So what’s the low-down on what you do? I’m in the enviable position of having worked on some amazing global fashion brands starting with Levi’s in PR and Marketing (based at their European headquarters in Brussels), having graduated from ESS (as it was known back then!). Nine years later, having travelled the world, I took on the new challenge of transforming Topshop from a well-known but rather naff retailer into a cool and desirable brand.
My next step was a natural one which was to have a family and move into a more ‘ mature’ life stage, shall we say. I orchestrated a move back to Ireland where both my two boys were born Johnny (4) and Larkin (2) as well as my next career move, which was to take over what had become a rather staid and quite frumpy brand, Whistles.
Jane Shepherdson (the former CEO of Topshop) and I had a simple aim: to create a new, contemporary womenswear brand, which reflected the team’s style which is quite effortless and understated and doesn’t necessarily try to follow every trend. Initially, I commuted from Dalkey to London. Four years later, having built an internal team to drive the PR and Marketing of the brand day-to-day, I’ve chosen to take a step back, be at home with the boys more and travel less. I’m now the Strategic Brand Advisor to the business and I travel once a month for meetings.
This has enabled me to be more flexible and be there for the boys while they are young as my husband runs an international business which requires him to travel every week. But it has also opened doors to work in new and interesting ways with other fashion brands. Alongside Whistles, I also act as a Non-Executive Director for Atterley Road, a newcomer into the world of online fashion. They have identified a niche in the market between Net a Porter and ASOS. They’re committed to offering contemporary womenswear at affordable prices – they provide the perfect edit for women who want to stay on top of fashion but who are time-poor and cash-conscious.
What’s your favourite part of it? I love bouncing ideas around with an extremely dynamic and creative bunch of people. There’s nothing more refreshing than thinking, even for a moment, that everything is possible.
It gives me a buzz when you finally see that brand you worked on for so long and thought about in such detail gaining accolades amongst the fashion cognoscenti – the people that really influence your brand’s future. This was true of Levi’s when launching LVC – Levi’s vintage clothing and Levi’s RED and also of Topshop when launching ‘Topshop Unique’ and now most recently of Whistles, which has gained momentum (it was last season’s buzz of London Fashion Week although it showed off schedule) .
Why the move home? I left in 1991 for 3 months. I felt 15 years later it was now or never, make or break.
What childcare set-up do you have? I’m very privileged having had my kids later in life. I felt if I couldn’t take some time out to look after them myself what was I doing working all this time so hard for? We very much thought we’d never be so lucky as to have a child, never mind two, so when the second miracle came along I felt it was time to redress our situation with both of us working overseas. The days I work I have a childminder in the home and she also covers for the days I have to travel for my job.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Building brands, businesses, ideas. I love the challenge of turning a brand around or building a new one but it would need to be in the creative field. I would love the opportunity to apply my skills and experience to a charity but also I would love to help other young women starting out. Particularly those who are looking to explore different creative fields and who often would love to pursue a career in fashion. I’d love to help encourage them to go out into the marketplace in pursuit of their dream job, to follow their passion as that’s where they will find success.
Not many people know I die a thousand times before I have to make a presentation, or present a strategy. And I also die if I don’t get those nervous twitches as they have become my safety net!
I can’t live without my Nespresso coffee machine (a present from a very lovely friend indeed), Moroccan Body Oil and my iPhone.
My perfume is Tom Ford Grey Vetiver
My body lotion is Jo Malone, an indulgence every woman should allow.
The last music I bought was PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. I also saw The Specials play at Brixton Academy in London last week with friends and my husband (a die hard Ska fan) which was amazing so we’re listening to them lots at the moment.
My guilty pleasure is staying in bed for as long as possible, as often as I can get away with it.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY AILBHE O’DONNELL