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My Fashion Life: Nayna McIntosh, founder of Hope Fashion

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With Hope Fashion, industry veteran Nayna McIntosh caters to mature women.

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Nayna McIntosh started Hope Fashion in 2014, following a hugely successful retail career. She helped launch the George at Asda brand in 1989 and Per Una for Marks & Spencer in 2001. She joined the management board of M&S in 2008, having served as director of store presentation and design since 2005. In 2014, McIntosh quit her role at M&S to found Hope Fashion, which aims to create flattering and fashionable garments for the mature female customer. Prices range from £18 for tops to £75 for parkas. Drapers speaks to McIntosh about her career and how she is bringing her experience into her own business

Why did you launch your own brand? I knew from all the insight and research I had listened to at M&S that the 50-plus customer was feeling increasingly alienated by the high street, and there is nothing like being the target customer to understand the target customer. I felt certain there was an opportunity.

Why do you focus on the more mature market? There is such an opportunity to have an honest dialogue with this woman and acknowledge that her body shape might be changing. It’s a biological fact for many women that menopause alters their body shape, which in turn can affect her body confidence. I wanted to create a brand that acknowledged this and design a collection specifically with this woman in mind. 

How would you describe the ethos of the brand? It’s all about family for me. Hope is my mother’s name and it’s what my maternal grandfather would have had in his heart when he made the voyage from his beloved Jamaica in the late 1950s to create a new life for his family here in the UK. The culture I try to create in the office is about family values – for example, we prepare and eat lunch together around the kitchen table every day, much as you might at home. 

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Were there any unexpected challenges when you launched? The biggest hurdle was learning how to trade in a digital world. We learned quickly that you need expert support in this area.

What were some of the most important things you learned in your career that have helped you with the brand? The customer comes first in everything you do. Be authentic and remember: no one gets out of bed to do a bad job.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? Keep nudging the boulder, every day in every way!

What is one piece of advice you’d give your younger self? Trust your instinct – it will be right.

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