International Women’s Day
I was delighted when asked to share my story for this year’s International Women’s day in the hope that it will help inspire young women who just like me fell into retail and never looked back. I believe no girl should grow up thinking she can’t do something because of her gender, she should feel inspired and empowered to become the best version of herself.
I’m the daughter of a selfless single-parent mother who always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted and to follow my dreams. I started my career at the age of 15 as a Saturday girl at a local independent shoe store in a small town in the North of England and loved it so much I spent all my time through university working there. I’m a shop-girl at heart and my love of retail remains as strong today as it did then over 38 years ago.
At the age of 23, I was lucky enough to start as a Store Manager for Bally, the luxury Swiss shoe company having found my way into the business through a connection with my former boss. I moved to London and began working with a small group of inspirational women managers in what was predominately a man’s world. It was so tough and you had to constantly prove yourself. Looking back, it was the grounding I needed, I would always encourage younger managers to listen, pay attention and ask questions early in their career, absorb everything and never give up. Working my way through various stores I was privileged to open the Brand’s concession in Harrods, and it wasn’t long before Harrods asked me to join them, making this a pivotal moment in my career.
With the motto ‘All things for all everywhere’ Harrods was the ultimate training ground for any luxury retailer and my spent there was incredible, building boutiques with leading luxury fashion houses, travelling to all the fashion capitals of the world, and working with the most inspirational female retailers such as Anne Pitcher and others who I still have as friends today. Working in such a renowned department store was a fascinating insight into the clients’ end-to-end shopping journey, not just in fashion but also in beauty and lifestyle. It taught me to never be complacent, never stop being curious, never be afraid to stand out in a crowd, and lastly to never lower my standards.
After my time at Harrods, I moved to Burberry, when the Brand was at the very start of its journey into Luxury. I was incredibly excited to be part of the early story for this incredible British Luxury Brand. During my time there, I was privileged to work with great women leaders who were fearless and driven but also possessed great passion and empathy, Rose Marie Bravo, Joy Frommer, and of course Angela Ahrendts. A career highlight has to be the opening of the Burberry Regent Street store in 2012. It was triple the size of any store we had opened, the global flagship with challenges and complexities at every turn. This was an incredible brand moment and one that the team delivered with immense pride. My learnings from Burberry have been invaluable and I believe are the key to successful leadership. Believe and see the best in people, always ensure you have meaningful engagement with colleagues, take a real interest in your teams and make sure they are the best, amplify strengths, and support learning and development. The value of teamwork is something I have carried with me throughout my career, it’s important to trust the people around you to be experts in their fields, let them do their job, make mistakes and develop. They will thank you later.
I’ve always believed in the power of great relationships and a strong network so would encourage young women to develop and nurture their friendships. I’m fortunate to remain close to many people I’ve met over the years, I have many friends in the fashion business that I’m able to call on for a favour or advice. I continue to be so proud of the many women I have worked with who have gone on to achieve great things in their careers and always find time to keep in contact.
I would urge young women to always stay open-minded, have confidence in themselves, a positive self-image that assures strength, ability, and value. Hindsight is so valuable, and I would never ask my team to do something that I have not done myself. Life is a journey you will make many mistakes, but you will learn from them. Make lots of friends and surround yourself with people who inspire you, understand you and make you feel good about yourself. To quote Michelle Obama ‘There is no limit to what we as women can accomplish.’
Q- Name a woman in the public eye that you admire?
Q-What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It’s about celebrating the power of women, acknowledging the improvements that have been made and focusing on the things that still have to be done
Q-Which women continue to inspire you?
My daughter Georgia and all my female friends…they know who they are
Q-What one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever been given?
Empathy is a superpower!
Q- What’s your favourite quote from an inspirational figure?
‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did
but people will never forget how you made them feel’ Maya Angelou
Q -The most fun quote for women?
‘Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just stop, breath, and focus on the positive and if that doesn’t work, try a new pair of shoes!