What was your first job? I was lucky to get a job straight from Nottingham Trent Polytechnic with Next. I went for an interview there and started work as a pattern cutter and designer. Working as a pattern cutter is a skill I’m really proud to have that has stood me in good stead through my career as it makes the design side easier – I can see how a certain pattern will or won’t work.
I met George Davies at Next who asked me to join him in his venture at Asda –creating the George brand 21 years ago with a simple purpose: to design and sell clothes that represent quality, style and value. We have the same mission today.
It’s a real achievement to have come as far as we have. As the pioneer of supermarket fashion, today we are so proud to be in over 380 Asda stores nationwide and have a huge online presence. Coupled with this, we are now number one retailer for volume; and number one for volume in childrenswear and babywear – a fantastic result.
What’s the best part of your job? I work with a fantastic team at George, aiming for the same goals; and of course, listening to and anticipating what our customers want and need to so we can make sure we produce something they want to wear. The great thing about working in fashion is there’s never a dull moment as it’s ever-changing.
In the last few years, we’ve launched George.com and our hugely popular social media sites – George Style Blog, Facebook and Twitter; led innovation in the industry; launched the 100-day quality guarantee; invested in quality; sponsored Graduate Fashion Week and collaborated with designers such as Charlie Allen and Barbara Hulanicki – these are all moments I’m proud to have been involved with.
And the worst? If you know you’ve got a really good idea, you want to give it to customers straight away but you have to wait to get it made.
Describe your typical day Very varied. I can be selecting ranges, working with designers, listening to customers, investigating new collaborations, talking to journalists and suppliers, and if I’m lucky I get time for lunch!
What’s so special about George’s childrenswear collections? Our kids ranges are fun, practical and all come with a 100-day quality guarantee so parents know they are getting something their children will like, and will last.
We really listen to what our customers want. We speak to them on the shop floor and invite them into listening groups. In fact, this year we have changed some of our school uniforms to make them more agreeable to mums. For example, parents told us flower buttons on dresses were too fiddly for their daughters, so we've made them round; they told us they wanted longer zips to make it easier to dress their kids, and adjustable waists so children's uniforms can grow with them. All of our trousers and skirts now have Teflon to avoid unwanted stains from spills. Customers also let us know they wanted an alternative to skirts so we have developed a range of culottes and city shorts. On top of this, we have introduced a teen range. Parents love the humour of the ranges at George and our licensed ranges are really popular.
Pick out some signature pieces or hero products for AW11 We have a striped knitted dress, red faux-fur coat and floral boots which are cute and fun; and for the boys we have the must-have cuffed jeans.
Tell us about GFW children’s design competition We introduced a children’s competition as part of our sponsorship of GFW. We’re passionate about kidswear at George and just felt this area of the business needed to be highlighted more to students and graduates.
We asked students to enter with anything from design ideas, graphics and marketing and received some stunning entries. We picked a winner, Kirsty Watson, and two highly commended whose products will go into our stores.
What did you want to be as a child? A designer! It’s in my blood. I’ve grown up surrounded by fashion. My mother and grandmother were dressmakers and my great grandfather was a master tailor. From the age of 11, I knew this was the job for me - I have never lost this focus and have been lucky to have had a fantastic career in fashion.
What was your favourite outfit as a child? I remember a paisley printed shift dress that I wore over a full-sleeved blouse in the height of the 70s to a party. It would be perfect now!
What was your worst fashion disaster? I wouldn’t say I have had fashion disasters, but I would say there are moments I look back at trends and wonder what we were all doing. For example, when I look back at the huge 80s shoulder pads we were all wearing – we just looked like American footballers.
Describe yourself in three words Enthusiastic, creative and fun-loving.
Describe your sartorial style in three words Individual, well-accessorised and hopefully glamorous.
Tell us a secret that not a lot of people know about you I was the captain of Trent Polytechnics table tennis team.
Tell us a secret that not a lot of people know about George We are much more design-led than people believe. We have more than 70 in-house designers who trend spot, go on inspiration trips and design our ranges. I suspect a lot of people think that as a supermarket retailer we just pick products from a supplier’s catalogue, but design is really important.