In the eye of the beholder.

In the eye of the beholder.

Posted by Liz Harwood on

After my children left home I was working a corporate career and loved to dress in gorgeous clothes. Jigsaw was and is my favourite brand and I was delighted to see that there was a part time Saturday job available in the local store.

Now I don't know about you, but as a child I was give a clothing allowance and so it seemed sensible that the time I spent working in Jigsaw became my monthly clothing allowance.

Monday - Friday I was earning £750 a day (in a corporate role) and on Saturdays I earned £7.50 an hour at Jigsaw. It surprised me that I found the time spent in the clothing shop on Saturdays were some of the most enriching hours of my week.

Jigsaw have an amazing sales culture. We were trained to look after any customer that walked through the door. We had a chair for dads, a box of children's books for kids, and we stayed with our customer from the moment she entered the store, until the moment she left. (Think "Pretty Woman"). We guided them through their sales experience with honesty and integrity, telling them truthfully if we felt the colour was wrong, or that they might suit a different style of trouser, and also helping them understand how to accessorise their outfit or create a capsule wardrobe.

It was an interesting time for me in other ways too. I was pleased to realise that my ego was comfortable with occasionally being spoken "down to" by women that, during the week, were my peers. I realised I didn't mind because in fact I was the clever one. By giving up 7 hours of my time once a week I could power dress in my senior management corporate roles, wearing amazing clothes that cost me a fraction of what they were paying.

I also realised that status means nothing when you're in your bra and pants in a changing room!

We had women coming to buy clothes, for happy occasions, for sad occasions, for romantic occasions, and we'd learn about our customer, their loves and wants, and remember those important details for the next time they'd visit. We could, over time, pick out clothing from a new delivery that we'd know would suit one of our ladies and put things aside for her when she'd come into store.

However, there were days were we'd find notice that someone looked miserable and of course it wasn't our place to pry. On one such occasion I had a customer that came in for a simple tee shirt. I suggested she might try a slightly different tone and, keen to point out this wasn't a sales tactic, I suggested she accessorised with a particularly lovely silk scarf. She gingerly accepted the scarf and I showed her how to tie it and when she looked in the mirror she burst into tears.

She exclaimed that she'd just had a particularly brutal break up, and felt ugly rubbish about herself but here, in the changing room, seeing a reflection of herself, she suddenly felt beautiful. It was a really poignant moment for me, and one in where I realised that the main role I serviced here in Jigsaw, was not just about making sales of lovely clothes. It was about empowerment, and helping women find many different ways to feel beautiful.

Often on a Saturday the changing rooms would be full of people, the assistants scurrying in and out to bring other items and over that 4 years I saw a lot of women of all ages and sizes, shapes and styles.

I can't remember EVER thinking anything negative about any of them.

I only saw beauty.

In the old I saw wisdom and serenity.

In the young I saw energy and zest

In the pregnant I saw blossoming and nurture

In the curvy I saw happiness and laughter

Yet without exception the words we exchanged time and time again were like this :

Me: You look beautiful

Them : Really? Oh I hate/don't like my :

Legs . . . ankles . . . elbows . . . arms . . . neck . . . waist . . . boobs . . . bum . . . thighs . . . shoulders . . . height . . . girth . . . feet . . . hair . . . and so it went on!

What is this body image that we've created? Not one woman, in 208 Saturdays, threw her hands in the air and exclaimed "Wow look at me - I look amazing".

When I had the FAMARA shop in Marlborough I had many women coming in to the store and I'd show them our collections. They'd say

"Oh I can't wear leggings I'm not the right shape? . . ."

To which I'd reply

"Please take a pair into the changing room for a moment and see what you think"

. . and then I'd sit back and wait to hear those gorgeous words "OMG they fit" "Oh they really suit me". "Oh they're so flattering" . . "Did I really get into a medium?"!

Over 18 months we found the right performance fabric, in the right weight that stretches without losing the design, and without showing whats underneath them! We created a high waistband that flatters and a length that sits just where it's needed.

Our collections work for all women, all ages, all sizes. Jane, the most gorgeous 76 year old customer hopped out of FAMARA in the brightest pink Flamenco leggings, pink hoodie and scarf ready to head off to visit her daughter - exclaiming "Well she's very glamorous you know - and now - so am I!! "

Our aim is to provide collections of activewear for women of all ages, of all shapes and all sizes. A collection that makes women feel beautiful.

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