We first met Dr. Maggie Semple, OBE, FCGI at the Prime Women Style & Substance event in London during Fashion Week and knew we had to introduce her to our reader. Maggie is based in London and is a successful business woman and entrepreneur. She owns two companies – a management consultancy firm that works with global businesses on leadership development and Semple, an international bespoke womenswear fashion brand.
Maggie is a Member of the Queen’s Counsel Appointments Panel and is a Fellow of the City & Guilds Institute, one of 500 Fellowships awarded since 1878 and an Associate Member of the Senior Common Room of Exeter College, Oxford University. Maggie is cited in the World’s Who Who and was awarded an OBE by the Queen in 2001.
We asked Maggie a few questions so we could get to know her better.
Who has influenced you the most?
There are a number of people, but I’m drawn to Zora Neale Hurston who was an African-American novelist (1891-1960). In the mid-1980s, while studying for an MA in Semiotics, I examined US women authors who had commented on the African-American experience. I believed and still do, that story telling is a powerful way to understand others.
What was the best business move you ever made?
In January 2015, I returned from a visit to Italy where I had seen my personal designer. She gave me two paper patterns of dresses and with her blessing I set up Semple, a luxury bespoke womenswear brand. It’s the best decision I have made because the brand has enabled me to combine many of my personal traits: an eye for detail, a classic, understated aesthetic, the enjoyment of making women happy and using my influence to connect people.
What still drives you?
I know that there are millions of women like me! It matters to us to feel good about the way we look. I often say to my team that they will probably not find another business where they will meet such interesting and high powered women who will talk privately about their loves, hopes and fears. I am driven by the inspiration that I receive from others.
Did you have a mentor – and are you mentoring anyone now?
I have three mentors who help me think differently about my business, the retail and fashion sectors. One of my mentors is half my age and I find her comments insightful and her support extremely generous. I also mentor four women and three men. They all work in global companies and require an independent knowledgeable view about their impact in the workplace.
What is your morning routine?
When I wake up at around 5.30am I find myself thinking about ways to develop Semple. My thoughts lead me to my diary and what I would like to achieve by the end of the day. I check my iPhone for overnight messages that come mainly from the US. I go to the gym three times a week at 6.15am for an hour’s workout and leave home at 8am.
What is your favorite part of the day?
The morning – 10am as it is the time that I meet Dulcie my Creative Director. Dulcie is so positive and lively and I feel honoured that she works at Semple. Dulcie updates me on our production schedule, the client appointments for the day and any issues we need to consider.
What is on your nightstand or iPad right now?
Two hard-back books: Women & Power – A manifesto by Professor Mary Beard, and Talking to My Daughter About the Economy – a brief history of capitalism by Yanis Varoufakis.
Name a product you can’t live without.
There are two things. The first is my oil moisturising hair lotion created for my type of hair and the second, my miniature mannequins dressed in Semple clothes. They show exactly what we do at Semple and they are very light to carry when I travel.
Do you have a quote, mantra or meditation that inspires you?
I have a mantra that is always in my mind, particularly when I meet new opportunities and challenges. It is, “Be open to new ideas.”
How would you spend 24 hours, with no travel restrictions?
I would use the time to meet friends who I haven’t seen for over 5 years. In the morning I would travel to Rome for coffee in the Piazza Farnese and see a Caravaggio painting in a church to remind me of beauty. In the afternoon I would travel to Switzerland and walk in the forest with one of my oldest friends. I would end the day in Crete where I would walk arm-in-arm along the beach with two friends catching up on their news and seeing the sun set.
What have you not done that you hope to do while you still can?
I would like to be even more philanthropic and establish my own Foundation that would focus on young people, the arts and technology. I believe that the arts can help people realise their talents and dreams, enabling them to make a significant contribution to the well-being of others.
How do you want to be remembered?
As someone who created new opportunities for others, selflessly.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about Maggie Semple, and we look forward to sharing more inspirational women with you this year.