My lightbulb moment: Fashion brand founder Nayna McIntosh reveals the inspiration behind her boutique business

  • Nayna McIntosh, 57, gave up a job at Marks & Spencer to launch a fashion brand
  • She  decided to design a collection of stylish clothes for real body shapes
  • Although Hope helps women to disguise their least favourite areas, she says her light bulb moment was sizing 

Nayna McIntosh, 57, gave up a high-powered job at Marks & Spencer to launch Hope Fashion in 2015. She lives in Oxfordshire with her accountant husband, Harvey, and their children, aged 18 and 16.

I joke that I launched Hope during my ‘me-ternity leave’. I was in Jamaica, sipping a G&T, watching the sun go down, when I turned to my husband and said: ‘I don’t want to do my job any more.’ He nearly fell off his chair.

But I’d been working for 30 years and bringing up my kids. I needed a break. So, when we returned home to London, I handed in my notice at Marks & Spencer and left in August 2013.

Hitting 50 was a landmark — I wanted to do something for myself and decided to design a collection of wearable, stylish clothes made from quality fabrics, created for real body shapes and proportions.

Nayna McIntosh, 57, gave up a high-powered job at Marks & Spencer to launch Hope Fashion in 2015

Nayna McIntosh, 57, gave up a high-powered job at Marks & Spencer to launch Hope Fashion in 2015

Nayna McIntosh, 57, gave up a high-powered job at Marks & Spencer to launch Hope Fashion in 2015

I knew that the 40-plus customer was feeling increasingly alienated by the High Street. Of course, giving up a six-figure salary was terrifying. 

I’d joined M&S as a Saturday girl aged 16, then got a place on its management training programme before moving on to Next, where I worked with retailer George Davies.

I rejoined M&S and helped George launch Per Una in 2001. Four years later, I became a director — one of only three women on a 12-strong management board.

After I left, I spent a year reading about starting a business. I discovered that women over 45 are ignored, though they make up half of all sales.

Knit, £94.50, hopefashion.co.uk

Knit, £94.50, hopefashion.co.uk

Knit, £94.50, hopefashion.co.uk

I called my new online start-up Hope, my mother’s and my daughter’s name. It’s what my maternal grandfather would have had in his heart when he left Jamaica to create a new life for his family here in the UK.

Although Hope helps women to disguise their least favourite areas, my light bulb moment was sizing. 

Instead of numbers, we offer super slim, dual slim, slim, curvy, dual curvy and super curvy, because I’m yet to meet a woman who likes being called ‘extra large’.

We have doubled our revenues over the past two years, and 34 per cent of customers purchase from us over and over again.

Best of all, I’m now around more for my children, rather than leaving before they’re awake. 

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