Drapers gives you an exclusive sneak-peek of our Close-Up – which this week centres on Selfridges’ Denim Studio – with a Q&A with buying and merchandising director Sebastian Manes.
Last month, Sebastian Manes was promoted to the newly-created role of buying and merchandising director, adding menswear, home and leisure to his existing brief of womenswear, accessories and kidswear. Here he talks to Drapers about his vision for the new combined brief.
On the week your promotion was announced, you talked about your plans to work more closely with brands that appear in both Selfridges’ men’s and womenswear departments. Can you explain a bit more about what you plan to do?
It’s all about making sure the brands know we have one vision, whatever the genders, so my plan is to work more closely with them on that. The ideal scenario would be that we have one meeting where we talk about shoes, womenswear, menswear, accessories, discussing where we are today and where we want to be tomorrow. It’s the effect of having only one director – it makes life simpler for everyone. It will be good for brands as well, because some are not strong in every category, so will be looking at how we can support them.
Are you also planning to speak to some brands who are only in one department about launching into others?
Well, we have only just started the process because I’ve only just taken on both departments, but it will probably happen naturally that while we are talking to them [about one] we discuss the other.
You’ve just opened the Denim Studio, another massive project following the Shoe Galleries. Do you have anything of a similar scale planned for the future?
We have a few projects coming up in the next month or so – in men’s accessories and in contemporary. We are starting to do some work on the menswear layout, with some new architecture, so some work will begin on that next year. Beyond that I don’t have a clear idea of what we are going to do, but the more I see things, the more I get an opinion of what we need to do.
How have you found the sudden doubling of your workload?
It was intense – it’s very challenging. It will be an adaptation, because we have to learn, but hopefully it will work out well. It’s great for the company to have a single voice, it’s important for Selfridges that we do. But before I knew all the brands and buyers inside out, [whereas] now I’m meeting with new suppliers who specialise in menswear. That is a new area for me.
Not long after you were promoted several people left Selfridges in one go – how are you responding to that?
We are in the process of recruiting a team – of course, I need a team because the sheer volume of work means you can’t do things by yourself. And it will be like-for-like replacements – there is no other intention.
Do you think they will come from within Selfridges or are you looking at the wider fashion retail sector?
We are always trying to look internally in general. There are some very good examples of internal promotion, I am one of them. It will all depend if it is the right fit for the individual, but this is the focus for us, and for me. It is true that you can have a synergy from one division to another – therefore it might be right to move a team from one division to another. We did a few moves last year from accessories to womenswear and vice versa and that worked well.