About the speaker

First I was afraid, I was petrified…. Or so goes the famous Gloria Gaynor song about survival. It is a sentiment that will feel familiar to anyone started in business whose planned vocation was and still is “design”. Designer Clare Bowden was youthfully unafraid and naïve to the toil and commitment of retailing her own wares when she co-founded the menswear store and label Mandatory in 1997.

Celebrating 20 years in business this month, Clare knows a thing or two about what it takes to survive in a tough industry. Clare is co-founder and designer of Mandatory and the Director of the whole operation. She started out managing the manufacturing of the duo’s designs and moved to the shop floor out of necessity during the GFC, often coordinating manufacturing at night to keep the ship upright. Good things came of the change.

These days she buys cloth, co-designs the range, and coordinates the manufacturing schedule while working alongside the managers of both sites. She is responsible for some of the longest selling designs in the store. She handles the trickiest of suiting, casual fittings, and draft patterns. Clare also consults on wardrobes for busy men. She keeps regular weekly shifts on the shop floor and works hard to be the great boss she is constantly praised as being.

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