If you’re passionate about fashion but more interested in the business side than the design side, then chances are you’ve already started researching different merchandising roles and wondering whether becoming a fashion buyer might be right for you. To find out what the role entails, and how college students and recent grads can break into the industry, we sat down with MILLY Fashion Buyer Chrissy Allen to find out her top tips on getting your foot in the door.
What exactly is a fashion buyer?
According to Chrissy, a fashion buyer is a person who makes purchasing decisions for a clothing retailer. “A buyer is someone who goes to market,” she explains. What does that actually mean? In short, it means that buyers handpick the styles that end up in clothing stores. “I go through and pick the pieces for the season based on past sales history and upcoming trends,” she says. The best part of the role: being able to showcase the unique aspects of the brand you work for and demonstrate how you’re making a difference to consumers.
What kind of skills do you need in order to be a fashion buyer?
Although many people think that being a buyer means spending time in the company’s fashion closet, the position actually requires a lot of analytical skills and business savvy. “I am in Excel a lot which isn’t always what people think about when they think of a buyer,” Chrissy explains. “It’s about looking at our sales, looking at what worked in past seasons, what didn’t work and also taking into consideration designers’ vision for how they see the upcoming season.” In order to analyze sales numbers and quantify trends, buyers need to be analytical and able to think on their feet. For example, if they a specific trend that they select is not selling well, they have to be able to adjust their strategy mid-season while also trying to find ways to boost sales.
How can college students and recent grads break into the fashion industry?
“Internships are the most important thing,” Chrissy says. In fact, they’re far more important than your college major. “I was a political science major so I had absolutely no fashion education, but I knew that I wanted to be in fashion from a young age,” she explains. The key was finding an internship that would get her there. And that’s exactly what she did. After her freshman year of college, Chrissy found an internship on the men’s wholesale team at Theory and it was exactly the foot in the door she needed. “I was like a sponge, soaking up everything everybody said in a meeting, and that’s how I knew that this was what I wanted to do.” In addition to taking on one multiple internships, Chrissy also emphasizes that it’s important to maintain the contacts you make. “Maintaining those contacts is so important because the fashion world is tiny and everybody knows each other and can connect you in some way,” she explains, emphasizing the importance of building your professional network while you’re still in school.
What should you wear to an interview for a fashion buyer position?
When interviewing for a position in the fashion industry, “you really want to cater to that audience,” Chrissy explains. For a brand like MILLY, which is contemporary and fun, it’s important to wear something that shows your personality.“We’re not a finance company so we want to see you shine through but you want to make sure that it’s work appropriate.” For both women and men, this means potentially wearing something from the retailer’s current collection and ensuring that your outfit matches the look and feel of the brand you’re interviewing for.
Pro Tip: If you’re unsure of what to wear to an interview at a fashion brand, be sure to check out the company’s website and social channels, focusing on photos that show the team at work. This will give you a great sense of the company culture and help you pick an appropriate outfit.
Chrissy’s final piece of advice for getting into the fashion industry (or any industry) is this: “Be passionate. Be out there searching for an internship,” she says, emphasizing that your drive and passion will help you stand out from the pack and potentially land a great job at a brand like MILLY.