13 February 2023

The UEA graduate shaping the fashion industry

Rebecca Brown at Dancing Leopard
Rebecca at Dancing Leopard

Rebecca Brown studied English literature at UEA from 2011 to 2014 and since then has been working as a conceptual copywriter in creative marketing. Rebecca is currently the brand marketing manager of fashion brand Dancing Leopard and was recently recognised as one of the 30 under-30 individuals shaping the fashion industry in 2023 by Drapers.

English literature [at UEA] encourages you to think conceptually and that is the most important thing I have taken into my career.

Did you always have an ambition to be a writer, or were you particularly focussed on being in the fashion industry?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer of some description, and that was what I was most sure about. However, I’ve always been very interested in the fashion industry. I did consider doing a fashion degree, but I’ve always wanted to be a writer, so I chose English Literature. 

However, while I was at UEA I did various fashion internships and work experience placements, so I was also building up contacts and experience in the industry. I then wanted to bring both elements together and I began to look for writing jobs in fashion.

How did the fashion work placements come about and how easy were they to get?

It was actually fairly straightforward. I did a Google search for fashion companies looking for interns in London.

I also used Fashion Workie – a regular newsletter that will send you jobs and internships in the fashion industry. I offered to help during holidays and generally speaking the companies were very willing to have me there.

The placements were intense because I was studying and had essays to write over the holidays, alongside another part time job. 

What do you think you learned from those initial experiences? What did you learn about the industry?

In my first internship, the first thing I did was work at London Fashion Week - setting up shows, taking shows down, telling the models where they need to go. It was intimidating but an amazing experience and I was proud to muster up the courage to step into that world – self-confidence is hugely important.

When I was interning at PR agencies, you'd see people progress and move and it was interesting to see their career progression. That allowed me to gain a view of what my career journey could look like.

Rebecca after graduation with certificate

How did you transition into a full-time role after UEA?

I moved back in with my parents in Cambridgeshire. Cambridge is great for tech but not so good for fashion! So, I actually started by getting a marketing job at a tech company. That was great, though, because I still got a lot of marketing experience from that job, and I was doing copywriting and social media. However, I was always on the lookout for a fashion role and a copywriter role came up in a nearby city near enough for me to drive to.

It’s so rare that you walk straight into the right job for you, and, at the start of my career, I was just really happy to have a job. I was able to learn those basic marketing skills and I knew I was going in the right direction.

And how did you career develop from there?

I had my first role as a copywriter and then I got promoted to senior copywriter. I then moved to London and started working for a fashion brand called Oasis. They’re online-only now, but when I worked for them, they were a high street brand. I was a conceptual copywriter there and then I came to work at Dancing Leopard. 
At Dancing Leopard I was a senior copywriter and then a copy manager, and now I'm a brand marketing manager.

And do you still enjoy writing?

Yes and I've always loved it. When I was very young, I liked making up stories and journals and I enjoyed writing at UEA.

However, managing projects - conceptualising, putting a strategy together, watching things play out, and informing a brand identity adhering to a creative vision - is so satisfying. And it's just creative as the actual writing, but in a different way.

What did you take from your degree into your career?

It definitely made me stronger as a writer even if copywriting is very different to academic writing. English literature encourages you to think conceptually and that is the most important thing I have taken into my career.

What else did you take from your university experience?

At first, I found university challenging - being away from family and friends. However, pretty soon I met the most amazing people. I ended up living in a house with three other women who were all doing English degrees and it was great to talk about our essays, edit each other’s work and collaborate and brainstorm together.
It’s great to have a team like that at work- to be able to talk about your creative ideas,  and to be able to edit other people's work. think I was really lucky in that I was so close to these people who were also doing the same subject as me.

Bouncing ideas around is still the favourite part of my job, and I look back at that time with great fondness. 

And have you found it difficult to collaborate working remotely?

Our team talk all the time on Microsoft Teams and we have an ongoing Slack that we use for messaging as well. Voice notes have revolutionised the way that we do remote work because you can give feedback and really get across a tone of voice and add enthusiasm to your comments.

Rebecca at Dancing Leopard

How did the 30 under 30 recognition come about?

You can be recommended, but I actually nominated myself and just sent my own application forward. They have a lot of amazing talent represented and I was a little bit intimidated, but I thought, why not - I'll just give it a go. I wrote a cover letter on why I should be recognised and next thing I’d got an email to say I’d made the list!

And why do you think they chose you?

They commended me on strengthening the brand, which was fantastic because that’s the main component of my role and a big compliment for me personally. They also recognised the work I’d done on various sustainability projects – assisting with launching the first fully eco conscious collection and the sustainability specific tone guide.

I also worked on the sustainability mission statement – it was about saying it's very hard to be truly sustainable in the fashion industry, acknowledging that while making it transparent about what we're doing to try and be better. 

How did it feel to be recognised in this way?

Honestly, it was a real pinch me moment. I think I literally did. It was amazing because if you work in the industry Drapers are well known. I think my younger self would have been really proud of me – as my current self is!

What are your plans for the future?

I don't really have any big grand plans, to be honest. I absolutely love my job and I love working in creative marketing. I absolutely see myself staying in creative marketing. My ultimate goal is to be head of Brand one day.

I'd also love to write a bit more of my own creative writing outside of my job, but that feels a bit further away.

What advice would you give to students wanting to get into the fashion industry?

The fashion industry is very competitive and it never hurts to have that extra bit of industry experience. Whether that’s an internship or just a few weeks’ work experience, try to get an understanding of the industry from the inside. I got a PR placement - I knew I probably didn't want to work in PR ultimately, but it gave me a good insight into the industry and made it clearer to me what sort of role I did want.

LCR hands coming together
Night at the LCR

What are you favourite memories of UEA?

I loved having a campus bubble where all the students are. You’ve got everything there for you. You’d bump into friends on LCR nights, in the library, or around the lake. It was a real home away from home. I really loved everything being in one place.

Rebecca studied English Literature at UEA.