Thirty years of experience fused with a passion for fashion. A conversation with Shelley Pinto. The owner of a boutique fashion recruitment agency based in London talks about her journey and how the recruitment landscape has changed.

By Sanj Saigal

A boutique fashion recruitment agency.

Shelley Pinto began her career in fashion at the age of just fifteen. She worked as a sales assistant for a fashion boutique chain. Her aspiration to become a buyer would see her work as a buying assistant at House of Fraser for a few years before transitioning over to the recruitment sector. Within the Fashion and Retail landscape, she spent 30 years working with retailers, brands and suppliers, placing candidates from junior to C suite executives both in the UK and Internationally. I was intrigued by the person who others have described as being a brand and was excited to share a virtual coffee over a Zoom meeting to find out more about the owner of TRP Recruitment in London.

If I had an opportunity to write a book about you, what would chapter one of your journey be called?

“A passion for fashion” I know it sounds cliche, but fashion has always been one of my main interests from an early age. Whether shopping or researching into the industry or “sell don’t tell”,- I think I am a natural salesperson. It stems from my first Saturday job working on a commission-only basis for a fabulous retailer called Charli. I learnt a lot from the owners. Nowadays, I am always selling – be it a candidate to a client, a job/company to a candidate, or even getting my family to do things for me.

I know that you have deep routes with the recruitment sector. May I ask you why you are so passionate about your industry?

If you mean recruitment, the answer is easy, for just over thirty years I have been helping people, watching how their journeys have unfolded, giving them advice, and hopefully changing their lives for the better as well as assisting companies in benefiting them by providing them with the right people.

I remember a few years ago, a client who was the owner of a large retail chain said to me; “I gave them what they needed, not what they wanted”. Which always stuck with me.

I also feel that I have worked with some incredible people over the years and made a real difference to their careers, placing people sometimes 2 or 3 times and working in partnership with my clients and becoming an extension of their company. If I hadn’t gone into recruitment, I would have liked to have been a teacher; I enjoy seeing people learn and develop, so recruitment has allowed me to use my sales skills to influence candidates and clients. I am passionate about the fashion and retail industry, I think I have been a shopaholic at heart from early on in my career!

The lockdown is a unique scenario; in my thirty years of experience, people have never been so grateful to get a new job, especially in such challenging market conditions.

Shelley Pinto
This has been an unprecedented time. I know that you are a specialist recruiter, so on behalf of our readers, is this a good time to search for a new position?

With so many people still on Furlough, one of the main questions is, will there be a position for them at the end of the scheme? Sadly not, I fear so many companies have taken this time to restructure and have realised not all the roles they had were needed. I have seen an upturn in recent months on several new roles being created where clients have seen gaps in their market or business, so this could be a good time for some people. Coupled with many new businesses popping up, a lot of people have become extremely entrepreneurial and small businesses set up in early lockdown are now starting to hire.

My advice to anyone looking for a new role at the moment would be to tell people to be proactive if applying online for a role, obviously ensuring their cv is correct and with relevant achievements to the role.

trp Recruitment
Send a follow-up email or try and call after applying; this will let the employer know you are keen.

Social media has changed how recruitment operates, so the critical thing is to ensure candidates LinkedIn profile is up to date with an excellent professional picture and set your Facebook profile to private! Lots of employers and recruiters may be inclined to check on potential employees.

If Furlough continues, keep in touch with employers, letting them know you are keen to come back, offering to work in another role perhaps if needed.

Interestingly Over 60% of people who we are working with are currently looking for work while being employed.

It shows good people still want career moves.

During my professional career, I have lived through many economic downturns. It has been one of the worst times, but keeping up to date with your industry is critical. Be aware of new trends and changes, and upskilling where possible is essential. There are also many opportunities to be had in a freelance capacity as companies may not look at a permanent role; I have noticed a definite increase in short term contract being offered over the past six months.

“Thirty years of experience fused with a passion for fashion”.

If I was a client searching for a recruiter, why should I choose trp?

With over 30 years of experience and industry contacts, my team and I offer an honest, approachable and consultative service. Often referred to as Mrs P in the workplace, there was no way that I would leave this interview without knowing what that stood for, so when pressed, she offered; personable, passionate and persistent as the definition. Although intended to be in a light-hearted tone, I could see that these words were more of a code of conduct than just a strap-line.

Do all recruiters offer the same products and services?

Fundamentally, yes would be the answer to that question, but I would say that it’s not what you do, more how you do it as a recruiter. Here at trp recruitment, we always go the extra mile, speaking to clients and candidates out of office hours, during the weekends and even when we are away, people come first.

If you took a step back in time and met yourself at the precise moment that you chose to be in your sector and were able to meet yourself. What advice would you give the younger version of yourself?

To be nice to everybody; you never know who they might know or when your paths will cross in your careers. It’s something which I feel I have done and continue to do; it is a small world; people remember you for what you do and say to them. It’s also true that you should remain grounded because the people you meet on the way up are also there to greet you on the way down.

The future is not written yet; what does yours look like?

I hope that as we come out of this awful pandemic that has affected the fashion and retail industry so severely, my business continues. I foresee growth in both the digital and international sectors, where we see more opportunities arise. There will still be a need for quality candidates rather than quantity from a client’s perspective, which will remain a key feature in the future. Partnering with other agencies is also a possibility.

If I asked your clients to describe you, what do you think they would say?

She would make light of those three words mentioned earlier – personable, passionate and persistent. And, of course, professionally, some might even refer to me as politely pushy.


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