Zoe Price-Smith was appointed as Brand and Product Design Director at Boux Avenue in January 2019, as part of the retailer’s ambitious future growth plans and committed investment into the brand.
Zoe brings over ten years’ experience at board-level within the international retail sector, as well as over twenty years of womenswear, lingerie and swimwear design experience across a wealth of notable brands including Crew Clothing, Fat Face, House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer,.
Zoe joined Boux Avenue from leading European lingerie retailer, Hunkemoller, where she was Global Design Director for seven years; leading a team of fifteen international specialist designers, providing creative direction for the brand and working on many exciting projects, including exclusive product collaborations and high-end level fashion shows.
The Global Design Director also brings a huge range of product knowledge across lingerie, swimwear, nightwear, women’s fashion, denim, sports, athleisure and lifestyle, gained at well-known international brands such as Fat Face, where she delivered notable brand success and market growth.
In-line with Boux Avenue’s future growth plans, Zoe- with her team- is applying her extensive understanding of building brand identities and creative design direction, to develop Boux Avenue from a pure retail business into a truly unique, design-led brand with a clearly defined handwriting, aligned with Boux Avenue’s business DNA.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’ve been designing in the retail industry for over twenty years, building up a wealth of experience and knowledge through roles at notable brands including Marks & Spencer, Crew Clothing and Fat Face. I have over ten years’ experience at board level within the international retail sector, and was Global Design Director for seven years at the leading European lingerie brand, Hunkemoller, before joining Boux Avenue as Brand & Product Design Director in February this year.
In my role at Boux Avenue, I’m applying my extensive understanding of building brand identities and creative design direction, to develop Boux Avenue from a retailer, into a design-led brand. As part of my appointment at the brand, I employed an entire new team of female, specialist product designers, who bring a balance of senior and junior experience, and lots of fresh ideas. With the product design now completely in-house, it’s a really exciting time for Boux Avenue and allows us to be more targeted than ever to our customers, starting with our new Hosiery range for AW19, and Bouxtique by Boux Avenue capsule collection, launching on 6th November.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I wanted to be a fashion designer since the age of 12. I was creative, obsessed with clothes, trends and drawing, so I felt that there wasn’t another option for me career-wise. I have always been very fearless and daring, even in my childhood, which led to me knowing that I was going to be a good leader. This combination of fearlessness and passion has resulted in my strong creative vision that I have always executed with conviction. I’m not the type of person to sit down and build a 5 or 10 year plan for my career, but I knew the steps that I needed to take to get to a leadership position in the fashion design field; studied all the Art subjects at school, completed my National Diploma and degree in Fashion Design, and then worked my way up from entry-level, to reach Head of Design by the age of 27. From there, I continued to work in leadership positions – growing teams, providing creative direction and building brand identities – and knew that at the age of 40 I wanted to be a Director. I don’t really believe in developing a really detailed career plan as in this industry, you have to be really adept and it changes and evolves so quickly. For me, it was ultimately a consistently strong, clear creative vision and the passion to be a leader.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
There are obviously always challenges working in the retail industry. You have to adapt to the highs and lows and keep in mind that real, long-term change and results can take time. Moving abroad with my family for work, and then back to the U.K for my new role at Boux Avenue, was a challenge, but we also love being back here in the U.K. Coming back to a younger business, there are lots of opportunities but you’re also working with less infrastructure and smaller teams to make changes happen, so it’s all about staying humble with your team, leading from the ground and being really hands-on, which I relish. Although it’s somewhat a challenge, I also find it more rewarding than working in a larger business, as not only is it more personal, but you get to see real change and your impact on the business.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I’d say I have two; securing my position as Brand & Product Director at Boux Avenue, and becoming Director level at my previous company, Hunkemoller. With Hunkemoller, it was my first step into Board level and that obviously brings a huge sense of achievement. I really, really wanted the role at Boux Avenue, with the opportunity to build and grow my own team, lead with my own strategic creative vision, implement structures and ultimately, develop a brand, so I’m very proud and excited to be working at Boux.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I firmly believe that you should continue to challenge yourself, at no matter what stage in your career you are. I find a lot of opportunities arise out of stepping out of your comfort zone and that motivates me a lot. For example, when I joined Hunkemoller, it was the first lingerie brand I had worked for, but also the last sector of the industry that I had to try. However, it was the area of the industry that I was most passionate about, and I knew that I could succeed in the role. I also think it’s crucial to be adaptable to change and to be able to evolve with the business and landscape you’re working in. I see change as an opportunity and I find it really exciting.
As a working mother, I also have an incredibly supportive family and husband, who help to keep my work/ life balance equal, and always champion what I’m doing at work.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
As a Director leading a team of female designers, I definitely see myself as a mentor to my team and always make sure that I’m providing them with the level of support, guidance and motivation that they need. It’s so important to look after your team and help them grow. I have a really talented group of ladies under my direction and I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop at Boux Avenue as they build their own careers. I’m also working with universities to help educate their students on industry practice and the disciplines you have a successful career in Fashion Design.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
Globally, there is still a lot that needs to be done in many areas if we are to achieve gender equality by the 2030 target that’s been set. I’m fortunate to work in an industry and company that is female-led and supports women in developing their careers. I think it’s key that social representation of women as a whole moves on; meaning educating boys properly on sexism and showing them that women can be both mothers (or not), and have a career if they want to (or not). I’m proud that I’ve raised two boys who see a strong, working mother and genders as equal. Addressing how women are talked about in the media is crucial if we’re to achieve equality. I’m a firm believer that a woman can and should be equal and empowered, without having to lose her femininity or sensuality, and that perception still needs to change as a whole in society. At Boux Avenue, we are all about female empowerment through your femininity, and owning your own unique confidence.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
I was always quite adventurous and mischievous when I was younger, but with that came confidence and creativity; being outside a lot and implementing creative ideas without lots of materials. These traits have stayed with me into adulthood and I feel that they have had a huge part to play in my career, so I’d say to nurture your childhood traits, and don’t lose them. People are attracted to the elements that make a person an individual.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
As Brand & Product Director at Boux Avenue, I’m working on transforming the retailer into a design-led brand, developing the brand’s handwriting, strengthening teams and continually designing new, innovative products to cement the brand’s unique position in the lingerie market. Our new Hosiery range has just launched for AW19, and the brand’s first luxe capsule collection launches on 6th November (Bouxtique by Boux Avenue), so I’m already starting to see tangible changes, which is really motivating. It’s just now about continuing this initial momentum and working towards those long term goals for the business.