The Industry’s Frances Card interviewed Harvey Nichols’ Fashion Director Paula Reed to an enthusiastic crowd. Listening to Paula Reed is like having coffee with a good friend. She’s very open and honest about her experiences and what it’s really like to work in the fashion industry. Paula grew up Derry, Northern Ireland, where her mother owned a hair salon in Limavady. Hair salons in small towns are the epicentre of fashion and Paula’s mum’s salon was no different. Even during a bomb scare there was a lock in at the salon and women were still requesting manicures. It was at her mum’s salon that Paula took to reading Vogue and Harpers Bazaar and was desperate to become part of the fashion world but she said it seemed impossible.
Paula then moved to Dublin to study French and German at Trinity College, like many graduates in Ireland during the 80’s Paula moved to London to find work. Paula has a very “get on with it” attitude and still wanted to work in fashion, so she decided that since she couldn’t draw she should be a journalist. Her first job in London was with PR guru Lynn Franks (the women who inspired the character of Edwina in Absolutely Fabulous). It was this job that introduced her to many journalists and the world of fashion. Paula says she’s never been on a five year plan and I think that has been part of her success as she is willing to change and to try new opportunities as they present themselves.
We all know Paula Reed as the Style Director of Grazia Magazine but before Grazia she had already worked at Instyle, The Independent, Sunday Correspondent, and The Sunday Times where she fashion editor for 6 years. She was also a regular on 10 Years Younger and published a book ‘Style Clinic’.
When Paula was invited to a meeting at Harvey Nichols with chief executive Joseph Wan, Paula made it very clear that she’s not a numbers person but she knows how it edit, and take a catwalk collection and show the trends that her customer will want. Already understanding the role of press and editorial/retail crossover Paula says a “Point of view is the most important thing you could possibly have.” This is the key to making a difference. So many shops have the same offer so how can they really make a difference? Harvey Nichols specialises in Fashion and Beauty – in September 2013 they plan to relaunch a multi-channel website including click to collect, as well as click and try – Paula is looking at how we shop on line and integrating that with how we buy.
Paula spoke of her divorce dress (by Alaia) – which she found online at Matches and then went in to Matches to try it on. During her shop visit she was offered coffee plus several other looks including a matching cardigan – which of course she also bought. Paula Reed is changing how we shop by understanding what it really means to be a mulit channel retailer and how that translates to her customer.