Here at Superdry HQ, we have a multitude of people working hard to make the brand special! Today I decided to put the spotlight on one of our company directors, Diane Savory who is the Chief Operations Officer for Superdry. We had a chat about what drives her and her role within the brand.
So lets start from the beginning! What is your background?
I went to St Georges in Herefordshire, which is a boarding school, but I was only a daygirl. Funnily enough, I was very artistic and I loved art, however I actually wanted to be a dentist. I just loved looking at teeth! But I left school at 16; teachers told me I was not clever enough to study A-Levels.
I can’t believe that, where did you go from there?
I went on to study Retail design at the Cassio, West Herts College in Watford for two years. In fact I was in the same classes as Mary Portas. (Famed for turning around failing businesses on television series, Mary Queen of Shops). It was refreshing to be drawing all day.
What was your first job after studying?
Oh I’ve worked for many companies, I probably reached my peak at 25. Then, I was travelling from Cheltenham to London. I had my own house in Cheltenham already at that age but the stresses from that job resulted in me burning myself out very quickly. After, I thought I would have a break and became self employed in Graphic Design. In those days I didn’t work on Apple Macs, it was all hand drawn graphics. I then found work at a company in Cirencester where I worked in a creative environment but I was involved in managing if you’d like which was wonderful.
So how did you get into working for Superdry?
It’s interesting, I don’t think many people know but Superdry wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Cult. Cult I started over 20 years ago and Superdry is still a baby at seven years old. Cult was essentially the vehicle that launched Superdry as a brand. I started when the company was still a tiny office above what is the Cheltenham Cult store now. There were only a few of us and I had no qualifications in what I was doing so I trained myself in finance and achieved an AAT qualification.
Can you describe your role within the company?
I am the Chief Operating Officer. I know every function of the company. It’s very much about bringing in the right people for the next stages in our growth.
In your opinion why has Superdry became so successful?
It has definitely helped that we have a very robust business behind us and we are brilliant at delivering. If you were a t-shirt manufacturer and you have a lot of orders but you cannot respond to those, then you cannot succeed. But we as a company, we are able to deliver and therefore become what we are today. We have established a funding infrastructure, which gives us this opportunity. Our kudos is about wearing what everyone else is wearing without realising it because we have so much choice.
I heard you won Gloucestershire Business woman of the year. Tell me more about that.
Yes I won Business woman of the year in March this year. This was a great award as Gloucestershire is in my roots and I work hard to promote the area, it is where I live and where my family are.
Well done on the award! This brings me onto the question of which charities/committees/boards are you involved with?
I have sat on the board for Gloucester College and I am the Deputy Chair of Gloucestershire’s Employment and Skills panel. It is very much about putting something back to the community now we are a PLC. We try and help sustain local businesses and employment. It’s far too easy to run towards the bright lights of the city but there are so many opportunities nearer to home. Superdry is a prime example of a company that has succeeded without being in a big city. We have no intention of ever moving away.
You are the only female of five directors, has it helped or been a disadvantage for you?
It has worked both ways as I find the women bring out the softer issues. I’d say the women are heard as equals in this business but you do need broad shoulders, actually I’d say the women need broader shoulders and stand strong. There is no reason why women can’t be as strong as men in business, as long as you can get your voice heard and I am very good at that!
Do you have any advice for someone starting in the business world?
Never lose the passion, never lose the drive. I know it’s a bit cheesy but I would also say have a passion for fashion. Without that drive you would have no direction and your enthusiasm will rub off on people working with you.
Do you personally keep an eye on competitor brands and/or fashion trends?
Yes of course I do! The internet has been a god send, it’s one of my most valuable tools. I have a 20-year-old son who is also interested in design; he keeps me abreast on brand activity and new brands. I have a good overview of what’s going on.
Finally is there anything you would like to say to Superdry fans?
Thank you so much for your support, we work hard for you guys and we are always coming up with new and exciting things for you.