Leighton Simms is the HR Services Director at the American clothing company PVH (owners of Tommy Hilfiger & Calvin Klein). Leighton was a frequent visitor at Zoku soon after the opening, and quickly became integrated in the Zoku community. Over the years he has built a very close relationship with Zoku, both personal as well as professional.

What path has your career taken?

An interesting one. I’ve always tried to re-pot myself every couple of years and I’ve never really had a plan, which means I went from: will writer to finance, to logistics, back to finance, then to travel management, across to procurement, a diversion of 1 year to become a poet/kids author (haha) then back to travel and relocation, ending up in HR…for now. What brought you/brings you to Amsterdam? I came on a whim 19 years ago. I only planned on staying for 6 months, but then I fell in love with this beautiful city & we’ve been dating ever since.

How long have you stayed at Zoku, and what were you thoughts?

I actually still need to stay! I was an early adopter to the Zoku community though, as it’s opening coincided with my poetry year, so I spent many days writing rhymes on the roof and absorbing the good vibes. I loved spending time there, and at that time I had no idea that my next proper job would give me the opportunity to share the experience with so many people relocating to Amsterdam.

What’s a life-changing song, film, event or book you’d like to recommend to others?

I was reading Ekhart Tolle’s: ‘A New Earth when my mum unexpectedly passed away. It could’ve been the timing, but it definitely left a mark on me.

On a lighter note, I just took my teenage daughter to her first festival. Watching her tears of joy as Billie Eilish sang ‘idontwannabeyouanymore‘ was definitely a moment that mattered and I’d recommend parenthood to anyone – now that’s a life changing event…

What advice would you give to your 20 year old self?

I sometimes think I’d be better off taking advice from my 20yr old self. He definitely worried less and lived in the moment more. Although I was a lot less mindful back then, so I would’ve encouraged him to develop mindfulness habits & take good care of himself…and to remain curious – my 20 year old self had too much of a fixed mindset. Fortunately, moving to Amsterdam and surrounding myself with so many amazing people from all over the world changed that.

Which book/product have you gifted the most, and why?

When I was younger I read a lot of fiction and I loved ‘Catcher in the Rye‘. J.D Salinger created such a strong first person narrative through Holden and his hatred of all things phony.
More recently I’ve spent too much time reading self-help books. Kristin Neff’s book on self-compassion: ‘Self-Compassion Step by Step: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself‘ has been leant, bought and suggested to a lot of friends.
Professionally, Patrick Lencioni’s: ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team‘ has been a bible for me – in fact I just leant it to my brother.

Has your time at Zoku helped you in business or in life? If so, how?

In business, Zoku have been a fantastic partner for us. When I had the opportunity to develop PVH’s relocation strategy, it was important to me that we gave people a soft landing when they arrived in Amsterdam for the first time. It’s tough relocating to a new country, culture, language & job; so that feeling of warmth & community is incredibly important. Zoku offered that warm hug to our newly landed expats and the feedback has been fantastic.

If you could pick one project to work on for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I would probably go back to writing children’s stories. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Seuss & enjoy having the time to swim in the creative side of my brain. I think in rhyme, all the time…see J. I also think rhyme is a great way to get young kids into reading, whilst also keeping the parents entertained. I’ve written a couple of kids stories and have a few more ideas, but finding the time and the headspace is a challenge right now; but I’ll come back to it, one day.

What does home mean to you?

The smell of roast dinners, the sound of kids laughing and music. A place to retreat from the world and relax with a nice glass of red or a citrusy IPA!