We chatted to 28-year-old Jenna Needham who is wholesale manager for Motelrocks.com about her beautifully dark tattoo collection and her role within the fashion company…
How old were you got your first tattoo, what was it? Do you still love it?Shamefully I was 13 when I got my first tattoo. I bunked off school to go at get it at a local place called ‘Dodgy Kevs’. Of course that wasn’t the actual shop name but its how we all locally knew it and since me and my friends all got tattooed there so young I’m pretty sure you can guess why!
I went in and picked my favourite Chinese symbol off the wall (that was big in 2000) and had it put on my butt! I had to have it there to hide it from my mum, he just sketched it free hand with a biro and away we went! I can’t say I’m a massive fan of it now but for comedy reasons (and the fact no one ever sees it) it doesn’t bother me too much. It means tiger in case you were interested!
What drew you to tattoos, did anyone influence you?
From a young age I was into a more alternative scene and so naturally from that point I saw more people with them. Not that I think tattoos are bound only to the alternative scene but I was definitely more exposed to them in that environment at that time.
I can’t really remember what it was that first attracted me to tattoos though to be honest, no one in my family has them but I was always drawn to them and the way the art looked on skin.
Can you tell us about your tattoos? I can tell you there’s not enough of them!
My tattoos are just a random collection of my likes and memories really. I have a few that I’ve had done that mean something to me and people close to me, some while travelling to remember a time or a place and then some which are just a memory of me getting tattooed by someone I admire and perhaps a point in my life.
When I got tattoos when I was younger I didn’t really think about what I wanted and getting a tattoo was just walking into a shop and picking something off the wall. Now it’s like having an artwork collection on my skin that I can see everyday. I remember when I first started to find peoples whose work I loved like Thomas Hooper and just being so excited to be able to put their designs onto me and finally finding people’s work that was in the style I like. My favourite thing to do on Instagram is find new tattoo artists, I think its amazing that now it’s so much easier to find so many amazing artists across the globe.
Are there any artists you admire?
Too many! I pretty much admire all tattoo artists. Being a person who is unable to draw I appreciate all their amazing skills.
Of course everyone I have been tattooed by I have the utmost admiration and appreciation for which is why I want their art on my skin and that includes, Raph Cemo, Grace Neutral, Rebecca Vincent, Jack Ede, Tiny Miss Becca, Aaron Anthony and Jemma Jones just to name a few!
What are your future tattoo plans?
I really want to get my back done and my arm completed in the near future but I don’t actually have anything booked in right now.
I never really focus on an area I just seem to know where something is going to go when I have it and so my pieces are generally just scattered around.
A few of my current dream people to get tattooed by are Guy Le tattooer, Sway, Thomas Bates, Kelly Violence, Thomas Hooper and Ryan Jessiman.
How did you get your current job? What did you do before? Did you study for it, did you work your way up?
I was living in Wales at the time, I’d moved there for my boyfriend and although I absolutely loved my time there and the people I’d met, when we broke up I felt I needed a fresh start. My friend at the time had just moved to Bristol and we were obsessed with shopping on Park street it was full of independent shops, vintage and clothes you definitely couldn’t buy in Newport! We were shopping in the Motel store and I noticed they were advertising for an assistant manager position in that store and I just thought why not! Got the interview a week later (which I actually don’t think I performed that well in) and just got on so well with the two girls who were interviewing, they called me back a few days later and said they wanted to offer me the job. At the time everyone thought I was mad because I was moving to a flat with rent three times more than what I was paying and a salary that was half of what I was currently earning but something just felt right and I guess it was the universe telling me I was making the right move.
When I started with Motel in 2007 it wasn’t that well know or big and one of the girls from the shop used to model for the website which only had a handful or products on it then we started to get more PR activity around our clothes including celebrities wearing the brand and everyone just started to notice Motel more and more. No one was doing printed dresses like Motel were at that point and so we were way ahead of the game!
From assistant manager I became store manager, then the website started to boom so they moved me over to work on that, managing the in-house buying, promotions etc. I was also already helping them with the wholesale trade shows in Berlin, Las Vegas and New York during that time so then when they eventually decided to open a London showroom and offered me the chance to work on the wholesale team I jumped at the chance.
What is a typical day like for you?
So I basically sell the collections that Motel creates to other boutiques and stores that buy third party brands. At Motel we sell 12 collections a year which pretty much means I am selling product all year round (as well as an additional swimwear line we now do!).
I deal with all our international agents/distributors, all of our UK key accounts and any boutique smaller accounts where we don’t have an agent servicing that area.
The best thing about my job is the variety of things I do really. I might have the wholesale manager title but I’ve been with the company so long I can’t help but get involved with other areas of the business and share my ideas! I’ve helped create a promotional street team family for Motel, I organised the recent Grace Neutral collaboration we did, ran the clothes show, designed a print, helped organise events and held sample sales as a few examples!
Mainly though on the run up to the ranges I spend time with design and production and we all discuss requirements and needs for future seasons, we go over any upcoming collections in sample form and will go through pricing and design to make sure the range is completely as we feel it should be.
Selling the range I am speaking with customers, maintaining relationship and meeting their Motel needs while also trying to source new relationship with potential new customers.
I work on exclusive designs with some of my customers and bridge the gap between all the agents and Motel helping them meet their customer needs to.
Its definitely not a 9-5 role but I’m fortunate that I love my job and that’s why I’m so passionate about it.
How do you dress for work, do you show off your tattoos? I’m pretty lucky that fashion is possibly one of the easiest sectors to work in and wear whatever you like.
I of course wear a lot of Motel anyway and I try and do this for meetings especially. Generally anything black, grey and a shade of in-between!
I don’t purposely get my tattoos out but I don’t hide them either. So long as it’s not a cold day I will happily have my tattoos on display for meetings, the office or any trade show we do!
What kinds of reactions do you get? From work colleagues, family and the general public.
I think my mum has the typical parent reaction and worries about how many I have and if I will still like them in the future, like I say no one else in my family has them so I’m slightly different, but that said she often tells me she’s proud of me for being vegetarian and having tattoos. She’s happy that I express myself and stay true to me.
I generally get a really good reaction to my tattoos from the general public, work colleagues and anyone I might have in for a meeting. My hand is the most commented on, I guess because its the first people see a lot but I’ve never had any negative comments said to my face. I of course have had to challenge a few “what about when you’re older” comments like most!
What advice would you give other people considering their careers when getting tattooed?
I personally think that you shouldn’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do to your body. That’s the skin you have to live in and if you want to decorate your home, your body then you should. A tattoo doesn’t define who a person is or change their skill set or mind and therefore it shouldn’t change the jobs that you can to do. That being said there are still jobs/companies/careers out there which feel tattoos which can be seen in the working environment are not professional, so I guess at that point you have to make a choice on what’s more important to you and perhaps think more carefully about placement of what you want done. It still shouldn’t stop you though, there are plenty of ways to keep expressing yourself but just maybe avoid the hand, neck and face area.