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Alison Eltringham-Brown

Head of design, Oakman and Life & Limb, Saville Heaton

What does your job involve? Every season I put inspiration boards and colours together for each of the menswear brands I look after - Oakman and Life & Limb. Then the whole team plans the structure of the collections. We order sampling fabrics and trims and prepare design books for each collection to send to the factories.

What skills do you need?

You need passion for the creative process you are involved in.

An eye for detail and an understanding of manufacturing is also vital, as is a willingness to always be able to learn and evolve along with your brand.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

Every season has its problems - late fabrics, production problems, processing hundreds of samples for new launches, but it all adds to the buzz of the job. I enjoy the variety - designing for multiple product areas, being involved in the photography, travelling around the world. I love doing the visual merchandising in our showroom each season to launch the collections. It’s great to see what you envisaged come together.

How did you get to where you are today?

I grew up in a pretty creative family - my dad is a photographer, mum is a music teacher and my brother is an industrial designer, and they have always inspired and supported me. My experience of sales and handling key accounts like Barbour, Boden, Principles and Next when I worked for supplier Dunsford Wesley helped strengthen me as a designer and has given me insight into the diversity of the industry and the consumer.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

Seeing the [menswear supplier] Saville Heaton brands go from strength to strength is very rewarding. When I joined the company in 2003, Life & Limb didn’t really have a brand identity, so I’m proud of giving it the DNA it has today. We started by looking at the brand’s Yorkshire roots and got the team to buy into that before implementing that heritage into the design. It’s evolved into a very strong shirting brand.

What is your ambition?

To keep taking the Saville Heaton brands forward and strengthen their position in the market.

How do you intend to get there?

By keeping the brand identities strong, never being satisfied, getting the best out of the team and making sure we all enjoy what we are doing.

What three words sum you up?

Meticulous, passionate and committed.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Designing is not about indulging yourself but indulging your customer, so you need to take an interest in all areas of the process. I don’t have time for designers who can just draw a nice picture; you have to understand the construction of fabrics, how factories work, how something might not always be possible but if look at it from a different angle you can produce it in a different way. You need to take an interest in the whole company and its teams to understand how the process comes together. You have to be interested in other people’s jobs.

CV

2003 Head of design, Oakman and Life & Limb, Saville Heaton

1996 Key account manager, Dunsford Wesley

1992 Area sales manager, John Paul Mitchell Systems, Beautyways

1988 Senior designer, Wendy Wools, Carter & Parker

1984 Senior designer, Lister Handknitting

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