This is a question I get asked all the time. To become a fashion buyer is the holy grail of the fashion industry and it is not an easy journey. It required commercial acumen, numerical skills, and a great sense of fashion. The buyer is a role that concatenates many functions from marketing and retail. In this article, I give you some pointers to teach you how to become a fashion buyer.Some companies even organize their career progression towards buying. This is particularly the case of Inditex, where the most typical journey would be to get hired as a product manager (what we know as a merchandiser) to understand the market and metrics. Then you would become a distributor (what we know as a planner) which is an intermediate role between buying and merchandising, and ultimately you would become a buyer.
My path to buying was rather conventional I suppose. But before I begin, you must know that I never really intended to become a fashion buyer. I was more inclined towards design, probably because I did not have a good enough knowledge of the workings of the fashion industry. The first time I knew about the role of a buyer was in a book. So this takes us to my first advice on how to become a fashion buyer:
Read a good Buying & Merchandising Book
A great part of the literature on Buying and Merchandising is for students. This is great for you because it will start from the most basic: who does what in the fashion industry. In these books, you will learn what is a buyer and what they do, but also about the role of merchandising, design and marketing. The more you know, the more likely you are to make the right decision as in which path to take. Every role has its good things and bad things, so do not underestimate the power of knowledge before it is too late. And then, once you become a buyer or merchandiser, each company will train you and give you guidelines on what you need to do. But once you know the basics, it will be easy to adapt to any structure.
Here is my favorite which I believe will help you a lot:
If you want to receive your book super fast, sign up to the Amazon Prime trial. You can cancel it within 30 days and you will not be charged a penny.
Take a buying and merchandising course online
I have been very nicely surprised by the high quality of this course. It provides a great intro to the world of buying and merchandising.
The course covers all the basics in 3 hours of on-demand video and activities, and I felt that the flow of the course was excellent. The instructor is very clear and explains every topic thoroughly.
You will learn about the buyers key responsibilities, team structure, resources and some key concepts such as OTB (Open-to-buy).
Listen to this great audiobook (and how to get it for FREE)
There is a great audiobook called “How to Start a Clothing Company“. The first three champers are really good and give you an overview of the main business models in the fashion industry.
I know this book is not technically about fashion buying, but the more you know the better equipped you will be, plus you can get it for free by following the instructions below:
- Go to the books Amazon page
- Select the audiobook version
- Sign up to the free trial
- Download the book
And remember that you can cancel your audible trial at any time if you do not want to be charged.
Go to fashion school
There are excellent courses out there. I personally studied Fashion Business at the London College of Fashion. This worked very well for me because it was a part-time program that allowed me to work at the same time to pay for my studies. I can only talk about my experience but this course gave me a really strong view of the industry as a whole. And because I was working at the same time, I was able to apply or observe what I had learned on my every-day work.
By my last year, I had already landed a few good internships at very prestigious companies.
Here are a few very good schools of fashion offering great programs in the field of buying and merchandising:
- London College of Fashion
- Central Saint Martins
- Instituto Marangoni
- Fashion Institute of Technology
Start by reading a book and take your time to think about what you really want to do for the rest of your life. And remember, reading can only do good to you!