We meet the Stockport entrepreneur whose leap of faith into the world of fashion is now helping transform the lives of thousands of women… and her own.
Two and a half years ago, Jane Hallam decided to leave behind a successful career in strategic management and launch a capsule fashion collection to help menopausal women stay fresh and drier when faced with dreaded night sweats. The response has been phenomenal (you’ll really struggle to find a bad review) and no one is more surprised than the wonderfully self-effacing and upbeat Jane:
“I look back, reflect, and think ‘bloody hell, you’ve come a long way!’” laughs Jane. “In my old working life, I dealt a lot in risk. Back then, I – or anyone else in their right mind for that matter – would have advised me to stick with what was safe and not strike out alone!”
After her husband passed away in 2007, Jane had thrown herself into her full-time job and raising her daughter. But she felt stuck in a rut. Her career was super demanding… and then the menopause struck:
“I knew something was wrong,” remembers Jane. “I went to pick up my daughter from the airport, she was returning from a school trip and, rather than just shedding a tear of relief she was home safe, I couldn’t stop crying. I was actually sobbing! My daughter was like ‘MUMMY!’ Then, there was the time I had returned from holiday and thought there was something wrong with the lock, as my key wouldn’t work, and I went to a local shop to get some WD40. Turns out I had been using the wrong key after using a spare from a neighbour – I thought I was losing my mind. I visited my GP, and even he thought I was having a nervous breakdown.”
The onset of the menopause cannot only have a life-changing impact on women emotionally (sleep disturbances, anxiety, mood swings), the physical symptoms can include fatigue, hair loss, weight gain and, of course, the notorious night sweats, which wreak havoc on sleep and self-confidence.
Would Liz Hurley wear this?
To combat night sweats, Jane went in search of specialist clothing. She was taken aback by what was currently available on the market. ‘Cool’ it was not…
“Have you seen them?” she asks, laughing out loud. “Just shapeless! I mean, there was no way I could see Liz Hurley wearing them, and neither would I. I have a wardrobe full of Agent Provocateur and refuse to wear old-fashioned and shapeless granny-style nighties”
That’s when the idea for her collection Esteem – No Pause (which was launched last year) was born – a range that kept the wearer dry and was visually on-trend too.
Jane attended the Business Growth Hub’s programme for entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurial Spark supplied her with mentoring, advice and a free desk. Soon she’d secured funding from Business Finance Solutions (BFS) and a business loan from NatWest. From finding a pattern cutter and sourcing high-performing fabric to tracking down a photographer to shoot the range and meeting a website designer – everything seemed to fall into place as if by fate:
“I can’t believe how much support and help people are willing to give you,” says Jane. “and connections were made in the most unexpected ways. Believe it or not, I found out about the fantastic photographer Jim Gormley whilst out shopping for a drum peddle with my then boyfriend!”
The Esteem – No Pause collection is cool, contemporary and currently includes slip dresses, vests, pyjamas, palazzo pants and knickers.
“They are created using Italian-made, technical, high-performance fabric and manufactured in Britain,” Jane explains, “and allow the air to circulate around your body. Best of all, they’re versatile; you can wear them as lingerie to bed or at the gym, and they are so easy to care for.”
The capsule collection is just the start. A guy’s t-shirt is being trailed as we speak and there’s a half-sleeved t-shirt-style top (perfect for those of us who hate showing their arms) and a Curve collection for larger ladies in development too:
“Whether it’s menopausal women, a guy who suffers from anxiety, an over-active thyroid sufferer, or a cancer patient dealing with the side-effects of treatment – sweating is an issue for lots of people and I want my clothing to help as many of them as possible.”
Not only is Jane’s collection attracting high-profile press attention, more and more media outlets are considering her the go-to expert when it comes to discussing all things menopausal. It’s no surprise; she’s knowledgeable, approachable and – with great humour – is keen to share her experiences.
Jane is a finalist in the forthcoming English Women’s Awards North 2018 (Female Entrepreneur of the Year category) and, excitedly, tells us her Karen Millen dress arrived this morning for the glitzy ceremony later this month. She modestly “hasn’t’ a clue” who recommended her. We suggest a LOT of people did. She pauses…
“I’m learning all the time… (laughs)… as its completely unrelated to anything I have done before, but I’m really enjoying it! I recently received a hand-written letter from a customer, telling me how wonderful she thought my clothing was. For someone to take that time, the fact that the people I set out to help are now validating what I’m doing, means everything.”
Something tells us that it’s not just creating cool clothes that’s got her core market feeling positive – inspirational Jane is living proof that when it comes to reaching a certain age, you can gloriously refuse to press the pause button…
Check out Jane’s Esteem – No Pause collection at www.esteemmanchester.com/shop/