Interview with Susan Baker, Design Director - Hunters & Gatherers

on 14/1/10

Susan Baker Hunters & GatherersProfile Information:

Sue Baker is Design Director of the label Hunters & Gatherers, and here she gives an insight into her background and life running a fashion company.

After leaving college Sue Baker initially worked in retail for Warehouse while she was looking to get into her first creative job.  Then she got a job as a design room assistant with a company called Belle Bouy, who were based around Great Portland Street in the West End, and were mainly a supplier of jackets to the High Street retailers.

When the head designer left to work for a similar company she was poached to go with her. When this company subsequently closed and she was made redundant, she started Hunters & Gatherers.


What are the main duties of your role?
I am in control of designing the collection. Being a small company this means undertaking all roles such as researching trends, sourcing fabrics and trims, and finally design. I even make the first sample. In a larger company these areas may be covered by several different departments.

What are the best aspects about your current role?
I get to do what I want within certain parameters and also get to play with fabrics on stand which I love. Sometimes I can have an idea in the morning and the garment will be hanging on the sample rail by the afternoon. I like the immediacy of that.

Are there any areas that are particularly difficult or challenging?
It’s the aspects that I have no control over that I find particularly perplexing. It can be waiting for a courier that doesn’t turn up, finding out that a fabric that you have used  in the collection is no longer  available or receiving  in  factory samples and seeing that they have totally ignored all my notes and comments.

When employing a graduate what are the attributes you look for?
Firstly its “common sense” which sounds dull but you can be the most creative person in the world but if your head is in the clouds you are not much use to an employer.  Then dedication and enthusiasm are important. These are things that you have to have within you and not necessarily the things you learn at college.

Do you have any words of wisdom that you would like to pass on?
If you wish to start your own business do as much planning as you can as opposed to learning on the hoof as we had to do. Decide exactly who you want to sell to and what those people want before ever making a garment. Try and get as much experience as possible within all areas of the industry. Working in retail for a while can be invaluable later down the line. Design is communicating a message from one party to another. Be clear what that message is.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
When our business was struggling someone advised us to go and see a business mentor. Discussing your problems you discover that you are not alone. It’s always refreshing to hear someone else’s view outside of the business.

What do you feel are the most important trends / changes happening in the industry that you feel students should be aware of?
People are now very aware ethical fashion and are beginning to realise that there is a hidden price to pay for cheap clothing and that’s it’s important  to know exactly how your garments were made and the same can be said  for greener products. The other major change over the last few years is how people shop with internet purchasing now fully accepted by the consumer. Having said that this will in turn create a desire for a more “experience” based shopping venture as people will crave the human factor. This is an area where you can add value to the product.

Hunters & Gatherers
Image of Hunters & Gatherers

Quickfire Q & A

When were you happiest?
When my children were born

What would your superpower be?
I would be Mrs Octopus  and have lots of arms and hand to multi task

What is your must-have item for next season?
A H&G Ruffle one shoulder dress

Your favourite label 
Alexander Mc Queen

Your favourite artist
Howard Hodgkins

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