A Bookshelf at an Angle

Alumni Profile

Sim Scavazza

Non Executive Director at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust & Deputy Chair at University of the Arts London

Sim Scavazza

Sim Scavazza never intended to study at the University of West London, but she’s very glad she did. Undergoing the clearing process, she was helped by Somerset County Council to locate a course that worked for her, a hodgepodge collection of studies known at the time as the Humanities Degree.

I was so grateful [studying Humanities at the University of West London], and so happy to be there that I absolutely devoured it up. It was a four-year course with a year spent in France, and I just loved the mix. Loved being in London, loved being in Ealing.

Sim left Ealing for the year to live and work in France. Her job teaching English at a school in a place near Dunkirk was one of those terrifying experiences she accredits with helping her to build resilience.

But it was important that she returned to Ealing, as the University and the area gave her the head start she needed for her career. During her studies, she took a job as a waitress at a local restaurant called Charlotte’s Place.

The wonderful thing about the campus is it is surrounded by restaurants. My job was down the road from college so I could go straight there. Loads of students from the catering college used to work there.

While working at Charlotte’s Place, Sim got to know the buying director of fashion chain Chelsea Girl. It was this buying director that offered her a job and Sim accredits this all to moving to Ealing.

Continuing to live in the area for the next ten years, Sim began her career at Chelsea Girl, which would eventually go on to become River Island. This would prove the beginning of a 25-year-stint in the high street fashion industry.

A buyer is a person that works with the design team and the merchandiser to put together ranges of clothes and accessories that would appear in multiple retailers. I started my life in the knitwear department.

Gradually, Sim worked her way up the chain to work on ranges, come up with ideas, analyse sales history and negotiating with suppliers.

What I discovered was I had an eye. An eye for colour, an eye for fabric and design, and an eye on what was happening going forward, to be able to time the clothes right.

From trainee buyer to managing director of Miss Selfridge, Sim found herself in higher and higher positions, eventually focusing on managing a team of people and setting out strategies.

For a while, Sim took a little break to raise her twin girls before returning to work at Miss Selfridge. But other things were calling her, so she took those skills she’d learned in the fashion industry to take on new challenges.

However, she wasn’t destined to stay in fashion forever. Currently, Sim is deputy chair for the University of the Arts London and a non-executive director with the NHS.

The thing that really excites me now is my ability to affect people positively. Having a positive impact on students, staff, people of colour…well-being and looking after the staff after this awful year and a half is the most important thing. I just want to create a positive impact and leave something useful for people because there is nothing else in this life.

Reflecting on her career, Sim is aware that her ability to pick the things she cares most about is a result of a lifetime of drive and determination. Her current position is the result of hours of putting the work in, getting experience under her belt, and one decision long ago to attend University in Ealing.

Over her career, Sim has learned a lot of lessons, and she shared a few with us:

Be open for anything to happen and don’t just sit and wait. Go out and find it, investigate it, ask questions. They call it networking, which is a horrible term, but it’s just speaking to people. Let them know what you’re interested in and find out what it is you want to do. There are lots of jobs out there which aren’t well known.

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