What Do Fashion Buyers Do At Fashion Week? – Vogue.co.uk
Fashion week might appear to be all glitz and glam, new-season reveals, fashion kisses and late-night parties, but in reality it’s a business hub that employs far more people than those that get papped on the FROW.
One group of people who’s jobs are less transparent than that of the editors writing show reviews or influencers snapping selfies is buyers. Employed by boutiques and department stores alike, these important industry-shapers decide what goes into shops, and therefore, essentially into our wardrobes.
As London Fashion Week begins, we caught up with 26-year-old Harry Fisher, senior buyer at one of our favourite Soho-based boutiques, Machine-A, to understand what it takes to break into buying and how having a signature taste can impact your work overall:
Why do you go to fashion week?
As a store, Machine-A is very involved in fashion week. It’s a great time to see everyone from the industry – especially from overseas – in store and at the shows. We attend fashion week shows to see what our existing brands are showing for the coming season. And also, to scout new designers for upcoming seasons. This London Fashion Week I’m most looking forward to Fashion East, Paula Knorr, Ashish and Dilara Findikoglu.
How has see-now/buy-now impacted on buyers?
I think the idea behind see-now/buy-now is quite exciting for buyers: it generates impulsive buys, and instant hype. However, I think big brands doing this has put major pressure on younger and smaller designers.
Do you know immediately that something will be a sellout from the moment you see it on the catwalk?
Most of the time what we are doing at shows is trying to get a feel for a collection, what our customers want and what trends they are moving into. We are very connected with our clients, and sometimes even have a single client in mind when selecting pieces.
How much does the hype an item receives on social media impact how likely you are to buy it in?
We definitely have to take into account many aspects of a collection when buying. Social media can give us an insight into what people love and will want to see move of in store. As a store, our buy is renowned for representing the catwalk looks quite literally. So, when buying we are always looking for the stand-out pieces.
How important are re-sees for buyers? Surely you can’t take it all in that quickly in one show!
To be honest, seeing the show and then having showroom appointments are equally as important. You can’t do one without the other. The show tells us a story with every look, whereas the showroom we get to revisit this, check the fabrics and see what stories work well together. It takes a lot of revisiting collections, its near impossible to remember everything we see.
How important is it for different stores and shopping destinations to have their own identity?
To us this is so important. Our customers come to us for show pieces! As soon as a sales agent mentions how commercial something is, we know this won’t work for us. Most stores share a lot of the same brands in the same square mile, so it’s vital for our buy to reflect our identity.
How do you take your taste out of the equation and think more about your customer base?
I think at Machine-A our taste is a big part of it. We are working so closely with our brands, and we truly believe in them. I think if this question was asked to somewhere else then the answer would be completely different. Most of time we have to think about what clients want, and what we think they will be looking for for the season ahead in terms of trends.
What’s the biggest difference between buying mens and womenswear?
I think buying menswear comes more naturally to me. Women’s is a lot of finding a story, and predicting trends. But we are so lucky in London to have such inspiring students from the likes of the Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins.
How does it feel when an item you’ve seen on the catwalk, then arrives in store and then sells out?
When you really believe in something from the shows or showroom, and then it arrives and quickly sell outs, it does make you feel like you did a good job, and there’s a certain rush about that feeling!
How did you get into buying?
I studied Fashion Merchandising at LCF and then furthered that at Westminster. I worked for a few big high street companies on placements, and then a smaller Chinese company. Alongside I was modelling, which is where I met founder and buying director of Machine-A, Stavros Karelis. Stavros has been my mentor over the last three years. I feel really lucky to have such a talented and respected boss, which has also let me grow with Machine-A.
How important is it to find a store that has an identity that mirrors yours?
It really depends what kind of buying you are doing. For me Machine-A is a way of life! But I think the best thing to do is aim for somewhere or things that you love, and build on that.
Do you think good taste and also business acumen can be taught?
I think their is really something about the creativity and commercial skills that buyers have that makes them successful. You can’t be a good buyer without both!
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Do you need to be good at maths to be a buyer?
You need good basic maths skills. You need to know about revenues, VAT, exchange rate. But these skills can easily be taught, its basic maths thats just being used every day.
What are your top five career tips for becoming a buyer?
- Also keep your eyes peeled
- Be prepared for the market to make a sudden change at any moment
- Work hard
- Know your clients!
- Historical sales evidence is always key