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How I got here: Nick Tahir, new head of menswear buying at River Island

River Island’s head of menswear buying explains why it is an exciting time for his speciality and gives some hints on breaking into buying.

nicholas tahir

Nick Tahir, head of menswear buying at River Island 

Nick Tahir is the new head of menswear buying at River Island. Previously head of global menswear at Tesco’s F&F and men’s buying controller at Primark, Tahir joined River Island earlier this month. He talks about the draw of working for a family-run business, upcoming menswear trends and what makes a top fashion buyer.

A typical week for me at the moment is back-to-back meetings with key stakeholders. Having only recently joined River Island, I’m fully in the throes of the induction process.

I’ve always had an interest in fashion, which led to my first job working on the shop floor for Concept Man [a menswear chain that was later rebranded under the River Island fascia]. My first full-time job was with general retailer Great Universal Stores as a stock controller. Through my passion for menswear, I progressed on to the buying team.

River Island is very product-focused, which I love. The atmosphere is genuinely friendly and supportive. The beauty of being part of a family-run business is that decisions are made quickly and you don’t need to go through a laborious process to have them sanctioned. Everyone is working towards the same end goal and there is a real sense of unity. 

Menswear has never been this exciting. The colour palette for men’s clothing has come alive and we’re venturing into more elaborate silhouettes, heavily distressed and embellished garments, and interesting fabrics, such as sateen, silk and velour.

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River Island menswear AW16

There are so many elements you have to consider with fashion buying –  collaborating with designers and merchandisers, spotting trends and colour palettes for the season, starting sample development and building a range. You have to identify big trends and volume pieces, and work closely with the merchandise team to back your winners. Relationships are key in this role. As well as the all-important supplier relationships, you need to work closely with stores to ensure key brand messages are communicated.

Any good buyer is constantly on the lookout for new inspiration: art, music, film… I see so much on my travels – it could be as simple as some graffiti on a wall or a street sign in Tokyo. Cultural difference play a big part in my inspiration and I love to people-watch and see the nuances in how people put outfits together.

Collaborating with emerging talent and established menswear designers is an important part of River Island’s strategy. This year, we kicked off with British designer Lou Dalton – the collection was really well received. We’re looking to increase River Island’s market share and cement our position as the designer of the high street.

The three lessons I’ve learnt through my career are to keep your approach simple but be versatile in your thinking, to be resilient and to listen. On top of that – live for today.

My advice to anyone starting out a career in fashion buying would be to gain some experience on the shopfloor. It’s important to understand the customer and the process at store level. Be prepared to start at the bottom of the ladder and look to gain experience in both buying and merchandising. If you can master both product and numbers, you will have a very successful career.

My biggest achievement is my four beautiful children. Work-wise, I’m very excited about some upcoming secret projects for River Island. The beauty of this job is getting to see the direct impact you have on the business, from the day-to-day to long-term strategies that come to fruition over months or even years.

MY OTHER CAREER

As a teenager, I was involved in some drama productions and also used to sing. Who knows, I could have been the star of stage and screen.

 

CV

  • March 2014 – June 2016 F&F Clothing (Tesco Plc) Head of Global Menswear
  • August 2006 – January 2011 (TJX Corporation) – Ladies and Childrens
  • January 2005 – August 2006 Burton Group (Arcadia) Senior Buyer Menswear
  • January 2002 – January 2005 TJX Europe (TJX Corporation) – Senior Buyer Menswear
  • January 2011 – March 2014 Primark Clothing (ABF Corp) Buying Controller Mens UK/Int. 


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