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‘Meet The Quacker Team – Leslie Barham!’
by Patrick H. Hoy
Teamwork Makes The Dreamwork!
Patrick Hoy here – and I’m back with my next ‘Meet The Team’ blog! I’ve had so much fun already introducing you to Kristy, John & Susan! I know that you’ve enjoyed getting to know each of them better – and trust me, it’s been great for me as well! Even though I have the privilege and honor to work with all of our team members on a daily basis – and feel that I know them each really well – these ‘interviews’ that I’ve been doing with them, have really made me get to know them each better as well! And the more I get to know each of them, the more I KNOW that Jeanne Bice really knew what she was doing when she brought us all together!
The next team member I’m going to introduce you to had a big dilemma when she graduated from college…She really LOVED fashion and wanted to be a designer & merchandiser – but she also really LOVED the theatre and wanted to produce shows, events and performances. Upon graduation she had two separate, and incredible, job offers – one to work in the fashion industry – and one to work at a theater – what to do…what to do?! It wasn’t until years later that she found out that she could have worked for a company that would allow her to do BOTH of her passions - in the SAME job. That company was QVC – where she was able to finally combine her love of fashion - with her love of theater. You’re about to find out how that all came about – as I introduce you to our next wonderful team member!
Meet Leslie Barham!
I adore Leslie. There isn’t a thing about fashion she doesn’t know! I’ll never forget the time she spent with me before I appeared on QVC UK to present Quacker Factory for the first time. As you can imagine, I was a nervous wreck. Because I had known Jeanne for years when she was alive, I was pretty confident going on air and talking about all things Quacker Factory and all things Jeanne Bice. What I WASN’T so sure of was all things ‘women’s fashion’! Now I’m exaggerating a little here, but I don’t know if I could have told you the difference between a capri trouser and a pedal-pusher trouser – or a rhinestone and a diamanté back then! But straight to my rescue came Leslie! She spent hours and hours (and I mean HOURS!) with me to make sure that I was as good as the best when it came to crops, straight legs, sequins, embellishments – and everything else there was to know to make it through an hour on QVC – and I’ll forever be indebted to her for that. She not only shared her knowledge with me – but she also shared her sincere belief in me. There’s not a show, to this day, that goes by where I’m not thinking of all that she taught me. I know that Jeanne Bice is still blowing special kisses to Leslie for taking me under her wing.
I recently spent time with Leslie to ask her a few questions about herself so that you could all get to know her better. The one thing that was so obvious to me as I spoke with Leslie was how much she loved Jeanne Bice. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed putting it together for you!
Patrick: Leslie, please tell us about the jobs you do for Quacker Factory?
Leslie: As you know, we have two amazingly talented designers and artists – John & Diane – who work on our team. I work with them to make sure that we have not only a great selection each season of wonderful and new designs – but that within those designs, we also have the right mix of fabrics, cuts, styles, hem lengths, sleeve lengths, necklines, etc. – AND, that we have a fantastic mix of sequins, rhinestones, embroidery, etc. – after all, we want to make sure that our gals have a wonderful assortment of new items to add to their wardrobes each season. We would never want to give them the same thing year after year – and it’s part of my job to make sure that mix is right. We’re always trying to add new fashion elements to the brand – whether it be new hemlines, necklines, body styles or new ways to embellish – we want our girls to be surprised when they watch our shows! Once we agree internally on a new design that we want to present to our Buyer at QVC, that’s when I really take over. Up to this point, our designs have gone from our heads to our sketch pads – so it’s up to me to work with our production partners and give them all of the information they need to be able to make a prototype sample for each of these new and exciting designs – so that they can make an actual piece of clothing from the designs we’ve dreamt up. That first piece of clothing is what we call a ‘sample’. It’s not until we see that first sample that we can really tell if our designs are as good as we dreamed they would be. And since I have to work to get over 200 of these produced a year, you can just imagine how busy that keeps me!
Patrick: Here’s a picture of Leslie with John & Diane – and our wonderful Susan Bramley! (I think it’s clear to see in this picture that they are one FUN group of happy people!)
Patrick: Wow! That is a LOT of work – and 200+ is a lot of samples each year! I don’t know how you and your team can keep up with that many sequins, rhinestones and embellishments!
Leslie: It is – but it’s a lot of fun as well – especially when the sample arrives and we get to see what our creations look like for the first time!
Patrick: Here’s a picture of Leslie working with Susan & John to make sure she has all of the details right (colors of threads, sizes of different rhinestones, numbers of individual embellishments, etc.) before she meets with our production partners to get the samples made.
Patrick: Twice a year we have Strategy Meetings with the QVC fashion team where we show them all of the great designs – and share with them our ideas of show themes like the Cookie Exchange show – or the Christmas Tee Party show we introduced this year – and I know you play a big part in putting those Strategy Meetings together.
Leslie: I do – and it’s one of the favorite parts of my job! These meetings are so important because all of the senior executives from QVC are there – and they look to us to help come up with new and exciting ideas of how we want to show our items on air. As you said Patrick, these are the meetings when we are able to share with them all of our creative and fun ideas on how we think the shows that you and Angel do, should be produced. It’s also when we present to them our yearly slogans – such as ‘Designed To Shine’ – or ‘Catch The Quacker Spirit’! Jeanne used to LOVE these meetings – and it was great fun for me to work with her directly and come up with different themes for the meetings that she would love. Each of these meetings revolves around a theme of the designs we’ve done for that half of the year. As you know, we go WAY over the top when we’re setting these up! We’ve made special logo’d cups for every participant. We’ve had HUGE jars of candy! We’ve made videos. We’ve made customized favor/goodie bags for each executive. And we go CRAZY with our decorating! We’ve even had special choreography for our team members to dance to in these meetings!! As Jeanne would say – make it BIG – and make them remember you when you’ve left the room! It’s up to me to help make it fun, fun, FUN!!
Patrick: I’ve been to some of these – and you, Kristy, Susan and the whole team do such an incredible job! Here are some pictures of past Strategy Meetings – I think you can tell that Leslie LOVES putting these together – just look at the decorations! Can you just imagine what the QVC executives think when they walk into the room?!
Patrick: When did you start working with Quacker Factory?
Leslie: In 1999. Before I started working with Quacker Factory, I actually worked for QVC. I was the original Buyer for Denim & Co. when it first launched in the mid 1990’s. Susan Bramley was the Denim & Co. Planner, so we not only were good friends, but we worked together as well! When Quacker Factory started to really grow at the end of the 1990’s, Susan was Jeanne’s - and Quacker Factory’s - biggest fan at QVC – she really understood the brand – and what Jeanne had set out to do. At that time, QVC wanted more product from Jeanne – and Susan asked me if I could help Quacker Factory ramp up it’s production because QVC wanted more of Jeanne’s products on air every month. I was able to help them come up with some ways of working with some wonderful production partners whom I knew. It was a success – and afterwards, every time Jeanne would see me at QVC, she would always thank me for helping her with her production needs at a time they really needed that help. A few years later QVC asked Jeanne if she could make enough product to do a full-hour show. As everyone read in your Meet The Team blog last month about Susan, that’s when Jeanne asked Susan and I to work directly with her at Quacker Factory. This meant leaving QVC – which was a company that I LOVED working for – but I just KNEW that Quacker Factory was really going to take off – so like Susan, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of that exciting growth – and I’ve never looked back!
Patrick: I love that story – and I just love this picture of you, Susan & Jeanne when you all first started working together. I don’t think any of our viewers have ever seen this beautiful picture of the three of you!
Patrick: What did you do before you worked for QVC and Quacker Factory?
Leslie: I was a Buyer at a big department store in Pittsburgh – where I’m from. It was for the Liz Claiborne area.
Patrick: Where did you go to school?
Leslie: I went to a wonderful liberal arts school outside of Pittsburgh called Washington & Jefferson College – it’s the 11th oldest co-ed college in the nation. I majored in Business with a minor in Psychology – and I had a real passion for the Theater Arts program. I was in as many shows as I could be in – and if I wasn’t in the show, I was helping produce, direct or stage a lot of them!
Patrick: Here’s a picture of Leslie in one of those shows – can you guess what musical this is?!
Leslie: When I was about to graduate, I had two job offers – one for this big department store – and one for a small nonprofit theater. It was such a hard decision for me because when I was a young girl growing up – whenever it rained - I either had all of my friends do fashion things and fashion shows for the neighborhood – or I was directing them all in stage shows in my garage! I ended up taking the job to be a Buyer with the big department store because it seemed like more of a ‘stable’ job than the theater job – and it would at least let me work with my passion for fashion. Years later, a friend of mine was applying for a job with QVC and told me about it. Imagine my surprise and my delight when I heard about QVC – it was like a dream come true – the combination of theater AND fashion! So I applied as well and got an interview – and then I got the job - and started working there in 1994!
Patrick: What an incredible history you’ve had Leslie! Okay, so I want to know what your favorite thing is about working for Quacker Factory?
Leslie: This might sound corny and sappy – but I LOVE the fact that one single piece of clothing that we’ve designed can change a customer’s life – and that it can make them feel SO special. I love when I meet a customer and she tells me how much a particular item that we’ve designed and manufactured has played such an important part in her life. And I’m also so very honored to be able to carry on Jeanne’s wonderful legacy.
Patrick: Speaking of our dear Jeanne, what is your favorite Jeanne Bice memory?
Leslie: I remember back in the early days when Susan and I just started working for Jeanne – and we would be at her house in Florida – and we would make designs – and print them out on a computer and we would glue them to a sample – and I would always make mine perfect and all lined up evenly – and EVERY time Jeanne would say “NO Leslie – I want it more uneven – more Catywompas!” And you know what Patrick – she was always right – she just had this eye for detail and design that no one else has ever had. I also remember that Jeanne would send Susan and me stacks and stacks and STACKS of her ideas all put together in binder books – these books of hers were bigger than telephone books – I kid you not! And she would always write on them with a green felt tip pen. I would have to take these stacks of her random notes, ideas and sketches and make a full design of it all – and believe me – it was a challenge – but always fun! I had to learn to get inside that wonderfully creative brain of hers so that I could bring her ideas to life. We worked that way for years! Just when Susan and I thought we were all caught up – in came another STACK of ideas & sketches – with her random notes in green felt tip ink. There were hundreds of ideas – and I had to turn them into a full design. She always knew what she had sent us – and if I skipped or missed one of the hundreds of designs, she would call me up and say “Leslie – what did you do with that pink cat idea I had – don’t you even begin to think that I would forget that one – go find it Leslie – my girls are going to love that one!” Jeanne didn’t miss a beat! When she passed away, I asked for one of her green felt tip pens – it reminds me so much of her – and it still gives me inspiration every single day.
Patrick: What a great memory! Okay, now we want some gossip! Do you have little secret you can tell us about Jeanne?!
Leslie: Weeellll, one time I saw her without her headband on – just once – and it was at my house. She was getting ready for bed and I checked in on her to make sure that everything was okay with her before she went to sleep. I walked in and saw her without it on – it was like seeing her without her clothes on – it was such a part of her – I honestly thought she slept in that headband!
Patrick: I think we ALL thought she slept in it! Why do you think that Quacker Factory has lasted for over 21 years?
Leslie: Without a doubt, it’s because of the sisterhood or our customers – the bond of our customers and the loyalty they have for Jeanne Bice – and for the Quacker Factory brand. You know Patrick, we have the most AMAZING customers! Jeanne’s dream from the beginning was to create a community of women who could come together – Jeanne created a sisterhood – with a dress code! And that dress code was to always sparkle and shine – and that still continues to this day. Jeanne is definitely smiling down from heaven.
Patrick: What is one of your favorite designs that your team has ever created?
Leslie: That’s an easy one – it was our first biggest TSV. It was three shirts – each one with a different motif – and they all came in a straw tote bag. At the time, it was the biggest ever quantity of Quacker Factory that QVC had ever bought. Everyone was SO nervous because QVC had bought so much of it – even QVC was nervous as the day approached. But you know what? Jeanne wasn’t nervous at all – and guess what – ALL of it sold out by 8 in the morning!! It was May 2003. It really showed us – and QVC – that our customers loved what we were designing – and it also proved to QVC that Quacker Factory was going to be around for very long time!
Patrick: And do you remember the first design you ever created?
Leslie: I certainly do – it was when I was in college! They were matching Christmas sweatshirts – and let me tell you, I tried to use every embellishment I could get my hands on in Pittsburgh! Here I am with my mom, sister, and my grandmothers wearing them! We’ve come a long way since then – Thank God!
Patrick: I love it!! I bet you gals were rocking around the clock in Pittsburgh with your red outfits! Speaking of your mother and sister, please tell us about your family – because I think you’ve got a great son!
Leslie: Thank you - I think he’s pretty amazing as well. His name is Connor – and he’s about to turn 13 – oh gosh – I’m going to soon be the mother of a teenager – how did that happen?! I’m going through a new phase in my life as a newly single mom – and I can’t help but hear Jeanne’s wonderful wisdom and advice about picking yourself up by your bra straps when life throws you curve balls– and carrying on – just like Jeanne had to do when she became a single mom to Tim & Lee. I’ve re-read her books this year – and her advice is just as relevant today as when she first wrote those words. I’m pretty lucky though – because my mom and dad only live 10 minutes away – so Connor has some wonderful grandparents in his life as well.
Patrick: I love this picture of you and Connor when you were in Hawaii recently – you can tell that there is a lot of love between the two of you.
Patrick: What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
Leslie: Ha – that’s easy – I wanted to be Julie McCoy from the Love Boat! I just thought that she had the coolest job – and I’ve secretly always loved to boss people around – and we all know Patrick that Julie was the REAL boss on the ship – it wasn’t Captain Stubbing!
Patrick: Ha, Ha, Ha – I think you’re right about that! Ummmm, I can see you being a great Julie McCoy…
Patrick: Leslie, your house is so beautifully decorated for the holidays – is there one favorite Christmas decoration you have – and why?
Leslie: Thank you and yes, absolutely! It has to be my Mark Roberts Christmas Fairies! When Jeanne passed away, she had the most amazing collection of Mark Roberts Christmas Fairies. Susan took the whole collection and divided them up amongst the team – we all got about 8 of them. Jeanne’s collection then became the start of each of our own collections that have grown over the last few years – and every year I buy a new fairy (or 2 or 3!) – and now they are all over my house! It wasn’t something I even knew I wanted or liked – and now that I have hers – I can’t live without them! They are all whimsical – just like Quacker Factory tops! Remember Patrick, Jeanne believed in Fairies – and now I do too!
Patrick: If you won the Lottery, what would you spend some of your winnings on?
Leslie: I would donate money to my son’s school. He goes to a small Christian school that is not funded by the State. It’s all parent-funded – and I’d love to give them more money because they are so great to all of our children. I would also go to NYC and see EVERY Broadway show – in the best seats of course! As I mentioned before, theater has always been one of my biggest passions! And then I would come over to London to see you – and to take you to every show over there as well – because I know you love the theater as much as I do!
Patrick: And finally Leslie, I know our readers would love to know what your favorite QVC product is.
Leslie: My T3 Hairdryer – it’s the BEST!! I couldn’t live without it – especially for all of those nights I love going to the theater!
Patrick: Thank you so much Leslie for sitting down with me – as I said earlier, I absolutely adore you – and Angel and I – and the entire Quacker Factory team - are so lucky to have you on the team!
One Team – One Dream!
I hope you all enjoyed getting to know Leslie! I can’t wait to introduce you to another Quacker Factory team member very soon!!
Quacker Hugs & Love From Across the Duck Pond!
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