In last month’s Tomorrow’s Leaders blog, we chatted with David Bird from Online Mortgage Advisor about their digital platform that helps get everyone on the property ladder. This month we were joined by Jacynth Bassett, Founder of pro-age online fashion boutique the-Bias-Cut.com. Here’s what she had to say.
What’s Your Career Story in a Nutshell?
I founded the-Bias-Cut.com – the first pro-age online independent fashion boutique –after growing saddened and frustrated at seeing women, like my mum, being treated as invisible or irrelevant in the eyes of the fashion industry, largely due to their age.
I developed the business straight out of graduating from university, having had no prior experience in fashion or retail. I actually studied Law at Cambridge and, from age 13, had intended to become a barrister. But I realised it wasn’t for me and wanted to work in an industry I really loved. It was being president of the university’s Law Society that made me realise I wanted to be in business, as the role involved negotiating with some of the biggest law firms in the world, managing a committee and having a budget of nearly £100k.
The Fashion Industry had always been a passion of mine and it was whilst I was at university that I came up with the idea for the-Bias-Cut.com.
After thorough market research, I launched the-Bias-Cut.com in March 2016, having started a blog nine months earlier to gain a following and start conversation. I began with just 4 small British labels and funded the business entirely with my very minimal savings. It really was a shoestring budget, so I built, developed and ran everything myself – from the website, to buying, to the marketing.
Since launch we have continued to grow organically and 3 years later, we now have over 30 labels – a mixture of known and unknown (I really like to support up and coming designers) – and a global customer base. We also recently launched my own eponymous label which had always been a goal of mine.
My overall mission is to fight ageism within the fashion industry so, alongside the-Bias-Cut.com, I launched the movement ‘Ageism Is Never in Style’ in August 2017 to discuss and challenge diversity in the Fashion Industry. I am also the monthly style writer for several leading 40+ websites, and regularly guest write for others.
What Has Been Your Proudest Career Moment, So Far?
Two moments come to mind, firstly, in 2017 I met with leading fashion stylist Claire Ginzler to interview her for our blog. But she loved what I’m doing so much and my ‘eye’ that she offered to style our next campaign shoot. I now work with Claire on every shoot; we have a great relationship. She also introduced me to our fantastic photographer, Yuval Hen, and award-winning make-up artist, Shari Rendle. To have such highly revered individuals from the Fashion Industry want to work with me means a lot.
Also, in May 2018 I was asked to chair the talk “Fashion Fades, Only Style Remains” for charity (B)old’s festival at the South Bank Centre, which was a real honour.
Describe Your Workspace. Are You Tidy or Organised Chaos?
Despite being messy in my personal life, I’m very organised when it comes to work.
The overall aesthetic of my workspace is designed to inspire me. It’s warm, vibrant and stimulating. It reflects everything I love about fashion past, present and future; I am surrounded by historic books, magazines, photography and other imagery from the industry, and I have a rail with pieces from our latest collection on it.
Which Stationary Item Could You Not Live Without?
My Moleskin notebook (and a pen).
Despite spending most of my time on a computer, my notebook goes with me everywhere to record notes from meetings, talks, networking events etc. Hand writing helps me to absorb the material and really consider everything I’m noting down – which often leads to new ideas and inspirations.
Who is Your Business Idol and Why?
I don’t believe in having an idol, because it can be dangerous to put someone on a pedestal. No one is perfect, but there are people who inspire me.
As a business woman, I have a lot of respect for Dame Natalie Massenet, founder of net-a-porter and chair of the British Fashion Council. She was a fashion journalist with no prior experience in retail and, like me, started her business from her flat. She was a visionary, who persevered despite the Fashion Industry’s highly conservative ideas and views of online. And, in doing so, completely transformed fashion shopping as we know it.
I also hugely admire Caryn Franklin MBE. She isn’t a “business woman” per se but has been hugely influential in the Fashion Industry and is the definition of a trailblazer. Aside from her endless list of accomplishments, she is a dedicated fashion activist, who challenges the fashion norms, and encourages brands and companies to embrace diversity and authenticity. She has come up against many obstacles but continues to be tirelessly committed to changing the Fashion Industry for the better. She is a constant inspiration.
Give Us a Snapshot of Your Average Day
As fashion is seasonal, my average day varies depending on the time of year. At the moment we are about to publicly launch SS19, whilst also finalising our collection for AW19.
After settling at my desk, I check and respond to emails, and look over our sales figures and other KPIs. I’ll also go through our social media accounts, responding to comments, as I like to be personally engaged with our followers.
Then I’ll head off to meetings. At the moment, these might be visiting showrooms or meeting with designers, publications, or brands we are collaborating with. I also invest a lot of time into my relationships with my network, so I may meet someone for coffee or lunch to catch up and discuss how we might be able to support each other and work together.
After meetings, I’ll head back to my office and work on my latest article.
I regularly go to networking events in the evenings, and twice a week I do dance and Pilates.
Finally, I’ll have dinner with my boyfriend, watch a bit of TV and then go to bed!
Which Workplace Habit Can You Not Stand?
I dislike the perception that you have to get up early to be successful. Some people, myself included, are just not morning people, and it’s better to identify when you’re most productive and work at that time, rather than on a schedule that other people pressurise you to commit to. There is no shame in admitting you work better later in the day.
Obviously, it’s harder when you work in an office, but it’s still important to try to organise and prioritise your work schedule around your body clock.
Other than that, as long as you are focused, committed, organised and behave professionally, I don’t mind how you choose to work.
What Advice Would You Give to People Starting Their Own Business?
You need to be passionate about the industry you’re going to work in, not just the product or service you’ll be offering. You are likely to face a lot of hurdles and frustrations, and you have to be willing and able to work with the industry to implement change and succeed.
You should also be realistic about what starting up a business will mean. Are you someone who can be truly self-disciplined, resilient and are willing to sacrifice other areas of your life in order to succeed? Running a business doesn’t suit everyone, and it’s better to be honest with yourself before you start.
How Do You Switch Off?
Dancing. I’ve gone to dance classes since I was 3; it allows me to focus on something entirely different, and it stimulates me physically, as opposed to mentally. My main style of dance is hip hop which is ideal for channelling my energy and expressing any pent-up stress!
What’s Next for The-Bias-Cut.com? Do You Have Any Plans For the Future?
For the-Bias-Cut.com, my current plan is to grow our overall presence. As well as building on the strong foundations we’ve built in the UK, we’re looking to grow more internationally Particularly in the US and Europe as we already have a following and customers there, and I have strong influencer connections.
We’re also going to be introducing some fantastic new labels, and I’m developing my eponymous label. We host pop up parties around the UK, and have some great ones lined up.
I also recently founded a 50+ Industry Activists group, comprised of leading individuals who are challenging ageism in their respective fields, and we have lots of ideas in the works on how we can move the anti-ageism narrative forwards.
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