Meet Alana, one of our esteemed fashion alumni who now has worked in buying for Myer, Ozmosis, and multiple streetwear labels, not to mention co-founding swimwear line, ALK Collection. Originally having her heart set on studying forensic psychology, Alana eventually realised her true passion, which lay in the creative industries, and pursued a path in fashion with us. We chatted to her about her experience studying with us, the highlights of her career and her advice for the future generations of buyers!
What made you want to study fashion?
Funnily enough, fashion design, garment construction, and product development wasn’t my first choice out of school! Even though I loved it, and knew deep down this was more my path and my fate, I knew I could easily pick this up later on. So I set my sights on forensic psychology. Long story short, I didn’t get the grades I wanted, was utterly devastated, thought my life was over (as you do at 17 years old!). It was my father who was urging me to follow his path and get into fashion; he saw the creative bug in me long before I did. One of his industry mates recommended Melbourne School of Fashion. So we went in for a meet and greet, I had to submit a presentation, and by the end of that week I was officially enrolled. It was the unplanned that had fallen into place. Funny how that always happens.
What’s one of your favourite memories of your experience studying with MSF?
My favourite memories of my experience were the actual classes, headed up by some of the best lecturers and teachers. They were authentic, always told it how it was with zero sugar coating, and were incredibly supportive. I just recall the class environment being so friendly, comfortable and everyone worked together—and we worked bloody hard! The environment was certainly different and quite motivating, which was a refreshing change from graduating a year earlier from a private girls' school. It was electric and inspiring. I am still good friends with two of my pals that were in all my classes, both of whom have also gone on to be incredibly successful in retail, very entrepreneurial.
Did you take up any internship or work experience opportunities whilst studying here? If so, how did this benefit your career?
I personally didn’t, as I didn’t have the need to. I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in the fashion industry: our family business, Digby’s Boutique. It was all I ever knew. I spent school holidays there and worked my way up into being my father's creative right hand man! This real life experience and being exposed to other prominent industry greats such as Yeojin Bae, Arthur Galan (AG), Dom Bagnato and Jason Grech, coupled back with my tertiary education was really a winning formula. So in that respect I was very lucky.
Tell us a bit about your current job. What's an average day like?
HECTIC! My partner is always banging on about my poor time management! I’ll have you know, I have come leaps and bounds!
So, I was buying for Myer and a 60 chain surf retailer, Ozmosis. I now am a national account manager for multiple streetwear brands. So this keeps me busy! I love this as I love having strong rapport, and building networks and businesses. My accounts have become friends and they trust me with their business. Most of them just let me do their range order and submit without approval. So that’s nice and reassuring!
My heart and passion though is designing, so my side hustle is a luxe, premium swimwear label called alk collection, which is the initial of each of the team members. A for myself, L for Lia, and K for Kirstie. I am so lucky to be in partnership with two incredibly talented, intelligent and creative geniuses!
An average day for me—early morning training session (although I have been zapped this week). Keeping active is so important to me. Keeps me sane and grounded. Due to Covid-19 I am unable to travel around to my accounts. Usually I would spend my day in the car on the phone and going from account to account. Now I'm homebound, but still busier than ever, still on the phones and doing more back end of the role. In the evening, I switch over and put my ALK hat on, tick off what needs to be done between the team, set our goals for the week, go back and forth from suppliers, approvals, designing, influencer scouting on the gram. Then find the time to peace out and get some sleep usually around midnight. No wonder I am zapped this week!
What are some of the highlights of your career so far?
The highlights for me without a doubt were travelling to Italy and Paris multiple times a year with my father when I was buying for Digby's family business.
We would attend the internationally reclaimed Premiere Vision - for those who don’t know, this is the Mecca of all the best fabric mills in the world exhibiting under one roof. It’s unbelievably awesome.
We would be sharing a table there with Collette Dinnigan, the team from Scanlan and Theodore.. it was like nothing I have ever seen before. I believe it is very different now. Again, I feel incredibly lucky to have had that opportunity. And also visiting some of the best stores these countries have to offer. We had the best time.
Where are some of the most exciting places your career has taken you?
As mentioned above, without a doubt, Italy and Paris. No other location competes with these. They are the true Mecca of style, class, elegance, and sophistication.
What’s your advice to the future generation of buyers?
Simple: know your customer. Know who you are selling to. Know and own this market, and be totally across everything. Never point out negatives, don’t feel you are not good at something (in my case it was the numbers, I would freak out and get myself into such a panic!). You'll realise you're more capable than you thought.
Message is—don’t talk yourself out of something, talk yourself into something. Be humble. Don’t have ego, ego is never cool, and so many have it in this industry and it’s what these people are known for in the end over their talent, which is a shame.
Be nice to EVERYBODY because the girl getting your coffee or the toilet cleaner, may be the CEO of the giant retail firm you are trying your luck in in your next life. I can’t stress that enough! Respect advice and learn from it. Take everything on board. Most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously. You are a buyer, you're not curing a rare disease. Be confident, yes, but no one has time for prima donnas.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given for your career?
All the above! I do get told often I need to listen more and slow down. I just get too excited and run with something before the other person has time to blink! So slow down. Yep, not going to happen!
Feeling inspired? Find out more about our fashion courses here!