The Harrolds womenswear buyer built her career from the workshop

“Building your network is key. You have no idea where the people you meet will end up, so it’s extremely important not to cut ties.

Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how they managed to land that insanely awesome job? While the internet and social media might trick us into believing that our ideal job is just a pipe dream, the people in those jobs have been, believe it or not, in the same position once, fantasizing about the job. seemingly inaccessible to anyone else.

But behind the awesome titles and fancy work events is a lot of hard work. So what lessons have been learned and what skills have proven invaluable in taking them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?

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Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to women who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awesome jobs, exploring the highs and lows, the failures and the wins, and most of all the knowledge, advice and practical tips they gleaned along the way.

This week we talk to Roshali Kaul, the womenswear buyer at Australian luxury retailer Harrolds. Fashion and style have always been an obsession for Roshali, so it made perfect sense for her to start her career in the atelier. Slowly, she rose through the ranks and landed retail positions with luxury brands like Prada. At the same time, she studied public relations and had the chance to intern for high-end brands, but eventually realized that public relations was not for her.

Realizing that products have always been her passion, she undertook a Masters in Fashion Brand Management, which led to an internship with Jimmy Choo’s buying and merchandising team, marking the beginning of her journey. in the purchase. A job as a buyer with a fast fashion brand and a challenging product development position helped her hone her understanding of the type of brands and companies she wanted to work for, and allowed her to acquire valuable technical knowledge. She credits her ability to build strong relationships and her willingness to gain experience in various facets of the fashion industry as being key to her success. Here’s what she learned along the way.

What do you do and what is your official function?

I’m the womenswear buyer at Harrolds where I oversee the women’s portfolio across all categories. At last count, I think [we] work with more than 50 brands!

Take us back to your beginnings. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start with an entry-level internship/role and work your way up? Tell us the story.

I have not studied the purchase. I actually have a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Marketing and a Masters in Brand Management. Becoming a buyer is a career path that arose [up] very organically for me. I have always been obsessed with fashion and styling. I am someone who can shop anywhere and everywhere. So naturally, my very first job was selling shoes. I worked my way up the retail ladder to bigger, more luxurious brands. I joined Prada when I was 19, which seemed like a huge achievement at the time. I was so impressed with the meticulous level of detail in every aspect of such a luxurious brand and knew that working at this level of fashion would be my ultimate goal.

At university, we had to do an internship in our final year and I managed to get a job with the then Gucci group (now Kering). I did an internship with the PR team that looked after Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Gucci. Although it was an amazing experience, I realized that PR work was not for me. I was more interested in the product than anything else. After graduating in a field I now knew I didn’t want to pursue as a career, I decided to move to London to do my Masters in Fashion Brand Management. I was fascinated by the business side of fashion and I wanted to train myself. In London my eyes were really opened to what top tier retail looked like and I was so inspired.

When it was time to decide what type of internship I wanted to apply for, buying seemed like the right solution. Within the industry, purchasing sits between the creative and the operational. I was able to use my years of experience on the floor with a wealth of knowledge about fit, fabric and style combined with my analytical business mind. I was selected for an internship within the purchasing and merchandising team at the Jimmy Choo headquarters in London. I [had] worked on the floor of a Jimmy Choo store in Melbourne and I think that’s what gave me an edge over other applicants and made me stand out. This is how my buying journey began. I literally started in the most junior role available and worked my way up.

What challenges/barriers did you face to get to where you are now? Can you name one in particular?

When I moved to Melbourne from London, I started working as a buyer’s assistant in fast fashion. He then came [an] the opportunity to move into a product development position and I raised my hand for the job. I think I already knew it wasn’t the right role for me, but it was a highly coveted job in the company and I jumped at the chance. To be honest, I wasn’t a great product development assistant. I didn’t have the right background and I lacked a lot of technical skills that the job required. I just didn’t have the patience for it and really struggled.

I either had to give up or change my mindset and give her everything I had. Because I knew it was important to gain experience, I worked very hard to educate myself to better apply myself to the role in things like clothing construction and fittings. It was a big hurdle for me to overcome, but the technical knowledge I gained from this experience helped me tremendously.

What do you want people to know about your industry/your role?

I’m on my terms, I think many have the illusion that I’m just shopping for a living. But being a buyer is much more than selecting products in a showroom. Much of what we do is very data driven and involves a lot of planning, numbers and spreadsheets. You also need to develop a strong eye and trust yourself to support the next big thing.

What is the best part of your role?

In terms of the fashion in which I work, the best part for me is having privileged access to the best in fashion. I like to know in advance what will obsess the market. I also had plenty of pinch moments that felt incredibly surreal (and still do!). Sitting along a catwalk in Paris or Milan among legends will never get old.

What would surprise people in your role?

How unglamorous that can be. Don’t get me wrong, there are fashion shows and celebrity parties and all the wonderful things that happen during fashion weeks, however, before we travel we spend months analyzing the numbers and sales and to plan and plan ahead.

There’s a lot of travel involved and we live out of a suitcase for weeks at a time. When we travel, our schedule is busy. We can have up to eight appointments a day and when the day is over it is often room service and quantifying orders until the wee hours of the morning. I turned down many invitations to parties and fashion shows instead of deadlines – work comes first. Being always on the road also means missing out [on] things around the house that can be really difficult.

What skills have served you well in your industry?

Being a good buyer means having the ability to adopt a different mindset when selecting [a] product. You’re not going to like every item or every brand, but you’re not buying for yourself – it can’t be personal. When working in a multi-brand environment, this is an especially important skill to possess. Being a good negotiator is also essential. You are constantly working on the best possible margins and having the ability to cut costs is everything in this role.

What advice would you give to someone who one day wants to play a role like yours?

I think the most important thing to note is that although global, the fashion industry is very small, especially in the luxury sector. Relationships are everything and building your network is essential. You have no idea where the people you meet will end up, so it’s extremely important not to cut ties.

How about some practical advice?

Being a buyer is a highly coveted role and when interviewing candidates I always look for a broad background in different areas of fashion. Dive into anything and everything and develop your own sense of style. There are so many paths you can take that will give you the skills you need to become a buyer. Take my own journey, for example. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, especially when it comes to a fashion job. Live, eat and breathe!

Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.

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