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My fashion life - Maggie Smart

The owner of fashion agency Macandi on juggling two jobs, a house renovation and a toddler.

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smart co-founded London-based Macandi Showrooms with her brother Cathal McAteer in 1999. It has become a renowned fashion agency hosting brands like womenswear labels D Efect and Pomandère, as well as its own men’s and women’s label, Folk. This year, Smart has worked with the British School of Fashion to develop a new master’s degree, which will launch in 2015.


We’re about to head into autumn 15. What do you enjoy most about this time of year?
I love autumn collections the most [because of the] beautiful knits and statement coats. From a business perspective I really enjoy working with the teams, planning and strategising, and getting out and visiting our clients in the run-up to the festive season is always great.

What are you looking forward to about the season ahead?
I love the collection presentations; it’s always so exciting to see the developments in ourbrands. I particularly love selling in Paris as our whole team is there, all on different shows, and there is such a buzz in the city.

What are you not looking forward to?
I love my job but the long days and travelling mean I see my son, Finlay, a lot less during the selling period.

Which trade shows do you tend to exhibit your brands at?
Often the brands select the shows. We are always at Tranoï [in Paris] with Humanoid and Pomandère - it’s such an established show and from an international perspective a great place to be. It makes it easy for the buyers to fit us into their schedules. We recently returned to Pure London with Humanoid and Pomandère, which surprised a few people, but it’s at a great point in the season and the venue [Olympia] is fantastic and really
lets the collections shine.

Do you have any insider tips for making it through the season?
Being really organised helps keep the stress levels down. Keep the coffee to a minimum, drink loads of water and get a full night’s sleep where possible. I try to squeeze in as many Pilates classes as I possibly can too - one hour of focus on something physical gives me clarity for the rest of the day.

What would you change about your job if you could?
I recently made a big change to my job - I needed to get a fresh perspective and wanted to shake things up a little, so now I split my time between Macandi and The British School of Fashion, which is part of Glasgow Caledonian University’s London campus. I’m developing a master’s degree in Fashion Business Creation for them, which will launch in September 2015. It’s been great to connect with different people in the fashion industry and get their advice and perspective on what should be taught. I also think the Macandi team is enjoying having more autonomy, which is great for their development too.

Why did you set up Macandi?
My brother Cathal was working as a sales manager and he came to me with a business plan [written] on a napkin to set up an agency that focused on serving not just the department stores and multiples but also on bringing well-considered, unique brands to boutiques. I joined as operations director, and when our sales director moved on to pastures new I made the change [into sales]. We now have Macandi Showrooms and our own brand Folk, which offers menswear and womenswear and is launching homeware, lighting and furniture.

What do you look for in new brands?
The key factors are style, price-to-quality ratio and whether it will serve our current customer base. It is also key now that a brand has a strong identity and manages its online communications well. We can do as much research as we like but the true test is when we work together - delivery and quality are paramount to a brand’s success.

You’ve just launched Baltic underwear and lifestyle brand About in the UK for spring 15. Why did you take it on?
I came across Lithuanian brand About (pictured) while visiting a very cool concept store, V2, in the capital city Vilnius. I was immediately drawn to the quality and understated design, and when I looked closer and discovered the innovative fabrics used and the price tag, everything fell into place. I knew we needed this and made contact there and then.

What are your plans with the brand for autumn 15?
We have a lot happening: we’ve started with a great PR agency [Task PR] to support sales and brand awareness. For the past month or two we’ve focused on the never-out-of-stock programmes. We are also developing in-store product displays to support larger retailers and department stores, and for autumn 15 we want to roll these out.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Staying in business with my brother for so long - we’ve had our ups and downs but I trust and admire his vision and creativity so much. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

What has been your worst fashion mistake?
So many. I worked in Ichi Ni San, an amazing boutique in Glasgow from the age of 13 to 18. I spent everything I earned on clothes but I was experimenting and finding my style and made a few questionable choices. I recall some rather loud dollar-print jeans that I teamed with a Vivienne Westwood corset to go clubbing. Looking back I do wonder what I was thinking.

What’s the biggest misconception about you?
That I’m older than my brother. I’m not sure if that’s down to his youthful good looks or because I’m the more serious.

What do you worry about the most?
Not having enough time to achieve everything I want. I’m constantly juggling - currently I’m renovating a house, I have an 18-month-old son and two jobs.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
The worst was probably a summer job in a pub in Essex, working as a commis chef. I had to spend hours prepping vegetables in a walk-in chiller. It was quite depressing.

What are you getting for Christmas?
A new house. No Christmas presents this year as after a year we finally get to move into our new home. That’s a big enough present.

What are your new year’s resolutions?
To read more books, to do more Pilates and to have an even better year than last.

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