STYLEetc Interviews the M&S Style Director

February 20, 2015

Fashionistas in Manchester could be in with a chance of experiencing London Fashion Week (20 – 24 February 2015) on their doorstep, thanks to a partnership between M&S and the British Fashion Council.

On Thursday 26 February, M&S will host an exclusive fashion event at its Market Street store, bringing the style and glamour of the world renowned Fashion Week to the North. (We are also giving away tickets! Click here to find out how to enter!)

Belinda Earl, Style Director at M&S, said: “London Fashion Week is one of the biggest events in the fashion calendar and so we wanted to do something in collaboration with British Fashion Council to mark our involvement. Manchester is the first city that has taken London Fashion Week outside of the capital and we are looking forward to showing customers what they might be wearing come the Autumn as well as presenting the best of our own Spring/Summer 15 collections on a live catwalk, showcasing innovations and the quality M&S is known for.”

To coincide with the fashion show, we were lucky enough to grab an exclusive interview with Belinda herself to get the inside knowledge on their SS15 collection and what we can expect for the future of one of Britain’s most loved brands.

Belinda Earl (6)

Tell us a bit about what we can expect from the new season?

I’m always excited by the new collections and even though the weather is still a bit chilly, when the sun is out it’s great to be turning thoughts Spring and all the freshness and brightness of a new season.

At our fashion event in the Manchester city centre store next week (26th) we’ll be bringing a taste of the AW15 trends hot from London Fashion Week and we’re going to be showing customers some of the real highlights of our own Spring and Summer Collections, which are in store now and arriving in the coming weeks.

be71a4642bce54e3b778d895855da4c417b50a47Denim is going to be a huge look for this season and is a great transitional fabric as it comes in such a range of weights from the heavier, flare denim trousers  which are one of the key shape of the season, through to lighter weight chambrays seen in easy-to wear shirt dresses, as well as tops and trousers. 

There’s plenty of colour too whether that’s in strong prints such as the bold florals in our Orient- inspired story or in bold block colours in bright pinks, blues and reds in our Modern Romance look

Seventies inspired fashion was also big on the catwalks for Spring Summer – a must-have item for the spring will be the A-line skirt. The suede version from our Autograph range was seen on Olivia Palermo this week or there’s also a faux suede version in our Limited Edition range 

For those who prefer a simpler look, there are plenty of options this season in a story we’ve called Uniformity. This is pared back, clean dressing in neutral palettes with an emphasis on monochrome. Two piece dressing is also going to be more in evidence.

And we’re really proud of our Best of British range which we will also be showing on the catwalk next week.  All the garments are made in the UK, using predominantly British made fabrics 

What are your key pieces from the new range?

My top picks are the A-line suede, the colour blocked stripe skirt, the pale pink trench, the kimono shape jacket with a broad fabric belt and the sleek shirt dress from the Uniformity story. 

Where do you get your own fashion inspiration from? 

Obviously I look at the catwalk trends and all the fashion magazines but I also get a lot of ideas from the team that I work with at M&S and from people I see in the street. I love looking at what real people wear and how they put looks together and get real inspiration from that, both for myself but also for the M&S ranges 

DS_356d92364bab108bd89ad5fb790f8a75_0We’ve seen the brand change over the last 2 years, and we love it! Where do you see M&S in the next 3 years?

Thank you- it’s so great to hear that you love it as we have worked really hard to make sure we’ve got a strong fashion offering while not being to slavish to it and also making sure we offer our customers plenty of choice.  

We’ve also done a lot to try to inspire her each time she goes shopping and give her ideas of how to put looks together. Earlier this year for example, there were a lot of very bright colours in knitwear so we had mannequins in our stores showing how to put those colours together in a contrasting way and give our customers the confidence that they could wear them together if they wanted to.  

We’ll continue to work on outfit ideas and how to work a look, and make sure we’re interpreting the fashion trends in a way that’s right for our customers and with different variations. So if you want a dress with a sleeve we’ll have it but we’ll also have a version without the sleeve.  

Quality and innovation has been a huge focus for us too and we’ve improved the quality of our fabrics significantly.  That can make a huge difference to how a garment hangs and how it makes you feel. 

We’ve also got some interesting new collaborations coming up but you’ll have to watch this space for those!

Why have you decided to bring the fashion show to Manchester this year? 

We’ve been supporters of the British Fashion Council who organise London Fashion Week for a long time and this season have become an Official Sponsor. We wanted to do something a bit different and find a way to take the buzz of LFW outside of the capital. We wanted it to reach more customers as well as showcase our own collections which are going from strength to strength.  Manchester is such a strong centre with a great fashion heritage and culture and we have fantastic stores here so it seemed like the ideal city to run this with first

Who would you love to see modelling for M&S?

That’s such a difficult question as we have such an amazing range of people we work with already such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, David Gandy, Twiggy and Carolyn Murphy.  For me though it’s as much about seeing our customers looking fabulous in our clothes as it is about having a well known model wearing them

Your collaboration with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is great! As she has just launched her first fragrance with M&S, are there any plans for her to collaborate on a clothes line as well? 

As well as the new fragrance she’s launched with us – which has been a huge hit – she already does a really successful lingerie range for us under our Autograph brand.  And of course she is also the face of our Autograph clothing range.

DS_ef3cf5070546b4f4c7ff29f15438f432_0What is a typical day at the office like for you?

There isn’t one! I do a 2-3 day week with M&S; some days I could be out seeing customers, either doing focus groups and one to one trips around a store with them to get their views and see it through their eyes. 

Or I will be spending time working with the design and buying teams planning the next season’s collections or looking at ways we can improve the quality on certain items without compromising the value.  

Although I work part time I’m always thinking about the brand and the clothes. Everyone has a view on M&S so you find that lots of people you know or meet want to tell you what they think which is just an amazing privilege – that people have such a passion for the brand and care enough to want to tell you about it.

Quick Fire questions; 

Favourite Film? 

I saw the Imitation Game recently and thought it was excellent 

Favourite Food and Drink? 

M&S sushi, M&S fresh fruit; glass of champagne as a treat 

Favourite book? 

I really enjoyed ‘Gone Girl’ 

Favourite beauty product?

Amazing Concealer is a genius product as are Josh Wood’s Blending Wands which we developed exclusively with him.  I also really like Rosie’s fragrance for Autograph – it’s a beautiful fresh scent. And I always have Sisley lip balm in my bag

Favourite fashion designer? 

I don’t have one in particular but outside of M&S my favourites brands would be Bottega Veneta or Hermes at the top end 

Favourite city in the world and why?

Apart from Manchester then it would have to be London. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot in my career and visited some amazing cities but nothing quite beats London for vibrancy and originality 

Your biggest achievement? 

Our two sons and being able to manage having a family and career

Stay tuned to Twitter and style-etc.co.uk for the all latest from the M&S SS15 collection and to enter our fabulous competition!

By Emily Parker @emilylouparker

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