My buying days always start the same - with a phone call to the first showroom to apologise for being late and say I'll be there soon. Then the rest of the day is spent trying to catch up and get ahead, and stay ahead. It's a nice little game I play with myself which unfortunately involves other people's schedules.
The name of the game is efficiency and I round up as many appointments as possible in the same area on the same day and tear through them. Over the years I've twigged that I steam through a little quicker than other buyers - some go to a showroom for a WHOLE DAY. I know. I'm there for barely enough time for a glass of water or, if it's a particularly long one, a cup of coffee. There's always the catch up chat too. What's selling well for us, which brand is the number 1 best-seller, where does the brand I'm seeing fit into that, what kind of things I’m looking for, what have I seen that I've liked so far etc. Then we get on with business.
If I'm seeing a brand I know well I can be there for no time at all. A quick flick through to grab all the things I know will be great, then we talk about colours and press pieces. If I don't know it that well or it isn't grabbing me I'll ask the sales person to show me their top picks and talk me through why I should have it. We don't sell dresses or skirts - only jeans and things that go with jeans - so that tends to cut out a fair percentage of the collection - unless of course it's a denim collection, and then I get right down to the nitty gritty.
So here's what I did last Friday, which I had blocked out for a full day of buying:
8.30am (8am appointment time!) Four Marketing to see AG Jeans. I've seen this collection a few times and have only picked up a pair of skinnies once in two washes. I'm here to see how the collection has moved on and if I want to show a bit more enthusiasm and buy into it properly. The sales girl is a new one - her name is Hana and she's great. She tells me it's actually good that I was late as it gave her time to have her coffee and wake up properly. I know this is sales speak for 'I want to sell this to you so 30 minutes isn't going to kill me'. The collection is huge. She pulls out all the best sellers and the things that are working for them and puts them on a model who sashays back and forth for me. The model's also great, perfect body for jeans and the kind of face you could happily look at all day. After I've photographed and noted everything I want Hana tells me I've seen all the greatest hits and can be on my way. I decide I like Hana a lot.
9.15am (9am appointment time) I head to see my friend Debra at Area 142, which is just around the corner. Debra sells Designers Remix and Pyrus to us, and it's also where I discovered Simeon Farrar, the artist whose printed t-shirts and jumpers I love. With Debra I always end up late because we talk too much in the beginning, but today she's on a tight schedule too, which is music to my ears and keeps me focused. I'm heading to a wedding the next day so I flip through all her collections first looking for something to borrow for the wedding. Perk of the job.
Citrus Designers Remix dress for the wedding identified, we get down to business. I pull out all the tops I like from Pyrus and Debra and I strip off our tops and start trying on the samples in earnest, talking about the shapes, what colours they would work best in, how you would wear it, and if something needs tweaking. Along the rail we have the definites, then the maybes at the end. When we start writing the styles with the colours, if I'm not sure about something it goes to the end of the rail, and then when we reach it again I make my final decision. There's no vacillating, it's a yes or a no.
I then flip through the rest of the designers and pull out and note everything I like. I photograph while Debra notes everything in the order I'm snapping. And then we're done.
11.30am (12noon appointment time - unheard of!) Live Fashion is in the next street where I buy Splendid and Beyond Vintage. Live have several other collections I look at too but for today I'm just doing these two. Splendid deliver every month so I ask to see the two previous orders leading up to the months I'm looking at and work out what we'll be running out of by December/January. We need mostly basics with pops of colour so I choose small groups of colour for both of the months and put together a little colour story. I confirm quantities then move on to Beyond Vintage downstairs.
Beyond Vintage is a brand I found in New York just over a year ago. I love it. No one else is doing anything quite like it and it hits the nail on the head in terms of translating the vintage pieces into new garments that are vintage in style but still modern enough for today's customer. The owner and designer Eliz is in the showroom with her husband and children, and this is where the schedule goes out the window again. Then Catherine comes in, the owner of Live Fashion, and we all sit down for an extended natter. Meanwhile the super efficient sales girl Elizabeth is following me while I grab everything off the rails I want, puts them on a model, photographs them for me with my phone (while also charging it at the same time) and writes the order. I may be late but I'm having fun. And I've also found a second dress for the wedding I'm heading to the following day. There's going to be an outfit change!
3.00pm (appointment time 2.00pm - eek!!!) I'm now super late arriving at Self Service, which is sort of on the way back to the office, where I buy Wildfox and LnA. Wildfox has grown into such an enormous beast that it now takes up the whole downstairs showroom of Self Service. Sandra sells it to me and she's amazing; she knows the brand inside out. I start pulling from the rails and there's not a lot I leave behind, there's going to have to be some thoughtful editing. I return to the rail holding my selection and start calling out the colours and quantities, throwing out anything I think we can live without. If I can't live without it, Sandra tells me. Regardless of what Sandra says though, some things are just not our customer and I know what we definitely can't sell, so I pass on the super cropped boob exposing knits. All the while I'm photographing and labelling and emailing the photos back to Head Office to be filed.
Within 40 minutes I'm upstairs going through LnA, a fantastic LA t-shirt brand with great quality cotton basics that our customers love. Kate Moss is also a big fan and wears their cap sleeve tee with zipper pocket detail often. I need more information from Head Office on what sizes and colours we sell best in LnA so I don't place quantities on LnA on the spot.
It's 4pm and I'm finished and heading back to the office, sheaf of papers in hand and hundreds of photographs in the phone. An early buying day!