Shelly Corkery, the Fashion Director of Brown Thomas has undoubtedly one of the most enviable jobs in the Irish fashion industry. We imagined the role as a whirlwind of chic creativity and we weren’t wrong. She talks us through it.
What has been your career path so far? I am originally from Cork and went to school there. After school I traveled to Paris to learn French, and lived there for a year. When I returned I started working at the Irish Fashion Design Centre in Dublin and spent ten years there working as the assistant manager. Currently I am Fashion Director at Brown Thomas and have been working here for fourteen years.
Did you meet any inspiring mentors along the way? Yes, many. Moving to Dublin at the age of 19 marked a big change in my life. I was passionate about learning all I could about the fashion industry. Michelle Kavanagh and Marie Donnelly with whom I worked with at the Design Centre were such an inspiration to me. Michelle with her amazing business etiquette, so fast and efficient, and Marie with her exceptional creative flare. Another amazing mentor at the Design Centre was Nicky Creedon. She is such an incredible person with a great eye for fashion and taught me how to sell. Moving to Brown Thomas was such a huge and exciting step for me as I’d never before worked in a department store with luxury fashion on such a grand scale. I have had the privilege of learning from some incredible mentors such as Paul Kelly who was Managing Director at the time when I joined, Cecily McMenamin who was Fashion Director then and the current Managing Director Stephen Sealey. They have all been hugely inspirational in my life.
When did the fashion bug bite? When I was living in Paris. How could it not?!
What is your average day? I’m at my desk for 8am. I read through all emails and go through my action plan for the day. After that I go over to the store to walk the floor and catch up with the store team. From then on my day is usually full of meetings to drive projects & make them happen. Six months of the year I’m travelling – from New York to London, Milan and Paris. So then I’m glued to my Blackberry and iPad – checking in constantly.
In terms of fulfillment, we all strive for it – what are your keys to work/life balance? The key is to be able to switch off. I work very hard, but I make sure my head is in work when it needs to be, and as soon as I’m home, I’ m home.
What are the most stressful elements of your role as Fashion Director? It can sometimes be a challenge working with so many brands, trying to please everyone but at the same time making sure the end result is one that is right for the business. It is all about having great energy, making good decisions and thinking positively.
How do you handle pressure and how do you let off steam and relax? By drinking three cups of strong coffee in the morning!!!! It’s also about surrounding yourself with a good team. To relax, I relish going home at the end of a long day to spend some quality time with my family, cooking for them and enjoying their company.
What are your favourite elements of the role? The world of fashion is so exhilarating, I love being a part of it. In my role I have accessibility to the best brands in the world, which is great. I also enjoy all the travel. It’s so wonderful travelling to all the fashion capitals to find new and exciting brands for the business.
What gives you a buzz in your work? After travelling the globe and securing new brands for the stores, it is always great to see the product finally delivered and then fly off the rails because customers love it! It’s a wonderful feeling of achievement.
What was your greatest ‘high five’ moment? Working in this exciting and fast-paced business, there are just so many! It would be impossible to choose just one. In retail, every day brings something new.
How many people are on your team? I am based in the Dublin buying office where we have 14 buyers across the various divisions, along with their buying assistants and the admin team.
What advice would you give your 25 year old self? Always listen. Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. Be very self-confident. Always work with your team – communication is the key to success.
Best advice you were ever given? Two words – Innovate and lead.
What is your favourite restaurant for lunch and dinner? Brown Thomas restaurant for lunch. Bistro One in Foxrock for dinner.
What is your cocktail of choice? Champagne Mojito
What music are you listening to lately? Adele, Emile Sandé, Lana Del Rey and a bit of Bublé!
Paper or digital planner/diary? Digital. I’d be lost without my various devices – Blackberry, iPhone and iPad. I’m always glued to my Blackberry.
If you could meet any woman for lunch, who would it be and why? Miuccia Prada because she is my idol, and Phoebe Philo as I’m a great admirer of hers.
What people don’t know about you is… There’s a reason it’s a secret!
Current designer crush? I love what Raf Simons is doing with Dior at the moment. The new direction is so modern.
Current girl crush? Miroslava Duma, the Russian internet street style star. She is so versatile and wears the coolest clothes. She has such a great sense of style!
Photography by Ailbhe O’Donnell