MD Interviewed For Harpers Bazaar

Debra in Harpers Bazaar

Our ever impressive MD Debra has recently been interviewed by Harpers Bazaar about both her businesses, YBD and RBH.

Have a read of the interview below or via this link and find out all about Debra’s career, creativity, inspiration and her love of fast cars!

How would you describe your company?

“Young British Designers is all about discovering the very best of emerging UK-based fashion talent and showcasing it to the world. We launched in 2010 and are the only platform entirely dedicated to British designers. We have a track record of finding the new names first. We are proud to say that some of those include: Bionda Castana, Meli Melo, Rejina Pyo,  JW Anderson, Renli Su, Lily Kamper, Eudon Choi, Aries, Teija and so many more labels first seen on YBD.”

Can you tell us a bit about your job?

“I have two: I am a founding partner of Young British Designers and spend my time seeking out new talent, mentoring where needed, attending Fashion Weeks in London and Paris (mainly), graduate shows and generally mooching here, there and everywhere to uncover designers who don’t even know how great they are… yet. I am also MD of a mighty fine creative-communications agency called RBH where we work with great clients in retail, fashion and automotive to help define and grow their brands across all channels.”

Describe your career path

“Art school (where I loved designing clothes, but was horrendously abysmal at making them. I once nearly stitched my ear to the sewing machine); followed by university and an English degree. I then joined an advertising agency on the very bottom rung, which included fetching an awful lot of sandwiches for important people’s lunches. I was always fiercely ambitious, so reached the lofty title of director by 25 (I still never expected anyone to fetch my sandwiches, though). Then, I started RBH with two equally remortgaged-up-to-the-hilt and crazy colleagues at the age of 32.”

How did you know working for yourself was the right direction? 

“My parents have always been risk-takers and my dad had had at least four businesses by the time I was 16; being an entrepreneur was what you did in our family. I never worried about failure because that is about the worst thing that could happen and you can only learn and move on. I’ve always tried to encourage people I work with to take risks because amazing things can happen when you do. I don’t think I’m very good at working for other people. I like to collaborate and get on with things without any hierarchy getting in the way.”

What has been the most positive surprise in your career? 

“The sheer, unstoppable and endless stream of new talent here in the UK within our creative industries. It is a privilege to be surrounded by so many inspiring, bright and brilliant young (and sometimes not so young) hearts, minds and imaginations.”

What brings you to work every day? 

“A vintage Porsche 964 that I adore! Seriously, no two days are the same when you work in a creative business and embracing change is key in everything we do: how we converse with our customers and with our brands’ customers. How we drive an authentic voice and cut through white noise. It’s that level of uncertainty and challenge that makes me ‘work’ wherever I am. It’s not so much work as just being continually immersed in what I’m passionate about.

With YBD, it’s so rewarding when someone tries something new and unique and falls in love with it and it makes them feel amazing all over again. Our designers are at the very heart of their brands and people can feel that when they wear their pieces. It’s not solving third-world problems but it is an everyday miracle we love being part of.”

What was the most difficult surprise? 

“That not everything can go to plan. That you can’t control everything. That people are often contrary, distracted and following a different agenda. That at the end of the day that’s okay, because that’s what makes us all individual and unique. And, I also think that once you have a child you mellow a little because that becomes your priority and you have to stop sweating the insignificant stuff that used to wake you at 4am.”

What skill do you think has been most critical for your success to date? 

“The belief in taking risks, in following a gut feeling as opposed to common sense. Every time I try to be measured and objective, it usually goes horribly wrong.”

What’s changing in your business that inspires you? 

“Everything. Every day, a new way of engaging with people arrives and brands need to be fluid in the way they respond, as well as being more conscious than ever of having a singularly unique and genuine tone of voice. This is so exciting, as it used to take years to grow a brand. Now it can take mere months. The real trick is to sustain that profile with authenticity in a way that truly resonates with the people you want to reach and converse with. It’s not about numbers of likes or followers, but about a meaningful discourse. It’s understanding that people are always ‘shopping’ but in so many different ways than before.”

Who are you most inspired by? 

“The people I love. My children often stop me in my tracks and make me re-see something in a fresh and poignant way. My parents are brave and fearless in reaching out to people and being there for them whether they are strangers or friends. My husband is one of life’s wise souls and quietly brings joy to each and every day.”

What advice would you give to someone just coming in to your industry now? 

“Find your inner core of strength and belief, your unique positioning and do not stray far from it. Listen and learn but do not be afraid to discard it if it doesn’t hold true for you. We have seen so many young creative people swayed by trends or “expert advice” who somehow lose themselves along the way.”

What would you like someone to invent to make your life easier?

“I need to have an operation on my back soon, so if someone could supersede keyhole surgery with something even less invasive that meant I could be back being me in 48 hours that would be good.”

If you could spend your time doing anything you wanted, what would you do? 

“I’m not done with what I’m doing yet, but I do dream of days spent writing, walking, choosing and buying what to make to eat that very evening… somewhere sunny with a sea that’s able to whip up wild waves close by and within view.”

What’s your favourite…

… way to entertain clients or colleagues?  “Usually with cocktails or craft gins or beers and easy relaxed food at home.

… book? The Garden Of Eden by Ernest Hemingway.”

… accessories for work? ” “Not sure my iPhone counts as an accessory but that and my new baby MacBook are essentials. I carry everything in an Aries “big beautiful brown bag” (christened so by YBD), which has aged with grace and the odd stain and a soft patina just as I love. It shares my adventures and carries my everyday life so is very much part of me.”

… guilty pleasure? “Driving my old car fast with the hood down and loud music on. Maybe singing too.”

way to relax? “Reading, gardening, cooking, listening to music, all with my favourite people. Preferably in sunshine.”

holiday destination? “Simple: St.Ives, Cornwall, or Paxos, Greece.”

… restaurant? “There’s a tiny place in Venice we were told about that looks like nothing, a tiny door on an unlit back street. Yet locals start queueing outside around 7.30pm, you can’t book a table and inside is just oozing low-light character and real life with real people passionately creating three or four dishes a night that taste like heaven.”

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