

Parnell works with the design and buying teams to predict trends, and ensure that PLT incorporates them into designs. The brand also tries to be as reactive as possible, Parnell says, and cites vintage, the catwalk, social media and celebrity culture as its biggest sources of inspiration. 

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Check Instagram.

What was your first job?

I worked in Topshop as a sales assistant during my university days. This led to an internship at its head office, where I worked with the Kate Moss team.

How would you describe the brand in one sentence?

Faster than yours.

What’s your coffee (or tea) order?

A large Americano with oat milk, please.

Where are your favourite places to shop?

Asos for affordability, PAM is my favourite independent label and Stüssy is my classic go-to brand.

Last fashion purchase? Why did it catch your eye?

A camel rain mac from Uniqlo – it’s classic and won’t go out of style, and I love to contrast the look by wearing it with sports gear.

Emails or phone calls?

I prefer WhatsApp – it’s much quicker than email.

Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?

To be open to other people’s opinions.

What would be your ideal office/meeting space?

Minimalist and away from chaos. I find it helps me to focus and get jobs done quicker.

What’s your favourite part of the creative process?

I love the entire process from start to finish. It’s the work put in beforehand that makes the end result that much sweeter.

What has been your proudest moment since joining the company?

This year’s Christmas campaign – I’ve been working on it for just under a year and I can’t wait for it to launch. I’d also say working with and being surrounded by such influential people at the PLT office in Manchester.

What’s the last book you read?

My Face for the World to See by [US actress and Andy Warhol muse] Candy Darling. It’s a collection of diary entries from the Warhol Superstar.

Last holiday?

Ibiza for a friend’s wedding in June. It was a week-long party, though, so not very relaxing.

Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?

Probably Simon Jacquemus [founder of French label Jacquemus]. I’ve loved watching his brand grow into a global phenomenon while staying true to his ethos.

What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion today?

There are so many, but speed and oversaturation are among the biggest issues right now. Firstly, it is important for brands and retailers to be the first to market and react to trends on social media, for example. There is also a fear that oversaturation of fast fashion may present itself as a negative, and consumers will switch off.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Keep pushing and persevere. [Fashion] isn’t the easiest industry to break into, but it is very rewarding when you do.

Who do you turn to when you need advice?

Friends and colleagues – I’m lucky to work with some of my closest friends here.

What would we find you doing at the weekend?

If I am honest … partying Friday to Sunday!

What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?

The next chapter of PLT and the new opportunities that come with it. There is never a dull moment working here.

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