Chester Barrie’s creative director and buyer quit his job in a bank to start at Selfridges.
What does your diary look like today?
This morning I’m doing sampling for autumn 14, so I’m getting mood boards and looks together for a mini presentation to management next week. After lunch I’ll be catching up with the merchandising team, checking on spring 14 deliveries and making sure the product is coming through to the critical path. My last meeting of the day is with Edward Sexton, who is our tailoring consultant.
What meeting are you most looking forward to today?
Definitely my meeting with Edward. He is probably one of the greatest cutters left on Savile Row, and working with him on ideas is an absolute pleasure. He has a great sense of style and is full of ideas.
What task do you wish you could postpone?
Probably having to place orders that you can’t do face to face. Sometimes to meet the critical path you have to say ‘I’ll order x amount of fabric and these buttons from a supplier and ask them to send them to this address’, because you don’t have time to get suppliers involved. But where possible I like to get them involved and explain what we’re doing.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started out on the shopfloor at Selfridges in menswear and eventually moved up to become concession manager for Thomas Pink. I then became a sales manager and fitter on Savile Row before moving to Ede & Ravenscroft, where I worked in made-to-measure. It was there that my boss at the time, retail director Paul Buckle, suggested I move into buying. I suppose it was my knowledge of made-to-measure, tailoring, styling and trimming that my boss thought were transferable skills for buying.
What has been your career highlight?
I’ve met some great people including the Queen, David Beckham and even my wife through my career. But professionally, my ambition has been to take English style to a wider audience and recently I presented a collection in Hong Kong with [trade show] The Hub, which was really exciting.
If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?
I left school and went to work in a high street bank and it wasn’t for me. I stuck it out for 18 months before joining Selfridges.
It was there working in menswear that I realised I’d found my calling.
Who is your mentor?
Paul Buckle. I was made-to-measure manager when he joined Ede & Ravenscroft and he saw the potential for my skills to be transferable and helped me get into buying. We stay in touch and he is now a consultant at the London College of Fashion and occasionally I go down to talk to the students there.
What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
Trust your instincts and be brave in your decision making.
How do you see your career progressing?
We are expanding the collection beyond just tailoring to a full lifestyle collection, with outerwear, shirting, accessories, footwear and even jeans. Elements of that were introduced for spring 14 but it will come in fully for autumn 14. Tailoring will still be the focus but we want to appeal to the guy that wants to buy more than just suiting, which is a lot of people. It also means my team will get bigger and it is fun managing a larger team.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Know your product.
If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
I would love to do the styling or wardrobe for a classic TV show, because that was my inspiration
for getting into menswear.
- Salaries for this position range from £40,000 to £65,000 (estimate provided by Le Pont)
2011 Creative director and buyer, Chester Barrie
2003 Tailoring and swimwear buyer, Ede & Ravenscroft
2000 Made-to-measure tailoring co-ordinator, Ede & Ravenscroft
1997 Sales manager/fitter, 40 Savile Row
1993 Concession manager, Thomas Pink, Selfridges
1991 Sales associate, shirt and tie department, Selfridges
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