In our final meet the team interview, we talked with with Susanne Malim about starting her own company, her role models and what makes Jermyn Street Design different.
Why did you start your own company?
I was approaching the end of a 10 -year modelling career and was helping to sell fashion collections for a French and an Italian Fashion House in a London showroom. Through a friend, I was asked if I knew anyone who could provide clothing for the crews on the Cutty Sark Tall Ships’ Races and arrange for their promotional clothing to be sold at the quayside. I decided to take up the challenge myself and bought a shelf company.
What makes JSD different?
Passion for what we do. Passion for design, quality and personal service.
If JSD had a uniform what would it be like?
Feminine, chic, timeless but with a quirky twist.
What is the most important aspect to a new uniform?
Fit for purpose but of course, good looking. Both are crucial to making staff feel comfortable and confident at work.
What has been the most valuable lesson of your career?
Never take ‘No’ for an answer. We had been informed that we had been unsuccessful in a tender bid that we had spent a huge amount of time and energy on and really believed that we were the right fit for the company. After a week of questioning internally how we could have failed, I called the client and told them that I honestly believed that they had made a mistake. Luckily they agreed!
Who is your role model and why?
I have many people that I admire for different reasons. Anita Roddick (founder of The Body Shop) was an early role model. Passionate, clever, energetic, determined to do it differently and an early pioneer in sustainability and social and ethical trading.
What would be your top tips for someone wanting to start their own business?
1. Ensure you have prepared thoroughly before every meeting and presentation
2. Always deliver on your promises
3. Learn from setbacks and use them as stepping stones
What do you admire most about your team?
Their support for each other and total commitment to the company and its values.
What are the main challenges you face in new uniform design?
Marrying the expectations of the wearers, the brand and marketing teams, the logistics, and the budget.
Tell us about a project you are particularly proud of.
Eurostar. Winning the design and supply tender against intense international competition, and uniting the three countries Belgium, France and the UK in their uniform choice. A lot of work went into ensuring the designs were mutually agreed on. We made sure that employees were involved throughout the entire process by carrying out several focus groups, sizing days, road shows and wearer trials until Eurostar and its employees were happy with the uniforms.
What motivates you after 34 years at the helm?
My continued passion for the industry, winning new and exciting tenders, excellent long term relationships with our clients, management of a rapidly growing business and of course, seeing people happily dressed in our designs.
Tell me about the biggest mistake you ever made at work and what did you do about it?
Allowing a client to insist on designs that we didn’t believe in. We delayed the launch and insisted on a re-design after consultation with the staff.
Where is your favourite place to shop?
Pop up fashion markets in Paris are great places to find unique clothing and discover new designers. I particularly like Hotel Boheme as they promote ethical fashion from around the world.