Sunday, 13 May 2012

Ever dreamt of buying for a living?
The vast majority of fashion folk among us would probably love the opportunity of buying the things they love and earning a living doing it.

In such a competitive industry, booting that swanky shoe of yours through the iron gates and into fashion paradise can feel a whole way away from where you’re at now. There are times where it seems even the savviest, Louboutin-heel-wearing diva and enviably dashing dude don’t manage to burst the bubble which surrounds one of the world’s most sought after industries to work in. But it can and does happen, however!

That’s why I caught up with the successful, inspirational Suzanne Dunusinghe, a BA (Hons) Fashion Promotion graduate of 2003. I questioned her on the journey she took to becoming the Senior Assistant Buyer at Britain’s leading online fashion retailer, There’s one very good lesson to be learnt; that your time at university is not to be taken for granted.

 1. What was your experience at university?

I really enjoyed my time at Southampton Solent. I thought the teachers were really good and I had some great classmates who turned out to be best buddies for life. I also had an amazing time partying - whilst working very hard of course!

2. How did you make the most it? 

It was definitely all about both working and playing hard! Southampton is a fantastic campus town and living away from home gives you great life experience. It’s also a good time to make some strong friendships and learn a lot. Be sure to enjoy every minute of it!

It also gave me the time to try and find out exactly what it is that I loved, which has undoubtedly driven me further in life. I really wanted to make sure that I took the opportunity to build on my passions whilst I was there too.

3. What would you change if you went back again?

I do wish that I’d have tried to get some placements during the summer. It would have been a huge advantage once I had left. From teaching and training interns in the various job roles I’ve had over the years, it has really shown me how much you can get out of work placements. The interns I’ve worked with have even said that it provides such a good grounding for working life.

4. Were you anxious about working life once you graduated?

Well I actually left feeling very excited about what was coming next. When I first left I spent a lot of time working in the retail sector meeting new friends, whilst also freelancing as an illustrator for various hair magazines.

5. How did you get into buying?

The pressures of freelancing as an illustrator at the time were quite tough as you struggle to find more work. I really wanted to get into fashion.

I sent my CV to so many recruiters. All of my lunchtimes and evenings were spent trying to get interviews in any fashion role. The hardest part was definitely trying to get an interview. Most employers wanted some kind of experience, which I didn’t have.

I eventually got an interview for a role as a buyer’s assistant at MK One.
So when I went along I knew that I would have to push it really hard and ended up getting the job! Then once I got my foot in the door I was constantly trying to push my career further, which is how I ended up where I am today!

6. What does your typical working day entail?

There are so many things to mention in my day to day role! I have two main roles within To begin with, I work as a buyer on branded accessories.

So first thing in the morning I check our daily sales figures to see how each line is performing and look for opportunities to trade stock. If a certain line is performing really well then I’ll get some more in. Then I’ll look at the worst sellers and see what can be done to improve the situation.

I am currently in the midst of AW12 orders from brands at the moment, which is when a few deadlines start looming. So I have to write up various orders on excel to then send to suppliers. There is a lot of admin involved in the role, alongside the creative aspects.

Then my second role is managing the ASOS AFRICA collection, an ethical collection designed in-house and all produced in Kenya. It’s good to know that we are helping people in some way.

Today was really exciting as all the styles were handed over to the production team for a photo-shoot with a model. I often get the chance to work alongside the stylist and choose outfits for each shot. It’s always a great feeling to see months of hard work coming together and looking ace!

Then once I’m back in the office, it’s back to checking details of orders on the system. As I am in quite a senior role now I also have the task of catching up with my assistant, seeing how the preparation of items for photo shoots is coming along and managing any issues with the products.

A lot of multitasking and problem solving is required as there can be lots of issues on a day to day basis, with deliveries for example.

7. What are the key traits that you should possess for a career in your field?

You have to be really determined, have a solid and up-to-date knowledge of trends and have your own opinion. It’s also of integral importance to have a good eye, attention to detail and creative flair.

8. What’s the best part of your job?

Nothing beats seeing all the styles go live. It’s catching people wearing the collections that you’ve chosen that is really rewarding. Seeing your chosen brands do really well and exceed their planned sales figures is definitely a good feeling.

9. Are there any tedious aspects of the job? 

As with any job there are down sides, of course. There is a lot of admin to work, as well as late nights and weekends, but it’s all really worth it in the end. Especially since you get a good discount!

10. What would your advice be to students and graduates wanting to
pursue a career in the same field as you?

In your spare time I would definitely recommend trying to get some kind of work placement or permanent position as a buyer’s assistant if possible. If you don’t have the time then make sure you research the company you want to get into really well when applying for jobs so that you can tailor your CV to meet their needs.

Once you get an interview you’re half way there and have a strong chance of getting the job. That’s when you have to be positive and really push yourself. Do something which will make you stand out, like a small project on the company to present in the interview on the day.

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