This petite, doe-eyed mother of three doesn’t immediately evoke Anna Wintour’s visionary insight or Margaret Thatcher’s iron will, but give it five minutes and it’s clear that Jane Lewis, Founder of Goat, embodies both…and more.
Suffering no fools and ignoring the bull****, Lewis stays her own course. This trait is her business’s key asset and she knows how to werk it. Over 16 years she has built a loyal community of powerful, clever women including Kate Middleton, Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sienna Miller. As brands jostle for the limelight Goat’s following grows simply by word of mouth.
We don’t actively court celebrity press because part of the cornerstone of Goat and our ethos is discretion. We take a step back and let people come to us. Being discrete is much more cool.
“Hilariously, I can’t sew” she explains. Lewis started her career with British fashion designer, Elspeth Gibson with no formal training, learning from the best on the job. Two years later she launched Goat with one clear goal: to put the kibosh on our daily “I-have-nothing-to-wear” skirmish. “I wanted to create an edited collection of elusive key basics which we rely on. A clever capsule wardrobe will save you time and take away needless aggravation”, she says. And in one fell swoop Goat liberated the modern woman from hours agonising in front of the mirror.
What I love most about Lewis is her refreshing honesty, particularly when it comes to “having it all” – the career, family, children, blah, blah, blah. She says,
I can’t bear it when people tell me they do everything themselves – it really annoys me when they pretend to be able to do it all like Wonder Woman because it sets everyone else up to fail.
On a chilly winter’s morning in London Lewis shared her unfiltered take on life as an entrepreneur.
OK, finish this sentence: A working wardrobe is essential because…
…you always have something to fall back on and you won’t risk being boring.
Always have a silk shirt in black and cream, a well tailored coat and an excellent pair of trousers. Accessorise to bring a different flavour to your wardrobe each season.
How do you build a wardrobe which plays to your own sense of style?
My mantra is style over fashion. Always.
Don’t get professional help: you need to be honest with yourself. It’s all about identifying something which resonates with your personality. So, first have a good look at your closet. Pick out the pieces which make you feel most comfortable – perhaps you prefer wearing trousers or figure hugging clothes. It could be a piece of jewellery, a hairstyle or even make-up. This one aspect of your look will be your cornerstone. Then, slowly build on it. You can’t hurry style; it takes time to evolve.
Does Goat stand for “Greatest Of All Time”?
Haha, no! Originally we made clothes with wool spun cashmere and wool comes from goats. Plus, it’s short and snappy. It could also stand for ‘Get One Amazing Thing’.
You have a kickass group of devoted followers – how would you describe the Goat community?
We are absolutely thrilled that it has grown with integrity over time. Our customer is loyal and very much invested in our company. They might start off buying one piece and then promptly return for a coat, trousers, and a top. They often buy pieces for special occasions like a civil wedding dress. It’s lovely to be a part of these special occasions.
If the Prime Minister, Theresa May came into your new flagship store what would you recommend she buy?
I would encourage her to get a few handy basics including a couple of silk blouses and a Redgrave coat.
Do you think the ‘Kate Middleton Effect’ helped Goat’s launch in the U.S.?
Yes. The Duchess of Cambridge is recognised world-wide and has enormous press power. She has been a fabulous ambassador for Goat and the U.S. is very interested in the British Monarchy – it is a curiosity for them.
I don’t want to knock on anyone’s door and I don’t have to.
Celebrity/brand collaborations offer huge exposure but Goat doesn’t seem to play this ‘game’. What’s your take?
We work with a press office and we loan garments to people but we don’t actively court celebrity press. I believe it is much more stylish and cool to take a step back. People come to us, I don’t want to knock on anyone’s door and I don’t have to. We are very proud to be known as a discrete company. Everyone wants to be in on a fashion secret, right?
Is this press strategy a reflection of your own world view?
Yes, I am low key. In this day and age people are frantically pursuing notoriety and celebrity status, but it’s not for me.
What career advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
I would tell my 18-year-old self not to launch a fashion business!
I can read clothes like someone reads music but I can’t sew. So I’d suggest she learn to sew and enroll in a pattern cutting course.
No business is plain sailing: there are always bumps in the road. It’s not what those bumps are which determine your success, it’s how you navigate them.
What quality do you think you need to be a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman?
Have a good work ethic. Be fearless and brave because there will be set backs and put downs. You need to be able to brush yourself off.
How would you describe your own style?
I have a clean, minimalist look. I wear a lot of black and white and always accessorise with gold hoop earrings. For everyday, I like a slick coat and tailored trousers paired with old-school vintage trainers. This season I bought the Adidas Samba Super Retro in white and black.
Children, business, pets, husbands, life etc. you know the drill – how do you make it all happen without going loopy?
Honestly, I feel privileged to work for myself and the flexibility which comes with it but I don’t do it alone. That would be impossible. I juggle everything with wonderful help from my nanny.
If you weren’t heading up one of Britain’s leading fashion brands what would you be doing?
I would be a florist. The best florist.
If you could ask Jane Lewis of Goat one question, what would it be?
Elissa was gifted a dress by Goat post-interview. #sponsored