The founder of Phase Eight talks to Ruth Faulkner about her new label, who has inspired her and how the industry has changed.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
think I would have to say building [womenswear chain] Phase Eight to a £28m-turnover business in 25 years, having started with a £3,000 loan from the bank back in 1979. When I started, there was a huge gap in the market for what I was offering. The other nice thing that has come out of my career is that at least 12 of the people who have worked for me have gone on to start their own shops and businesses.
What prompted you to launch your new brand Shircket?
It is a cross between two things - a shirt and a jacket. I think there is a gap in the market to clothe older women.
Lots of women of my age are conscious of their thickening middle bit and the Shircket tries to overcome this as it skims the waist and does not cling around the back.
Who are you targeting with the new brand?
I was aiming it at women aged 45 years and older but my 25-year-old step-daughter has one made out of jersey and she loves it. It is for people who like quality and nice fabrics and want something they will be able to wear for a while. I guess I would also say the product suits the market town-type of customer particularly well. That isn’t to say that people living in London won’t like it, but my core customer base has always been within the market towns.
How long has the whole process taken?
It has taken about a year and a half since I came up with the initial idea through to launching it in autumn last year with the velvet range and one tweed piece. I knew I could do silk velvet very well, having done it for so many years with Phase Eight, so that’s why I started with that. It’s already being stocked in a few independents and the plan is to expand that. I picked up a few new accounts at trade show Moda and I think it is just a matter of letting people know that I am back and this is my new venture.
Who is the most inspiring person you have met in the industry?
The Bursteins, who started [London designer indie] Browns, are the people who inspired me the most. I learnt so much from them. I was the first employee at Browns, so I was lucky as I had them all to myself and they taught me so much about the industry.
What do you think of the industry now compared with when you started out, and what has changed?
I think the biggest change is the fact that working in the industry has now become a career. It wasn’t seen as a career at all when I started, but now you’ve got so many different roles in the business and people can train specifically for those roles. The whole business is taken seriously in a way it wasn’t when I started.
Who is your favourite designer?
I love Jean Paul Gaultier (pictured) and I love D&G but I am not totally loyal all the time.
What was the last book you read?
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.
Where do you like to shop on the high street?
I think Uniqlo is brilliant for basic trousers.
Patsy Seddon is the founder of womenswear chain Phase Eight and owner and founder of womenswear brand Shircket