From early morning starts to brushing shoulders with the Kardashians: we meet the NTU fashion alum keen to nurture others
Today, Sophie Howarth is Creative Operations Manager at Estée Lauder’s Retail Design Development Centre for the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Sophie studied Fashion Marketing and Communication with us and graduated in 2008. The course included an option to attend a semester at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
As an undergraduate, Sophie entered the L'Oréal Brand Storm competition, successfully securing an internship.
Our videocall with Sophie is at 9 am, but she’s been up and online working since 7.30. “Because we’re a global company," she says, "I’m in constant contact with our New York office and I always start my day checking and responding to emails.”
Sophie is also disarmingly modest and keen to point out her role isn’t as glamourous or impressive as it sounds, but we agree to disagree!
“Getting to where I am today has come off the back of working very long days,” she says. “Painting floors in Selfridges at 3 am, sitting in the back of cars surrounded by boxes, setting up displays in department stores. But it’s all been worth it to get where I am today. Estée Lauder is a wonderful company to work for and there’s great camaraderie.”
Before Estée Lauder came roles at L’Oréal, Coty and LVMH, plus a period working in Dubai.
Is there a piece of advice Sophie would give herself given herself had she been a mentor at the time?
“Don’t get caught up on what the perception of the industry looks like,” she says. “It helps to have broad shoulders and to remember that careers aren’t always linear. I took a huge risk moving to Dubai at a pivotal point in my career but having the confidence to take risks is also important in what is a very competitive industry.”
Given the variety of things Sophie has achieved, she must have some great stories?
“I’ve attended some amazing events where the guest list included Mr Armani or Michael Kors. There have also been black-tie events where you’ll bump into people like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Sitting behind you will be Richard E. Grant. I also get to see and hear about what’s likely to be trending in fashion before anyone else, so that’s always exciting.”
Don’t get caught up on what the perception of the industry looks like – it helps to have broad shoulders and to remember that careers aren’t always linear
Sophie is passionate about mentoring others starting out in the fashion industry. She recently joined our Fellowship Programme and has already helped our undergraduates with CV mentoring and preparing for interviews.
What motivates her to take part?
“I think it’s my nature to want to help others,” she says. “I’m from a family of very matriarchal women and we’re all good listeners and always there to offer words of advice. Plus, I’ve been fortunate in my career – I go to work every day and really enjoy it and that’s because I have great leaders in my team. I think about the people who have given me really good advice over the years and want to share that.”
I’ve attended some amazing events where the guest list included Mr Armani or Michael Kors. There have also been black-tie events where you’ll bump into people like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West
Sophie also says she’s been impressed at how flexible the Alumni and Industry Fellowship programme can be.
“One of our design directors here is also an NTU alum and we were chatting one day about how to recruit new talent into the business,” she says. “They revealed they’d also recently become an Alumni Fellow and I contacted NTU. It became obvious very quickly that taking part would be a good fit.
“The organisers send through opportunities as and when they come up and if it’s something you can support with, then great. If not, there are no hard feelings. Sometimes I provide support online, sometimes in person. It’s all very flexible."
Does this sound like you?
If you've been inspired by Sophie’s story and think you'd make a great mentor, visit our Alumni and Industry Fellowship Programme information section to find out more.