Drapers spoke to Justin Taggart, commercial director of children’s footwear brand Chipmunks to find out about his brand ambitions and high fashion background.
Justin taggart from chipmunks
Justin Taggart is the commercial director at Courtaulds-owned children’s footwear brand Chipmunks, overseeing every creative and commercial aspect of the business from sourcing to design. The brand was founded in 1996, and focuses on creating fashionable, well-fitting and affordable footwear. Its stockists include House of Fraser and Debenhams, and prices range from £16 for slippers to £40 for faux fur and suede boots. To date the brand has sold over 5 million pairs of shoes. The brand launched Baby Chipmunks for autumn 17 and is set to venture into clothing for spring 18.
What does your role at the brand entail?
I oversee every creative and commercial aspect of the business – sourcing, design, production, marketing, sales, ecommerce and administration – and report to the board on its progress.
How did you come to be working in fashion?
I grew up in Northern Ireland, and moved to Manchester in 1990 to study Art & Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. I then did a design degree at Salford University, specialising in fashion forecasting and graphic design. My first job – a stock controller at Armani – gave me an insight to the industry on so many levels: retail, buying, merchandising – and a few parties! I have never looked back.
How would you describe the brand’s ethos?
It seemed that the public previously had the choice of high-end, but expensive, children’s shoes, or fashion high street brands, which offered fun designs but often at reduced quality. Although it’s vital to know your place in the market and not try and be all things to all people, with my wholesale and retail background, I knew it was possible to create a brand that successfully married the two.
What drew you to footwear?
I went to Australia in early 2006 for a role as senior menswear buyer at department store chain Big W. When I left in late 2007, an opportunity arose to join the UK division of my main supplier, Courtaulds, a footwear manufacturer and importer. I had worked in footwear before but never to this level. There is so much more to footwear than apparel in terms of the technical aspects and attention to detail with fit, and so on. I find it fascinating, and even after 10 years with Courtaulds, I’m still learning about footwear every day.
What are some of the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis?
The usual we all face within wholesale and retail: communication with factories, timely deliveries and ensuring excellent customer service. Thankfully I have a fantastic team in the UK and we are in a fortunate position where 80% of our product is made in our own factory, so we have direct access and are involved at every step of the process.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Seeing a child in the street wearing a pair of my shoes.
How do you keep yourself creative and motivated?
Keeping fit, travelling and reading.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be a busy fool.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes … but try to spot them before anyone else does!
Favourite clothing brand
Burberry, The Kooples and Nudie
Favourite places to shop
Mr Porter or Selfridges
Last fashion purchase
Last book you read
The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters
Last film you watched
Stock controller at Emporio Armani, Manchester.
Had I not got into fashion, I would most likely have chosen to illustrate children’s books.
What you do at the weekend
Walk my dachshund, Harry, meet friends or spend money in Selfridges.