Sainsbury’s Anna Clarke prefers face-to-face conversations, and believes in making sure you are remembered.
Anna Clarke joined Sainsbury’s in 2003 and was tasked with setting up the supermarket’s own-brand clothing line, Tu. She succeeded. Tu launched one year later and celebrated its milestone 15th anniversary last year.
In her dual role as head of design and environment, Clarke is responsible for a team of 65 and oversees all innovation, in-house design and visual merchandising.
Tu clothing spans men’s, women’s and children’s and features a range of products, from dresses and skirts to outerwear and bottoms. Products are available via the Sainsbury’s website and 430 UK stores.
Women’s retail prices range from £2 for a T-shirt to £150 for a leather jacket. In the supermarket’s latest financial results for the second quarter of 2019, Tu clothing sales were up 3.3% year on year, which it put down to “strong” online growth.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Snooze my alarm four times … then groan good morning to my husband and daughter.
What was your first job?
I worked behind the bar washing glasses at a local tennis club.
How would you describe the brand in one sentence?
Tu is the brand that lets you be you.
What’s your coffee (or tea) order?
A decaf skinny latte.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
Anywhere that offers a great experience with a lovely lunch. For me, that’s the lifestyle store Daylesford Organic in the Cotswolds. I also love fashion brands & Other Stories and Anthroplogie, and, for convenience, you can’t beat Net-a-Porter.
Last fashion purchase? Why did it catch your eye?
Black lace-up combat boots from Tu – they’re spot on trend-wise, comfortable and great value.
Emails or phone calls?
Neither. I much prefer face-to-face, or WhatsApp and Instagram.
Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?
Aim to make a difference and be remembered for it.
What would be your ideal office/meeting space?
An art studio by the sea, complete with a gin bar …
What’s your favourite part of the creative process?
The design presentation. This involves sharing the design team’s future vision with the buying teams. I also love seeing customers wearing Tu products – it never gets old.
What has been your proudest moment since joining the company?
I have three: naturally, when the Tu brand launched in September 2004. We’ve also sponsored Graduate Fashion Week since 2015 and each year offer a scholarship programme to new graduates. Finally, when I appeared on [ITV show] This Morning earlier this year to discuss our top trends for autumn 19 and introduce the brand’s “Work It” campaign [to promote women’s workwear].
What’s the last book you read?
I don’t make time to read books, but I have a stack of fashion and interior design magazines by the bed.
St Ives in Cornwall, for a two-week family holiday full of surfing, paddle boarding, walking and painting. It’s my favourite place in the UK.
Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?
Brands that are taking action and making an impact around sustainability, such as [outdoor brand] Patagonia and [Spanish ethical clothing brand] SKFK.
What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion today?
Closing the loop on circular fashion and encouraging consumers to become more sustainability-conscious.
What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Stop worrying about what other people think of you!
Who do you turn to when you need advice?
It depends – for day-to-day practical stuff, it’s my husband or mum, and my amazing network of friends for when I’m in need of a gin and emotional support.
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
Spending time with my family, which usually involves watching my daughter play sport, eating out and a compulsory viewing of Strictly Come Dancing. I also squeeze in some socialising with friends, pretending that I’m still 35!
What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?
Workwise, I always look forward to Christmas and the launch of our festive ranges. Personally, we’re having our house extended, so I’m excited for my new art studio.