Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Woman at Work: A Day in the Life of a Fashion Buyer

As a fashion writer here at Ms. Vixen, I am constantly trying to think of new verticals to make content we put out the best you have ever seen. Aside from researching trends (or going against them) and writing articles, expanding readership is just as important. With that in mind, I am excited to announce a new Ms. Vixen column entitled “Women at Work.”

Essentially, this new aspect to the site will feature different women from different career paths and will allow you to see how they got their start. It is my hope that you are both able to see what a day in the life for each woman looks like but their experiences will ignite your own goals and dreams.

Since we are truly better together, getting insight from someone you may not directly know or heard of is what we need. So, read on to find out the first woman featured, and comment on who you would like to see next!

Backstory: Chinelo Okona and I actually met a year or so ago in New York at a weekend conference through Teen Vogue; which was wicked awesome and I highly recommend!

Name: Chinelo Okona
Location: New York
Age: 23

Ajea Nicole: Where do you work?

Chinelo Okona: For privacy purposes, let’s just say that I work for one of the largest retail corporations in the world. While there, I am a Women’s RTW (ready-to-wear) Assistant Buyer. My job is to forecast fashion trends, analyze customer-shopping behavior, and provide my stores with the best of assortment of merchandise that best fits their shopping needs.

AN: How did you become an assistant Fashion Buyer?

CO:I got into buying by networking with fashion professionals in the industry and really just proving my passion for trend and style, as well as my analytical skills and point of view.

Chinelo Okona and Ajea Nicole 

AN: What education and experiences led you to this role?

CO: Ever since I can remember, I’ve been enthused by fashion, culture and expressionism. In college, I studied marketing while working in retail sales. I loved working with people, apparel and using my personal knowledge on style to help customers express themselves and feel confident.
I also really enjoyed my coursework in school and the heavy focus on strategy and numbers. I felt like buying was the perfect marriage of my strong analytic and creative skills in the industry that I’ve always wanted to break into.

AN: Describe a typical day for you? Do you work 9-5 or do your hours vary?

CO:I work 9-5 but honestly, there’s no typical day for me lol. I do however, spend a lot of time studying sales reports to see what pieces and trends my customers are voting for, going to market appointments/showrooms to buy new goods for our stores or reorder styles that are selling well, developing trend strategies for upcoming seasons, shopping the competition to stay on top of what other retailers are doing and networking, networking, networking!

AN: What are your favorite aspects of your job? And least favorite?

CO: I enjoy my meetings with brands for market appointments to see how they’ve interpreted the fashion brands and translated them into the pieces they’ve designed. Overall, my favorite aspect is being impactful; I’ve always read magazine, watched runway shows, looked through campaigns growing up and daydreamed about what I could do in the fashion industry to affect change.

Ultimately, I feel like it is my job through buying merchandise to teach women how to put together a look and develop their taste. As a retailer you have that power to teach the masses what they should be buying, how they should style it & how much they should pay for it. To know that my decisions at work can ultimately impact how a woman feels as she goes to a wedding or her first day at a new job sparks my desire to understand her, meet her needs and help her express herself. Fashion is expressionism. On the other hand, not always being able to buy what I personally would like to see in stores is my least favorite.

AN:As a fashion buyer, what are some things you look for when scouting pieces and trends?

CO: I look for pieces and trends that speak to culture, function, seasonality, and a million other factors. The most important thing when actually choosing pieces to buy is value. I can be in the market and see the most beautifully embroidered garment but if it's not something my customer votes for or sees value in, I can't buy it!

AN: Describe a common misconception people have about what you do?

CO: I think the biggest thing that people think buying includes is sitting front row at all the fashion shows and partying with the industries elite. It can be & is that for many people, but the job can be far from glamorous. I spend a lot of time on excel crunching numbers, or on the phone harassing vendors about shipping our merchandise.

AN: Living in New York, they say the city never sleeps. What are some ways you unwind and have fun?

CO: I'm still very new to the city, so I enjoy exploring new neighborhoods and trying new restaurants. I now keep a running list in my phone of all the places in NY that I have to visit. I also love dancing, so whenever I've had a long day, I'll just take a dance class somewhere in the city. There's literally always something to do and it is so easy to put yourself out there and meet people. 

AN: Name two trends you're currently obsessed with and two trends you wish you could bring back?

CO: I for one am a footwear fanatic. I'm currently so obsessed with the mule trend in footwear. There's a pair of Gucci mules with studded accents and a snake detail that I've been eyeballing for weeks. I'm also so in love with the 'wearable pajamas' trend. I love satin and lace and the romance associated with those fabrics, so I just love that they've been socially deemed daytime-appropriate. 

I want to bring back over accessorizing. Street style has gotten so clean & minimalistic. I'm always here for a simple look, but sometimes I want to see chunky bracelets, stacked necklaces & rings on every finger. 

Also, it's not a trend per say, but I want to bring back just raw carefree dressing. I want everyone to feel comfortable enough to wear what they feel, and use his or her imagination. I feel like personal style has become so jaded. In general people should stop playing it safe and get creative. 

AN: What skills do you think it takes to make it as a fashion buyer?

CO: You have to have a strong retail math background. Period. You absolutely have to be strong analytically and have a strong enough perspective to react. You should also be well versed in consumer buying behavior, and translating trends to your target market. 

AN: If you could offer advice to anyone looking to make it in fashion, what would it be and why?

CO: I'm still so new to the industry, but my best advice is develop your point of view, then make it matter. Whatever that means to you. 

Don't get so caught up in perception, saying the right thing, or dressing the right way. Literally, just know yourself and assert yourself in meaningful ways. 

Connect with Chinelo!  

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By: Ajea Nicole

Ajea Nicole is a 20 something from Boston, MA who craves anything style related. Though her love of style originated from scouring her mom’s closet, she often gleans style inspiration from Solange and June Ambrose. When she is not catching up on Project Runway, she can be found working out at the gym, reading a good book or
somewhere in a sushi restaurant.

Connect with her!
Twitter: @ajeanicole
Instagram: @ajeanicole

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