I first met Jo at a style event where she was presenting a piece about global trends. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and via Instagram connected with Jo. We then met again at the Wallis press event last year and I had a chance to properly chat and find out more about her. Our love for all things spiritual, health and wellness and fashion meant we hit it off straight away. I was thrilled when Jo agreed to be interviewed and even more pleased at how open she has been.
1: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi my name’s Jo and I’m middle daughter of 3 girls. I was a tomboy growing up and wasn’t the most confident of teenagers, but my love for art and drama gave me an outlet for personal expression and a platform for my confidence to grow. I left school at 16 and went to various art colleges eventually graduating from Winchester School of Art with a BA (Hons) in printed textiles. At the age of 21 I moved to London and almost 30 years later I continue to call London home.
I am lucky enough to have a career that spans 30 years in the fashion industry and grew up working for Monsoon for 14 years before becoming a Director at The Arcadia Fashion Group. I love travelling and have been fortunate enough to have travelled the world with and without work. I spent a lot of my Monsoon years working out of India liaising with traditional craft industries travelling to remote parts of the country I so love.
2: You currently work for Wallis, can you tell us a little more about your role and what you do for them?
I am Design Director at Wallis, I have been in this role for 7 years and head up the creative/design process and manage a team of designers to deliver the ranges.
Wallis is a womenswear brand that creates clothes for the style conscious woman who is smart and loves to dress up. She comes to us for clothes that flatter and stand for fashionable rather than fashion fads. This brand is part of the Arcadia Fashion Group; the biggest fashion retail group in the UK.
Part of my job means I need to analyse the trends and put together a presentation and direction that, firstly tells the business what is happening on a global level and what the mega trends look like for the forthcoming seasons and then secondly to edit the global trends to focus on what’s relevant for our brand and customer.
I am ultimately responsible for the creative direction of the Wallis range and communicating this to the business each season (trends, colour, shape and print) I have to position this in a way that is understandable to all the teams including directors, design, buying, merchandising, technical, creative, digital and social as well as retail.
With that then comes overseeing a skilled design team to interpret this information into collections that are the right interpretation for our 35 plus busy women.
I also host the Wallis PR events and have recently started liaising with the social teams ensuring we have content that is engaging and inclusive. From Head Office style features to what’s trending which sits perfectly alongside our influencer partnerships.
We are using these platforms to engage with our loyal following, introduce new customers to our brand and increase brand awareness. Over the last 7 years I have steered this brand to stand for collections that are fashionable, stylish and appeal to all body shapes. We have a strong brand identity and we are very clear of our DNA. Our goal is to provide a range that has versatility in its ‘dress up dress down’ appeal. I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of the brands success over the last 7 years.
3: Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from all over. I am a true wanderlust and love to travel, nature and interesting cultures always inspire me especially when it comes to colour and textiles. I love photography and I have my favourite brands that I always look to for inspiration when it comes to fashion. Stella McCartney has always been a firm favourite for tailoring and outerwear and is a true inspiration for being a forerunner with regards to sustainability and ethical standards. Tom Ford for knowing how to dress women! Saint Laurent, If I was rich enough I wouldn’t wear anything else!
I’m a lover of all things Scandinavian whether that be in my minimal personal style or my home. I love the ‘no fuss’, calm approach to living. I love the ‘nordic style report’ and one of my favourite influencers is ‘Hues of White‘ for the creativity, styling and for just staying true to her own style. My style crush is Alexa Chung for sheer effortless chicness. My go to brands are anything from Rag and Bone, & Other Stories to Topshop.
4: What is the decision making process when deciding what makes it to the shop floor?
At Wallis its simple, we ask ourselves will it look good on a 40 year old woman whose an average size 14 – if the answer is yes it means it will be flattering for all our customers from 35 upwards whatever her size and she will look and feel fantastic.
5: There is a lot of pressure on companies to be more sustainable, how do you think Wallis is tackling this and does it have an impact on creativity?
This is a huge area for the Arcadia Group and we are looking at many aspects of sustainability from ethically sourced to conscious clothing for our ranges. This is a huge task and will take a few years for retailers to get 100% up to speed… but everyone across the high street is starting to work though this as quickly as possible.
6: What are your thoughts on brands using influencers, do you think this strategy works and will it continue into the future?
I think influencers are part of marketing and PR strategies for many brands and retailers. It is an essential part of raising brand awareness, engagement and new customer acquisition. I do think however this area is becoming saturated and I think customers are pretty savvy now when it comes to who is genuine and who is not.
It’s very obvious who will wear anything if it’s gifted or a paid collaboration and who really wants to support brands they genuinely love and want to wear. At Wallis we have a fantastic relationship with our influencer friends who do a great job for us. We like to use influencers, engage with TV and the media and I have to say we get so much engagement from our own head office girls and love to feature them as our Wallis girl squad. So to answer the question all of it is important for a brand; we need TV, media, influencers and our own real women to create a community lifestyle around our brand.
7: You are also an Image Consultant can you tell us more about this?
After 30 years in the fashion industry creating clothes for real women I felt it was about time I helped women understand and create their own style. 2 years ago I set up jocollinstyle. I am passionate about helping people build their self-confidence. There is nothing better than helping women with everything from trend consultations to editing out their wardrobes leaving a good foundation to build on. I help women create versatile looks and outfits that can transition from one season to the next with ‘dress up dress down’ opportunities. I help them with fit and finding the silhouettes that are fashionable but flattering and to dress for success whether that be in their career or getting back in the dating game. I specialise in getting those all important ‘first impressions’ right through personal style so my clients can smash their goals.
8: How do you fit in two jobs and still remain calm?
I don’t! I’ve learnt that I am not super woman and I can only do what I can do. 2020 onwards will see much more of a balance between the two as I’m doing 4 days a week at Wallis and the rest of the time will be spent on Jocollinstyle.
I’m running events and focusing much more on collaborations with other coaches and women’s groups. My fitness and meditation keep me on track and I generally keep to a very healthy and hydrated nutritional lifestyle based around the Paleo diet with lots of water throughout the day. I mix cardio, circuits and boxing training with breath-work mediation and sometimes yoga to keep my mind and body in good shape and stress at bay!
9: How would you describe your style? Would you say you have a signature look? If yes what is it?
My style is effortless and generally involves ‘no fuss’ I’m quite understated but that doesn’t mean I’m androgynous. My contribution to sustainability is ’slow fashion’ I buy less because I buy well. I never cut corners when it comes to tailoring, coats and shoes. Most people think that because I work in fashion I’m going to have wardrobes full of clothes but that’s not the case at all.
I invest in timeless pieces and have some staples from Stella McCartney and Kooples. I buy a few must have seasonal trend tops to team up with my many pairs of Topshop jeans. My go to footwear when it’s cold are my Rag and Bone DM’s, my Zara boots that have a nod to cowboy and my Isabel Marant ankle boots. My Nike Airmax trainers and my flouro flash Stan Smith’s are great transitional must haves. In complete contrast I have the best pair of glitter Manolo’s and that is about all I need in life. When the sun comes out I have an array of low heeled ankle lace-up sandals in a variety of neutrals from Topshop and & Other Stories.
I love oversized chunky knits and I’m a huge fan of the 80’s revival that’s happening at the moment and I’m all about the sleeves. You’ll mostly find me in leather pants or denim and I’m more a fan of jumpsuits than dresses but I’ll be working in some of the 80’s dresses now the new season has launched. My favourite going out look would be a high wasted jean, my glitter Manolo’s, a one shoulder top and my go to timeless Tux…. in the summer you’ll always find me in shorts, tops with an emphasis on the sleeves and my lace up sandals.
10; Let’s talk lockdown….How are you staying positive, healthy and keeping the Wallis team on track?
I pay particular attention to my thoughts and when fear steps in or just the feeling of uncertainty I tell myself I have a choice to stay there or turn those thoughts into a more positive mindset. Of course I have the same highs and lows and struggles everyone is having but I use meditation, breathwork and exercise to keep those thoughts in check. I will say though I don’t give myself a hard time if I have a low, I just accept that’s what it is and do my best to turn it around.
I’ve spent allot of this time going inside of myself; when you can’t go outside that’s the best thing you can do, my daily rituals go a little bit like this –
6.30am wake up
Kundalini Hip Stretches
5 Tibetan Rites
5K Run or Tabata on the living room floor!
I miss my Wallis crew, especially my amazing design team, so I bring all the energy I get from looking after myself to all our zoom calls. We’ve had business calls, dress from the neck up party’s and just some great chats over wine. I’m still mentoring my mentees virtually and keeping the young up and coming superstars motivated and inspired from afar.
11: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Hopefully having a life that gives me more freedom of time and allows me to spend a couple of months a year outside the UK. I’ve always been a traveller and see myself doing more of this in the future. My best friends all live in Australia and my family in Spain so I’d like to spend more time with them in the future. I love spending the winter in Asia and have been going to Thailand for 10 years, you’ll usually find me there in January escaping the UK winter and doing my Muay Thai boxing training.
I’ll hopefully be balancing travel with consulting for brands in the fashion industry and running jocollinstyle.
Thank you so much for reading this interview. I hope that you have enjoyed finding out more about Jo, what she does behind the scenes for Wallis and how she looks after her mental health and well being. Make sure you go take a look at her website to find out more about her personal styling service as well.
As always any feedback and comments appreciated.
Love Chet x