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My fashion Life - Jemima Bird

Asking men to strip off and same-sex marriage are all in a day’s work for Moss Bros’s commercial and operations director.

What is an average day like for you?
What’s great is there is no such thing as an average day. I tend to focus the first part of my week on reviewing store sales with my head of operations, the middle part reviewing marketing promotions and creative campaigns, and then end the week in stores with area teams.

When you left the restaurant and groceries sector to join Moss Bros, what made you decide to move into fashion?
When [chief executive] Brian Brick invited me to join the team, the chance to work with such a terrific heritage brand was simply an opportunity too good to turn down. I’m passionate about fashion and it’s always more fun working with brands you love. It’s like coming home.

What lessons have you taken from your days at the Co-operative Group and casual dining group Tragus Holdings?
The significance of developing brands that people really love and the absolute importance of commerciality in decisions. Anyone can run promotions that destroy margin. It’s about ensuring the right offer is delivered to the right customer at the right cost to the business.

Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?
Relax a little. I wasted so much energy trying to do everything myself; now I appreciate the benefit of having truly amazing people around me and letting them get on with it.

What’s the best part of your job?
I officially get paid to undress men for a living [when convincing them to get measured for a suit]! Being responsible for a great team of people in our stores, as well as the team that drives customers in, means my job is wonderfully diverse.

What’s the biggest challenge for you at the moment?
Getting to grips with men’s fashion and the intricacies involved with ensuring we have the right ranges and products in the right stores at the right price. It’s much more complex than selling baked beans, I can tell you.

You’ve masterminded Moss Bros’s recent image turnaround. How’s that going?
Brian [Brick] has done a brilliant job turning the business around. I’ve got the fun bit of reinventing people’s perceptions. It’s going brilliantly; the same-sex marriage campaign - which no one else promoted - demonstrates the bravery the company has in making the image change.

Moss Bros’s windows celebrating same-sex marriage were widely praised. What was the thinking behind that campaign?
We’ve been dressing couples for their most important occasions for eight generations, and felt it was tremendously important to let same-sex couples know they were welcome. We loved working with [gay lifestyle magazine] Attitude and I’m very proud of the campaign.

You’ve enlisted some very of-the-moment models for this summer’s campaign. Was that fun to work on?
Model Billy Huxley, who has more tattoos than the average man, is the face of our new Moss London label. It’s great working with these young guys and seeing their excitement and engagement with our offer.

How do you get a man to buy a suit?
If we can get a man to take his trousers off, we can sell him a suit. Men are naturally cautious shoppers, so the advice and expertise my store teams offer in ensuring we deliver the right fit at the right price builds confidence for them - this is key.

What items should every man have in his wardrobe?
Classic is always best, and there is a trend towards being suited and booted at the moment. For me, you can’t go wrong to have a quality three-piece suit, a crisp white shirt and a well-polished pair of
Oxfords as staples.

If you could see any well-known male in a Moss Bros suit, who would it be?
I’m a big England and Yorkshire cricket fan, so I’d like to see cricketer Joe Root dressed by us. For a broader appeal,quintessentially elegant actor Ryan Gosling would certainly be up there.

You look after both commercial and operational elements of Moss Bros. Which side of the business do you prefer?
It’s impossible to say. I love building and developing brands, but I’m a retailer at heart. I started at six years old, selling penny sweets in my grandfather’s shop in Great Houghton, south Yorkshire. Nothing beats being on the shop floor with my teams and talking to customers. It’s a joy.

You’re looking after menswear, but where do you like to shop?
I’m addicted to Diane von Furstenberg at in Notting Hill. It’s actually embarrassing how many of her dresses I own. It’s fair to say the team there love it when I walk through the door!

Any advice for someone wanting to get into the retail industry?
Say yes to everything, put a smile on your face and be genuine. I’ve worked across food, funerals, finance and fashion, on delicatessen counters and running multimillion-pound IT system integration programmes. Post-university, I even became a part-qualified butcher. I’ve loved every minute.

Do you know any good jokes?
Apart from my love life?

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