How did you become a buyer?
I studied business and corporate finance, so I wasn’t planning on working in the fashion industry at all despite my strong personal interest for it. My first professional experiences were in investment banking and then in the sales team of a French startup, and I was not very enthusiastic about neither of these. I always spent a lot of my personal time reading about fashion, new designers, searching for specific pieces and wondering why they are not distributed there and there and who decides and how exciting it must be. So, I decided to apply to Le Bon Marche in the Womenswear department and started at a junior level again and then evolved throughout the years. I discovered that this job is a perfect combination of my previous experiences and my personal love for fashion: you need a pretty good sense of business and agility with numbers, good relationship skills and of course a strong sense for fashion and intuition.
How has the business of buying evolved since you started?
With the increasing number of players in the industry and the multiplication of platforms to shop on, it’s more and more important to know our clients and offer them a bespoke and exclusive experience. They are aware, educated and highly solicited. We try very hard to select brands and make choices precisely for them without necessarily following global trends. I also feel like we pay more attention to the story behind every piece and designer. In addition to the selection part, we now also work closely with brands to create experiences and exclusive events, from private gatherings between loyal clients and designers to public pop-up exhibitions on various themes.
What are the best and worst aspects of your work?
My office is just one floor above the store, so I have direct contact with the sales team and the clients, and we see each other almost every day which is very resourceful. I can say without any hesitation that the most rewarding aspect of the job lies in the direct link you create between a brand and a client. Buying a small brand from across the world, watching clients fall in love with it, and then telling the designer it’s almost sold out after a few weeks is the best.
Although the mindsets are slowly changing, I would say that the least rewarding part is having to keep up with the crazy rhythm of renewing entire collections every few months. Selling off designers ‘work at the end of a very short season is never a pleasant decision to make, and we try very hard to avoid it or at least keep it to a minimum. This is also why we’re promoting circular brands and initiatives such as Collector Square or Imparfaite.
What advice would you give a brand that wants to attract retail attention?
Know your customer. Do not try to please everyone and every retailer, focus on the type of client you want to target and then adapt your distribution strategy accordingly. When we select brands, we think of our own client, and it needs to be a good match. Very often, when we say “no” to a brand that is buzzing everywhere, it’s because they are not right for us.