Few people have quite the career portfolio of Jane Haigh. Originally from Leeds, the Freelance Designer, Stylist and Consultant, has travelled the world, worked for the likes of Topshop, Debenhams, Phase Eight and Monsoon, and has recently moved back up north, setting up her own Personal Stylist business which aims to help women define their style and grow their confidence.
Having returned to North, Ilkley to be precise, half of team NRTH LASS, caught up with Jane to find out more about her life as a designer, what being a successful woman means to her and how fashion has become one the most empowering tools for women in increasingly tumultuous times.
On returning to the North:
Jenna: What was it that drew you back after a successful career in London?
Jane: I had a baby at the end of 2015 and returned to work at the beginning of 2017. Maternity leave was such an eye opener for me. Working in such a fast paced industry as Fashion, I never really took the time to stop and think “Is this actually working?”. I guess that’s because I never really needed to, until a child was in the equation. I used maternity leave as an opportunity to re-evaluate life and think about what sort of life I could offer my daughter. I knew I didn’t want to be taking her for long days at childcare and missing out on those special moments such as bath time and bed time. I think it’s a struggle that all working mothers have – trying to manage work and kids and find a comfortable compromise. I spent that year weighing up staying in London versus moving back to Yorkshire to be closer to family. I returned to work after maternity leave and it soon became apparent this lifestyle was no longer working. I was trying to be the perfect wife, mother and employee and failing at all three. Making the decision to leave my job, my friends and the life I had established in London was one of the biggest decisions of my life. London is all I had known in terms of my working life and career and I knew the same opportunities would not be available to me once I made the move back to Yorkshire. I took a leap of faith for my daughter’s sake and I am fortunate that so many new opportunities have opened up to me as a result of making the change. I now have a much better work/life balance and I am embarking on a really exciting chapter of my career.
On day to day life:
Jenna: What does your typical day look like and what would your perfect weekend be?
Jane: My days tend to be quite varied depending on what I am working on and who I am working with. A typical day starts with the nursery drop off and an early morning gym class. Then home and showered ready for the working day. If I am designing, then my day will be spent in my studio working on new collections, or out at the shops researching. If I am working with a client on styling, then my time could be spent at their house or again out at the shops. The day ends with a nursery pick up, bath and bed. Then dinner for me and perhaps a glass of wine. I try my best not to work in the evenings and give myself some downtime, but inevitably there are times when I am working into the night.
A perfect weekend would be spent with my family – perhaps a picnic by the river in summer, or a nice cosy Sunday roast in winter. Or a house full of friends from London visiting for the weekend and spending time showing them my favourite spots in the North.
Life in the North:
Jenna: What are the best bits about life up North and where are your favourite spots?
Jane: Without a doubt the best bits about life up North are the friendly people and the beautiful Yorkshire Dales on my doorstep. For a culture fix it has to be Salts Mill, The Hepworth and The Yorkshire Sculpture park. For brunch – Laynes Espresso or Stories in Roundhay. For dinner and drinks – Friends of Ham, Shears Yard or Ox club at Headrow House. For country air, Bolton Abbey, Burnsall and Fountains Abbey. I have also been exploring Manchester recently and love the Northern Quarter. It has such a Lower East side vibe to it and is a real creative hub.
On living a full life:
Jenna: Do you have any advice for women starting out in fashion or for those looking to reclaim their style?
Jane: The best advice I can give to anyone starting out in fashion is be prepared. It’s a tough, competitive industry and take any opportunity that comes your way. Even if you think it is not what you want to do – it’s a foot in the door and you can pave the way once you’re in. Do not turn anything down. You have to be hungry for it and prepared to work hard. Expect long hours and dull admin jobs when you start off but use this opportunity to be a sponge and take in as much as you possibly can. That said, it is such a great job. What better job to have than doing something you truly love and feel so passionate about? I have travelled the world with my job. Stayed in some incredible hotels, eaten at amazing restaurants, shopped at the best boutiques and made the most wonderful friends.
The most important message I want to portray to women is that Fashion should be fun. It should not be intimidating or frightening. It is not about being a slave to the trends and wearing things that you feel uncomfortable in. It is about defining your style and what works for you. Whether that is an androgynous look, a glamourous well-groomed look, or a super casual/laid back look. It is important to identify your style and build on that. There is nothing more rewarding than working with a client and helping them discover their style and new ways of dressing. Seeing the transformation in their confidence and how they feel about themselves is a great feeling.
On Fashion now and then:
Jenna: What excites you about fashion today? Do you think it has always been an empowering tool for women?
Jane: I love the versatility and variety of fashion today. That there are no boundaries in terms of age, race, size, shape and gender. I love how we can use fashion to express our feelings and emotions, or to make a powerful statement. Fashion today is most definitely an empowering tool for women; perhaps one of the most important tools for women. We have just recently celebrated International Women’s Day and it was so exciting to see many designers and brands combining philanthropy and fashion in order to empower, support and celebrate women.
Net-a-porter worked with 6 designers, including Stella McCartney and Ganni to release a LTD edition collaboration with all proceeds going to ‘Women for Women’. Dianne Von Furstenberg released her ‘#Incharge’ capsule collection with 20% of proceeds going to the Vital Voices organization. Elizabeth Arden released their Red door Lipstick with all proceeds going to ‘UN Women’. The list goes on. It’s incredible how Fashion is raising awareness for such causes that are all about supporting and empowering women.
However, fashion has not always been an empowering tool for women. In fact quite the opposite. When we look back into the history of fashion and how women dressed, fashion was used in a way to accentuate the female form in order to attract men. Throughout the 1800s the popular clothing items included full skirts, corseting and bustles. Garments to enhance the bust, hips and waist. It wasn’t until the 1900s that silhouettes started to change and become more streamlined. Lengths were elongated, the hips were narrower and the bust flatter. Women were starting to dress in a way that was appropriate for their lifestyles. More women were now leading an active lifestyle and moving into education or office jobs and away from their more domestic roles.
The lady we need to applaud the most for empowering women in fashion is of course Coco Chanel. She revolutionized the way that women dressed and capitalized on the changing times. She was responsible for making the trouser a popular and acceptable fashion item for women and paved the way for modern contemporary dressing.
Jenna: Have you ever experienced moments of self-doubt in your career or personal life, if so how have you combatted them?
Jane: Absolutely. I constantly suffer with moments of self-doubt. I am very self-critical and self-judging. I constantly over analyse and worry if the work I am producing is good enough. In some ways this is a positive thing as I never want to become complacent in what I do. I am always looking to improve and challenge myself and the way in which I work, so I try my best to use these moments of self-doubt in a constructive way and as a tool to improve.
My personal life was recently turned upside down when I my suddenly found myself as a single Mum. Something I did not see coming. I had already resigned from my job pending our family move to Yorkshire. I was now faced with an 18-month old baby to look after and support on my own and this has been the biggest moment of self-doubt in my life. The pressure and challenges I faced were overwhelming. I have had no choice but to make it work and my desire to provide a happy and stable life for my daughter has been my driving force in succeeding. There simply was no other option and I refused to give in and sink.
On being a successful woman:
Jenna: Who do you take inspiration from?
Jane: My parents. They are the most inspiring people in my life. They have brought me up to be honest, well-grounded and taught me to go after what I want in life. There are significant people throughout my career who have inspired me and taught me all I know. Neil Barrrett, who was my mentor during my MA degree was a true inspiration and gave me such sound advice and preparation for venturing into the workplace. My boss at Monsoon and the Brand Director at Phase Eight – both whom have become good friends. They taught me so much and gave me great opportunities that allowed me to push forward in my career. Then of course all my friends. I am blessed to have a huge network of long standing friendships. I surround myself with strong, independent women who inspire me on a daily basis. Women who have been through some horrendous challenges in life and still get up, put a smile on their faces ready for the day ahead.
Jane Haigh is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Personal Stylist. She helps women to define their style, and grow in confidence through the way they dress.
Prior to setting up on her own, Jane had a successful career in London for 18 years designing for brands including Phase Eight and Monsoon. Now based in Yorkshire, Jane is working as a freelance Designer and Consultant.
She has recently launched her Personal Stylist business and works with clients to organize their wardrobe, advise on where to shop and create new and contemporary outfit combinations. Her styling packages cover a variety of requirements and budgets and work to suit your lifestyle and personality.
You can find out more about Jane and her services through her website at www.janehaighstylist.co.uk, or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.