Just in time for Christmas, our editor Cathy caught up with NI export and super creative Gemma Baudeville who looks after some of the most chic shopping windows across the world… Harrods? Check. Dior? Check, check, check!
Gemma, tell us a little about yourself:
I’m Gemma, 34 years old and living in London. I’m very single (it’s impossible to meet men in this city!) but like it that way.
I grew up in Belfast and then Newtownards, in a naturally creative family, (we get it from my mum), I have always been very committed to anything fashion - making quite a few bad sartorial decisions in my time! Right now I am Head of Creative Retail for Millington Associates – a design and production company in London specialising in creating brand experiences – creative moments to inspire consumers. We work with the world’s biggest brands, Nike and Burberry are two of our biggest clients and I personally manage the likes of Harrods and Christian Dior.
Where did you go to school/uni?
I went to Our Lady and St Patrick’s College in Belfast, and dramatically decided uni wasn’t for me 1 week before I was due to start. I had fallen out of love with Art at that point and the way it is taught in the curriculum. I don’t feel as though the opportunities in creative careers are discussed as widely as they should be and I found it all too traditional.
Where do you live now?
I moved to London to pursue a dream 6 years ago, that dream was simply to make something of myself that my parents and I could be proud of and to wake up every morning wanting to go to work! I am living my dream now and loving it. And am glad to show that university isn’t always the path.
Tell us the career path - what took you to where you are now?
I went from job to job trying to find my way, anything from a phone shop, a fashion retailer, to a bank, learning customer service as I went.
An old friend and previous manager called me to ask me to apply for Apple and that’s where my understanding of superbrands really developed. Living and breathing their ethos everyday was invaluable to what I do now, applying myself to a brand’s mindset. I never did it for the technology- I admire Apple and how they have made their mark.
I took the opportunity to move to London and I haven’t looked back - ready to forge my way back into a creative career, I spoke with various recruiters and kept turning down interviews in I.T. and finance until I landed in my dream role @ Millington Associates. I do genuinely believe the stars aligned for me somewhere and my graft was recognised. After 3.5 years at Millingtons, I am now Head of Department and sit on the Board of Directors – it can happen if you commit!
Any highs or lows in there?
So many! I wasn’t a traditional student, I guess I was a bit of a rebel in the eyes of my teachers as I didn’t want to follow the career paths they suggested for me. I had no one to turn to for advice on achieving ‘crazy’ dreams like becoming a textile designer or working in window creation. When I ditched Uni I felt like I was letting everyone down.
I do now think there was a path for me, I had to learn lessons along the way before I was ready for a job like I have now.
I think my proudest moment was standing on Hans Crescent outside Harrods this Christmas – it was 2am, pouring with rain, and I had just watched our Christmas Tree be lit up, our windows revealed, I had a pop up being installed for Dom Perignon and the grotto was knee deep in installation. It was 5 months of hard work but hey, did I achieve a dream come true!?
Advice for anyone new starting out in this area?
Study the brands you want to work with, learn their aesthetic, what makes them tick, what makes them unique. Contact production companies like ours and show your passion – a well written email and CV goes a long way. What can you do to make yourself stand out? Start as crew/ an assistant and work your way into the area you want to be.
No job is too big or too small for any of us, I’ve climbed in many a window to fix some snow and made 1000 cups of tea but I will say this: DON’T WORK FOR FREE - you are a creative and you deserve to be paid for your work.
Favourite creative project?
Working in collaboration with Harrods and the paper artist Zoe Bradley we created a chandelier to hang high above the heads of Harrods visitors for their ‘Social Butterflies’ campaign.
This is a complex and nerve wracking task but it was a joy to work on, Harrods are a super supportive client and Zoe is an amazing artist, because of Harrods fire regulations Zoe couldn’t complete the design in paper so they commissioned us to create her work for the very first time. It looked sensational!
Best Christmas window ever? Not necessarily your own projects? (Or top 5 if you cant narrow it down)
I may be biased but I think Dior Parfum @ Harrods nailed everything we love about Christmas this year. I could feel the excitement building when it was being built in our studios and when I see people taking photos and videos outside Harrods my heart gets fuzzy! [Cathy: And this is how we connected, I did just that and shared a video of the Dior j’adior window in Harrods on 30 November!]. The whimsical nature of using paper like structures, the glint of gold, movement in the London Eye and for me the subtle gifting aspect is what Christmas windows are all about, white is unforgiving so the finish had to be perfect. As a consumer I don’t want to take pictures of a window that feels product heavy, these windows perfected that- making the product a part of the magic. It evokes emotion in Londoners and visitors with the iconic buildings yet feels like that peaceful Christmas day in a city.
What are your top tips for decorating a chic home this Christmas?
Switch up your lights, add a few different size sets to really add magic. I have one set that twinkles and another that is static so it doesn’t feel as much like you are at a rave! The new style of little lights on a thread go a LONG way. I decorated huge blossom twigs with them to close in the living room and make it feel like a winter wonderland.
If you are doing a colour theme, keep pictures of your already purchased decorations on your phone to marry up the colours, I bought one bauble that was way too pink in haste so that’s gone to the back of the tree! Switch up tone, I have some coral in there and then paler champagne.
Buy a bauble every time you visit a new destination, your tree will be full of memories of good times and each decoration will tell a tale. I only started this recently but I am so excited for my tree in years to come. My parents’ tree gives us all that feeling of home due to the stories that hang from its branches.
I’m hosting my first Christmas dinner at my gaff this year, and my table dressing has sent me in to over drive! I’m mixing up the metals and using winter foliage with tiny fairytale touches- toadstools are my mums favourite! Antique pattern bowls balance the modern with the traditional and I absolutely hate a cracker! (The hat has never fit me!)
I learnt from my sister that eucalyptus makes a Christmas so fill your house with it, tie your napkins with a sprig and add it to the bows on your gifts. A few days before Christmas rinse your local florists of foliage and berries, add these into your tree for a really fresh look.
There you go guys - get ready to sparkle!
Merry Christmas, love Cathy xo