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My Fashion Life: sales agency founder Lucy Wernick on 20 years in fashion

The owner of the eponymous sales agency on her dream dinner party, her love of Chanel and why she feels at home on a 72 ft yacht.

Lucy Wernick started her career as a dealer on the London Stock Exchange but soon swapped shares and the City for clothes, setting up her own fashion agency in 1993. Known for launching American brands into the UK and Europe’s, Wernick’s selection of brands and beautifully appointed London showroom has had buyers coming back for more than two decades. She currently represents 360 Cashmere, Essentiel Antwerp, Enes, Rebecca Taylor and Charlotte Sparre, among others.

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What’s the best thing about running a fashion agency?

Working with the customers, many of whom now become my great friends.

And the worst?

Seeing customers who have been in business for many years suddenly struggle as a result of the change in the economy and marketplace.

If you could represent any brand, past or present, what would it be?

Chanel – it’s just so timeless.

What did you do before setting up your own agency?

I worked in the city as a dealer on the London Stock Exchange.

How do you pick brands to represent?

I always look for a brand with a point of difference that I consider to be both commercial and aspirational.

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Enes autumn 16

What appointments do you look forward to the most?

Those with customers I’ve known for many years where I’m showing them a new collection for the first time and know I’m going to get honest feedback, good or bad.

What makes a good salesperson?

A good salesperson knows their customer well. They’ve taken the time to visit the store and do proper research in advance. They inspire trust and confidence in the buyer, and make them feel good.

What makes a good buyer?

A good buyer is open-minded, not afraid to take a risk and makes an effort to find something new and exciting for their store. A good buyer will always agree to look at a new collection, as they have nothing to lose.

You work with brands all day, would you ever launch your own?

No, I believe that everybody has their talent and I don’t believe that, just because I can sell fashion, I would also be able to design it. I’m definitely happy to leave that to the experts.

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Rebecca Taylor pre autumn 16

You also work with buyers all day, would you ever open your own store?

No because I would never want to compete with my customers.

How have people’s buying habits changed?

People love to see something new in the collections every season but buyers are definitely playing things safer now in terms of what they actually end up ordering.

Do you think trade shows are still relevant for brands and buyers today?

Yes, particularly when showing a new brand for the first time. However, I do think that there are now far too many and as a result they tend to have a lower attendance than previously with buyers spread too thinly across them all.

What’s your favourite part of the fashion season?

Having a busy and full showroom full of customers. I still get excited to look at the diary at the beginning of a day and see a full day of back-to-back appointments.

What’s been a career highlight so far?

Building up the Velvet business in Europe. At its peak in 2008 it had more than 1,000 points of sale – when I started with the brand it didn’t have one. I’m currently on track to hit similar figures with 360 Cashmere – again, a brand I’ve launched into the European marketplace.

You’re surrounded by clothes all day. Do you still enjoy shopping?

I still love going into beautifully laid-out boutiques with interesting brands that you simply couldn’t find on the high street. It’s so enjoyable seeing pieces in the flesh, well merchandised in a great store environment and actually being able to try things on.

Where are your favourite places to shop?

London aside New York and Antwerp are easily the best cities in the world to shop in. The Essentiel Antwerp flagship store is a must-visit when in Antwerp, as is Rebecca Taylor in the Meatpacking District of New York.

Do you wear the brands you represent?

Yes, head to toe in the office, every day, of course. Current favourites include a pair of grey calfskin trousers from one of my new brands, Enes; printed silk blouses from both Charlotte Sparre and Essentiel; and, of course, cosy cashmere sweaters by 360 Cashmere.

If you could only wear one brand for the rest of your life, what would you pick?

Chanel.

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Essentiel Antwerp autumn 16

What’s the last fashion item you brought?

A Prada tote handbag in supersoft black calfskin with gold zips. It’s big enough to fit my kitchen sink in!

What’s the most treasured item in your wardrobe?

An Oscar De La Renta evening gown that I’ve just bought to wear to my son’s wedding in August.

What’s the most ridiculous purchase you’ve ever made for yourself?

A pair of ludicrously high Prada sandals that I spent a fortune on and can’t wear for more than 30 seconds without being in excruciating pain.

Do you prefer winter or summer dressing?

Winter, I love coats. I probably have about 15 to 20 on the go that I’m rotating at the moment.

If you weren’t working in fashion what would you be doing?

Interior design.

If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?

The sales schedule that everyone has to adhere to and the seasonal delivery schedule. I’d deliver spring clothes at the end of March and have the summer sale start on August 1.

Who do you admire most in the industry?

Vivienne Westwood for pure staying power.

If you had a dinner party with industry people, who would you pick?

Relevant buyers at Net-a-Porter, Harrods and Liberty. I’d ply them all with plenty of booze and then ask them to place their orders.

What do you do to switch off?

I play golf, dabble in photography and enjoy the company of good friends over a glass or two.

Tell us something about you not many people know.

I have a captain’s licence to drive a 72 ft yacht.

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