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Dedicated to Design – “From Graduates to Garments” Jo Christmas talks about her passion and experience at Sports Direct.

Jo Christmas has been with us just over 10 years now, where she has worked her way from Graduate Competition Winner to Head of Design for Sports Direct. A position that has a very hands on Jo being instrumental in creating products that are worn by millions across the UK and Europe. She is deeply involved with over 50 global brands and works closely with her team to ensure they are as organised, involved and hands on as she is.

When asked what attracted her to Sports Direct, Jo remembered that even as a student she was adamant that she wanted to work in a more commercial environment;

“I knew I didn’t want to work in high end fashion, I wanted to design for real people and make products that would be accessible to everyone.”

This way of thinking allowed Jo to have the High Street as her catwalk and see the fruits of her labour on a daily basis.

Since winning the competition in 2006, Jo moved into a placement role before becoming a permanent employee within the company. She has gone from strength to strength in the department bringing passion to every role. Over the Last four years Jo has overseen every project, as Head of Design.

“The exciting challenge for me when designing for a retailer, is to meet the demands of the brief in a way that maintains quality and affordability. This is the core ethos of the department and the company.”
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Due to her continued involvement with graduate projects set by the company or led by Jo herself, If someone mentions graduates around the office Jo’s name will undoubtedly pop up. These projects are to encourage 3rd year Fashion Design students to use their creativity to produce inspirational designs that fit with a selected brand. The prize for being successful is a 3 month paid placement at the Sports Direct Head Office, where the opportunity is available to work closely with the Brands to bring their ideas to market.

“ Since I was successful on graduate scheme, I have felt very strongly about keeping it running as a way to give new talent the same opportunity. We have had lots of success with the scheme over the last 8 years with many winners being hired after the placement ends.”

Recently Jo has also started a similar scheme for 2nd years which is more structured around their curriculum. As part of the scheme the students have to work to a rigid design brief and create 3 items of clothing to satisfy the needs of the customer; in this case the customer is Jo herself.

“I feel that with the 2nd years the scheme gives them an invaluable insight into what it is like working within the industry. They learn to recognise the limitations of design, when to be creative and when to be realistic in order to please a customer.”

When asked about career highlights, Jo said without question her favourite campaign & range was Firetrap Sports Luxe.

“Working on Sports Luxe allowed us a lot of freedom to be creative, as it was something completely new for the brand.”

Jo was invited to attend one of the annually held all-expenses paid ski trips, to the exclusive Verbier resort in the Swiss Alps.
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“Working at Sports Direct is great, it’s the perfect place to start your career. The company is very open to change and will evaluate everybody’s opinion. This means it doesn’t matter if you have been here for ten years or you have just graduated. In our department we work as a team in order to produce the best results. Everybody has a voice and a chance to contribute to the success of the company.”

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