WWD Series: Karen Vernet

March 3, 2022
Karen Vernet 
Chief Merchandising Officer at PRINTEMPS. Paris, France

How did you become a buyer? 
I’ve had a rather atypical career path… I started in food/health, a fascinating sector that is more relevant than ever in these COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 times. Then I evolved towards design – a personal passion. And from there, I was led to fashion. I started at Printemps in late 2009 and I have been immensely fortunate to cover many fields and very big projects in the Buying Direction / Merchandising track: lifestyle – design, travel, wedding; Men’s Fashion with the creation from scratch of the new Printemps de l’Homme; the revamp of our in-house labels; or the digital adventure with the creation of Printemps.com.
Today, I’m in charge of the overall management of the Offer and Buying for Retail and Digital, International. I truly believe in eclectic experiences because it allows for wide, open, borderless thinking. Without preconceptions. 

How has the business of buying evolved since you started?  
It’s evolved three ways:
– The acceleration of decision time: the world moves faster and faster, it’s more and more unstable and decisions have to be taken quickly, without having all the necessary reassurances. There’s a large place for intuition. 
– Massive digitalization of the business in fashion: both in its expression and its work methods, including selecting and buying collections, omnichannel offering, communication
– The rapid escalation of corporate, social and environmental responsibility: fashion very belatedly took on board this idea of kindness towards the planet and the need to change production and distribution methods. Today, it’s a forced march and it’s fundamental!

What are the best and worst aspects of your work?
My favorite: being perpetually in motion and being able to decrypt evolutions in society through the prism of fashion.
The least enjoyable one: ego battles. 

What advice would you give a brand that wants to attract retail attention? 
I’d tell them: personalization of contacts, resilience, long-term vision and quality in the relationship, without ever being too quick to make sudden changes in direction because of an opportunistic short-term business opportunity.
A brand relationship is built over time, with ups and downs so you have to be ready to shoulder all of these. 

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