Ask the Expert: Gill Rushton, Senior Sales Executive
Gill Rushton is the Senior Sales Executive for Ceremonial, Military and Costume fabrics at AW Hainsworth. In the lead up to the King’s Coronation earlier this year, Gill was busier than ever ensuring that our ceremonial uniform fabrics were woven, dyed, and shipped in time to be worn by the royal guardsmen. We spoke to Gill about her time at Hainsworth and what she’s learned from working with such prestigious customers.
When did you first start working at AW Hainsworth?
I began working here in 1992 after finishing a degree in Textile Marketing. Initially I was on a 6-month placement to identify new market opportunities for ‘narrow fabrics’ – meaning the tapes and braids used to trim military uniforms. Those six months became a year, and aside from maternity leave I’ve been at Hainsworth ever since.
How did you become involved in Ceremonial and Military fabrics?
I gradually worked my way up from market research to become Marketing Manager, and then after doing this for a while decided I wanted to move into a sales role. In the early days I ran two divisions that have since been merged into the wider Hainsworth brand – Abimelech Hainsworth (cloth for non-ceremonial military uniforms) and Joshua Briggs (fabric for academic scarves and blazers).
I now manage sales for our Ceremonial, Military and Costume clients. There is quite a lot of crossover between these areas – a lot of period productions like The Crown and Les Misérables want their military costumers to look authentic, so I advise them on the best cloth to use.
I work closely with Kashket & Partners, the tailors that make ceremonial, parade and formalwear for militaries across the world, most famously the guardsmen at Buckingham Palace. Kashket played a big role in the Coronation, and we are very proud to work alongside them to create these iconic uniforms.
What would a typical day look like for you?
My morning usually starts with answering customer enquiries that have come through overnight, as our customers are located across the world in many different time zones. I might have requests for samples, questions to answer or new orders to put through to the mill. But ultimately every day is quite varied. I have to be responsive and reactive to any and all enquiries, keeping an open dialogue with customers while working with our production teams to make sure orders are completed in time.
In the manufacturing industry you can never plan your day with 100% accuracy because you never know what might crop up. The most important thing is that we’re there for our customers and remain open and honest with them.
What would your advice be to someone who wants to work in Sales?
I believe you get out of life what you put into it – you have to make an effort in order to reap the rewards. You have to be fairly flexible in this type of role because things can change so quickly in reaction to the wider world. You must be able to move with the times.
Friends ask me why I’ve worked at the same company for such a long time, but Hainsworth has evolved so much in the time I’ve been here. When I first joined customers would send orders by Telex or fax, and now it’s mostly through email or web enquiries – it’s changed phenomenally. Even though some of our fabrics are made using decades-old techniques the company has evolved around them, which I find really exciting.
What’s the best thing about working here?
I love seeing fabrics come through production, it gives me a real sense of pride. I like that I can track a product through the mill from start to finish and see the full manufacturing process, it’s quite special.
I enjoy working in a customer-facing role – I’m a people person, and I’ve built up some great relationships with customers over the years. I have some wonderful long-standing accounts who see us more as partners than suppliers, and they’re lovely to work with.
Do you have a favourite Hainsworth product?
I can’t choose just one! The tunic cloths are very special – we make them in scarlet and dark navy shades that are unique to the Ministry of Defence. Those are like the flagship product that I sell. And I would also have to say our Doeskin range of fabrics, which are used in mess dress and uniform trims. We make it in beautiful vibrant colours and it looks extraordinary.
Is there anything you’re particularly proud of?
I’m very proud to have been involved in creating moments of British history through my work in Ceremonial. I’ve worked on some extremely prestigious projects and had the chance to visit some very famous places through my work. Things like the Buckingham Palace guards and the Trooping of the Colour are something that my friends and family outside of the company all recognise and think of as special – it’s iconic.
What else interests you outside of work?
I love spending my free time with my friends and family – I have two grown-up sons who take up a lot of my time! I also like walking and being out in the fresh air – I’ve just completed the Kirklees Valley Circular route with a friend and now we want to train up for the Coast-to-Coast Walk.
See Gill at work with Kashket & Partners below: