As Drapers’ 30 Under 30 talent-spotting initiative reaches its 10th year, we catch up with alumni to discover how their careers developed and hear their top tips for the Drapers Next Generation.
More from: Drapers 30 Under 30 class of 2019 revealed
Hannah Coffin – Class of 2010
Founder, Needle & Thread
Then: womenswear design director, AllSaints
The reaction to being part of 30 Under 30 was really positive within the industry and it was a privilege to be included.
I launched Needle & Thread in 2013. We soon had the support of some leading global retailers – Harrods, Selfridges, Net-a-Porter, Lane Crawford and Moda Operandi – and they continue to be among our most valued stockists.
The past five years with Needle & Thread have been an exciting journey of growth and challenges. A highlight was starting Needle & Thread Bridal in 2016, followed by our own website in 2017 – it was rewarding to interact directly with our consumer.
Rapid growth brings challenges, particularly in personnel and supply chain. It can be hard to hire people fast enough and constantly grow the supply chain.
My advice is: ensure your product has a global appeal; focus on the balance between newness but maintaining the core DNA of the brand; trust your instinct – if you believe in something and would spend money on it, so will your customer; always challenge your thinking; and hire the best people you can. Teamwork is the key to success.
Would I do anything differently? Probably not – our mistakes have shaped who we are as a brand. We are more entrepreneurial because we’re not afraid to make mistakes.
Meet the 30 under 30
Drapers Next Generation has been identifying and celebrating up-and-coming talent through the 30 Under 30 initiative for 10 years.
If you are interested in sponsoring a networking event with our alumni, please Lisa Govier at, or call 020 3953 2960 or 07970 205586
Deanna Iannello – Class of 2011
Head of buying, womenswear, Asos
Then: buyer, New Look
Among my career highlights are helping to set up the relationship between Nordstrom and Topshop in 2012 – this was the start of the UK retailer’s venture into the US department store nationwide.
Joining Asos has been the ultimate highlight. I grew the swimwear and lingerie offer as a buyer, and was promoted to head of buying in 2015.
Moving from Topshop – a traditional bricks-and-mortar retailer – to pureplay Asos was a big challenge. Your skill set is tested, as it a different way to relate to the customer.
There is a lot to consider with an online business: the customer can’t feel the product, so your presentation becomes a focus and how you use those assets is paramount. This really did teach me to be more customer focused in my buying practices and how we developed the product.
The role of a buyer has significantly broadened, even in the last five years, and I now look for buyers for my teams who are passionate about what they do, have a global vision and inspire their own teams.
My advice is to think about the skills you want to develop and if any companies out there can offer you that. It’s your career, so you need to put that first above following the pack.
Ultimately, if you love what you do, people will gravitate towards that and opportunities will arise.
Alice Stone – Class of 2012
Founder and director
Lily & Lionel
I sat in my office-cum-spare bedroom reading the Drapers 30 Under 30 article and it made my business feel very real. Being part of the initiative also connected me to many like-minded young people.
Highlights since then have included successfully launching our ready-to-wear collections alongside our accessories, and winning the Drapers’ Accessories Brand of the Year Award in 2014, as well as being named as a Walpole Brand of Tomorrow in 2012.
One of the challenges has been balancing my work and social life: I’ve had to learn to manage time and prioritise the things that are dearest to me. On a day-to-day basis, production and how to manage delayed deliveries when the selling season is so fast have also kept me up at night.
In terms of changes, it may sound pretty obvious but social media has exploded since 2012. When we started Instagram barely existed. Watching how our customers shop through all our channels and via influencers is fascinating.
The biggest learning curves have mainly been associated with learning to trust my instinct more. Never listen to other people’s opinions if you believe something else to be true. Follow and trust your gut. If your work isn’t satisfying you, meet up with someone who inspires you and flesh out what you could be doing that would give you more pleasure.
John Kiszely – Class of 2013
Founder, Good People Agency
Then: Fashion sales manager, J Lindberg
It’s nice to get recognition through a platform such as Drapers 30 Under 30 from an industry that is notoriously difficult sometimes.
Taking a step out on my own and opening a sales agency in 2014 has been my biggest challenge. Being self-employed was the only way I was ever going to go. My personality is one that likes to be in control of what I do, and not be told what to do, and that is an important driver working for yourself.
I had worked for Calvin Klein and J Lindeberg, and felt I could apply what I had learnt to something of my own. There are no rules except your own when you are self-employed, so if mistakes are made, it is a case of taking it on the chin, learning, and moving on.
The difficult part was managing self-doubt, having some belief and not taking things too personally. I’m still working on the last one.
When I first started in wholesale, you had the “three-season rule” to build a brand in store. With the industry now, and the discounting culture, you need traction as soon as you hit the shop floor.
I’m 33 now and already I’m lost in the world of technology, but the key skill is human interaction. Visiting stores and being in the buyer’s environment is a lost art. I try to see all the stores and buyers who buy my brands – it’s a sign of mutual respect.
Briony Garbett – Class of 2014
Global brand and customer experience director, Kurt Geiger
Then: Head of customer service and ecommerce, Oasis
I spent another four years with Oasis: promoted to customer director in 2016, and taking on the marketing, PR and insight functions alongside digital. Although a steep learning curve, it gave me greater influence on the overall customer experience. We delivered Oasis Unlimited – a self-elected loyalty scheme similar to Amazon Prime. We focused on driving average purchase frequency while delivering incremental profit growth. Both metrics shifted in a positive direction – it was definitely a career highlight.
The retail market has changed dramatically since 2014. Keeping up with and foreseeing changes in customer expectations is a huge challenge.
How do I stay informed? I shop a lot – genuinely. You can also learn so much from other industries and verticals, and extrapolate that to the digital consumer. I’m addicted to my Vitality Health [app] status, and there are some great principles to take from that.
In terms of changing jobs, honestly I don’t think there’s ever a “right” time to move on. For me, an opportunity came along at Kurt Geiger, and it felt too good to pass up. I was sad to leave Oasis and excited about joining Kurt Geiger, and that felt like the right balance.
Thom Scherdel – Class of 2015
Senior buyer, Browns
Then: buyer, The Idle Man
I was at Topman during the glory days [between 2010 and 2014]. It was flying at the time and the business decisions were indicative of that. It was very much “let’s just do it” and everyone was having a good time exercising that.
I then left a big office for a start-up with five people in a shared workspace. It was a change but something I wanted to have a go at. I’d advise anyone to work at a start-up. You learn so much about the daily struggle of getting things off the ground, and the nuts and bolts of running a business.
Working with [British DJ and collector] Ross Wilson on bringing his archive to The Idle Man was a coup: – a start-up hosting the world’s biggest private sale of Supreme.
As soon as I met Dean [Cook, menswear buying director] and Holli [Rogers, CEO] of Browns, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
A buyer today has to manage and decipher a constant flow of data. It is fascinating knowing what, where and to whom you’ve sold but, ultimately, you’ve got to be forward facing in your decision making. Use your head and buy with your heart.
I wouldn’t do anything differently – it’s all part of the journey: you learn and grow. My advice? Treat everyone with the same respect, look after people who need your support and guidance, work hard, enjoy your job, and be nice to people.
Vanessa Murray – Class of 2016
Head of ladieswear, A Hume Country Clothing
Reflecting on it now, three years later, being featured in Drapers 30 Under 30 gave me a real confidence, which helped me develop my skills and become a better buyer.
In my early years at A Hume, I was often mistaken as the PA or sales assistant [because of my age]. It’s not something that concerns me now, but I was very aware of it back then and it’s still something that affects young people in the industry.
I have continued to develop ladieswear at A Hume – we now have a team of five. Previously it was just me and a part-timer.
As the business has become bigger quite quickly, we have all had to adapt and muck in. Last year we invested in our first business-wide stock control and EPOS system. This is making my job a lot easier, as I can run reports at the press of a button to see everything from sell-through to calculating budgets. It also highlights mistakes that I maybe didn’t realise I was making before because I couldn’t see them.
One challenge is the need to justify pricing. It’s becoming harder for the consumer to understand what the true value of something is. I blame the multiples and in-season promotions such as Black Friday. It’s making it hard for independent businesses.
My biggest pieces of advice are: be prepared to work hard, make sacrifices and be ready to learn. Always show willing.
Cally Russell – Class of 2017
Founder and CEO, Mallzee
It was a bit of a shock being selected for Drapers 30 Under 30. The shock was even greater once I met some of the others – they are an impressive group and have all achieved so much at such a young age.
Mallzee has been a bit of a rollercoaster, as any young business is. Retail today presents challenges for our historic business model of affiliate marketing, but has also created huge opportunities – such as how we use data generated by Mallzee to help retailers improve product selection.
When we first started, I used to worry people – especially investors – were judging me because of my age, and I would downplay our achievements and ambitions. This was a huge issue for me. I’m young for our space and my inability to grow a beard at 30 is something I’m not OK with. Over time I’ve realised age doesn’t really matter – it’s all about your output. I don’t come from a fashion background either, and had never worked in retail until Mallzee, so I’ve gone through a huge learning curve.
Looking back at our journey, though, the biggest challenge is just the amount of commitment you need to make something really work and change an industry. Don’t be afraid to take risks, try new things and push yourself outside your comfort zone. If you’re considering starting a business, doing so when you’re young is the perfect time.
Adam Frisby – Class of 2018
Founder and chief executive, In The Style
Starting your own business without any experience is a challenge – the decisions you face you never even realise are coming your way. Managing cashflow, warehouses, IT, operations and finance – these were really tough for me in the beginning as I had no understanding of them. Gut instinct was a huge thing. On so many things, I just went with what I thought was right.
In really tricky situations I would try to reach out to others whose opinion I trusted – from my grandparents and sister to entrepreneurs I met along the way in similar situations. Never be ashamed to ask for or share ideas. I would help anyone starting up a business because I know how valuable that advice or support would have been to me.
The biggest success also brought the biggest challenge: growing so quickly brought infrastructure issues such as the need for bigger premises, finding the right staff and operational changes.
The advice I would give is always have a unique selling point. When I started In The Style in 2013, our approach to social media and celebrity collaboration was new in the market, and our model is still very unique in terms of how we actually partner and create ranges. This is key for a brand to stand out.
I’ve known about the Drapers 30 Under 30 list since I started the business, so to be recognised was very flattering.
What the rising stars of Drapers 30 Under 30 did next