When she’s not cracking the UK market, the owner of agency Innocenza dreams of becoming Miuccia Prada’s neighbour.
How has running a womenswear agency changed over the years?
The demands and expectations have changed, driven by consolidation and the recession. Typically, the role was territory-focused, managing 100 customers. Since the recession our role has had to progress to national management, where selling is not enough. Strategic planning with a focus on customer service, brand building and creating marketing now fall on us.
You set up Innocenza in 2008, so what were you doing before then?
I designed and ran my own womenswear label, Truffle. My experience of being an independent designer made me realise how difficult the fashion business is if you’re not properly represented.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
It was either food and wine or fashion. I fell into fashion fresh out of university, so my culinary empire took a backburner - for now.
Have you got any other hidden talents?
I trained in classical clarinet at the Birmingham Conservatoire and played in the Midland Youth Orchestra until I went to university. My neighbours don’t appreciate my talent - I squeak more now.
What are your criteria for taking on a new brand?
The UK market is saturated, so identifying a brand that has a unique, strong and consistent DNA, that can deliver the right product at the right time and the right price point, is critical. I also have to connect with the people behind the brand, because the key to long-term success is building strong working relationships.
What brands do you wear yourself?
My wardrobe staples are from my showroom, so an Ilse Jacobsen anorak is always within reach and I’m typically wearing something by Gestuz every day. I mix it up with some masculine shoes, so Grenson is a favourite, and I’m partial to the occasional designer treat, most recently Common Projects and Comme des Garçons.
Who is your fashion icon?
Coco Chanel. I love her feminine-meets-masculine take on dressing. I’m inspired by her sense of style and in awe of how she has had such a lasting influence on the way women dress.
What makes a good sales agent?
Great sales agents are about building a business, not just making a sale. It’s critical to look at the bigger picture and think about long-term sales strategies, which ultimately are what all parties profit from.
What’s the toughest thing about being an agent?
The UK is one of the hardest markets for any brand to be successful in. We have some of the best stores in the world, which have the pick of any global brand name they want, usually with big marketing budgets, and we also have an incredible high street. The independent market needs unique, niche designers, but competition is tough. Finding enough commercial outlets that can deliver a long-term, sustainable business for the brands is very challenging.
And the easiest?
Having a showroom full of amazing clothes all year round.
What trade shows did you exhibit at this season?
We presented Ilse Jacobsen and Gestuz at Pure London in the new Agenda area. Pure enabled us to show the brands’ universe in the new dedicated premium area. Shows are an opportunity to make a brand statement and connect to existing, lost and potential new partners.
What other agencies do you admire?
Macandi Showrooms. It has created a clear identity for itself; you know what it stands for and you can trust it.
How do you switch off at the end of the day?
I’m not sure I do.
Where is your ideal holiday destination?
My Dad is Sicilian, so I’m drawn there. As soon as I step off the plane I get a sense of nostalgia and feel like I’m home. Everything revolves around family and food using simple ingredients. And who doesn’t think The Godfather is one of the best films of all time?
If you were given a million pounds, what would you buy first?
Last year I was exploring Sicily looking for my ideal property and visited the butterfly island of Favignana, off the Trapani coast.
As I was cycling around I discovered Villa Sofia - honestly, it’s called Villa Sofia - for sale, a hidden gem near to Miuccia Prada’s holiday home. So I would buy it and fly all my best friends and family over for a huge party.
Can you tell us something surprising about yourself?
I’m married to an identical triplet.