What does your job entail?
I’m the CEO of Fashion Enter, an award winning, not-for-profit social enterprise, which provides a centre of excellence for sampling, producing and skills-development within textiles.
My role ranges from strategic focus to day-to-day management to watering the plants in the office!
I’ve been in the fashion industry for over 30 years now, previously working as a buyer for multinational brands, like M&S, and my own label, Retro.
Why do you enjoy working in manufacturing?
It is so stimulating and challenging, and no day is ever the same.
I love giving our work force which is mainly women a chance to earn money and earn bonuses through performance-related pay. For me, it’s all about our team. That’s why we created the Fashion Technology Academy to help future generations succeed through training and apprenticeships.
How did you get into manufacturing?
I didn’t intend to get into manufacturing when I started Fashion Enter. At first we simply helped refer young designers to fashion labels. However, we found that the designers were being ripped off by unscrupulous Cut Make and Trim units so we started enabling production in-house, making samples for the young brands which grew into established labels. And then seven years ago, we opened a factory with a grant from ASOS.
At the time it was a very brave (or stupid!) thing to do – I was so out of my comfort zone to go from making samples to the production of seven thousand garments a week. The workforce tripled over night and manufacturing is all about flow and process. There was so much to learn so quickly.
What challenges have you overcome in your career?
Self-doubt is the biggest thing.
There were periods of very tight cash flow; I thought we were going to go under, but we managed it and come through by working so collaboratively and opening with our supply base. And now we’re stronger than ever.
I’ve also realised you have to take different management strategies for different people and situations. We have 11 different types of nationalities here…you have to recognise when it is time to pound the table and when to say ‘keep your chin up – we can do it!”
What advice would you have for women thinking of a career in manufacturing?
Absolutely go for it! There’s a wonderful sense of team comradery in manufacturing that was never there when I worked in the buying area of multinationals. You spend as much time at work as at home, so you want to have fun, a sense of fulfilment and create a lasting legacy. That is why our FTA is so important to us all.
There’s something very real about manufacturing – taking raw components and making something valuable from them.
I used to somewhat undervalue manufacturers, but now I actually see the skills and talent of every single person who touches the garment during the manufacturing process and it’s a skill to be very proud of. Waving that Made in Britain flag is important to everyone that works here at Fashion Enter.