INSIDE CAREERS

Each week Drapersjobs brings you Inside Careers; profiling inspiring professionals from all areas of the fashion industry. Learn how fashion professionals are succeeding in their careers and how they got to where they are today. Don’t forget to register for tailored fashion job alerts and upload your CV so you can take your fashion career to the next level too.

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Anna Bryant 
24 June 2011

International buyer, Sarenza.


What does your job involve?
As the international buyer at footwear and handbags etailer Sarenza, I’m responsible for the buying of UK, US and German brands. This involves attending all of the European trade shows as well as travelling to brand showrooms across the world. It is imperative to understand the brand identity, follow the brand’s evolution and consider the forthcoming trends in order to select the best product for our customers across Europe.

What skills do you need?
You need great communication skills in order to build strong relationships with your brands. At Sarenza, we consider our brands to be our
partners, rather than just our suppliers. A passion for fashion and an eye for trends, as well as a good understanding of your customer, are vital elements of your skill set. Having worked in footwear shoes for more than 10 years now I have a great understanding of the product but it is also essential to have a good understanding of your customer.

What do you like and dislike about your job?
I love that I get to buy footwear and do a job that gives me so much pleasure. I like the diverse product range I work with at Sarenza - the company has more than 400 brands in total across footwear and handbags. In footwear, this includes women’s, men’s and kids’ shoes across a broad sector, from high fashion to casual comfort. I dislike the fact there are never enough hours in the day.

How did you get to where you are today?
With hard work and determination. I’ve been lucky enough to work for people who were not only very knowledgeable but also wanted to help me develop and progress in my own career - I’ll always be grateful to them for their support. Before Sarenza, I worked
as international buyer for Dune, and before that, as junior buyer for Lloyd Shoe Company.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Moving to Paris to become part of the fantastic team at Sarenza with very little French but being able to make myself understood. Having said that, the first trade meeting I attended in French was a real challenge. I’m still learning French but I’m able to understand almost everything and regularly have to give presentations now.

What is your ambition?
To grow with Sarenza as it expands across Europe and to offer the best range of footwear to shoe addicts everywhere.

How do you intend to get there?
Sarenza already has websites for eight countries and there are plans to launch more this year. We hope to have dedicated sites for every country in Europe soon. As I travel around the world with the other buyers, we are always on the lookout for new brands and up-and-coming designers to make sure the range we offer will always be evolving.

What three words sum you up?
Determined, adaptable and fun.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
If it’s footwear in particular that interests you, you should try to get onto one of the specialist educational courses that are available. Once you’ve done that, look for a company that offers you great training programmes and the potential to progress. It’s important to maintain your passion and strive to develop both your skills and knowledge.

CV
2011 International buyer, Sarenza
2006 International buyer, The Dune Group
2003 Junior buyer, Lloyd Shoe Company

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Rose Wilson

27 May 2011

Commercial manager, Maria Grachvogel.

What does your job involve?
I am [designer womenswear label] Maria Grachvogel’s right-hand person and generally responsible for running the brand. I oversee wholesale, distribution and licensing deals; sponsorships; partnerships; and collaborations. I’m also responsible for all marketing, internal PR and design.

I drive and manage our brand strategy, devise the international sales strategy, select target retail stores and build relationships with buyers. I implement link-ups with other luxury brands and manage the production and organisation of our London Fashion Week catwalk show, including budgeting and creative vision. I also design and manage the accessories collections, and develop new lines.

What skills do you need?
The skills I need include business acumen, writing and design skills, and organisational and event management expertise for producing the show at London Fashion Week. Working between departments requires diplomacy, and good communication is essential. Good manners are also important; being kind and professional at all times is key. You need a strong vision for what you are trying to achieve. It is important to have a passion and knowledge of the industry as a whole and know what your competitors are doing.

What do you like and dislike about your job?
I love working in the different areas of the business and applying myself creatively and analytically. I also like that I am spearheading the company expansion - it is very rewarding to know I am contributing directly to our success. I love helping to develop the collection from conception through to the show, then gauging buyer and client reactions. But at certain points in the season the very long hours can take their toll.

How did you get to where you are today?
Energy, graft, ambition and the ability to adapt my skills to lots of different areas. This is vital if you want to build a small business.

It is important to be motivated to inspire your team and yourself, and you have to know how to balance your time and understand what makes a brand relevant.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Bringing Maria Grachvogel back to London Fashion Week for autumn 10 was incredible. To produce a show and see the response and support from the industry was amazing. Every collection and show I help produce inspires that feeling of pride but that first show was really special.

What is your ambition?
To continue to play my part in creating and building a global brand.

How do you intend to get there?
Hard work, commitment and a belief that I can do it.

What three words sum you up?
Hard-working, proactive and ambitious.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Work hard, be confident and learn as much as you can about the industry and your competitors.

CV
2010 Commercial manager, Maria Grachvogel

2009 Ready-to-wear and accessories designer, Maria Grachvogel

2008 Assistant designer and production manager, Maria Grachvogel

2007 PR, sales and marketing assistant, Maria Grachvogel

2006 PR assistant, Maria Grachvogel

2005 Assistant, Katie Hillier

2005 Assitant brand manager, Luella

2005 BA Hons Classics, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

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Antonio Marsocci

28 April 2011

Head of retail, Lotus Originals.

What does your job involve?

I’m responsible for building the worldwide retail network with direct and franchise stores for Lotus Originals [the lifestyle brand owned by the car company]. The main part of the role is to set up channels of distribution, including wholesale, online and new concepts such as shop-in-shops in department stores. I manage all commercial plans, from operation to delivery, and ensure effective routes to market. I’m also responsible for creating retail store structures that put Lotus Originals in a luxury environment, which is a new level of brand exposure for Lotus.

What skills do you need?

Experience working with premium brands, luxury and high-end retail chains and a strong eye for detail are all key. Experience in retail, buying, budgeting, sales planning, wholesale, visuals and display and marketing is also essential. It’s also important to be able to think strategically, have strong analytical skills and to have a background in operational execution. Good communication, being motivated and goal-oriented, and having the ability to make fast, analytical decisions are also fundamental to this role. Being focused on customer service and a team player are key to success.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

I love the whole retail cycle, from the creation and production of the collection, to the selling, to business partners and consumers. I enjoy the adrenaline of multi-tasking and the versatility of the business, which often presents tight deadlines - but these can also be nerve-racking.

How did you get to where you are today?

Above all, by doing what I always loved; gaining experience from the shopfloor during my law and business studies and moving forward in my career in Italy, Germany and the UK. I’ve always been detail-oriented and focused on operational efficiencies, thinking about what needs to be done and how it can be done quickly without losing quality. I also believe that being a motivator in managing and developing staff helps. I always put my utmost into being a team builder who uses effective communication and performance management to encourage the development of individuals. There are no results for any manager without the team’s results coming first.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

Launching the Lotus Originals website with a worldwide distribution.

What is your ambition?

To establish the Lotus Originals brand so it is recognised worldwide.

How do you intend to get there?

By working closely with my team and looking with fresh eyes at each and every opportunity for Lotus Originals. Also, to establish a strong network of direct stores, franchises and wholesalers.

What three words sum you up?

Optimistic, focused, self-motivated.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

To be an intense, driven, results-oriented self-starter with a sense of urgency, tempered and disciplined only by concern for the accuracy and quality of the work to be done. To hold themselves, and those with whom they work, to exacting, ever-increasing goals. To react quickly to changing conditions and come up with practical ideas for dealing with them and learning daily from their own mistakes.

CV
2010 Head of retail, Lotus Originals
2009 Head of retail, Habitat
2006 Retail and operations director, Matches
2004 Area manager, Matches
2000 Senior manager, Giorgio Armani

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Francesca Herman -  Head of Merchandising, Surfdome

21 April 2011

What does your job involve?

I manage the buying and merchandising team at boardsports-inspired lifestyle etailer Surfdome, which involves setting budgets with the managing director, negotiating terms with suppliers and developing new systems and processes. My main objective is to select the right product for a high sell-through.

What skills do you need?

Some of the most important skills are to be dynamic and innovative in dealing with constant expansion. You also need to be analytical, have strong IT skills and commercial acumen, and be organised. It is vital to get the best out of your team, which requires good communication and people-management skills.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

The best thing about working for a fast-paced online retailer is how quickly you can make changes and see the results almost instantly. I also like that my role is so varied but I do sometimes wish I could freeze time to get more done.

How did you get to where you are today?

After completing my A-levels I spent two years working for a women’s tailoring wholesaler.

I used to visit buyers and merchandisers and realised I would prefer to work in retail. I then did a fashion management degree at London College of Fashion in the evenings while working full time. I’ve since learnt a lot of different skills from working at a variety of businesses, including Space NK, Dorothy Perkins and John Lewis. I was looking for a new challenge and after hearing about Surfdome through a personal contact I met up with Justin [Stone], the managing director. I think the most important elements of getting to where I am today have been hard work and determination.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

It was actually setting up my own business - a beach bar in Croatia in 2005.

It involved buying land in Croatia, building a bar and running it for two summers. I learnt more business skills than would have been possible from working in a buying and merchandising office. We created a successful brand and now rent out the bar during the summers.

What is your ambition?

To continue to develop Surfdome as a brand that is synonymous with lifestyle and fashion without losing its roots. Part of this development is expanding into new global markets.

How do you intend to get there?

We’ll get there through careful strategic planning and communication, and ensuring we have people with the right skills in the right positions and the systems and processes to deliver our strategic objectives.

What three words sum you up?

Ambitious, innovative and dynamic.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Always learn something in the role you are doing. It is important to manage your own development and build time into your schedule to develop your own skills. Don’t be afraid to move to another company if you are finding that your progression has come to a halt.

CV

2009 Head of merchandising, Surfdome
2007 Beauty merchandising manager, John Lewis
2006 Beauty project manager, John Lewis
2005 Merchandising consultant, Space NK; set up Bura Beach Bar in Croatia
2004 Assistant merchandiser, Dorothy Perkins
2004 Junior merchandiser, Space NK
1999 BA Hons Business of Fashion Management, London College of Fashion

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Laura Booth - Creative Director, WedgeWelly
15 April 2011

What does your job involve?

As creative director at [wellington boots etailer] WedgeWelly, my job entails all things creative and arty from designing surface prints to product development, researching, blogging, creating newsletters and running competitions. I spend a lot of time speaking to customers to find out their likes and dislikes, thereby ensuring I can design the perfect product.

What skills do you need?

Patience. Whether I’m designing a new surface print or working with the research and development team to develop a new product, these things take time and effort, therefore lots of patience is needed. I’m a bit of a perfectionist too, so if something’s not quite right, we start again, much to the dismay of my team.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

I feel very privileged to be doing a job I love.

I love working at a fast pace under enormous pressure (I thrive under pressure), and I love the variety I experience on a day-to-day basis. I can be in the Far East developing new products one day, and at a footwear show the next, speaking to retailers and gaining insight into what the consumer wants. The only thing

I dislike about my current role is that there aren’t enough hours in the day.

How did you get to where you are today?

With a lot of hard work and a bit of luck. Sarah [Longthorn, WedgeWelly managing director] and I worked togetherat [consultancy firm] PHP and we came up with the idea of WedgeWelly with [now sales director] Mike Longthorn over an alcohol-fuelled night in, watching Glastonbury on the TV.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

When we entered the [TV series] Dragons’ Den and won investment from [Dragon and entrepreneur] Theo Paphitis. We’re very fortunate to have Theo as part of the team - his expertise, financial support and enthusiasm have completely surpassed our expectations.

What is your ambition?

I think it’s important when you work as part of a team that you all share the same values and ambitions, and luckily in our case we all do. We want to grow WedgeWelly into a global brand and make it a household name. We want to be the number one choice of footwear for those city girls who don’t normally wear wellies, but suddenly find themselves in the position of needing a pair.

How do you intend to get there?

By keeping the range fresh, therefore investing heavily in research and development.

Then, by communicating our message through marketing, public relations and advertising and, finally, extending our sales force and recruiting some of the best people in the industry to represent us.

What three words sum you up?

Enthusiastic, dynamic and fun.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t be afraid to take risks - you’ll never know if you don’t try. Surround yourself with knowledgeable people who can take you in the right direction, and be resourceful wherever you can. Starting a business can be very costly somake good friends with your bank manager.

CV

2008 Creative director, WedgeWelly
2006 Head of product development, Logistics Institute, Hull
2003 Creative executive, PHP (automotive consultancy) 

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Lesley Torson - Buying Director, Trilogy
8 April 2011

What does your job involve?

I have the best job in the world, doing what I love. I’m responsible for the buying of all the collections and denim offer for [three-store women’s denim indie] Trilogy as well as managing the great team we have in all our stores. I’m often looking at three seasons at the same time - reviewing current sales and maximising in-season opportunities, planning the new season launch as well as buying the future season. What is also happening now, as we grow, is that we are working on a number of collaborations and exclusives with our biggest denim and collection brands to give our customers something special that they can only get at Trilogy - this is great fun and really exciting.

What skills do you need?

You have to know your customer inside out. The job is also all about people, whether that’s my team or the suppliers we buy from. You have to get the best out of people, listen lots and learn from your mistakes, as today things change so quickly. I couldn’t do my job without a love for product and trends and I’m constantly reviewing the key shows and designers’ collections and trends. The most important thing for us is to understand which of these are the most relevant and exciting for our customers’ lifestyles.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

I like that every day is different, whether we are reviewing the sales figures, buying future collections, developing the team or - my favourite bit - spending time with our customers who inspire me every day. My only dislike is there’s never enough time to get everything done.

How did you get to where you are today?

I started as a store sales adviser at Marks & Spencer, then progressed within M&S into commercial management, followed by sales development and then into buying and merchandising, finishing as women’s head of buying for casualwear and knitwear. M&S was a great training experience, but owning and developing your own business is the most exciting challenge I’ve ever faced.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Opening our first Trilogy store in Chelsea in London in 2006. The reaction to the concept and the reputation we’ve started to get makes me so proud. 

What is your ambition?

We want to grow the business at a sensible speed, continuing to deliver the best customer experience and excite our customers as much as we can. We want to open more stores but we want to do it well and won’t rush it; if we go too fast we won’t be able to retain the important aspects, such as service and product mix, that the customers enjoy today.

What three words sum you up?

People-oriented, driven and fair. If I could say a fourth, I’d say I’m always late.

What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps?

My job is so consuming you have to love doing what you do, keep it simple and develop your team as that’s what takes you forward. Don’t worry about mistakes - you’ll make loads - but learn from them.

CV

2010 Opens third Trilogy store in Kensington
2008 Opens second Trilogy store in Marylebone
2006 Opens Trilogy, Chelsea
2002 Head of buying, women’s casualwear and knitwear, Marks & Spencer
1998 Merchandiser, womenswear, M&S
1996 Sales and marketing co-ordinator, M&S
1991 Sales adviser, M&S 

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Lucy Smith - Buyer, TruffleShuffle
25 February 2011

What does your job involve?

My position [at retro-inspired T-shirt e-tailer TruffleShuffle.co.uk] is varied, which I love. As well as sourcing new brands and product, assisting in the design process of our in-house brands, attending trade fairs and meeting suppliers, I'm also involved in merchandising (both how the product comes across on the website and analysing sales figures). Working for an e-tailer has also exposed me to the huge potential of social networking, which now plays a part in my daily role here. I also liaise with our PR agency on celebrity coverage and alert them to new product launches.

What skills do you need?

Great enthusiasm for your market and product area, with a clear understanding of what your customer wants. Keeping a constant eye on up-and-coming brands and trends through all kinds of channels is important. The ability to listen to your customers, creativity and communication are also key, as is working with a broad range of people from areas such as the warehouse, digital marketing, design and PR. Analytical skills are also important.

What do you like and dislike about your job?

I love buying a broad product range which includes womenswear, menswear, kidswear, jewellery and gifts. It is also really exciting when our product is featured in the press or on a celebrity, or if a customer writes a great review on our website or Facebook page. But it can be tough dealing with delivery errors from suppliers abroad.

How did you get to where you are today?

Graduating with a history degree, I knew I had my work cut out getting into a buying career. I started out in a merchandising role at Freemans, and while I was there I took a few courses at the London College of Fashion. In my free time I did work experience to prove my devotion to a career in fashion, resulting in a buying role in the teenwear department at [value retailer] Mackays [now M&Co].

I then moved to Debenhams before relocating to the Southwest and joining TruffleShuffle.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

Being able to move into buying through sheer determination and a passion for what I do is a huge achievement, particularly in such a competitive sector.

What is your ambition?

I’m aiming towards a head buyer/buying director position which will give me overall responsibility for all the buying and merchandising functions at TruffleShuffle.

How do you intend to get there?

By remaining enthusiastic and broadening the product ranges while maintaining our current familiar niche, as well as keeping a keen eye on developments in the online market to ensure the website is always exciting.

What three words sum you up?

Creative, enthusiastic, ambitious.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Go over and above what the job requires. Don’t be afraid to suggest new ideas. Make the most of any training provided by your employer and take evening courses to enrich your CV.

CV

2009 Buyer, TruffleShuffle
2009 Assistant buyer, Debenhams
2006 Trainee assistant buyer, Debenhams
2005 Buyer’s admin assistant, Mackays
2004 Stock controller, Freemans
2001 History BA, University of East Anglia

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