"Your classmates will be your future colleagues so keep in touch and help each other out."
We had a chat with BA (Hons) Fashion Buying and Merchandising Alumna, Kirsty Pruce, about her life working as a fashion buyer at COS Stores, and how her time at LCF helped her to prepare for the industry.
Hi Kirsty! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. How’s everything going?
Lovely to be here! Thanks for inviting me! Everything is going great thank you!
Can you tell us a bit more about your line of work?
As a buyer, I work closely with my team of designers, technicians & merchandisers to create our best collection for stores. We work together on what fabrics, silhouettes & colour are key for the coming season, creating product strategies on what we want to achieve with the range. We will select suppliers to sample our in-house designs and work on the development of the style until we are ready to place our order. I negotiate the cost prices and decide the selling price in order to achieve our margin targets, deciding how many to buy and for which stores. I monitor our selling and report on our performance to the team, taking action accordingly to buy more of what the customer likes and reducing liability on what we know the customer is not buying. We are also key contacts for the customer-facing departments in the company, such as marketing, PR, visual merchandising & E-commerce making sure we communicate our vision so they can promote it to our customers.
Have you always wanted to work in buying? What inspired you to take this route?
When I was 16 years old, I was reading a magazine and came across an interview with a buyer, I didn’t know what a buyer was at the time, so I decided to look it up and straight away knew this was the job for me!
I loved shopping and fashion, but I wasn’t a hands-on creative type, so the combination of working in an area I loved but using my more natural business-orientated abilities seemed like a perfect combination!
You’ve had the pleasure of working for some very recognised brands. But what has been the highlight of your professional career to date?
I have been very fortunate to work at both my all-time favourite brands – COS & Whistles. The first department I was given ownership of was the Jewellery department at Whistles. I was working hard on raising the jewellery collection profile, even successfully having some of the statement pieces featured in our lookbook for the first time. After about a year, I was sent a lovely article on our jewellery collection in Stella Magazine, the piece was about which designers to find the best jewellery and Whistles was featured alongside Marni, Chloe, J W Anderson, & Mulberry and given their ‘Special High Street Award’. It might not seem as important as a big promotion, but it was really personal to me as I had put my all into making it a great collection and I had designed many of the pieces that season myself!
What do you find the most challenging part of your work?
The most challenging part of my work is controlling quality, We have very high standards and expect these to be maintained in our bulk production. It’s heart breaking when you’ve worked really hard on getting a style looking absolutely perfect and then when the production sample arrives, there are problems and we have to ask the suppliers to improve.
What most excites you about the future of the fashion industry?
Sustainability is the future of fashion. Buyer’s of the future have a great responsibility on their shoulders to buy from ethical and sustainable sources. Customers are becoming far more aware of where their clothes come from and demand for sustainable fashion is growing so fast - The brands that can offer this to them will be the most successful ones going forward.
It’s something I’m really passionate about and we are doing lots of sustainable sourcing for recycled fabrics, BCI organic cottons, bamboo yarns, chrome free leathers, and non-animal leathers such as apple leather.
Let’s talk a little bit about your time at LCF. Why did you choose to study here?
I chose LCF as it has the best reputation for fashion business courses. I wanted to be in London as not only do I love the city, but it's the heart of the fashion industry in this country. It felt right to be in London where there is a strong community of creative people with lots of buzz and events going on. I knew I would be able to find the internships I needed in the city and having LCF on my CV really helped me get my foot in the door to gain this experience! I was certain that I wanted to be a Buyer, so I was confident in choosing the B&M course and have never looked back!
You studied BA Fashion Buying & Merchandising here. How do you feel your course has helped you in your professional career? Do you feel it’s helped to you prepare for industry?
The course certainly prepared me for a career in buying, we covered many key areas such as sourcing & supply chain, range planning, branding, market positioning and open-to-buy planning. Our lecturers had all worked for many years as buyers, so it was invaluable having them as our mentors. I also found that the practical side of presenting projects and report writing allowed me to gain the skills I would need in a real buying office setting.
From your own experience, what piece of advice would you give to someone looking to
follow in your line of work after their studies?
I'd encourage them to start interning as soon as possible, think about what product type you would like to work on the most and try to find an internship that matches this. Specialising in a particular area such as knitwear, denim or shoes will pay off in the long run. Your classmates will be your future colleagues so keep in touch and help each other out. The fashion industry can be intense, so always remember that as passionate as we all are about our work, try not to take your work home with you every night!