In normal circumstances, my job involves… a combination of looking for the world’s most beautiful circular materials – think leather made from discarded apple skins or felt made from recycled Ikea uniforms – and turning them into chic and functional accessories for my sustainable-fashion brand, Been London. I’m either at our studio working with the makers on new designs, in our office in London Fields, or at meetings across town working on collaborations and special projects. In normal circumstances, it really is the best job in the world.
In the past few months, the biggest change to my day-to-day work has been… supporting the team, especially those who started during lockdown, and making sure our partners and suppliers didn’t go out of business or lose jobs. One thing I’ll always remember about this time is when our packaging team, a social enterprise training Londoners with learning disabilities, had to go into long-term self-isolation, as they’re all vulnerable adults. Their lives changed overnight, and for people with learning disabilities change can be particularly hard. So we asked our community of customers to send them messages of support and were completely overwhelmed by the response and the kindness. It kept the trainees going.
I’m adapting to working remotely by… turning our spare bedroom into a nice creative workspace, and swapping Zoom calls for socially distanced walks in the park – so much more productive! I’m also making sure I find time to chat to all team members about non-work-related stuff.
The recent innovation I’m most proud of is… a new capsule collection of bags we’ll be launching this autumn, made entirely from recycled materials. As a former journalist (I was at the BBC for most of my career), I love the fact that it brings several incredible stories together: one of discarded fishing nets turned into premium regenerated nylon; another of plastic bottles turned into zip tapes and linings; another of old uniforms recycled into backpack padding and laptop sleeve linings – all handmade here in London. I’m proud that we can create something so impactful and beautiful at the same time.
The most significant challenge has been… the combination of home schooling and work. If I’m entirely honest, it’s been hell, and I’m sure everyone who has kids will understand.
I’m keeping my team motivated by… making sure everyone is involved and updated about the impact we’re making. We’re a passionate bunch who care about sustainability and design in equal measure, so knowing that our bags only require a fraction of natural resources compared with everything else on the market keeps everyone going.
For me, leadership during a crisis means… paying much more attention to everyone’s work-life balance and making sure we support one another on a personal level as well as professionally.
My role model for crisis management is… every output editor at the BBC I’ve ever worked with. When you’re producing a live news programme with correspondents around the world, a lot of things can go wrong. Staying calm and coming up with alternative plans quickly and thriving on challenge is a great skill to have.
The three most important values that will see my business through adversity are… empathy, thoughtfulness and strong relationships.
The biggest change I hope we’ll see in my industry post-crisis is… brands really taking care of their makers. It has been heart-breaking to see fast-fashion giants not pay their makers, effectively causing thousands of households to lose all their income. We did the exact opposite to save everyone’s jobs.
The one thing I can’t wait to do when all this is over is… go for a drink with my team. It’s been too long...
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