Working in the Fashion Industry | in collaboration with Peek & Cloppenburg
From the early beginning my parents taught me two things: First of all, you can be whatever you want to be if you only dare to go for it. Secondly, your partner and your job are two of the most crucial factors that will make up your life. I’ve been brought up with lots of encouragement from my parents to go for whatever makes me happy, to dream big, and not to give up believing in my dreams. But let’s be honest: Somtimes the hardest thing of it all is knowing what you really want. Knowing what your dream really looks like, and eventually, how to achieve your goals.
When I graduated from university – truth be told – I felt a little lost. My major was in tourism and hospitality management, but at the end of my degree I was not entirely sure anymore if that’s the career path I really want to go. I felt the strong desire to work in the field of social media, and also always knew I’d like to do something that has to do with fashion. That’s why after working as a Social Media Manager in a digital agency for 2 years I made the decision to apply for a master’s degree in the field of fashion. After a long application process I finally got accepted and was ready to move to Milan, but I never made it there because instead I pursued my dreams of turning my blog into a full time job. The rest is history… If you would like to know more about my professional background and career, you might enjoy this podcast episode in which I’m talking about this topic in detail. However – long story short: If I had not taken the career path that I finally chose (or did the path choose me? It’s hard to say), I definitely would have taken a closer look at the Peek & Cloppenburg Trainee Programme.
When you think about a job in fashion, you probably think of big cities like Milan, New York or London. Also, you might think you necessarily have to have a background in fashion design or something like that. During an interview with Simone Tömördy, who is currently undertaking the Peek & Cloppenburg trainee programme to become a Fashion Buyer, I was proven otherwise.
For everyone out there who is dreaming about a job in fashion, I was able to ask Simone a few questions about the Fashion Buyer Trainee Program at Peek & Cloppenburg:
Tell me more about the Fashion Buying trainee programme at P&C:
The trainee programme is split into two divisions: one is focusing on sales, the other one is focusing on buying. I chose to do the programme with a focus on buying, because I love stats as well as being close to the goods. The programme takes 18 months and consists of 3 phases. First you start the programme in sales for 3 months with focus on sales organization, visual merchandising, merchandise knowledge, personnel management and sales control. Throughout this time, you’re going through various departments and sometimes also stores, to get a good feeling about all parts of the job – from standing at the cashier desk to folding t-shirts. Then you’re in the purchasing department for another 3 months with focus on product range design, topic planning, merchandise controlling, monitoring of supplier appointments and trend scouting. Afterwards, you’re head of a sales department with the central tasks of staff management and development, sales productivity management and control, assortment control and visual merchandising. I was working at the P&C store at Shopping City Süd for 7 months in the man section, and then switched to the store at Kärntnerstraße in Vienna for another 5 months in the man section. Once you’re done with the 18 months of traineeship, you’re a fashion buyer for our store at Kärntnerstraße in Vienna. As a fashion buyer you’re essentially responsible for the stock – everything you can buy at a P&C shop was selected by the respective fashion buyer responsible for the department.
What does the job of a fashion buyer at P&C look like?
Twice a year we’re going to a fashion fair, which is mainly for the purpose of trend scouting. All the suppliers we work with are at those fairs, and it’s important for us maintain a close relationship with them. Other than that, there are so called “order phases” – like now, in July and August, we’re ordering the collection for summer 2019, which is starting in November 2018. During order phases we’re constantly on tour from showroom to showroom of the various suppliers to pick out all the pieces that we want to have at P&C – we have to decide how many pieces of each of the clothes we need, which sizes, which colors… During the rest of the year our main responsibility is to check how sales are going, which brands and items sell very well, is there anything we need to re-stock etc. Of course we have to make sure that we’re not running out of products in the middle of the season, in case some of the pieces sell faster and better than we expected. Furthermore, we do research throughout the year and check whether we should add new brands to our offer… At the end of the day, it all has to do with lots of stats, facts and figures. Additionally, on a bi-weekly schedule, we spend our Saturdays directly in our department to talk to the head of the department and the sales employees, in order to get a direct insight into how sales are going and how the products are performing.
How does your professional background look like? What are the prerequisites to apply for the trainee program?
I studied international economy at WU in Vienna, after graduating I continued with a master’s degree in international management and went to London. After my graduation I came back home to Vienna, but was not quite sure yet what to do next. I’ve always known I love fashion, but I didn’t really know how to combine my economy focused background with the fashion industry. So I started working at a software company in the distribution department for two years. It was completely different to the job I’m doing now. Two years ago, at the age of 27, I found out about the Fashion Buying Trainee Programme at Peek & Cloppenburg and decided it was not too late yet to pursue my dream of working in the fashion industry. Until then, I always thought it’s rather impossible to start a career that has to do with fashion, since I didn’t have any experience in this field at all. But I applied for the programme, and it worked out right away. So what’s very good to know about the programme is that you do not necessarily need experience in the fashion industry to be able to start the fashion buyer trainee programme. All you need is a degree with a focus on economy, and of course international experience and relevant internships are an advantage. But most of all you should have a passion for fashion, strong sense of style, a flair for trends, hands-on mentality and entrepreneurial and analytical thinking. The rest you will learn during the trainee programme, since lots of workshops and seminars are also part of the education.
How does the application process for the trainee programme at P&C look like?
The application takes place in several steps: First of all, you have to send in a video interview answering a few questions. After successful completion, you’re invited to the application day for which you’ll have to prepare a case study upfront, and there is also a logical thinking / critical reasoning test you’ll take there. The next round took place right at the P&C store at Kärtnerstraße, where I was allowed to follow around one of the heads of department, and as a last step I had another interview with the general management and HR departement to discuss some last questions. One week later I received the positive answer that I could start the trainee programme. The programme starts twice a year: On 1st of April and on 1st of October, and usually there are 2-3 trainees starting at the same time.
What did you like most about the trainee programme?
I really loved being close to what I am passionate about – fashion has always fascinated me, so working in this field sparks my joy. Furthermore, I can fully identify myself with the company and the overall vibe between the employees as well as supervisors is very friendly – we’re like a big family. The fact that the programme is split into 3 phases makes it very diverse and exciting, because you’re literally learning something new every day. I enjoyed getting the full picture of the job and going through all the different steps and departments – from folding clothes and being close to the customers, to going to fashion fairs and learning how to order the new collection – it’s very interesting to get so many insights.
Why did you choose to do the trainee programme?
It all started at my previous job – I just realized I wasn’t happy with my work and didn’t like the field I was in. I’m someone who does not mind working a lot, or going the extra-mile. But if the field I’m in just bores me, of course the motivation to give everything for the job is very low. So I wanted to pursue my dream and finally start working in the fashion industry. Then the opportunity with the trainee programme came up and I thought: Now or never! After graduating and already working for two years, taking part in a trainee programme first felt like a “step back on the career ladder”, but it was the best decision I could have made. I finally started to learn everything about the industry I am so passionate about and got all the relevant insights I needed. When applying for the trainee programme you have to be aware of the fact that you’ll have to work on a Saturday as a salesperson from time to time, but I didn’t mind that at all – I actually enjoyed it very much! Peek & Cloppenburg is a company that puts highest priority on their educational programmes, as well as on their employees. That’s why I was sure I will benefit a lot from the program. So this was the turning point and why I decided to finally pursue a career in fashion with P&C.
Do you have any tips for people who would like to work in the fashion industry?
To be honest, I wish I would have heard about the trainee programme earlier already. I always knew I loved fashion – it was my passion. Now I know how important it is to listen to yourself and take your passions seriously. After all, the industry you’re choosing to work in will make up most of the time of your day. It helps A LOT when you’re passionate about your job. If I could turn back time, I would have probably worked at a fashion shop as salesperson on Saturdays, just to get a better understanding of the industry already. Here at P&C, some of the people who are fashion buyers now started by working in a P&C shop, then did their degree at university next to still working for P&C. If you know what job you’d like to have early on in your career, there are always more ways of getting there. I’m really happy that I made the decision to start the trainee programme and can now finally say that I’m excited about what I am doing fo a living. Before that, I was always looking at fashion magazines and blogs to stay up to date about trends, just because I liked it. Now I’m doing the exact same thing, but with one major difference: It’s not just a hobby – it’s part of my job.
I hope this interview gave you a little insight into the career of a fashion buyer, and maybe it also helped to put into perspective that having a job in the field of fashion is also totally possible when you’re living in Austria – even without having studied fashion design or the like. If you’re curious about the fashion buyer trainee programme at Peek & Cloppenburg, or even want to apply for it right away, you can do so here.
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