Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Interview With Distinctively Me Fashion Owner Jill White

I like to support small businesses and today on my blog I am interviewing Jill White the owner of Distinctively Me, a fashion business that makes made to measure clothes combining elegance, comfort and style. Over to you Jill!

Have you always worked in the fashion business?


No, I haven’t! It’s interesting because I have always loved clothes and throughout my life, be that as a student, at work or in my social life, people have always commented on how I dress and that I must have spent a fortune on my clothes as they looked so good. I had never spent crazy amounts on clothes as I like to feel I am getting value for money, rather than paying for a brand name for the sake of it.

It’s only recently that I realised a comment made by my art teacher in my teens had a major impact on how I felt about my creative abilities. Let’s just say she was less than flattering! So, given that I was good with numbers, I went on and trained as an accountant and spent 30 years in the corporate world working in teams to build and grow businesses. It was when I was a District Manager for Gap and then Proposition Development Manager for Woolworths that I realised that I did have a creative flair and could stand my ground with my creative colleagues.

Working with John, the Distinctively Me tailor, it’s great to hear from him that my design abilities are consistent with other designers he has worked with across his career. So I’ve literally gone from the world of finance to the world of fashion and I’m loving every single minute!

You set your business up in your mid-fifties. What do clothes mean to us, as we get older?



I realised that throughout my 20s, 30s, and still probably in my early 40s, I was hugely influenced by the fashion magazines, what was in store and the latest trends. If it was in fashion I bought it, as I thought having the ‘latest trend’ would make me feel great about how I looked. It wasn’t until I reached my late 40s that I realised that all the ‘latest trends’ I had bought at least once before in my life, if not more!

I was 53 when I left the corporate world and I decided to do full wardrobe edit. I realised the things that I loved and had worn for years were timeless in their style and were in colours that really flattered me. That was when the penny dropped, I’d finally worked out the difference between fashion and style! Fashion comes from someone else’s ideas and style comes from what works for each individual.

I now buy in a very different way. I stick with tried and tested styles that I know flatter my body shape, clothes that fit me perfectly which accentuate my good parts and play down the bits I’m not so keen on, and I’m much more adventurous with the colours that make me happy. When it comes to the latest trends, I treat myself to accessories.

So, what made you set up your business in your 50s?



To be honest, I had no plan to set up a business in my 50s! My career in the corporate world was going well – I was doing my dream job running a £350m business, with a fabulous team of people and the business was going from strength to strength. Then completely out of the blue, I was made redundant. It was a tough time, and the thought of going for interviews was terrifying – I had not interviewed for about 15 years, and to be honest, there are not that many people in the corporate world in their 50s, and even fewer of those are women.

We all know how what we wear impacts how we feel about ourselves and our confidence levels. So this is where the idea for Distinctively Me originated – I looked in my wardrobe at my 6 pairs of tailored black trousers which I think are the smartest part of an interview outfit, but not one of them fitted me properly – which is why there were so many of them! I wanted to be able to offer women perfectly fitting trousers, and it is clear that I’m not the only one with an issue. We ran a survey recently and it showed that only 7% of women can find the perfect fit off the peg, and 30% of women have such problem that they never buy tailored trousers. Clearly, I was onto a winning idea!

So many women have body confidence issues. Why do you think that is?


The fact that we’re bombarded with images of ‘perfection’ really doesn’t help the issue, does it? It’s great that more and more people are starting to challenge the images we see and how they are airbrushed but still, it’s overwhelming.

I was a late adopter to social media and I think that takes things to an even higher level of what we see and the ‘perfect lives’ that everyone else seems to have.

However, even if we can get past the impossible desire for ‘perfection’, then the clothes we wear definitely play a huge part of our body confidence. I always tell this story to some up what I mean by this.

A very loyal customer of Distinctively Me really hated her bum when we first met her. She’s a very attractive lady with gorgeous curves but that’s not how she used to feel. She is about 5 feet tall and a very curvy hourglass shape but the clothes she tried on didn’t make her feel like that. Her hips and bum are proportionately wider than her waist so whenever she bought clothes to fit her hips, they would be way too big on her waist, and as she was shorter than the average UK women once she had clothes taken up all the shape was lost. She hated the fact that she felt like SpongeBob SquarePants (her words not mine!). Even her young sons would say “we hope we don’t have your bum when we get older!”

We made her cigarette trousers, flares and pencil skirts, all to accentuate her curves and fit in the right places. You can imagine how I felt when she relayed a story from her holiday. She had worn her pencil skirt for an evening out, and as she crossed the foyer of the hotel, the concierge called out –“Mrs C you look amazing tonight” – she had never had someone tell her that she looked fabulous before, and she probably grew about 2 inches that night. But, the icing on the cake for her was when her sons turned to her when seeing her in her new clothes and said: “maybe your bums not that bad after all mum”. Her body image has transformed since she has been wearing clothes that accentuate her body and fit her perfectly.

Your label is passionate about finding the ‘perfect fit’ for women. Why is that so important?



I started my label from a personal frustration of having uncomfortable clothes, but over the last few years, I’ve realised ill-fitting clothes are a much bigger issue for lots of women. The findings of our survey were even more compelling than I had imagined with only 7% of women finding trousers to fit and even for jackets, skirts and dresses, it was only about 20%. This means most of us are just making do! Certainly, we have found that if you are smaller, taller or curvier then the issues are even more compelling.

Our survey also told us that as we get older, whilst we don’t want to dress old, we would prefer to cover certain parts of our bodies in a different way to when we are young. The main areas being upper arms, tummies and knees.

I am passionate about offering women, beautifully made, perfectly fitting clothes whatever their age or shape.

What’s your stance on fast fashion and how are you as a label tackling this issue?


I had no appreciation of the impact fast fashion had on us as individuals, or the planet until I launched Distinctively Me. I think this has been the case for most of us until very recently.

I have bought the latest piece for the lowest price for many a year and it’s only now that I think there must be another way, but as we know things rarely change overnight.

Just looking at the stats help me to realise that things have to change. Did you know that on average, we only regularly wear half of the clothes we buy, we spend over a quarter of an hour each morning deciding what to wear and scarily 62% of women admit to having experienced ‘wardrobe rage’?! Most of this happens because we buy on a whim rather than making considered purchases.

My buying habits have changed significantly – I think through the following now:

Does this style flatter me?
Do I love this rather than like it?
Can I wear it on at least 3 different occasions and with 3 other things in my wardrobe?

Next time you try something on as yourself those questions. You’ll be surprised how many items go back on the rail!

The recent Stacey Dooley Investigates programme highlighted the impact that fast fashion is having on our planet. Who would have thought that the fashion industry is one of the top 5 most polluting industries in the world – alongside the oil industry? Scary stuff. Fashion isn’t as fluffy as many people thought.

Research shows that in the UK we get rid of about 680 million items just doing our Spring clean out and about 235 million of these items end up in landfill. This is happening every Spring!

I also read recently that it has been estimated that there are 20 new garments manufactured per person each year and we are buying 60% more than we were in 2000. Each garment is worn less before being disposed of and this shorter lifespan means higher relative manufacturing emissions. It’s clear that this is not sustainable.

Distinctively Me, offers timelessly, elegant pieces which are the staple items of any capsule wardrobe. We make clothes that fit perfectly, will never date, can be worn in different ways and on different occasions and we offer a choice of colours and finishes. We embrace the philosophy of buying less and buying better.

Talk us through the Distinctively Me range and you work as a made to measure service



Our range is made up of the staple items for a capsule wardrobe and we have created options of each that will flatter all body shapes, so have the following:-

Boucle / Tweed jacket – long line or biker
Blazer – shorter with shawl collar or long & lean
Cigarette trouser – flat front with side or front zip with pleated front
Straight leg trouser – flat front with side or front zip with pleated front
Flare trouser – flat front with side or front zip with pleated front
Pencil skirt
Leather skirt

We believe all of these pieces are classic and timeless so that you can wear them for any occasion and will look great now and just as great in the years to come.

We offer the client a choice of quality fabrics, be that a viscose fabric (with stretch which is great for everyday wear) or the finest pure wool which makes the most perfect trousers and blazers and almost feels like silk. We also have an enormous range of colours in velvet, leather and silk.

Clients can personalise their choices too – lace or leather collar on a blazer, leather trim on a boucle jacket, beading on the hem of cigarette trousers – whatever works for their wardrobe. We know that most women have never experienced a made to measure service before – I hadn’t either, so we have developed our service to take out the awkwardness that women might think they would feel.

We have samples made up of each of the styles in each of our sizes. Clients change into the size closest to their size in our lovely changing room. We then pin the sample to get the perfect fit and we take some key measurements.

We love nothing better than getting the feedback from our customers at Distinctively Me who tell us that rather than feeling daunting or uncomfortable it is like being pampered on a spa day, and they feel really special. What could be better?!

*Collaborative post
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12 comments

  1. It's been lovely to find out a bit more about Jill - I find anyone who runs a business very inspiring :)

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  2. I love the distinction made here between fashion, and style. It's so very true.

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  3. Jill is such an inspiration, I love that she started her business in her 50's. Kaz

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  4. This was a really interesting read - I totally agree that finding clothes that fit and suit you properly can definitely make you feel inches taller!

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    1. So many people don't fit into 'off the peg' clothes.

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  5. Interviews always make for an interesting read. The right fit with fashion is a must and makes a massive difference to how you look and feel xx

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  6. This was very interesting to see and highlight the issues that women face, whether it is to do with our style of clothes, how we image ourselves and most of all the issues we face over clothing sizing. I've brought so many clothes that just don't fit so to get a brand that not only uses quality material but gives the consumer the confidence in the right piece of clothing and knows it fits well

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    1. Thanks for your comment Kirsty. It makes for very interesting reading doesn't it?

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  7. I am not a fashion fan, at all! Which I understand makes me one of a few! But, I do see how certain fashions to make you feel more confident about yourself etc.

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  8. What an inspirational lady. I love finding more about the person behind the brand.

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