Deborah Spencer, 35, is a genuine female entrepreneur. designjunction, her innovative design event launched in 2011. This year’s show, which opens on Wednesday, is expecting 30,000 visitors across four days. Deborah admits that she was not particularly academic at school; she didn’t think she was good enough to succeed and consequently worked harder than everyone else. This hard work and determination is now paying dividends. Having started her career in events, Deborah helped to the launch Selfridges‘ home department, as well as British design brand Tom Dixon.
You’re a young, female entrepreneur; from where did you find the drive and inspiration to go it alone? My grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit must be in my DNA. Cyril Spencer turned our family business, Evans, into an incredibly profitable company which was acquired in the 1970’s by the Burton Group. I watched him expand the business to include outlets such as Topshop, Topman and Dorothy Perkins under the Burton Group umbrella. I am inspired by people who have started their own business and have had the courage and conviction to succeed. I spend a lot of my spare time reading life stories of entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Duncan Bannatyne, Deborah Meaden, and the women behind Notonthehighstreet.com – a very inspiring story. My drive comes from a passion for art and design. Growing up this is all I was ever interested in. I have been incredibly lucky to have turned my passion into a full time job. The turning point was when I launched the acclaimed DOCK event at Portobello Dock while working for Tom Dixon. I always wanted to run my own show and felt the time was right to move on. In 2010, I launched the Tramshed exhibition before establishing designjunction in 2011.
What do you love about the design industry? It’s so creative, dynamic and accessible. The things that you can do and see within design is endless and constantly evolving. Plus, there is this fascinating cross fertilisation of creativity and artistry, which impacts on every aspect of life – architecture, workplace and the home.
Sexism: have you encountered it? The design industry is pretty democratic – there are equal opportunities in professions such as product design, interiors design and accessories. I am in good female company – there are a lot of entrepreneurial women, and others in senior management positions across the industry, so sexism or chauvinism is not an issue.
What is your vision for this year’s designjunction event? What are you hoping to achieve and how have you gone about setting its tone, look and feel? Our vision has always been to break the mould of the traditional trade show by taking over challenging industrial spaces, presenting design in a more inspiring light. This year we are occupying two incredible new venues – The College, formerly Central Saint Martins design school and Victoria House. At The College, leading international brands will exhibit across multiple floors encouraging visitors to re discover the old design school. Victoria House, will be a concentrated retail space – with a mix of small boutique shops and larger stores than can’t be found on the high street. Visitors can also enjoy delectable food offerings across the sites from Le Bun and Grain Store to bespoke cocktails from Zetter Town House. It’s all about discovery this year and experiencing good design as well as good food, shopping and entertainment – all things design related.
You’ve somehow blended the spheres of consumer and trade; what’s your secret? designjunction is all encompassing, offering something for everyone. Visitors, whether trade or consumer can expect to find some of the world’s leading international design brands exhibiting alongside new emerging talent; a replica tube station constructed from wood, inspirational installations in unexpected spaces, tantalising street food, flash factories bringing the process of production to life, as well as pop up shops selling their wares. It is only at an event like designjunction that you get to see, compare and contrast these remarkable brands.
Do you enjoy getting dressed for your job, what do you wear and how do good clothes make you feel? I think it’s important to project a professional image. My personal style in smart/casual and relaxed. Depending on how busy I am will impact on whether I am able to focus on what I wear. At the moment it’s more important to get into work on time and get on with the day. During calmer periods I like to make the effort. My classic combination is a pair of jeans, a smart top and a blazer – I feel comfortable, smart and most importantly like me.
Success: what did it mean when you launched and does it mean to you today? Success at the start was about brand positioning – getting recognised within the industry and helping to promote other brands. Success today is about working with people I like, going to work because I enjoy it, helping brands to achieve their objectives – and of course to make money.