Kate Barton, Fashion Guru How I Made It
At the age of 20, without any experience, Kate Barton managed to break into the fashion industry as an Assistant Travel Editor for Vogue. She didn’t stop there. Throughout her successful career in fashion, she became a designer for Laura Ashley, started her own childrenswear company and played an instrumental role in launching Mini Boden. We were lucky enough to chat to Kate about the highs and lows of her fascinating career in fashion…
What did you do before you started working at Vogue?
I did A-levels but I wasn’t clever enough to go to university. It didn’t even cross my mind. I went to secretarial college because my parents thought it would be a good thing for me to do. It was incredibly boring. I then got a job as a receptionist, which was even more boring.
I walked into Vogue House and decided that I wanted to work there. I spoke to the receptionist and somehow managed to get a job. I was very, very lucky.
They were looking for somebody in the copywriting department, which I knew nothing about. I became Assistant Travel Editor when I was 20 and worked for the travel editor for 18 months. I don’t know why he offered me the job; maybe he fancied me or something.
What responsibilities did you have?
I travelled a lot. I was responsible for writing the ‘Travel Diary’, which came out every month. I also did quite a lot of my own writing. If I came up with a decent idea for a feature, I’d approach my boss and he’d say, “Yeah, run with it. Go and see the editor.”
I remember suggesting one feature because I wanted to get as much travel out of it as possible. It was a comparative report on renting houses all over the world. I visited St Lucia, Norfolk, a Greek island, Palm Beach in Florida and went skiing, all for one edition. I was given lovely villas, cars, flights and all the rest of it. For a 20 year old, it was very exciting.
What did you gain from that experience?
Retrospectively, I learnt that you need balls in life. It also gave me a great desire to travel.
Why did you decide to quit Vogue?
Working at Vogue gave me a taste for travelling. I wanted to do a six-month trip and just get it out of my system before I settled down. I came back two and a half years later.
Perhaps, in my heart of hearts, I also knew that I was never going to make it as a journalist. I wasn’t nearly good enough at writing.
When you returned, you managed to get a job in the press office at Laura Ashley. How did you manage to secure that opportunity?
I just applied for the job. The press officer was very reluctant to take me on initially because I was overqualified and she wanted an assistant. I really pushed, though, because I really wanted it.
Eventually, she took on someone else to back her up, and I started organising promotional fashion shows all over the country for Laura Ashley. I would book the models, go into the shops, invite people and do promotional shows across the UK. It was a great job, but it involved travelling and I’d just got married. I was away at least two nights a week.
I decided that I didn’t really want to do it anymore, so I handed in my notice. At that stage, Nick Ashley, who was in the design department, offered me a job, which was based in Clapham.
What did you do in the design department?
Sometimes it’s only when you fall into a job that you realise how much you enjoy it. I really loved putting ideas together, having things made and getting them accepted by the merchandisers.
Most of the Laura Ashley clothes were made in-house in Carno in Wales in the company’s own factory. They couldn’t make certain items, however, because they didn’t have the right machinery. All the t-shirting, jersey, leather and knitwear was made abroad.
I was responsible for leather and all the t-shirting products. I’d spend my time going out to Portugal, liaising with factories, coming up new designs and getting samples made. I spent more time on the t-shirting stuff because I really enjoyed creating new shapes with basic t-shirting.
Why did you decide to start your own childrenswear company?
When I was working in the press office, Mrs Ashley had an accident and fell down the stairs. She was clinically dead when she arrived at the bottom. The company had to be very careful about how they released this tragic news to the shareholders.
By the time I’d joined the design department, the deal had gone through. Laura Ashley had been bought out and floated on the Stock Exchange. They were bringing in all sorts of high-powered people and the company was getting more and more hierarchical to work for.
I really enjoyed my job, but I believe in following your gut, so I left and set up a childrenswear company called The General Clothing Company.
First of all, I worked from home, driving my husband mad in the process. I then moved to the Camberwell Business Centre and ran the company from there for ten years.
My first step in the business involved going to Portugal, getting a lot of things made, having them sent back to me and then selling them.
My first ever sale was terrifying. One of the styles arrived by special delivery from Portugal at 9am on the same morning. When I opened the box, the collars for the dresses had been put on back-to-front. I thought I was going to be sick, I was so frightened. The sale was starting in half an hour, so I just had to pin up a sample of the dress and say: “This is a style I’m selling. I’ve got no stock but I’m taking orders.” I sent the delivery back to Portugal and got the collars put on the right way at the manufacturer’s expense.
I then started taking a stand to trade fairs, where I would show samples of my collection and get clothes made to order. I would close my order book for the forthcoming season in enough time to collate all the orders and get my production sorted.
Did you have any investment?
No, I put in £2,500 of my own money. It didn’t cross my mind to borrow.
After a decade of success, you merged with Boden. How did that come about?
I’d already had one unsuccessful merger attempt, where a company tried to buy me out and it went very wrong. They tried to steal my production. They went over and bribed the factory that I was working with to make clothes for them and not for me, so they could win the market. It was horrible.
I started to find that all my orders were dropping and I couldn’t understand why. I rang up the factory and they told me what was happening. Understandably, I pulled out of the merger.
I really felt in my gut that there was a lot of potential in the products. When I was on holiday in France, I woke up in the middle of the night and said to my husband: “What about Boden? There must be a market for children with Boden.”
I was lucky enough to have met Johnnie Boden before he started his company. I’d had lunch with him to advise him on where to go and what to do, but I hadn’t seen him since. I rang Johnnie the morning I got back from holiday and we got together the next week.
He couldn’t afford to buy the company out, so he rolled my company into his. We were both quite headstrong, so we had our moments, but ultimately it was pretty successful.
What was it like merging with another company? Were you worried about relinquishing full control?
I was financially very cautious when I first went in with Boden because I was rolling my company into theirs. I’d always paid myself a very meagre salary, but I was desperate to hold onto the money. At the start, I was still bankrolling Mini Boden because Johnnie couldn’t afford to at that stage. There was some financial anxiety and I’m a bit of a control freak, so I found that quite difficult.
When I first started I designed the collection, so that was great. However, when I became pregnant with my fifth child, I stopped working as a designer and worked on a style committee, where it was my job to vet what other people had designed. Sometimes I found that very difficult, because I was desperate to keep the look of the company and the products right. Nowadays, the designers are absolutely fantastic and they do a very good job; I couldn’t begin to do it as well myself.
We agreed a projected value of the company when I first joined Boden to create Mini Boden. When we reached that target over a number of years, I peeled off. I now have nothing to do with the company at all.
What was the highlight of your career in the fashion industry?
Seeing children wearing my clothes on the street. Even though I made all the clothes and hundreds of pieces went out of the office every season, I could never quite believe that someone was wearing one of my outfits.
It was incredibly hard work, but it was tremendously good fun. I really, really enjoyed it. Fortunately, I also married a very tolerant man who let me surround myself in bits of fabric and do what I wanted to do.
What advice would you give to young people that want to work in the fashion industry?
If you really believe in something, follow your gut. People will over-analyse things and say to you: “You’ve got to do it this way. This is what sells. This is what doesn’t sell.” I believe there’s always a chance that you can create something which is very close to something else that didn’t sell, but will sell.
When Laura Ashley was at its peak, they were doing printed cottons. When they sold the company and were able to bring in knowledgeable, high-powered people from other companies like Next, who said that polyester sells better cotton, they were less brave and more nervous about just doing what the company already did well. Perhaps Laura Ashley should have just stuck to what they really knew and were brilliant at, because nobody else ever did it
Don’t worry about starting at the bottom. It doesn’t matter if you start off answering the telephones for a year. So what? If somebody notices you’re very good at it, you’ll become the manager of the department. They’ll know you’re a very good worker and you’ll move vertically through the company.
MoreHow I Made It
After 8 years working in HR and graduate recruitment, Hannah Salton’s knowledge of recruitment processes is extensive. In early 2017 Hannah used her experience from both the professional services and legal industry to set up her own coaching and consulting business. Here, Hannah combines her knowledge of what employers look for in their hires, along with her experience of coaching young professionals, to share her 5 top tips for today’s job seekers.
It is becoming increasingly more popular for employers to give future employees aptitude tests as part of the recruitment process. The aptitude test is used to gain insight into the future employee’s skill sets, character traits, working style, and ability to handle a workload. It’s also becoming common to offer these tests in a computerized form. With a computer based test, comes a whole new set of challenges that job seekers should be aware of. Jennifer Feldman gives her tips on how best to combat these tricky little numbers!
The events industry can offer a rewarding career with exciting challenges, exciting perks and the chance to help make people’s dreams come true. From parties to weddings, it’s a fun career but one that carries a lot of responsibility, organisation and creativity. Niamh Spence caught up with three young graduates who are lucky enough enough to be working at one of the UK’s most exciting wedding venues, Heaton House Farm, and they’ve shared their top tips on how to get ahead in this competitive industry.
Anthony Alleyne is a Filmmaker, Film Course Leader and Course Designer, based at Met Film School. He is the Leader of Met Film School’s course. We sat down with him to talk about the skills that you need to pursue a career in filmmaking.
The creative industries are often the hardest to break into for graduates, but we gained some knowledge from Gem Barton, author of Don’t Get a Job… Make a Job: How to make it as a creative graduate about alternative ways into the world of work.
So, you think you want to be a nurse? There’s more than just the job title to think about. There are endless opportunities to specialise in nursing, allowing you to gain the best experience possible and develop your skills and knowledge. We sat down with Phoebe from Your World Healthcare, to discuss the profession and how to go about choosing what it is you want to do.
FACTFILE Name: Joe Earle Role: Business Process Analyst Location: Chineham Length of employment: 2 years
FACTFILE Name: Joel Leadsham Role: Apprentice Team Manager Location: Spalding Length of employment: 1 Year and 2 Months
Making yourself leap off the page can be difficult, especially when applying for an NHS role. Our friends at GoToJobBoard explain how to make your application a success.
We caught up with Martin Roberts, Head Of Buying, and Ben Bisco, Head of Digital, at Jacamo Menswear, for their best advice on how to get into the Fashion industry through two different avenues – one in sales and the other in marketing.
Om Ruparel is the MD and Founder of Recruitmentology.co.uk, a company specialising in recruitment for the digital, marketing and media landscape, as well as being a special advisor to the British Interactive Media Association. He spoke to AllAboutCareers to help us bring you his best tips for breaking the digital tech industry!
Frank Frumento is a movie trailer editor and works on a range of projects, creating the trailers, teasers and TV spots you see in the cinema and on TV every day. Quite a cool job, right? Yes. Good. We quizzed Frank on how he made it as a movie trailer editor and what advice he has for those wanting to enter the film and media industry.
Think of accountants and you tend to think of those that work for the big firms on the financial affairs of privately owned or publically floated companies. Whilst this stereotype is not far from the truth, it is not, however, the whole truth.
Securing a job after university is just one of the worries students have to think about in their final year. We spoke to Rose Taylor about how she got the job of her dreams after a successful and eye-opening placement with Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
AllAboutCareers.com spoke to Duncan William about how he became a magician and mind reader. He reveals how he embarked upon a graduate scheme and travelled before following his dream career path.
I work for a charitable organisation called Involve. We work in the field of public participation in governance and decision-making; researching and delivering best practice in order to enhance the development of a democratic process that incorporates greater systems for involving the public.
John-Patrick Richardson is a Technical Analyst at the National Nuclear Laboratory. Graduating with a BSc in Management Science and a MSc in Management, John-Patrick outlines his role in nuclear energy...
Tom Wilcox is the Director of Counterculture Partners Limited, a financial services company which specialises in helping cultural, creative and third sector organisations to plan, manage and thrive. Tom has done it all: he joined PwC as a graduate trainee, he worked as a finance officer for Arts Council England, and he was the Managing Director of the Whitechapel Gallery for almost seven years. Here Tom tells us about the twists and turns of his eventful career so far…
Specialising in international criminal law, Toby Cadman has represented clients all over the world, from Bosnia to Bangladesh. His first job in the legal profession was as an international human rights lawyer in Sarajevo. Since then he has established himself as an expert barrister in the areas of war crimes, extradition and human rights law. Here Toby tells us about his most challenging cases to date, the dangers of working in international criminal law, and what it takes to become a successful human rights lawyer…
Steph Naulls has landed her dream job as a communications assistant at Penguin. From landing work experience through Twitter to working at the BBC studios and Edinburgh International Book Festival (where she saw Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin!), Steph tells AllAboutCareers.com how she made it and also provides advice for budding publicists.
It’s possible to convert to a law career at any point; it’s not just the realm of graduates fresh out of university. Oliver Wiseman graduated with a degree in modern languages (French and Spanish) back in 2004 and followed a career in the bright lights of film production before switching to the legal sector. He told us about swapping life behind the silver screen for life in the silver circle as a trainee solicitor at City law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP)…
At the tender age of 25, Sean Paul Verity is already an incredibly successful project manager. Having started his career with Regus in the serviced office industry, he has now established himself in the digital world, working for an innovative digital agency called Rockpool. Here Sean tells us about the importance of choosing the right placement, making the most of your opportunities to travel and why working at the forefront of the digital industry is the perfect match for his project management skills…
Rory Sutherland is one of the most influential advertising professionals in the world today. He is also one of the most fascinating, eccentric and witty people in the business. Having narrowly escaped a career in teaching, he joined Ogilvy as a graduate trainee in the golden summer of ’88. 23 and a half years later, he is still there. From his early forays into the world of account handling, Rory made the leap into the creative department and has never looked back. In ‘Part One’ of our extended interview with the cravat-wearing creative, we track his fascinating career from graduate trainee to Head of Copy at OgilvyOne in 1995…
In ‘Part Two’ of our extended interview with Rory Sutherland, we discuss Mad Men, the importance of behavioural economics, and the admirable qualities of Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. We also find out exactly what the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK does with his precious time. He may simply describe himself as the ‘Fat bloke at Ogilvy’ on his Twitter profile, but he’s certainly much more than that. We reckon it’s about time you found out why!
Ever since he set up his own video production company, Peter Corrigan has spent his time producing work for clients both big and small, applying his creative knowhow towards making content for anyone from huge computer corporations to your everyday local pub band. He’s also been nice enough to write us a little article on how he started up his own business in the creative industry…
Managing to balance a busy home life with a challenging financial career, Myra Geater has climbed the career ladder from an accounts assistant role with a local business to become a Strategic MI Manager for the global mobile phone company, Vodaphone. Here Myra tells us about the peaks and troughs of her career so far…
From the early days of building computers in his bedroom, Misha Gopaul has turned his passion for technology into a multi-million pound business. Bored of education, Misha decided to skip university and focus his efforts on expanding his I.T. company. Here Misha tells us about the rapid expansion of his business, the importance of having a mentor and why you should just get an idea and go for it…
Wondering where a science degree could take you outside of the lab? Liz Cohen, Partner at London law firm Bristows LLP, started out as a natural sciences student and has worked her way right up to the top. And she hasn’t left her sciences background behind either. Here, Liz tells us all about how she made it…
Lesley Fox has worked her way up the ranks at top professional services firm Mazars to become a Partner in their Audit and Assurance service line. So how did she make it? She tells us all about her training experiences, career progression and bringing new graduates up through the ranks to manage alongside her.
Julian Powell-Tuck started his own successful architecture and interior design practice when he was just 25, after being told by his tutor that he was practically “unemployable.” Here Julian tells us what it takes to set up your own business in a recession…
Jules Harbage has worked his way up the ranks at Leeds law firm, Walker Morris LLP, to become a partner in their Construction and Engineering department, with a niche specialist area in Energy work. He tells us all about his training experiences, why he chose construction law and his career progression to date.
Becoming Head of Sustainability at global coffee brand Nespresso doesn’t just happen overnight. We spoke to Jerome Perez and quizzed him on how he made it in the industry and what tips he has for current and soon-to-be graduates looking to make it in the business world.
Bob is now an associate lawyer in construction at law firm Mayer Brown, but he couldn’t have got this far without first completing the LPC – the mandatory vocational course for aspiring solicitors. But what did he take from his experience at Kaplan Law School into his now flourishing legal career?
Alison Clarke is a partner in RPC’s Insurance and Reinsurance practice, specialising in financial lines E&O, D&O and professional indemnity insurance. We caught up with Alison to chat about her career with RPC and find out what life is like as one of the few barrister partners in the UK…
From her first role as a trainee actuary with Liverpool Victoria, Gina Craske has risen through the ranks of the actuarial profession to become a director at KPMG. Here Gina discusses the trajectory of her career so far, the gender balance in the actuarial industry, and the challenges facing a senior actuarial consultant on a daily basis…
Giles Murphy started off at accountancy and investment management firm Smith & Williamson back in 1991 as a trainee. Since then he’s performed a number of different roles at the firm and has worked his way up to National Head of Assurance and Business Services. He told us about his route to success at the firm…
Elizabeth Edwards is Head of Education at Learn With Pip, an education company that creates the products to help children improve their reading skills by using apps. After deviating from a career in the legal sector and years of teaching, AllAboutCareers.com caught up with Elizabeth, quizzing her on her experiences and future prospects…
When I tell people I work in advertising, I'm persistently faced with the same question: “ooh, what adverts do you make?” My response is always simple, and a little tetchy: “I don’t.”