Conversations: What Does A Fashion Buyer Really Do?
The ultra chic Tiffany Hsu of MYTHERESA.COM spills the beans. If you think it's just "shopping for other people", it's time we changed that.| March 28, 2017
Fashion buying, like so much of the rest of the fashion industry, is often glamorised as something that is all fun and games. Sure, working in fashion has its perks if you’re into it, but it is a job just like any other. To clear up all the misconceptions about the job – and to get an insider’s view on the season’s biggest brands and trends – we roped in our pal Tiffany Hsu, buying manager at mytheresa.com by day and street style photographer favourite by night (and also day). Girl knows her stuff, so listen and take copious notes. For more industry insider interviews like this, click here.
How did you fall into fashion buying?
I studied fashion design at Central St. Martin’s College and just kind of fell into buying after I finished school. I was never formally trained as a buyer. I think actual experience in the field is the most important thing to becoming a buyer! Of course, formal training is a good way to kickstart.
There’s this misconception that fashion buyers are like personal shoppers, except they shop for a retailer instead of just one person.
A good fashion buyer should understand the customer well and also their needs. And also, make the best selection that represents the brand and the business. It is important that your buy has a point of view. Buying is not just picking what you like from the show, but you need to have a good level of understanding of your business and customer to identify what is needed. Sometimes I feel like I work in finance more than fashion! There is a lot of hard work behind the glamorous fashion shows!
How do you separate what you like yourself to what you actually buy for your retailer?
Again, understanding your customer and your business needs are important. However, I have been very lucky that all the businesses I have worked with allows me to express my point of view. It’s all about finding the balance.
How do you settled being meetings quickly, especially during fashion week when there are back-to-back appointments? Is there a formula for what works and what doesn’t?
Being super efficient is the key, and of course, you really have to concentrate to get through the buy! I don’t really have a formula, but it makes things a lot easier if you have a good understanding of the brand structure that you are buying. We also read a lot of analysis prior to our appointments to help us make the best selection.
Are you someone who plays it safe or someone who takes risks when it comes to buying?
I am definitely a risk taker! However calculated risks!
Let’s talk about influencers. Do they actually play a part in driving the numbers?
I think some do more than the others, even if it’s not a direct influence on product, it does inspire the customers in some way. It is hard to engage and monitor to be fair.
What are the up-and-coming brands on your personal radar?
What’s the difference between buying for the Eastern market and the Western market?
Mainly sizes and length, but we also consider the difference of customs and social calendars.
What about buying for physical stores and online retailers?
Products are presented in a very different way. For a store, you have to really think about how everything looks together on a rack, and we have to consider the space. Whereas for e-commerce, there are less limitations in that sense. But we do have to think which items photograph well and whether we can translate the details [on a piece] well enough with just pictures.
What were your top five shows from the Spring/Summer 2017 season?
Balenciaga, Jacquemus, Gucci, Vetements, Prada.
What about the trends that piqued you interest? What should people be investing in?
Ski pants or leggings of sorts! Velvet if you don’t have it. Cotton stripes! Denim items that have a design element. Quirky slippers and romantic floral pieces, maybe with some sort of ruffles? Something oriental.
Last question! What’s at the top of your wish list?
Anything Magda Butrym, legging shoes from Balenciaga, cotton shirt from Jacquemus, anything feathered from Prada.