It was whilst at Camden School for Girls that she was able to focus on design, both during her GCSEs and A Levels. The artistic subjects were always her favourites. “Camden is a really creative school and I concentrated on those things. It specialises in fashion and is one of the only places you can do A Level Textile Design and is well known for being an ‘arts’ school.” Needless to say Cecily opted for the textiles course, alongside Art and History of Art.
During these formative years Cecily remembers being fascinated with adverts within glossy magazines. “I remember avidly looking at British Vogue and pulling out Chanel and Joseph adverts, they were always my favourites.” While other girls in her class would decorating their bedroom walls with boyband posters, she was sticking up these designer images. Albeit as well as the teenage centrefolds: “Oh yeah, I’d put that rubbish up too,” she laughs.
Upon completing her A Levels Cecily enrolled in an art foundation at Central Saint Martins – this is when she began moving towards the fashion side of design. Following that Cecily was accepted onto the Fashion Design with Technology course at Manchester University with a year in industry.
“I went to the Miss Selfridge head office and that was absolutely brilliant. I learnt so many really interesting things there. That was really when I realised that I loved designing for the high street,” she enthuses.
It was during her time at university that Cecily first became interested in Cath Kidston. “It was when Cath became a big thing. I remember coming back to London from Manchester and heading to the original shop in Clarendon Cross, west London. I really enjoyed the feel of the space and the way it was fairly loosely put together, with all the rolls of fabric. I always felt inspired by the colour palettes of that store and the simplicity as well.”
Her first job after graduating was at trend forecasting website WGSN. “It had only just started at the time and was a really small company based on Edgeware Road. There were a lot of creative people working there.”
“It was really brilliant because it enabled me to travel all over the world,” she says. “I used to do their shop window reports so would traipse around Paris or New York snapping every single shop window – and in all kinds of weather, really cold or boiling hot.”
After three years at WGSN she went on to Warehouse. “That took me back to what I wanted to do, which was work for a high street brand. It was there that I learnt all about manufacturing and retail – I travelled a lot to China and India to work with the bag factories in Asia.”
“But what I really learnt there was how to create a great product at a good price. If you are working with quite basic materials and they need to sell for about £30 or £40, you’ve still got to make it look great. I think that is the skill that all high street designers have. It is actually really hard and really tests you.”
Personally, Cecily loves dresses and actually collects vintage ones. “I like a 70s floaty silhouettes so mainly maxi or midi dressed – retro shapes. And for comfort, because I’m always rushing everywhere, I often have trainers on. But I have just bought a pair of white ankle-length cowboy boots – so I’m moving out of the trainer for the first time into a cowboy boot.”
She also loves colour and wears a lot of print. “Especially as I’ve got older, I remember when I was a lot younger I would wear a lot of black and denim. Now I’m confident to wear as much print and colour as I want,” she says, which is perfect for her role at Cath Kidston.
“I love the colour and the print of the brand. I love really thinking about who our customer is and the fact you see so many Cath Kidston bags worn by all sorts of people, it makes me feel quite proud.”
“Also, I’m lucky to work with a really creative team. And, because we are such a unique brand and we don’t like to follow all the major trends, we are quite original about the way we do our research. I may for example pick up something from the second-hand table at the school fair. We collect all sorts of things and bring them to the table – and some of them may even find their way into a print.”
Cecily worked on the latest Cath Kidston collection, discover it now.