Head of Design, Gymshark
What Route did you take to the role you are in now?
I’ve always been a designer that’s interested in sportswear and technology, but I’ve been deliberate with my career in making sure I was diversified in my experience and ability. I’ve worked in design at Luxury brands such as Sunspel Ltd, contour and performance design at Speedo intl and designed for high-street level at Abercrombie & Fitch. At all of the places I've worked, I pushed to work on both genders and accessories, which I hoped would make my skills relevant and applicable to each brand, regardless of their position in the market – so far so good.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It’s normally orientated around coffee and some form of exercise! The majority of my time is spent with the team. The team have the huge task of creating and delivering the design work, so I really exist to facilitate and enable the team in whatever way is needed. It’s usually orientated around calendars, timings, decision making or support. The final 20% of my time that I get to talk and discuss design work is the best bit and the most exciting.
First Job: Expectation Vs. Reality?
After I graduated, I extended my part-time retail job to full-time and became a visual merchandiser. Hindsight is a decent thing, but it was actually the VM experience that enabled me to get my first job in design. I expected that I’d need to work quickly, like meeting deadlines at uni but in reality, I needed to work accurately. Provided it’s done in a decent timeframe, accuracy was needed over everything, since inaccurate work is costly for business, from a time and financial perspective. I learnt to make notes and pay attention to detail very quickly.
Something you wish you knew when you graduated?
I decided to generalise and focus on both genders and accessories, but I wish that someone had told me to specialise. Specialists in particular areas of design are worth their weight in gold. Think of the specialist knitters that created the first Nike Flyknit technology or the guys that worked out how to bond football tops together instead of sewing them back in the early 2000s. Designers that specialise might limit their employment opportunities, but the patience pays off big time when brands need experts. Decide what your specialism is and nurture it, even if you have to do it on the side of your main job.
What advice would you give graduates to break in to the fashion industry?
I always think that technology has advanced, communication methods have changed, and the world looks different to how it did 50 years ago, but people are mostly the same. The industry is built by people, people employ other people and you have no idea who is going to employ you next. Talk to everyone, go for coffee, find out what they do, see how they work, go to meet-ups, use Linkedin and make a decent impression. See it as improving your odds, you’re more likely to find out about a new job from 100 people than you are for 10. If you only apply for 1 job, then it’s all or nothing. Apply for 10 and you’re more likely to be successful.
What is your career high?
I reckon it’s yet to come! I worked on the design and development of the racing suit, that’ll be worn by the fastest swimmers in the world, at the Tokyo Olympics, albeit delayed. It’ll be great to see it on the starting blocks, worn by Olympians and it’s a privilege to belong to the team that created it.