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How I got here: Yoshika Ishibashi

Moving from Tokyo to London helped menswear retailer Trunk’s visual merchandiser and buyer carve out her niche

Yoshika Ishibashi

Yoshika Ishibashi

What does your typical week involve?

I work across two roles as the buyer for Trunk Labs and a visual merchandiser for both Trunk Labs and Trunk Clothiers. The beginning of every week starts with a team meeting, analysing the previous week’s sales by item and brand to identify which of our products are bestsellers and which need more promotion.

We also look at sales targets for the coming week, where I suggest visual merchandising plans for both Labs and Clothiers. While Trunk Clothiers deals strictly with menswear brands, Labs is focused on accessories, bags and shoes.

Moving merchandise around the store helps to make the inventory appear fresh. Window displays are changed weekly, while shop layout is updated depending on whether new products have arrived in store or when sales for certain items stagnate. This parallels with our online marketing, so customers subscribed to our weekly newsletters can see the same items promoted in store.

Which task are you most looking forward to today?

We are about to receive spring 15 stock and are planning to introduce new brands, including accessories label Whitehouse Cox and luggage brand Made in Occupied Japan. I always look forward to receiving new products for the season ahead. We plan what collections we want to stock around six months to a year in advance.

My professional relationship with Japanese menswear brands like Tomorrowland, Beams Plus and Camoshita United Arrows, which was developed during my time at Beams boutique in Tokyo, means Trunk is always their first stockist in London. Deciding how best to showcase these brands in store is always fun.

What task do you wish you could postpone?

My role as a visual merchandiser includes the packaging for both online orders and in-store purchases, which involves sourcing shopping bags, gift boxes and ribbons. I can be extremely particular about searching for the best suppliers, which can sometimes be a tedious process.

What are the defining moments in your career?

The first was in 2002 when I started visual merchandising at Beams, a Tokyo-based boutique offering men’s and women’s casuals, custom-tailored pieces and accessories. I’ve always been someone who loves a challenge and visual merchandising gives me a great sense of satisfaction. That first visual merchandising job was the first step to becoming who I am today.

In 2010, I made a move from Japan to London. It’s never easy leaving a comfort zone, but I felt a need to push my boundaries. Being fascinated with British culture, I decided to take a leap of faith.

How did you come to have two roles at Trunk?

With the introduction of Trunk Labs in 2013, I took on the additional role of buyer, focused on accessories, bags and shoes. My experience as a visual merchandiser has benefited the new role, in terms of researching trends and deciding which merchandise to promote at a given time.

What have been your career highlights so far?

For Trunk’s fifth anniversary in September 2015, I was given the opportunity to collaborate with Beams Plus on a special collection, including a lightweight travel jacket (retailing at £350) and regimental-striped silk ties (£95), limited to 30 pieces each.

Another highlight was while working at Beams when I moved from the men’s fashion section to the women’s section, known as Beams Boy, in 1998. I started a new department at Beams Boy, working as a stylist and training the staff on fashion history and the design themes for each season. I visited all the Beams Boy shops (18 at the time) twice a year and
spoke to all the staff. I wanted to motivate them and make them feel confident, as Japanese customers have high expectations.  

If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?

I’ve always enjoyed my jobs, from sales consulting to visual merchandising and buying. All these experiences have helped me to progress. However, I feel I was too focused on menswear and wish I’d explored other areas of fashion, like accessories, earlier.

Who is your mentor? What was the best piece of advice they’ve given you?

I would consider Koji Toyoda, designer and artist at surf art company Palm Graphics, as a personal mentor. I met him in 1998 through my director at Beams Boy, Hiroshi Kubo. Koji created graphics for us to print onto T-shirts and bags. He always used to say that the first step to a successful career is to love your work, wholeheartedly. The second involves broadening your horizons and getting a bigger perspective on life. Before moving to London, I didn’t realise how true that was. Meeting new people and understanding an entirely different culture has become one of my biggest assets.

How do you see your career progressing?

I would love to open my own store in London with a well-curated selection of Japanese brands. I’m steadily gaining knowledge of the different aspects of a business and I hope that will help me to some day understand my own staff and their respective jobs better.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Set your short-term and long-term goals, and stay motivated. Always maintain your professional network and be enthusiastic. It’s good to see different creative environments and meet people who can feed your ideas and inspiration. If you continue doing what you enjoy, that will become your strength and lead to a new career path.

CV

2013 Visual merchandiser and buyer, Trunk Labs, London

2010 Visual merchandiser, Trunk Clothiers, London

2002 Visual merchandiser, Beams Boy, Tokyo

2000 Assistant buyer, Beams Boy, Tokyo

1998 Sales assistant, Beams Boy Tokyo

1995 Sales assistant, Beams, Tokyo

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