Posted on March 01 2017
This week's Wednesday Woman is Leighanne Jones. Having started her career in fashion at Reiss HQ in London, Leighanne went on to be buyer at Topshop before moving to the USA to join Free People where she is now Creative Director. In this interview, she tells us her story from Wales to NYC, and how not being an extrovert helped her to get ahead:
Danielle Newnham: What were you like growing up and who/what were your inspirations?
Leighanne Jones: I grew up in Wales, in a quiet coastal town removed from anything to do with fashion and popular culture but I always loved fashion and was very particular about it. I would dress my Barbie and give her haircuts, decide on the colour theme and décor of my room and always coordinate my outfits.
Then, at around age 11, I decided I wanted to one day live in London and become a fashion buyer like Rachel off friends. My mum had a friend who was very glamorous and was always back and forth to London, and I would always look through her Vogue magazines and was fascinated by her bohemian lifestyle. Soon after that I subscribed to Draper's Record and would circle all the buying jobs, dreaming of living in London and becoming a buyer with a bohemian lifestyle
Newnham: What else led you to fashion?
Jones: The creativity and the ability to express yourself. I wanted a career that I was passionate about. And I have been lucky with my career, working at some prolific retailers such as Reiss, Topshop and now Free People. I started right at the bottom in my first job at Reiss, counting labels and sending faxes, and I learned fast at Topshop before I found I was able to flourish creatively at Free People, by being myself and continually seeking opportunities to push the business forward.
Newnham: What do you do now - what is an average day like in your work?
Jones: I am Creative Director at Free People. No day is ever the same which I love; I manage a team of 18 creatives, we creatively concept all the outward messaging and are the story tellers of the brand. I also work on catalogue concepts, selecting the product to feature, establish the stories to speak to each month, edit images from photo shoots, work with the fashion director on trend and product stories, work with marketing to align on campaigns for the season, and direct the vision of the stores. It’s fun and busy, I’m in meetings all day long but it keeps it exciting and ever evolving.
Newnham: What led to you moving to the States and how was the transition?
Jones: My sister got a job at Free People and introduced me to the brand. I came over to interview and LOVED what I experienced, the campus was beautiful and the people were so inspiring, so I wanted to be part of it.
The transition to the States was hard, we all think it’s similar to the UK but it isn’t, the work language is different, the office environment is different and it was impossible going grocery shopping and figuring which brand of butter you need, it’s all so different. But I slowly got used to it and its now my new normal. I love working in the States, the optimism here is encouraging and they want to be creative and support new ideas, it’s very nurturing and I work with some of the most talented people. The USA feels like home now, I got married in NY and had my first child there. NY is the most magical city, there is an energy there that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
Newnham: What advice do you have for other young women looking to follow a similar career path? What important lessons have you learned along the way?
Jones: Be confident in yourself, you don’t have to be the loudest person in the group to be successful, and being nice isn’t a weakness.
Newnham: If you could go back in time to the start of your career, what advice, if any, would you offer a younger Leighanne?
Jones: It's OK to be quiet, I was always told I was too shy and nice to survive in the fashion world but it is the kindness and willingness to learn and adapt that has been instrumental in my career.
Free People on Instagram