The founder of agency Red Alert on finding the right brands, seasonless fashion and making a good cuppa.
What are buyers purchasing for spring 14?
Key menswear trends seem to be the American college look, baseball jackets and basketball vests in particular.
Sports luxe tracksuits are having a great reaction in both men’s and women’s wear. Sublimation floral prints seem to be key and the inclusion of more outerwear is notable, mainly in lighter-weight fabrics. Camo also seems to be in every menswear collection. For womenswear, two-piece sets will almost certainly be an important product category, as well as sorbet, hot and safari colour palettes, and the punk/grunge look is set to continue. Other key trends include futuristic bold graphic statements, romance with pleats, lace and ruffles, nautical with a retro twist, oriental with kimono shapes, origami folds and bold patterns, and of course animal prints and all forms of denim.
How are buyers behaving?
Buyers are still very much playing it safe due to a tough economic climate, spending their budgets with their core brands, but also holding a little back to spend on in-season repeats so they can be more reactive to winning lines.
However, they definitely seem more optimistic than they have been in recent seasons.
How has running a fashion agency changed over the years?
There are fewer independents to deal with now and more mini-multiples being acquired by major chains. There does seem to be a lot more agencies opening up each season - maybe they all think there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but believe me, it’s not that easy and never has been. The business is a lot tougher now, even tougher if you do not have the must-have brands the market demands. More specifically, as an agency, if the brands aren’t getting paid on a regular basis then the agents suffer the knock-on effect.
What are your criteria for taking on a brand?
Finding new brands is easy but finding brands with the right profile for our agency is much more difficult. We have to believe in the brand, that it will work in the current market and can offer margin, quality and timely deliveries for the retailers. We are not a trophy room - we do not collect brands for their own sake.
Have you seen more buyers buying into short order?
I believe buyers still spend the same amount of money with core forward-order brands but have dropped fringe brands to do more in-season, fast-fashion brands. The whole fast-fashion business has to improve because of the huge competition there is on the high street.
I feel now you are getting a better quality product at a lower price point.
How long will it be before we’re all operating in a seasonless industry?
I’m not sure the business will ever be entirely seasonless, but I do think there are certain things that need to change.
For example, delivery windows should be moved more in line with the [weather] seasons to allow a longer selling period. This would automatically help sell-through, margin and exposure for transitional stock.
What makes a good sales agent?
Confidence, honesty, charm, being a good listener and a good talker, product knowledge and an instinct for future trends. Also, working outside of sales periods with customers to achieve the golden number of 80%-plus sell-through.
The ability to make a good cuppa shouldn’t be underestimated, and last but not least a huge ego.
If you could represent any brand, which would it be?
The next Ugg. Or maybe my own brand…
What would you be doing if you didn’t work in fashion?
I’d be a scuba diving instructor off the coast of the Maldives.