As I was growing up and trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a living, a career in the food industry or a creative profession never screamed out at me. As I went through life taking on all the experiences it had to offer me, I arrived at a point in my career where I was fortunate to be part of a year's intensive course, as one of Jamie Oliver's Apprentices. While on the programme, I realised that food styling was what I wanted to explore. Before I knew it, I was an assistant food stylist for online content, magazines, books, TV commercials and somehow ended up at the O2 arena with Jamie Oliver in front of 12,000 people talking about my journey. As time went on, I wanted to understand the concept of indulgence and how other sections of the industry operate around this incredible buying power. That's when I came across a job opening at Selfridges to be their Food, Home and Restaurants, Visual Merchandiser and Creative in head office. The creative direction and fast-paced environment of Selfridges have taught me so much about myself as a creative and how I can transfer these skills into commercial value.
Selfridges’ annual operating profits for 16/17 increased by 18% to £180M. Home, Food and Restaurant divisions account for 30% of the business and are worth 2.5M of the total operating profit. I have always been fascinated with Selfridges’ contemporary approach, in-store activations, and brand collaborations. I was drawn to join the creative team to apply my style to Selfridges’ high standards and the sizable creative space within my divisional remit. Responsibilities • I successfully manage allocated budgets and develop concepts and deliver installations for new schemes and calendar events such as Christmas, Easter and Eid. Including; fixture development, store sites, ceiling treatments and innovative ways of displaying products. E.g. sourcing new materials such as recycled yoghurt pots which can be transformed into merchandising kit or used as cladding. While helping reduce the company's plastic footprint and supporting our Project Ocean campaign. • Working alongside concessions and pop-ups enhancing their brand identity while ensuring it is aligned with Selfridges’ guidelines. Summer 2017 saw the launch of the WastED pop-up in our concept space - Restaurant on the Roof. Alongside assisting in the delivery of its installation, I was chosen due to my experience to style the front page and spread on the WastEd pop-up in the Guardian's food supplement. My work was accredited, and this was a very proud achievement outside my job role. Other pop-ups I worked on include; Blondies Kitchen and Pan-n-Ice. • Working in partnership with buying and operation teams regarding new products, promotions and researching consumer trends by analysing data on trade and then adjusting our focal points, marketing collateral and merchandising accordingly. Implemented visual merchandising guidelines during store renovations – The Body Studio & The Accessories Hall.
Marks & Spencer was my first taste of visual merchandising. I got given the interim role to be the team leader of a team of three. I managed the department through methods such as one to one training, introducing contemporary styling techniques and organising training events for the sales team on necessary merchandising skills. The store was trading down - 4% in comparison to the previous year. Over the course of my six-month placement, my team and I improved standards across all departments and the overall store effort saw a year-over-year sales increase of 11%. Responsibilities • Adhered to strict implementation guidelines produced by head office. My responsibilities were the organisation of the store’s window dressing, welcome zones, focal points, shop floor installations and marketing collateral. I delegated tasks to my team in order of priority and departments. • Arranged and remerchandised new arrivals and worked in partnership with internal and external managers and sales teams to meet targets. I did this by presenting garments and products attractively - silhouette & shape, layering & texturising, accessorising & lighting and height & risers.
I had the opportunity to work on some exciting projects with remarkable people. One of the more high-profile jobs I worked on was Tesco’s Christmas advertisement assisting Peter Smith. I was responsible for preparing and organising dishes following the call sheet and strict recipes instructions, ensuring I kept within the timeframes so that plans ran to schedule. I have also worked on various TV advertisements for Sainsburys and editorial projects assisting Anna Jones. I took on a two day a week long-term job with Delicious food magazine as a recipe tester and assistant food stylist. The role was alongside my interim VM role with Marks & Spencer. All recipes were handed over to me at the start of the day. I would follow the cooking instructions for all dishes then present them to the Editor-in-Chief for approval. Once all recipes were signed-off, we would then prepare all the styling props and cooking equipment required for food styling off-site.
I was an assistant food stylist for Jamie Oliver’s FoodTeam as part of my placement during the Fifteen Apprentice Programme and then was taken on as a freelancer after graduating from the programme. I was responsible for the organisation of online and restaurant menus for “Barbecoa”; collated film material for the YouTube channel – “DrinksTube” and Worked closely with the Editor-in-Chief of “Jamie Oliver Food Magazine”. I was responsible for the smooth running of TV commercials and chosen to assist on “Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast” which aired on Channel 4.
As part of the course, I trained in a kitchen; went on numerous sourcing trips around the country; met incredible people along the way. The highlight included working with a People Referral Unit mentoring four students in preparing a four-course meal for friends and family as part of their programme. I was in charge of running a demo kitchen in the pop-up space in Borough Market for one hour. For this, I created my own recipe then prepared for a week to give an open demonstration on how to cook the dish and explain how it was ethically sourced. My favourite moment would have to be Jamie Oliver teaching me the art of how to make the perfect steak.