Tara Ryan

Tara Ryan-Head of Kidswear Design,  Marks & Spencer

Spanning a career of over 20 years, Tara has worked for a wide range of top brands including Pepe Jeans, Tommy Hilfiger, J. Crew, Whistles, Joules and Boden, and is currently  Head of Design for kidswear at Marks & Spencer.

I’ve worked with Tara for many years and admire her leadership skills, design expertise and passion she holds for the industry. Hopefully, this interview will give you a great insight into her role for one of the UK’s larger retailers.

Can you tell us when and how you got into the fashion industry?
Inspired by my auntie, who’s boutique I worked in as a child in Spain, I decided by 7 years old I wanted to design clothes. I got my A Levels and went on to study fashion at Epsom School of Art and Kingston University.

What was it like working for fashion brands in the U.S.?
Fabulous! I worked hard and played hard. The energy of living and working in NY was addictive. Whilst I was there, I had the opportunity to work at Pepe Jeans, Tommy Hilfiger and J. Crew. I worked with great people who shaped the way I work now.

Can you tell us what you are currently responsible for as head of kidswear design for Marks & Spencer?
The M&S Kids range is very broad so I’m responsible for lots of very different areas from Babywear to Older Children, Footwear, Underwear, Nightwear, Schoolwear and even Toys and Books.

What’s your average day like for a head of design for one of the UK largest retailers?
My schedule is very busy. I’m an early starter and I have a family so like to be home for their bedtime. Most days are spent reviewing products for next year and working with the marketing teams on how we sell the great product that we offer in-store and online. Print is a focus for me, so I spend as much time as I can working with our talented print designers.

What’s your favourite part of your job?
Seeing children in our clothes!

With sustainability being key on everyone engender, where can you see the future with larger retailers?
It is important to recognise the importance of closed-loop manufacturing (recycling and reusing clothes) It’s high on the agenda of both luxury and high street brands. At M&S, our Plan A team are working towards the 20 new commitments we have made towards sustainability by 2025.

What if, suppliers could use their offcuts of sustainable fabrics and pass this on to fashion University & colleges, to educate students early and prepare them for a more sustainable design future?
I believe any partnership between fashion schools and retail is a good one and each learns from the other. Sustainability is key to the future of fashion retail and manufacturing, so the reuse of materials is always positive.

What would be your key advice to anyone trying to break into the fashion industry?
To work hard and listen more than you talk.