How to Break Into the Competitive Clothing Industry

My name’s Elizabeth Stiles and I’ve worked in the fashion industry for over 12 years now.

My background is in fashion buying which means I worked alongside the designers to select the products which would make it on to the shop floor. As a buyer, you also work alongside so many talented people & I had no idea that there’s so many job opportunities within fashion other than being a designer!

Buying is all about having a passion for product and knowing who your customer is. You have to understand that whether you would wear the garments yourself is irrelevant, you need to ask yourself if your ideal customer would love it, wear it & buy it!

A great skill to have as a buyer is being a strong decision maker (especially under pressure!). It’s a good idea to take a look at the newest trends on the catwalks but also analyse the sales you have at that moment (& look back at the previous year to see what sold at the same time 1 year ago).

For example, you might have sold a pink floral mini dress in spring last year which sold out & your designer is saying that lilac is the biggest thing from the catwalk. You could do the same shape dress in the same fabric but just update the base colour and amend the print slightly. You’re then offering a new product to your customer but keeping some elements of it that you know she liked before.

If it’s possible for you financially to get some work experience then I’d suggest this is the best way for you to get your foot in the door and make a good impression. I’ve used my holiday allowance before for work experience as I knew it would pay off in the long term!

Try and make yourself stand out from the crowd, how can you make your CV memorable?

Chase, chase & chase some more! These people are busy so make sure you acknowledge that & make it clear that you’re offering to help them out rather than what you want to gain (even if that is the case!). Pick up the phone and ask to speak to the HR team — don’t give up if you don’t get a reply from your first email! Equally don’t give up after your first no! You’re going to get a lot of those but if you’re truly passionate to work in the industry then keep going!

When you get your foot in the door, make sure you’re on top form & be super polite to everyone in the office regardless of their position. This is your time to make a shining impression so that when a position comes up, you’ve proven yourself to be the first choice.

It’s likely that your job will initially consist of making tea and tidying but listen to all the conversations happening around you. Write down anything you don’t understand so that you can ask someone or research it when you get home. You might spot someone is having a quiet afternoon so this is a perfect opportunity to ask people for their time and show a genuine interest in what they do!

PS here’s a top tip I learnt — stay off your phone!!! Even if the boss is sat on it all day, it doesn’t mean that you can.

I always say that you can teach someone how to work out prices or approve lab dips but you can’t teach enthusiasm so bring this in bucket loads and you’ll stand out for all the right reasons 😊

If you’d like some support with your fashion brand, please contact me by email hi@elizabethstiles.co.uk or visit my website at www.elizabethstiles.co.uk

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