The Expert Guide: Understanding a Fashion Buyer’s Perspective

The Expert Guide: Understanding a Fashion Buyer’s Perspective

Part of our goal at The Folklore Connect is to increase the visibility of diverse, fashion-forward brands on a global stage, and help facilitate their access to new markets as they grow their wholesale business. One of the ways we do that is through our webinar series that invites fashion insiders and industry professionals to share their expert advice with our brands.

From product development and merchandising to sourcing suppliers and manufacturers, our experts come from all corners of the fashion retail industry and our panel this month is no different. This month’s webinar features Dalila Shannon, Gina Lewis, and Sumendra Chetty, three exceptional women who are well-known in the fields of fashion merchandising and retail buying.

As Divisional Merchandise Manager and head of diversity and inclusion at Urban Outfitters, Dalila Shannon brings nothing short of expert ways to understand the buyer’s perspective, from predicting future trends to sourcing products and managing budgets. An alum of Stanford University with a background at J.Crew, Shannon has more than 10 years of experience in omnichannel buying and
product merchandising with a view to increase market share and revenue in the retail space. With her merchandising expertise intersecting with diversity values, Shannon’s work has shown the importance of prioritizing effective procedures and inclusion to broaden consumer horizons for the most advantageous outcomes.

Gina Lewis is the founder of FRTWN, an e-commerce platform that seeks to amplify diverse brands inspired by the style and aesthetic of the African diaspora. Before her current role, Lewis worked as a home goods buyer for more than 10 years, gaining skills in creative product development, product sourcing, vendor interactions, and trader research.

Sumendra Chetty is a fashion buyer at Merchants on Long, an African luxury concept boutique headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa. The boutique exclusively stocks designers and artists who solely produce in Africa, with a focus on social impact and measurable change. She has been in charge of, among others, product development and visual merchandising. The companies she has worked with have succeeded in large part thanks to her remarkable trend-forecasting abilities and carefully chosen creative direction support.

Together, all three brought their considerable expertise and talents to our webinar to shed some light on the multi-faceted role of a buyer.


Read the key takeaways and watch the full recording below.



The buyer’s role

Chetty: A lot of it is research. What are the upcoming trends? What trends worked? What trends didn’t work? What aligns with our ethos? 

Lewis: We’re responsible for surprising and delighting the customer. It’s introducing new things, staying ahead of the curve and centering the customer. 

Shannon: We’re building relationships with brands and picking products that will work for our customer. There’s a lot of collaborating that happens when we approach a new brand to work with. We’re looking at the brand’s market impact, from social media presence to impressions, although that’s not a requirement. 

The buying calendar

Shannon: It’s constant. We do meet during the major spring and fall market appointments, because that is when most brands show. However, there are other continuous periods of assortment and line sheet planning that cover spring, summer, fall, winter, resort.

Lewis: We are constantly looking, having conversations and building relationships, and looking for what’s new. The goal is simplicity. Our key is keeping it simple, and seeing what the easiest way is to get started, what is the designer most excited about, and that can happen at any given time. 

Pricing and markups

Lewis: Whatever retailer or market you’re looking to get your brand into, it’s important to observe the price points there, which will help you establish a baseline. You don’t want to shrink the value of your products to fit a certain equation; you want to find the right home for your aesthetic, your price point and your quality. Sometimes, expensive products are perceived as belonging to only high-end luxury brands, brands, but niche, innovative, creative and sustainable products are great stories that also create value for the customer.  

Discovering new brands or collections

Shannon: I look for something our customer has not seen before, or something that fills a gap in our assortment. I want something that has an artistic angle and a brand identity. Something that is going to stand out on the floor and not blend in with the rest of the assortment.

Lewis: I love texture and bold color. Something that’s unique, that’s different and offbeat will catch my eye quicker than something that’s similar to what’s already in the market. 

Digital vs physical

Lewis: The digital landscape has means that the tools have gotten better, which is a good thing. Relationship-wise, nothing is better than being in person, working with someone and understanding their point of view; being able to assess the quality, asking questions and having the product in front of you. Wholesale platforms like The Folklore Connect are great for having virtual meetings quickly, and being able to have all your information accessible saves a lot of time, so that when we are together, it makes it easier to tackle a lot more in person. 

Chetty: Great photography can only go so far and it’s always better to be able to touch and feel the product. However, it’s been fantastic to be able to get onto digital platforms and speak to designers from another part of the world, which you don’t get in person. It’s great to be able to do go to one place to see the line sheets, the wholesale prices, the fabric composition, as well as really good products. The more information the better.

Catch up on the full recording:

Discover more Connect webinars here

Words by Ashley Cofie

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