From exclusive fashion shows, designer meet-and-greets and dining out each night in a new city, there’s no denying the glamorous appeal of being a fashion buyer. What we don’t often hear about is the back-to-back showroom appointments, unwavering jet lag, endless amounts of caffeine and hours spent on buses, trains and Ubers alike.
To get an insight into what an average day for a fashion buyer looks like, we sat down with Harrolds Head Buyer Kathleen Buscema following her recent trip to Europe for the Autumn/Winter ’20 buy trip.
1. What does an average day on a buying trip look like?
I wake up around 6.30-7am or, depending on the jet lag, usually much earlier. I do a quick scan of emails, set up a session of pilates – I swear by Fluid Form pilates, so convenient in my hotel room, shower and get ready. I use the train as much as possible, because it’s fast, gets me moving and you get to really feel like a local in Paris. I usually schedule as many appointments as possible in a day, averaging about seven per day. I have an espresso and it’s down to business. We discuss all things from the markets, sales, budgets, sell through and seasonal strategies.
2. What do you look for in a collection?
The story of the collection, the inspiration for certain detail and anecdotes are vital. I guess you could say it is poetry for the client when our stylists can share why John Galliano used press studs on the border of the scarf print collared overcoat they have just put in the fitting room, because John Galliano couldn’t find pins in his work room.
Walking through a collection two or three times in the showrooms is most important. I do this to observe whether their collection story is well-thought out. It needs to be balanced, options to be focused, and fabrications and weights correct for our climate. I like to hear about the inspiration for collections, the story, the why – this is so important. Without it, it would just be another collection. I always do a walk through on my own to get an overall sense of the vision, the commerciality, the direction and how it compares to other designer’s collections or previous seasons collections. Then we start to select based on history, our consumer habits and our creative vision and think about how we can educate our client on why they need or want a garment. Understanding where a designer and a collection was six months ago to the present is important to understand so we can communicate this to our clients.
3. What do you look for in new and emerging designers?
Real design starting at fabric, silhouette and fit. Well-thought out execution and how to bring it to our customer. They need to make you feel something, you just know when something is special straight away.
4. How many buy trips in total have you been on?
I have lost count.
5. How do you prepare for a buy trip?
Data analysis is key as well as feedback from our store managers and style consultants. We do many store workshops and walk throughs, discussing high and low performing stock. We even share these with the brands so we can see it together. We also always go back to what and how we want our client to be. What journey are we taking them on – this is key.
Walking through a collection two or three times in the showrooms is most important. I do this to observe whether their collection story is well-thought out. It needs to be balanced, options to be focused, and fabrications and weights correct for our climate.
6. How do you prioritise what to pack?
Skincare, my shakes, melatonin, comfortable boots, I always over pack pants, knits and jackets.
7. What can’t you travel without?
Antibacterial wipes and my skincare regime.
8. What is your go-to garment that gets you through early bookings to late night drinks?
For my recent trip it was my Saks Potts camel fur coat, square front boots, black pants and turtle neck.
9. What is your favourite part of a buy trip?
Meeting creatives, whether it be buyers, designers or students. Witnessing real passion for what they do is really great to watch.
10. And the most challenging?
Uncomfortable pillows, dehydration, jet lag, bad coffee and missing out on social events back home.
11. Given how tight your schedule is, what on-the-go beauty tricks can you share?
I cannot live without Liberty Belle Heartfelt Cleanser, La Mer Serum and Biologique Recherche Lotion P50.
12. What places do you make a point of visiting (if time permits) each trip?
On my recent trip I made it a point to try new places, there are so many new ones I visited and absolutely loved including Chez Georges and Cheval d’Or. One of my favourites and one we visit after our final appointment is Anahuacalli, proper Mexican food and killer margaritas. Margot, the owner, always greets us like old friends, she calls us “The Australians”.
13. Is there a particular showroom you look forward to visiting each season?
Margiela for the lab coats and the view, Acne is always set up differently and has really good snacks, Bottega Veneta, of course, Wandler and Roksanda for the art, flowers and installations.
14. What upcoming AW20 designers are you excited to bring on board?
I’m excited to welcome back Maison Margiela men’s and women’s collections, women’s Antwerp-based label La Collection and Jil Sander for menswear.