Gemma Leslie has a strategic brain, balanced by a creative heart. It’s easy to see why working for Lucy Folk, a local brand with a global following that is constantly pushing the boundaries of design and retail, is the perfect place for these skills to flourish.
As a ‘super hands-on learner’, Gemma decided to pursue TAFE out of high school, where she applied for a Diploma of Business and Public Relations. It was here she figured out that the creative side of things was more her jam (although, her Mum already knew that, when Gemma started making fake IDs for the family dog at age 10 – more on that later!).
Halfway through the course she wrote a ‘spontaneous’ application to go study abroad – ‘I wanted to go literally anywhere’, Gemma says! Her ‘anywhere’ turned out to be Calgary in Canada, where she studied Journalism with a major in Photography. When Gemma came home, she was hungry for more creativity, and went on to study a Bachelor of Communications majoring in Design – a course that gave her ‘the knowledge and tools to achieve my dream of working as a graphic designer specialising in the fashion industry’.
Since then, Gemma has gone on to intern and work at some major fashion and lifestyle brands – her impressive resume includes FAT, Handsom, Búl, Modern Times, Manon bis, and even the launch of her own French bed linen label, Scottie Store.
But it’s in her current role that Gemma has found her Dream Job – where creativity, kindness, and an honest passion for all things Lucy Folk drives her day-to-day!
The most important verb in the get-your-dream-job-lexicon is…
I landed this job by…
There’s no romantic story here. I applied for the Lucy Folk role on a whim following a conversation with a friend who had worked there. I wasn’t even really looking for a role, but I went through the application and interview process for an E-commerce Coordinator role. The more I learned about the brand, the more I felt drawn to it. Lucy Folk herself actually did my second-round interview – it was a bit random because it was in the back courtyard of a record store in Collingwood! I was on my lunch break and it was a 45-degree summer day.
I started a couple of weeks later, and spent two years in this role before being promoted. I was fortunate enough to be offered the Marketing Manager position a year ago and whilst it’s been a huge learning curve so far, it’s been truly amazing.
A typical day for me involves…
I have no morning rituals. My partner, Mike, would tell you that a typical day begins with me asking him to put the coffee on while I decide what to wear. I never know how I’m going to feel in the morning, so I don’t choose an outfit until I rise – it drives him mad.
Typical isn’t a word anyone should associate with Lucy Folk! Our CEO, Di Laws, and Creative Director Lucy challenge us to think about how we can better connect with our customers through communications, our product and customer service both in-store and online, and generally, to think differently!
Some days I try and get to our beautiful store at Crossley Street, it’s always great to start the day with a Pellegrini’s espresso – I enjoy the theatre of it! For most other days, it starts at our Head Office. The first thing I do is make a coffee for our jewellers – I do the rounds, walk through The Salon, have a few meetings here and there (or sometimes not!,) and cover the lunch break in the Lucy Folk Salon on Thursdays.
As marketing manager, I am usually across several different projects at one time. The only constant is ensuring I am connected across the entire Lucy Folk team, so that I understand what our customers want and how best we coordinate our product and campaign launches.
The most rewarding part of my job is…
I love seeing how our customers react to what we do. So many of them are genuinely excited when we launch a new product or campaign. Knowing that I contribute to making customers feel excited and happy while developing a connection with the Lucy Folk brand, is rewarding.
I also love the story behind our products. It’s amazing to work for a company that enables so many artisans across the world to make the things they do – from the handwoven clothes in Morocco, to our eyewear in Italy, and beautiful jewels here in Melbourne.
And lastly, the learning curve. I feel like I have worked through a degree in the past year!
On the other hand, the most challenging part is…
Strangely this is linked to another rewarding aspect. Being a small to medium-sized business, you’re required to undertake lots of different roles and learn a lot of different skills. From managing people and budgets to developing brand loyalty, there’s no shortage of things to do.
The biggest challenge I face is balancing all of these things while trying to push the boundaries creatively.
The culture of my workplace is…
On show for everyone to see.
You see it in our product, our campaigns and in our stores. We have fun. There’s a big emphasis on enjoying coming to work.
What makes Lucy Folk a special place is the passion the team has for the brand. We’re all devotees – we love Lucy’s vision and style. She’s so talented!
Lucy and Di [Lucy Folk’s CEO] are always challenging us to think outside the box. Balanced with that is a focus on discipline – making sure we all understand how the business operates and what it takes to keep being successful.
When I was younger I wanted to be…
I had to ask my Mum this question … she said that I wanted to be lots of things. In my memory, I just wanted to be what my older brothers wanted to be (a basketball player). But she knew I was heading down a creative path when I was making beautifully designed fake IDs for my dog, designing and painting my room half sunflower yellow and half-burnt orange, ripping up the carpet and sanding the floorboards myself – and I was only 10 years old.
I think the highlight of my junior graphic design career was designing my school yearbook in grade 1.
The best piece of advice I’ve received is…
I tend to focus more on behaviours and role models rather than advice.
The biggest impression that’s been left on me is the importance of respecting and helping others, even when you don’t feel you have the time or headspace to do so. I think it’s important to be kind and to help others. That rubs off on people and makes for a more accepting world (and workplace).
That said, if I were to choose a piece of advice it would be, ‘it’s what you do next’, which is some advice that our CEO Di gives me daily. Whether it be in business, or even just your personal life.
Over the years, Lucy Folk has evolved by…
The business has matured and become more focussed. Importantly the culture has evolved with that. It’s not like we’ve become serious, but we have become more disciplined. I love that. We now have the best of both worlds – we get to have fun, be super creative and be part of an exciting, growing business.
We’re still a small business, and we want to focus on doing things differently and doing them well. The landscape of retail has changed, so we are working hard to adapt and change with it along the way. Our mantra is ‘Be the Change’.
In the next five years, I’d like to..
There is so much! I have so many things to learn and achieve in a professional environment. I learn through the experience of getting my hands dirty, pushing the boundaries and most of all working with others. I’m excited about the idea of that … and I hope to learn new tricks, new lessons along the way.
Apart from developing professionally, I think it’s SO important for me to develop creativity in my personal life. Travel more, see more, read more, meet new faces, less screen time (unless it’s a movie!), more doing time!