Overseeing 500 womenswear brands on Asos.com, the site’s buying director talks about shopping, social and the 1990s revival.
Nikki Tattersall began her career in 2000 as a junior buyer at Etam and Tammy Girl, before moving to buying at TK Maxx and then Asos in 2008. In 2014 she became Asos branded buying director, heading website’s edit of 500 womenswear labels. Tattersall and her team scour the globe, from New York to Sydney to Guatemala looking for unique labels, be they established names or new launches and start-ups. Here she tells Drapers what makes a brand stand out and the unexpected places she finds new fashion.
You are Asos’s branded buying director. What does this role entail?
I oversee our womenswear offer of 500 brands, with 15 departments buying a multitude of products and end-uses. The big names we stock are an integral part of our mix but introducing new and unique brands to our customer is an increasingly important focus. Our travel now spans six continents, scouring locations including Colombia, Indonesia, South Korea, Australia and Brazil to bring a curated edit of the brands we love to our customers, often collaborating to create unique ranges the customer can only find on Asos.
What’s the best thing about being part of the ASOS team?
Asos’s growth has been dramatic, but it’s incredible we’ve managed to maintain a true entrepreneurial spirit and we never stand still. Our teams are encouraged to be brave and, if we identify an opportunity, we can usually make it a reality very quickly. I’m proud that we’re still as fast as we’ve ever been.
How do you source new brands?
Over the past few seasons we’ve seen a real evolution in the way we’re identifying new brands. Our sourcing has naturally gravitated to the places where our customer is spending most of her time: Instagram, Pinterest and blogs. So we’re not simply being inspired by some of the amazing images we’re seeing, but going direct to the source and speaking to the guys behind the brands.
Do you think trade shows are still relevant?
My teams and I still travel to global trade shows, but they are just one of many ways in which we source new brands. Social media now plays a huge part in brand sourcing. Obviously social media has no barriers or borders, so we are able to view product from as close by as London’s Brick Lane and in the next thumb swipe see a new designer in Byron Bay, Australia. In many ways this has transformed the way we work, and increased the scope and scale of what we can offer.
What makes a brand stand out?
It has to be unique – point of difference is what we look for. It may seem strange to claim that every one of the 500 brands we stock does something different, but we strive to ensure each brand delivers individuality.
What are your current favourite brands?
I’m super-excited about some of the new brands we’re bringing on board for spring 16. Piper we discovered on a trip to New York – it was a breath of fresh air after an epic few days of scouting. Stevie May was one of our most exciting finds at Sydney Fashion Week last year – its handwriting delivers a unique mix combining local influences and Parsian chic. It’s [also] exciting to discover brands with a social conscience such as the Hiptipico bags and ponchos, which are handmade by artisans in Guatemala. Their profits are re-invested into women’s projects in the local community.
Left to right: Hiptipico, Piper, Stevie May
What’s your favourite part of the season?
It mesmerises me when the teams return from market and present their strategies for the coming season. The opportunities always appear endless and it’s so exciting to see the new talent they are uncovering, and make a mental note of what will be on my own shopping list when they launch onsite.
What makes a good buyer?
Passion. I’m constantly surprised and delighted by how passionate and committed the next generation of buyers are – they’re a new breed and are approaching the industry with a fresh take. And are not afraid to do things differently.
What’s the last fashion item you brought?
We’ve just launched a great new label called Faithfull The Brand, everything they do is handmade and hand printed in Bali, and my latest purchase is one of their shirt dresses. They’re a perfect for layering for now and then with ghillie sandals in the summer.
Do you prefer online or in-store shopping?
Pretty much always online. Usually I’m inspired by an article, image or post and immediately jump online to find out more. It’s a journey – jumping from site to site and discovering new influencers, boutiques and concept stores can bring a real excitement and diversity that’s incredibly difficult to achieve in stores.
What’s the most treasured item in your wardrobe?
A hand-embroidered dress I bought in a boutique on Formentera on one of my very first buying trips to Ibiza 15 years ago. It’s a work of art and I’ve only ever worn it once just before I got married in Tuscany a couple of years ago.
What’s the most ridiculous purchase you’ve ever made for yourself?
I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this before, but one of my first ever purchases was a pair of Bros jeans.
What do you do to switch off from work?
I live in a very old cottage and we’ve spent the past five years renovating it, so at the weekends I love trawling design blogs and reclamation yards for inspiration on what to do next.