So that’s what it means to be a fashion buyer
It’s safe to say that most of the people who work in fashion do not study economics at university or work as bank analysts. But again, Shira Suveyke, vice President of global sourcing at THE OUTNET.COM, is not THE majority. Graduates from Boston university started working at deutsche bank, but soon knew it wasn’t her job. So she called Ralph lauren and convinced them that her business background would make her a good candidate for a career in buying and selling jobs, and the rest was history.
Suveyke knew she was a buyer when j.c. rew and Gilt Groupe were in the past. Because it’s one of the most elusive jobs in the fashion world, we’d love to sit down with her and learn everything from how she chose OUTNET.COM to get into the field. Here’s what we learned:
What to learn at school:
I don’t think your education must have a way to go. There is a buyer’s business side and you need to have your analytics section, but you don’t have to study the business. I think this is your ultimate experience. So I always say to people: give it a try and try something you like. If you think you want to be a buyer, go to retail and get an internship in the summer. Get that experience.
About what a great buyer:
In terms of actual technical ability, you have to strike a balance between art and science. You have to have a strong sense of Numbers and you have to have a good eye. You have to be creative. One is absent and the other is an unbalanced buyer. But I think another very important thing is confidence. It’s an industry with a lot of ideas, and a lot of people and what you’re doing are looking at a product and saying, ‘is this good or bad? So it’s intuitive, it’s the eye, and if you don’t have faith in yourself and what you do to yourself, you’re going to get lost. This is definitely not an industry made up of wall flowers.
About how she can buy for different markets:
I oversee our sourcing team around the world, so our team is sourcing for all of our markets – we are providing services to more than 170 countries. We have a lot of information about our clients, and now THE OUTNET.COM has been around for five years, and we also have some trends and historical information about who she is and how she is in THE region. Therefore, we know that black is very important to our customers in New York and that color is very important to our Middle East customers. There are also differences in size. We know our coastal customers tend to be smaller. In some places, dresses are sold better, while others are better. So some brands have regional resonance. So now, the design scene in London is very important, and we’re working with brands like Roland Mouret,
About how she decided to purchase items:
It’s not just my eyes or buyers’ eyes – it’s more of a process, not just an aesthetic. We have a very good product planning team that helps us look at all the purchase data. But when we analyze buying, we’re thinking about what we call key performance indicators (kpis), key performance indicators. First, how do we look at brands? How do we look at products? Is this a trend? Are these colours available? Are these dimensions suitable for our customers? Then we get to the real number: how much cash does it have? What is the price point? How many units can we sell? That’s when we go into analysis. And then it can even become what we think is a mythic brand, which is a fabulous product. But sometimes the data tells you we need to adjust it.
In how she knows what to buy in the future season:
We can’t rely too much on these data, or we’ll be where we used to be. The job of buying a team is to know where the puck is and where she’s going to go to shopping in six months instead of where it was six months ago. So of course there’s something to tell you… See the dress. Well, if you’re only looking at one season of data, you’ll tell me that skirts aren’t that important, but we know that skirts are one of the most important trends in the market. We know they’re on all the runways, and we know that skirts and blouses are becoming a new way to basically wear dresses – and it’s cooler. So, if my buyer is just looking at history, we’re not going to pursue skirts, but we know they’re important, so we’re going to buy them. There’s a lot of creativity.
On a project that always sells well:
I would say that leather has been very safe in the last few seasons. Whether it’s a leather jacket, leather pants, leather skirt, leather top leather will be sold.
About what a great buyer:
I think there is a factor that must be innate – an intuitive drive. The eye is what you have, or what you don’t have. There are some trainings – I think there are some good training grounds for different design companies. I also know that every different company I work with is working with different creative people to think about fashion and aesthetics in different ways. Each brand has its own seal. But there is also an element that you have or do not have.
For clarity, this interview has been edited and condensed.