A fashion buyer needs to be analytical yet creative, flexible but also able to judge what commercial trends will generate the most sales. It’s a profession that demands the perfect mix of skill sets and is highly sought-after by job applicants and leading fashion brands alike. This year, FashionUnited spoke to fashion buyers from New York Fashion Week to owners of multi-brand boutiques and experts at global trade fairs. They told us what challenges they face as buyers, the next trends and what they think is necessary to be a better buyer in fashion today.
Education and engagement
While Instagram and social media have arguably the biggest effect on fashion trends, buyers still have a big role to play in what trends customers are offered. One of the things buyers are looking for right now is more education from sellers on their product. Kerry Bannigan, founder of the conscious fashion campaign told FashionUnited at a recent fair, "We have to start at the beginning part of the buying-purchasing system, which is tradeshows. They have budgets, and we have to look at the ranges and realms of what they've got to work with. We need to keep introducing more methods and ways for them to learn about products."
Another one of buyers’ biggest concerns has been getting connected to the right people. People often come to trade shows and just go to their usual vendors, and call it a day. It's become very difficult to connect with anyone new. Bannigan's organization has started holding one-on-one consultations on-site at trade shows where retailers can book an appointment and come in and share what their concerns are or what they are looking to do with their retail stores. This helps show organizers connect them to the right people and brands based on their needs.
Brand relationships and visual presentation
Club Designer is a family-owned luxury concept boutique that carries numerous brands from designers Alaia to The Row. As one of Taiwan’s largest private buyers of international brands, Club Designer started collaborating with Farfetch in 2016 and today has an entirely integrated business on the London-based e-commerce platform. Hsin Chen, who serves as Club Designer’s Operations Director and Buyer told FashionUnited in an interview the importance of brand relationships and visual presentation for a buyer.
How important is building relationships with brands?
There are staple brands Club Designer always feature because we’ve been working with them for a long time. In this case, building a good relationship with the brands is something that a buyer needs to maintain and continue to develop.
What challenges do you face as a buyer?
As a buyer, you not only need to know what can easily be sold, but you also need to have an image in your mind as to what items will create the best visual presentation on the shop floor. It’s like gambling, as you can never exactly predict which brand will be the season’s bestseller. You also need to keep a detailed inventory of which items you have ordered before and keep track of each brand’s profitability. This will help with the selection process.
Another challenge as a buyer is when the collection is uninspiring, but you still need to select pieces from it that will suit the store (since we act as curators for our customers). That can be very frustrating and not much fun at all, especially when I know there’s a high chance the items will not sell. Brands can be quite pushy which is understandable because they need the business.
Trends: Runway to street, tailoring and sportswear
This year some of the key buying trends from New York Fashion Week consisted of womenswear designers showing a mix of new and old trends. One of the most noticeable buyers in the fashion industry, Tiffany Hsu, Buying Director of Mytheresa, told FashionUnited, “There is a certain ease with American fashion; it’s not always statement making but rather more runway to street, which I think is what is most appealing to our customers and what we see within the trends. A wave of minimalist menswear tailoring is definitely something I am following at the moment and one to watch, particularly Monse who master this with sharp silhouettes and layering of various fabrics.”
Sportswear and athleisure continue to rule the catwalks and the streets. “Simple, clean sportswear and tailoring is going to really ring the cash register,” Nordstrom designer fashion director Jeffrey Kalinsky said to WWD.
Click here to apply for buyer jobs in the UK on FashionUnited.
Photos: courtesy of Club Designer, courtesy of Karla Otto and Purple PR