To mark International Women’s Day, Drapers asks leading industry figures who inspires them.
Kim Elliot, head of design, Coast
I always tell my teams that Trend Union’s Lidewij Edelkoort is the guru of the fashion industry. She is a trend forecaster, but she doesn’t just predict fashion trends. She takes leads from social changes, from what is going on around in the world around us and finds creative ideas in lifestyle trends. She spots changes in consumer behaviour. I love to hear her talk, to understand what informed her ideas and how she thinks it will influence the future. A totally inspiring woman in the fashion industry. If you get a chance to hear her talk, I would definitely recommend it.
I also think what Sarah Mower is doing to spot emerging talent and support young designers is inspirational. I love her #Sarahslist initiative [a partnership with Liberty London to stock collections from emerging designers], which I think was a stroke of genius. It’s a great way to support new talent, as without future generations, there won’t be a fashion industry. I worry about the lack of the arts in schools, the cost of higher education and the declining number of jobs within this industry, so any ideas to support and nurture future talent is to be praised.
Tarak Ramzan, CEO and founder of Quiz
I have always been inspired by Dame Natalie Massenet and how she created Net-a-Porter as the first real disrupter in luxury fashion retailing. The speed at which she was able to deliver catwalk styles to consumers was innovative, and emphasised how crucial speed to market can be for online and offline retailers.
Ray Clacher, executive vice-president, Gieves & Hawkes
For me, Anne Pitcher, managing director at the formidable Selfridges department store, is not only the most influential women in fashion today, but streets ahead of the leading buying and merchandising teams driving sales in the department stores of the world.
During Anne’s time as buying and merchandising director at Selfridges, she has assembled and nurtured a world-class team of strong, forward-thinking buyers, merchandisers, sales managers and brand corners that frankly, are the envy of the industry here in the UK and beyond.
Her vision for such things as the World’s No 1 Shoe Department, The Body Studio and The Wonder Room has transformed the Oxford Street institution into quite simply the best department store in the world.
It is a real pleasure to have our brands in Selfridges and to work with Anne and her Selfridges buying teams as we all value her input to our range and her drive for more value and sustainability in our product.
Simon Carter, founder, Simon Carter
An inspirational woman working in the industry is Laura Robertshaw, menswear buyer at Liberty London and a former buyer at Harvey Nichols. Laura not only has a great eye but is unfailingly courteous and really understands the importance of supporting emerging brands.
Laura is not only a delight to work with but she has a complete understanding of her customers desire for unique, high-quality products. I have also worked with Laura on some exclusive projects and she has a fantastic eye for design and what works for her selling environment.
Mats Klingberg, founder of London independent store Trunk
I can think of so many incredibly inspiring women in the fashion industry that I admire, so it’s difficult to just name one. Someone who really stands out to me though is a person who keep doing consistently great work season after season – without making too much noise about it. Margaret Howell is the person I’m thinking about and I admire her understated, timeless, wearable and beautiful designs.
Deryane Tadd, owner of the The Dressing Room in St Albans
I am always inspired by women that work hard to achieve their dreams and goals and do it with passion and integrity. One woman that springs to mind immediately is Kam Harris, founder of new lifestyle brand Universe of Us. Having worked in the industry as an agent for many years, she has put her knowledge and flair into building her own brand, which has had a great response. She works hard with independent retailers to really build a brand presence and is never afraid to take a chance or try something new. This sort of passion and vision is hard to come by and deserves recognition.
Liz Evans, chief executive, Oasis and Warehouse
I am constantly inspired by people I meet in this industry, but I would love to highlight two: our Oasis brand director Sarah Welsh and Paula Stewart, brand director at Warehouse.
Both Sarah and Paula are busy working mums who juggle fulfilling family lives with huge success in their careers. They are authentic and inspiring leaders, who love what they do and are fabulous role models for other women who question whether there is a way to juggle family life with work life.
Lucy Walsh, founder, The Brand Ambassadors sales agency
This industry is packed with great women, but Jan Shutt, owner of Lancashire independent Sunday Best, is a real inspiration for me. Jan opened her first shop in 1971 and still has so much enthusiasm and energy for the business, which a real independent keystone. She is a serious buyer, who still travels to all the overseas shows scouting for new brands. Personally, she has been so encouraging and I love working with her. To have been in this industry for 47 years and still love it so much and have so much passion is inspiring.
Shailina Parti, group buying and merchandising director, Jigsaw
A woman in the industry that supported my career is [Marks & Spencer style director] Belinda Earl, with whom I worked at Jaeger. I had eight-month-old twins at the time and she understood the challenges of having a big job and a family. As CEO, she created a team that was dynamic and progressive, and had opportunities for promotion while offering flexible working and autonomy. This was more than 15 years ago, when work-life balance for young mothers was unheard of.
Polly McCaster, co-founder, The Fold
I’ve always admired Alexandra Shulman. She exemplifies values I value: loyalty, hard work, passion for her industry, and going to the nth degree to deliver a high-quality product. She comes across as a powerful, intelligent woman. She also garnered incredible loyalty from her team in an industry that can be fickle. To dedicate such a huge portion of one’s life to any endeavour and deliver so brilliantly clearly shows talent, integrity and an ability to evolve with the times. I’ll be excited to see what she does next.