00:00:03 My name is Fiona M and I’m the fashion advisor here at John Lewis, Oxford Street. It’s all about fashion, all about clothes, all about sorting out women’s dilemmas, and angsts, and queries about clothes. My customer comes to me, she’s booked an appointment, it’s a two-hour appointment, and they normally come with a specific problem in mind, if you like, that they want solving. Every two hours, you’ve got somebody in something that they’re going ‘Oh my god. I would never have picked this up. I would never have thought of putting that together like that but it works. It’s fantastic.’
00:00:39 Favourite subjects at school would have been the creative subjects. I loved English, and writing, and needlework. But as a child, or as a teenager, you know, you don’t really know what your skills are. They haven’t really come out yet, but I did know that I liked my creative things rather than my having to apply my head to science and maths.
00:01:01 I didn’t know what I wanted to do at school and I don’t know what made me decide. I think because I looked at a local college, at the prospectus, and saw there was a course, a two-year course, called clothing and manufacturing. My background is very textile orientated. My grandfather owned a mill up in Scotland producing mohair and there were centuries of creativity, I suppose, on that side of the family, so when I saw that course I thought ‘Ah, I could do that.’
00:01:36 I started with a company called Courtalds Clothing and I worked in their sample room as a machinist, and that’s where I learnt how to construct clothes. I then read a fascinating article in the newspaper, The Telegraph, about a designer called Serena Hern, and from reading that article I rang Serena Hern and just said ‘have you got any jobs?’ And she said ‘yes, come on up,’ and I worked for her for three months as her dogsbody, running around buying fabrics, buying beading, cutting out the dresses, all the things you do running around in a sample room, so it was a great. It was a very valuable experience.
00:02:27 And then I went on to start my own business up at twenty-one, designing and manufacturing for private clients, and I specialised in what I’d learnt from Serena, at Courtalds. I decided I would go into evening wear and wedding dresses. The recession came along in ’91. The idea was good but the timing wasn’t. I say it was the best five years of my life and the worst five years of my life in my own business, but it gave me a great understanding to then move on throughout my career.
00:03:05 I came into John Lewis and I started my career in Kingston as a section manager, dress fabrics section manager because of my love for fabrics, and I just thought to myself ‘I’ll give this a year and then I’ll find myself a proper job’ and we’re now thirteen years down the road.
00:03:23 The person who has influenced me most was the lady that started up, she was an outside consultant and she started up the fashion advice service. Her name is Susan Ball, and all the knowledge I have now is down to Susan. I would say she’s had the biggest effect on me as a person as well. She has given me the confidence to do this job.
00:03:49 I realise this is my absolute dream job and I’m very passionate about the service because it’s my baby. I’ve been there for so long, and people know, you know, they go and tell all their friends, they come and see me, they refer me, so it’s ‘Oh, go and see Fiona in John Lewis. She’ll help you out.’ So it’s a very, very rewarding job.