The menswear buyer on the future of trade shows, finding brands on social media and his favourite ever fashion show.
Having started his buying career at House of Fraser and as a Drapers 30 under 30 star, Reece Crisp has risen through the ranks at etailers Asos.com and Mr Porter and department stores Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, most recently joining Farfetch as menswear buying manager. Here he discusses the changes in the industry, the power of technology and social media, and his continuing love of shopping.
You recently joined Farfetch as menswear buying manager. Tell us about this.
It’s not a traditional buying manager role. Effectively my role is to act as an internal consultant for our boutiques and brand partners, advising on budgets, product selection and new brands. The important thing for Farfetch is that we have the best offer out there, and this is only achievable by working closely with the boutiques and their buyers.
Why join Farfetch?
The role is unique, as is the business, and the culture immediately drew me in. Entrepreneurial in every sense of the word, Farfetch has never stood still, constantly moving and evolving. It will continue to do so and I wanted to be a part of that.
You’ve worked for a variety of retailers, online and offline. What are the most significant differences?
The main difference between bricks-and-mortar stores and online for me is the customer interaction. Online you really have to captivate the audience, as the customer can be shopping across a number of stores simultaneously. Therefore, everything from copy, to the way the product is styled, to how user friendly the site is all impacts on the choice and experience. As a buyer that means product selection is key. As the customer cannot touch or feel online, the products have to speak for themselves. This means you’re constantly questioning every style when selecting for online.
You’ve worked in the industry for more than 14 years. What’s been the biggest change?
Technology. When I first started, there was no real online presence from retailers, the only way to shop around was to physically go out and visit stores. Now you can check out as many as you want on your mobile as you travel to and from work, creating a hugely competitive marketplace. Social media has also made a huge difference in the way stores are communicating with their customers. No longer is it left to point of sale in stores, or billboards to tell a story, brands and stores are doing this across Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook to capture their audience.
You attend all the international fashion weeks. What’s the best show you’ve ever been to?
Best show I have ever been to is Junya Watanabe autumn 15. The whole thing from the casting, to how the models moved, to the music, to the collection, it was amazing. One I always refer to. Fashion shows for me are more about the performance – the collection then just becomes an extension.
Junya Watanabe autumn 15
You also attend the international trade shows. Do you think trade shows are still relevant for buyers today?
I have mixed feelings about trade shows. They definitely still have a place in the industry, and most definitely are relevant, but the world has got a lot smaller as technology has advanced. Before blogs, online magazines and Instagram, the only way a buyer could find something new was to travel, and visit trade shows. Now you can do this from your desk and contact brands directly without the hassle. This means the trade show model has had to develop and a few key ones are doing this by offering a more curated edit, with exclusive brands and collaborations available to view only at the show.
What are your favourite trade shows?
Liberty Fairs [in New York and Las Vegas] and CIFF [in Copenhagen] are doing a great job right now. They are not standard trade shows, but curated exhibitions with a point of view. I think this is the way forward for trade shows: to offer more than just clothes on racks.
What’s your favourite part of the season?
Being at market in the thick of it. I love going from shows, to appointments, to showrooms. Seeing product is what gives me the biggest buzz. As a buyer I have always pushed myself to see as much as I physically can while at market, to make sure you don’t miss anything.
What’s the most unusual place you’ve discovered a new brand?
Instagram. I was once at market, scrolling through my feed en route to an appointment, when I saw a Japanese brand was showing in Paris for the first time. I reached out to them, booked an appointment the next day and managed to secure UK exclusivity for the season.
Are you ever surprised by the reaction to your buys?
Always. You rarely get it 100% right, and that’s the beauty of buying. I have always bought on instinct and sometimes that really pays off. Other times you are left with a whole load of markdown.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Finding newness. I get a real buzz when I see something new that’s great.
What’s the best piece of buying advice you’ve been given?
Go with your gut.
As a buyer you’re surrounded by clothes all day. Do you still enjoy shopping?
Yes I do. I can’t help myself. It’s how the obsession started.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
I have a few. Farfetch, of course. And Swedish etailer? Très Bien Shop, Assembly New York and a whole load of vintage stores.
Do you prefer shopping online or in-store?
I don’t have a preference. I love the experience of walking into a store and interacting with the product. On the other hand I love the ease of online.
If you started buying womenswear, what’s the first brand you’d go for?
What’s the last fashion item you brought?
Our Legacy suede zip shirt from Farfetch.
What’s the most treasured item in your wardrobe?
A vintage Levi’s herringbone zip cardigan that I picked up at a vintage store in Stockholm.
Which menswear brand would you like to see come back that isn’t around any more?
I’d be interested to see how an Adam Kimmel collection would look right now.
What do you do to switch off from work?
The joy of doing something you love is that you never switch off, and that’s cool by me.