Karen Youdell’s career in the fashion industry spans over 30 years, starting at Harvey Nichols and finishing, for the time being, with Zandra Rhodes, where she was appointed Commercial Director of her group of companies in the eighties. In the mid nineties Karen set up her own Consultancy & PR company and later founded INHOUSE Enterprises, whose services include business development, marketing and sales, private label and having expertise in Brand Licensing business in the Fashion World.
A glamorous and elegant woman, Karen’s work has taken her through Europe, to Japan, India and America and have been involved, in putting on celebrity Fashion related events, catwalk shows, fashion art exhibitions and launching numerous fashion products and collections under licence and negotiating high profile collaborations and Brand Licensing partnerships. Clients range from Fashion and Accessory Designers, Fine Jewellery Brands, Global Trade Show Organisers, Hotels and even a wonderful British Pier.
Here she describes a typical day for her.
I have a built in clock that wakes me at 7a.m. each morning, fortunately so does my husband, Robert and he makes my first cup of Earl Grey Tea whilst I hit my mobile phone which rests on my bedside table and deal with my emails. I have business associates in US so there are usually quite a few come in overnight.
I look at my Diary and then turn on my computer. My company represents Dame Zandra Rhodes and looks after her company’s Brand Licensing and collaboration business and when she is in her Californian Studio I often Skype her just after seven am to bring her up to speed (Zandra hardly sleeps!) with how her Brand Licensing business is progressing and any issues as it changes day to day.
Most of my clients are in the fashion industry – apparel and fashion accessories designers – and I am in touch with them daily. At the moment I am consulting for Southwold Pier, which was bought by Gough Hotels last year and I am assisting them with their retail outlets and set up a fashion accessories area in one of the Pier’s shops which entails visiting designers and accessories brand showrooms on a daily basis to select merchandise.
I even arranged a Zandra Rhodes fashion area and whisked Zandra to the Pier one Saturday for a Personal Appearance and book signing, caused quite a stir on the Pier and in the Cafe!
Visiting fashion trade shows, is part of my business and I attend London Fashion Week and often have clients show there. Every season I arrange a Publicity Day for Zandra Rhodes at Pure Olympia which includes a catwalk show/talk and promotional events throughout the day to promote the Zandra Rhodes products I manage and look after. Now and again I visit the Paris shows.
Most days I have meetings, either with clients, retail chains and licensees, companies who have a licence to produce and market Zandra Rhodes products, so I find myself discussing handbags, jewellery, bedlinen, clothing, lingerie, iPhone accessories and much more on a daily basis.
I have one client I adore whose meetings always include a good glass of champagne, I drink seldomly but with this client it is always a joy she has so much style.
At the moment I am discussing quite a few new projects with potential new clients and up and coming projects from luxury skincare, designer womenswear to pink Gin! And working on contract and projects connected with high street chains, top London department stores, fashion manufacturers and even a project with the European Flower Council together with arranging a film shoot tomorrow for Zandra Rhodes, who will be interviewed by Twiggy for a programme on Carnaby Street.
Almost every day involves drawing up, negotiating and looking at Brand Licensing contracts and collaboration agreements, this may not sound as exciting as some of my business activities in the world of fashion but I absolutely enjoy working on and negotiating contracts, I find that you can just be as creative putting deals together as designing a dress! Next Monday I will be at Hampton Flower Court Press Preview Day looking for inspiration for a 2015 project, the most curious thing about fashion is that it has a connection with almost everything in life!!
I am also working on two great charity initiatives at the moment. This involves developing fashion products to help raise funds and awareness for Breast Cancer and Prostrate Cancer and most days I am involved in meetings, discussions, emails with a team of about 15 people on these two initiatives one of which will culminate in a big launch at City Hall with Zandra hosting in the capacity of Boris Johnson’s Breast Cancer Czar for London.
In the very early days of my career, I would go to the opening of an envelope but nowadays I am far more selective and I attend events that are related to my business activities or that I really particular want to go to purely from a personal preference. I am based in Marylebone Tuesday to Friday and enjoy going to launches, fashion events and award ceremonies they all tend to be on my door step and I equally love the long weekends we spend at our place in the Cotswolds where I can catch up with administration and deleting the thousands of emails I receive. I have many glamorous, talented and slightly eccentric girlfriends/business associates who I have early suppers with in the West End, these are always a delight. I am also very lucky to be invited to all the openings and preview exhibitions held at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, founded by Zandra Rhodes.
Staying in is good and my one TV indulgence at the moment that enables me to switch off completely, is the American television series 24 with Keifer Sutherland, we bought the whole box set recently – I am not sure which is more harrowing this American drama or the fashion industry!
Here are Karen’s Top Tips to find your own style
- Be original without being whacky.
- Only ask your Mother, Husband or significant other what they think about an outfit you are wearing – they will always tell you the truth.
- Identify what suits you – very important.
- Create signature looks – I always wear my collars up and cuffs back and little chic jackets.
- Co-ordinate your colours, only do ‘clash’ if you really understand the fashion colour palettes.
- Nurture an indulgence if it adds style to your wardrobe – mine is Chanel jewellery – vintage and new.
- Stay classic when buying expensive pieces.
- Be a fashion victim now and again if the piece is fun and inexpensive.
- If you hesitate greatly when deciding whether to buy an important piece of clothing, don’t buy it.
- Do buy investment pieces.
- Wearing expensive shoes and handbags can make most outfits look a million dollars.
- I really believe a woman cannot have too many cashmere jumpers or silk shirts.