Debbie Moore OBE needs no introduction but for those of you who’ve been living under a rock for forty years, here you are: Debbie started her career as a model, before setting up Pineapple Dance Studios and its associated clothing brand in 1979. ByOcular interviewed Debbie to learn more about her illustrious past and to get her top tips for women looking to make it in the big time.
You own a pair of Vitas. What about them caught your eye?
I met Caren for lunch one day and clocked her fabulous glasses as soon as she walked in. I ordered a pair there and then. I just fell in love with how unusual the shape was and how much her ByOculars stood out, even from across the room.
Your development of cotton/Lycra with DuPont was a perfect meeting of fashion and function. When designing or buying something, what do you tend to favour?
Definitely function! I always start with fabric and fit because it’s most important that the clothing suits a woman’s shape. For example, years ago, we noticed that our girls were wearing their leotards in their everyday; to make them more functional, we added poppers in the gusset and that’s how the ‘body’ came to be. Working with DuPont was so exciting. At the time, they were using lycra in corsetry and girdles but were on the hunt for another material to use it in. They were thrilled when I got in touch with them. We went on to make a woven cotton/Lycra and a linen/Lycra mix together and now it’s used in men’s suiting. Lycra has become such a diverse fabric thanks to our initial experiment.
You were the first woman to float your company on the London Stock Exchange. While that's obviously amazing, it's also pretty crazy that you were still the first in 1982! How have attitudes to women in the workplace changed since you started Pineapple Dance Studios?
I know, it’s pretty incredible that it took a model from Manchester, who left school at fifteen with no qualifications and owned a dance studio to be the first woman to go public. When I started out, I used to go to these women’s business meetings and everyone was so severe. I’d show up in this little rara skirt and stick out like a sore thumb. I guess I became an icon because I was such an unlikely businesswoman. I gave those women a wide berth, whereas I think nowadays, women’s attitudes have changed and they’re much more supportive of one another, working together with a common aim. I published a book in 1989 called ‘When a Woman Means Business’ because I used to get letters from women seeking advice on working and gaining approval from their husbands to do so. I’d tell them if they stayed at home baking cakes, their husbands would most likely leave them for the secretary and if they went out to work, their husbands would still most likely leave them for the secretary so better to be doing something they enjoy!
What do you know now that you wish you'd known then?
Less! When you’re young, you’re so naive that you don’t fully comprehend the risks you’re taking. You’re just fighting to stay alive. With age comes experience and I think sometimes you can lose confidence in your ability because you’re so much more aware of the potential dangers. Really, we’ve got to live and unlearn if we want to continue to be successful.
Now onto your success story! Do you think Pineapple has been so consistently appealing to women because you created something for you that improved your everyday?
The Studio’s initial success was definitely because I created something that was lacking in the dance community. When I was a model, we used to go to dance classes to keep fit; we weren’t welcome at gyms since they were the hangout of boxers and gangsters. The already overcrowded studio that I frequented shut down suddenly and I was struck that these dancers, who trained so tirelessly, would have nowhere to go. That was my lightbulb moment. From then on, I set my sights on opening a studio for us all. The Pineapple clothing brand was similarly inspired, born out of designing for me and the dancers who came to my studio. I saw how they customised their clothing, such as cutting their boyfriends’ sweatshirts to make them off-shoulder. I’ve been wearing my brand day-to-day for years now because I design clothing that makes me feel comfortable and confident. That’s how I want other women to feel too. Our signature is the body and leggings combo but we’re also really keen on layering; that way, women can cover up any lumps and bumps they may have, allowing them to feel like the most confident versions of themselves.
How do you think we can get more women in top-level roles?
I used to tell women keen to start their own businesses that you just need guts to succeed; confidence comes later once you’ve taken those initial risks. I think women should still heed this advice as we’re generally a lot more cautious than men. Having a role model can be crucial to achieving this. When I started, there were just a handful of businesswomen, whereas now, we see more and more in top-level roles. Hopefully it’ll be even easier for the next generation to achieve their goals as they’ll have so many more women to look up to. When we created Pineapple Dance Studios, we brought communities together. We offered open classes which helped keep young people off the streets (as they no longer needed to be enrolled on a programme to dance) and we broke down elitist barriers between different dance styles. Before us, ballet and jazz dancers would never have trained together and yet in our studio, we also welcomed strippers into the fold. After my success, I was approached by Margaret Thatcher to advise the government on successfully setting up council leisure centres in order to encourage the same interaction between social classes. In this way, I was able to help her achieve her goals and would encourage other women to act the same way so that we can see more of us at the top.
For any enquiries please contact:
Caren, Shaun or Nigel
For PR enquiries please contact:
Todd Watkins. Preditor PR