16 May, 2012

That Girl: Lauren Mead of Jack Wills

16 May, 2012

This week’s That Girl is super-sporty Lauren Mead, brand coordinator at Jack Wills Hong Kong. We’ve been fans of Jack Wills ever since they landed on our shores (see here!) so now’s the perfect opportunity to get to know one of the brains behind the brand!

We chat to Lauren about how we can uncover our sporty sides, discover why sailing’s not just for old men, find out what keeps bringing her back to Hong Kong and just what an average working day in the world of fashion entails!

Can you fill us in on your background and how your family ended up in Hong Kong?
I’ve lived in Hong Kong on and off my entire life – for some reason I just can’t leave the place alone! My family is scattered around the globe – in the UK, Germany and Dubai to name a few, but we all find that there is something magnetic about this island that brings us back time and again.

After finishing my degree in London (at the School of Oriental and African Studies), I was travelling in Indonesia when the opportunity to work in Hong Kong came up and I jumped at the chance to see the city in a new light – from a business and retail angle for the first time. There is a real energy and attitude to Hong Kong that makes working and living here a fantastic experience, which I have not found in any other city.

Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live right next to the escalator, just off Hollywood Road and am always aware of what an amazing location and great space I have to call home. Everyone in my building knows each other and we sometimes meet on the rooftop for post-work drinks and a catch up at the end of the day – it’s lovely to be part of a tiny community within a city that can sometimes be so anonymous.

When I was fitting out my apartment, I wanted it to be somewhere that I could relax and get away from it all, whilst still being in the heart of Soho. I like to keep mementoes from my home and travels on display, such as photos of my family and friends, or prints by my mother who is a professional print-maker and artist.

How would you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
I sometimes feel like I lead two very separate lives in Hong Kong. There is my week-day life, when I am always in the city, visiting the Jack Wills stores or planning our next big event. At the weekends I try to leave the concrete jungle as far away as possible, and so I spend a lot of time sailing, at the beach, or hiking in the New Territories. As a result, my personal style has to match both of these very different worlds.

During the week I want to project a professional appearance, although given the industry I work in this still gives me scope to have fun with what I wear! I like to wear simple block colours with clean, tailored lines and lots of accessories in the winter. In the summer, I love to wear prints or floral pieces, and to feel more relaxed in what I wear. At the weekends I will always be found in dressed down pieces, flip-flops, cut off shorts or flirty skirts, and old much-loved t-shirts.

Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
I would have to (honestly!) say that I wear something from Jack Wills nearly every single day. I really like the preppy, smart-casual style of the clothes, and they are great quality so the cut and finish of each piece hangs really nicely. I have recently fallen in love with strapless dresses and playsuits, and Jack Wills has some great examples with fun prints in store this summer, which I think I will be living in!

I also like exploring the smaller independent boutiques in Soho, which are obviously right on my doorstep. Beatrice Da Silva, Magnan&Tse and Dutch Items Shanghai are all favorites. My most recent discovery has also been the online jewellery brand Pretty Dangerous, which has fabulous edgy jewellery from up and coming designers at great prices.

What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
I have a very low maintenance beauty routine. I tend to just wear a slick of mascara each day, and that is about it! I find that in HK too much makeup is just going to melt off you anyway. I am religious about putting on sunscreen (SPF 20) on my face each morning, and use Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare moisturiser at night, which uses organic ingredients only, and makes my skin feel really clean and happy!

For hair, I go to Toni & Guy on Old Bailey Street, with their wonderful Creative Stylist, Emma Woodall. I had one or two hair disasters when I first got to Hong Kong and was beyond letting anyone within arms length of my hair, but Emma was great, giving me a proper consultation and making suggestions at changes that got me back to being happy with my hair once more.

For nails, facials or massages I go to Fast Beauty on Hollywood Road. They are really good, particularly when I am pushed for time from work, and want to treat myself during a quick lunch break.

What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?
I am obsessed with the sea, as anyone who knows me will tell you. I’ve been sailing and racing since I was a child, and can be found every weekend on a boat either sailing out of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in Causeway Bay, or up in Port Shelter near Sai Kung. I am part of a regular team that competes both in Hong Kong, on the Asian circuit, and also back in Europe, so I am very lucky to see a side of Hong Kong that many people do not have access to – from the water. If I am not sailing, I’m still likely to be either swimming, attempting to surf (still learning!) or generally relaxing at the beach. The great thing about this city is that in 20 minutes you can leave the madness behind and be out on the trails or a deserted beach and it feels as if you are in a completely different country.

How did you get into sailing? What would you say to people that think sailing’s an old man’s sport?
I got into sailing when I was a child via my Dad who was a professional racer for many years. When I was small, this really meant just playing on dinghies, swimming a lot and spending as much time on the water as I could, because it was a fun way to cool down in the hot Hong Kong weather! When we moved back to the UK for a few years, my sailing interest then developed into a full-on racing obsession of my own, as the standard of racing in the UK is very high. Since then I’ve sailed and trained with many great teams including the GBR Yacht Racing Academy; I’ve also taken part in a 40 day offshore race from the UK to Rio de Janerio in Brazil, and worked as a sail maker for three years at the same time as doing my degree. I represented Hong Kong at the Rolex Commodores Cup in 2010 and will be going back with the team again this summer to have a second attempt at winning the cup (we came 2nd last time!).

Sailing is definitely not an old man’s sport, or even a particularly elite sport, any more! There are lots of girls in sailing, with the number going up every year. Since I was a child in Hong Kong there has been a huge improvement in the level of training and courses available here for people who want to learn to sail and race, via any of the yacht clubs (I recommend you check out the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club website for courses for beginners).

Being on the water brings you a feeling of such peace and relaxation, I couldn’t imagine my own life without boats, and the sea, in it somehow. Racing is also the perfect way for me to work out my competitive spirit, whilst also teaching important management skills as you and your team have to work together in harmony to make the boat run smoothly. Sailing can infect people, it becomes a new way of life, but is also one that I cannot recommend enough.

What are your fave destinations to sail to in HK?
I race in three main locations around HK – the harbour, Sai Kung and Repulse Bay; however for fun and relaxing sailing, it is hard to beat a day sail to the Po Tois with friends for fantastic seafood in the sun and a swim on the way home! There are also a number of races you can do that start in Hong Kong and sail to locations around Asia – Boracay, Vietnam and Taiwan to name a few. Doing a longer race and sailing into an entirely different country is a fantastic experience – particularly the moment you spot land coming into view over the horizon – it’s always a moment of high excitement on the boat, but when you get to sail into such gorgeous locations, you remember how lucky we are to live in Asia.

What are your favourite restaurants/bars in Hong Kong?
Like most people in Hong Kong, I eat out a lot, and am always on the look out for new places to go. My most recent haunt is Mana on Wellington Street. It has only been open for about a month, but does fantastic home made hummus, flat breads and juices; I go there for lunch at least once a week.

In the evenings for dinner, I often visit Tapeo, for good tapas and wine – but book ahead as it’s always busy. To show visiting friends the dazzling Hong Kong skyline, I would head to Sevva or Upper House, which never fail to fascinate.

What’s your favourite place in Hong Kong? Any secret hide-outs?
I love to try and get off the beaten track in Hong Kong by heading out on to the trails at the weekends or visiting the nearby islands. I have family living on Lamma at the moment and try to get over there to see them as often as I can. I love the vibe in the villages, the beaches, or doing the walk over the island to have seafood at the end.

We know you’re quite sporty – sailing, rock-climbing etc – how can girls get into the sportier side of HK?
Although I have always been quite sporty, in Hong Kong this felt more important than ever, as it is so easy to get sucked in to the bar/party scene here and to end up feeling like you never see the sunlight.

I started rock climbing earlier this year with a couple of friends at an indoor wall in Sheung Wan (Da Verm) It is a great sport for girls as you get to build up your core strength gradually as you tackle harder courses, but it is also about being intelligent and climbing smartly so that you do not waste energy. Everyone at the club is really friendly and always prepared to help new members improve on their technique, so if you want to try a new sport this summer, or just blow off some steam after work, I recommend it!

I also do yoga at Anahata Yoga on Lyndhurst Terrace two or three times a week, which is a good way to get back into working out if you have not been exercising for a few months – start slow and build yourself back up! Ultimately I think it is very easy for girls to get into the sportier side of Hong Kong – it’s fun, you will meet new friends, and get to see a side of this city that you will totally miss if you just stay in the work/socialising loop.

A lot of people who grew up in Hong Kong often decide to leave after going to uni overseas. What made you decide to come back and stay?
I left for a few years, to do my degree in London… however Hong Kong has always had a unique draw for me. It is a place where, I feel, you can achieve anything. You are constantly surrounded by inspiring people who are carving out their own paths – in business, in sport, just in life in general – and it was too difficult to resist coming back and to have the chance to be a part of that again. The entrepreneurialism of the city is something I love, and I have learnt so much about business here. I hope one day I can put those lessons to good use and have my own projects going here.

Fill us in on your average working day – is it all glamour? What does being ‘brand coordinator’ actually entail?
My average day involves working closely with both the Head Office team and our stores to plan our next marketing events, which takes quite a bit of time, arranging tours of the store for media, and liaising with the teams back in the UK.

Jack Wills has a strong heritage – the brand was founded in Salcombe in Devon twelve years ago. Everything we do, every design, is influenced by this British heritage and so it is really important for us to explain the British culture and history that inspires us to our staff, our customers and also to bloggers and media who come to talk to us. I spend a lot of my time talking to the design teams in the UK to fully understand what has influenced them with each new collection so that I can present this to the staff; they in turn can provide our customers with a better shopping experience when they really know the products and understand the ideas that have helped shape them.

My job takes on many different elements of business life in HK. From one day to the next I could either be working on budgets for events, or visiting Mong Kok to scout out props for a new window display – I love the variation and how it allows me to see all sides of the business.

Any tips on achieving the work-life balance, especially in hectic HK?
I might not be the best person to ask on achieving a good work/life balance! I have definite workaholic tendencies, but this is partly due to the fact that I love my job and the team I work with. All of our marketing events take place either in the evenings after work or at weekends, so it is easy to do a lot of overtime; however, when it is running a fun event, it feels less like work anyway! The weekends I do have off are spent far away from internet or phone reception, so I feel like I have the majority of my ‘down time’ at the weekends, whereas during the week I can easily be answering emails until midnight on a regular basis. Again, doing lots of sport and trying to eat healthily, plus rewarding yourself with small treats (facial etc) every now and then means you feel great, even if you are working ‘Hong Kong Hours’.

Do you have any tips for other HK girls who want to get into the fashion industry?
At Jack Wills, we made the conscious decision not to use editorial advertising as a mass marketing tool, but rather to focus on the individual, both instore and online – with particular focus on social media. We want to make sure that everyone who visits the store leaves having experienced great service and having discovered something new about Jack Wills. The best way to do this for us is to focus on social media and talking about the individual experience.

Therefore, my tip for getting into fashion marketing in Hong Kong would be to stay up to date with social media developments – how are other brands using social media in creative new ways? Is there a new social media platform that your company should have a presence on (i.e. the explosion of the number of brands on Pinterest recently)? There are some really interesting marketing projects being thought up right now, and it is important to stay connected.

SASSY GIVEAWAY: We’ve snagged some awesome Jack Wills goodie bags to give to 50 lucky Sassy readers! All you have to do is Like both Sassy and Jack Wills on Facebook (thumbs up if you like us both already!) and then drop your contact details in the form here. Competition ends on 20 May and we will contact the winners on 21 May with details on how to claim their prize!

Fill out my online form.

All photos in the That Girl article above were taken by the hugely-talented Sabrina Sikora of Sabrina Sikora Photography – get in touch with her at [email protected].

Check out the rest of our That Girls here!

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