Claire Miles

Claire Miles Claire Miles

BUYING DIRECTOR

The Shop At Bluebird

As part of our Spotlight On… series, we’ll be chatting to some of the people who have had a key influence on NASON. First up is Claire Miles, Buying Director at The Shop at Bluebird, where we launched our current collection earlier this year. It was lovely chatting to Claire and learning about her fascinating career, fashion loves and top tips for visiting London’s Westbourne Grove…

Claire Miles in Ruby Floral Dress

Hi Claire, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us. You've worked your way up to a very coveted position as Buying Director at The Shop at Bluebird; can you tell us about your career journey to get there?
Of course – it started on the shop floor! As a teenager I knew I wanted to have financial independence and that fashion and retail both really interested me, so I decided not to go to university and instead worked at Topshop. Being from Dorset, I then went to work at New Look’s HQ in Weymouth, which enabled me to learn about core fashion industry functions like buying and marketing. I eventually relocated to London which was a fantastic change – I was working as a successful buyer – but I eventually got to the point where I knew I should move on and broaden my experience.

Fast-forward a few years and I joined ASOS, where I learnt so much about global online retailing – a new area for me and an amazing opportunity to continue solidifying my understanding of retail trading and customer experience. However, I realised that I didn’t want to work in young, fast fashion forever so applied for the role at Bluebird, jumping straight into the world of luxury designer labels.

I’ve now been at The Shop at Bluebird for five years. It’s been quite a journey too and I’ve loved drawing on my experience from past roles and companies. For instance, my ASOS training really helped when we launched online with Farfetch.

"I love the vintage vibe and dark romance of the collection – we’re not really seeing that elsewhere and yet it feels so relevant."

Sounds incredible, and so inspiring to have started out right from the shop floor. What have been your proudest career moments to date?
Last year, when The Shop at Bluebird won a Drapers award for Best Store (for the Carriage Hall in Floral St, Covent Garden) was a really amazing achievement! Another proud memory was when we opened the doors of that store for the first time. It was such a key moment for the whole team and I’m still so proud of what we accomplished together.

What does your average day at work look like?
Lots of emails, haha! But quite varied really… When in London I’m usually office-based, but also make time to regularly visit the stores. It means I can see the products and meet the customers, which is so important.

About five times a year I go to Paris and where things can be a bit more full-on. I’ll often be dashing from showroom to showroom looking at products!

Plenty of variety then! What do you love most about your job, and equally what are the challenges?
I love the product and the people. Working in an industry where everyone appreciates design and creativity is amazing! In terms of challenges, it has to be the unpredictability of external factors that impact sales – like the economy and weather. But as a team we embrace it. Certain challenges are unavoidable, so we make sure we’re always learning lessons from them to help us continually develop. It’s so important to be able to admit when and why things sometimes go wrong.

Exactly – you can’t evolve unless you make a few mistakes, but crucially you have to be prepared to learn from them. Did you always know that you wanted to work in the fashion industry?
I think I was a teenager when I realised I really wanted to get into fashion… In terms of why, there was no particularly strong influence from family or friends – I just started working at Topshop (it was during their heyday, so a fantastic time to be on the shop floor) and ended up spending all my first month’s pay on clothes! I had found something I loved but actually the main pull was being able to have financial independence. I guess it was having a strong drive for independence and success from quite an early age rather than knowing I specifically wanted to work in fashion.

With such a strong love for fashion now and a long career working with women’s clothing, what's your personal style code?
Feminine, chic and effortless! I’m a bit of a romantic so wear a lot of dresses – I love how I can put them on and float around! No doubt due to my denim buying days at New Look I also love jeans – Levi’s are my favourite. I go for quite a polished look at work, so they’re great for pairing with a T-shirt and chilling out at the weekend.

Claire Miles

We’re big dress fans too – they’re such versatile, effortless pieces! Can you tell us about the three hardest-working pieces in your wardrobe?
My Loewe basket bag has been my arm candy this summer; plus my Arizona Love sandals have been my most comfortable fashion purchase for some time! I’ve also been wearing the NASON Miller Spot Maxi Dress a lot as it’s perfect for such a wide variety of occasions. It also gets so many compliments! I’ve worn it to work – especially when visiting the stores – but also out for dinner.

What makes The Shop at Bluebird a different shopping destination to other boutiques in London?
Firstly, the team, who are extremely warm and welcoming – more like stylists than sales people. They provide a luxury shopping experience that doesn’t ever feel sterile or serious. It’s a very friendly environment!

Secondly, the décor speaks for itself… We were awarded for being the most stunning store in London and it is truly a special space. There’s art, homeware and beauty as well as fashion; so it’s a lifestyle experience as well as a fashion store.

And lastly, the edit. It’s curated by myself and my buyer, Emma, and we choose very carefully for our customers. The fact that Emma and I are also selecting brands and pieces that we love makes it a highly personal collection.

Claire Miles in Ruby Floral Dress

"We’re really passionate about supporting independent designers and brands."

That personal input must really resonate with customers too. The Shop at Bluebird champions independent designers and brands; why is this so important?
Although everything has to be right for us – in terms of design and quality – we’re really passionate about supporting independent designers and brands. If there’s ever an opportunity to support a new designer that’s the right fit, we’ll absolutely do that. The customers love a new brand too – particularly one they’ve never heard of. It feels exclusive and special… And ultimately, we all love feeling that we’ve got something no-one else has!

Earlier this year NASON launched at The Shop at Bluebird; what first attracted you to the brand, and why is NASON a good fit for Bluebird?
I’ve known Mel for years – we actually worked together at New Look – and I’m in awe of her for launching her own label. I went to see the collection, gave her some advice and we talked about timing. The NASON collection arrived in-store earlier this year and customers were very quickly commenting on the design and quality, which I know are so important to Mel. She has such a fantastic eye and is one of the best designers I’ve worked with. Her attention to detail is beyond anything, and I think that really comes through in the pieces.

I also love the vintage vibe and dark romance of the collection – we’re not really seeing that elsewhere and yet it feels so relevant.

Do you have a personal favourite piece from the NASON collection?
As well as the Miller Spot Maxi Dress (which I’ve been wearing so much), my other favourite piece is the new Ruby Floral Print Midi Dress. The cut is stunning with its high neck and open back. I wore it recently and it fits so well. I can’t wait to rock it this season with a pair of knee-highs!

Lastly, NASON has been stocked in the Covent Garden store for a while, but has recently arrived in the Westbourne Grove store too. What local W11 must-visit destinations you can recommend?
We’re so excited to see NASON in our Westbourne Grove store, and I really love it over there – it’s like going to another world. Recently I was driving through West London in the rain and as the taxi approached Westbourne Grove the sun came out and I felt like I was arriving in this magical, fantasy world! It’s just full of stunning architecture, pristine houses and people sitting outside drinking coffee… That’s the romantic in me coming through!

It’s a beautiful place for a wander but I’d recommend checking out great brunch spot 202, as well as Daylesford, Ottolenghi and the Electric Cinema. The range of stylish boutiques are also great so I’d suggest having a mooch, just don’t forget to pop into The Shop at Bluebird of course!

Definitely sounds worth a visit then! Thanks again Claire for chatting to us and hope to bump into you in one of the stores soon!