Meet Kathleen, a Fashion Business alum who now works as Head Buyer at Harrolds! She told us about her time studying with us, how she worked her way up to Head Buyer, and her advice to anyone interested in working as a buyer

What did you love most about studying at Holmes Institute Fashion?

I loved the teachers who then became mentors, and of course my classmates and the memorable connections that I made along the way. Holmes Institute Fashion gave us teachers and mentors who knew the industry so well because they’d been working in it for so long. This meant we had real access to professionals in the industry and we got hands-on experience. 

Tell us a bit about your career history and how you got to where you are today

I worked at MYER for nine years and that was my springboard into buying. I entered a competition at MYER to win a buying assistant job; I won a role with the menswear buying team. It was like a mini-apprenticeship. I was then approached by Harrolds four years ago to head up their wine wear portfolio. 12 months ago, I was promoted to head of the department. 

At the beginning of my career, I was a total sponge. I knew my goal was to be a buyer, so I took on over-and-above projects and tasks. I was determined to be the best buyer. So I learned everything there was to know about the buying process: data analysis, stock allocation, financial planning, logistics and supply chain, product ranging and assortment planning, projections, product development, and so on. I also had phenomenal mentors who helped shape my career.

Tell us about your current job

I manage a team of four—three buyers and an assistant. I oversee 100+ brands, and managing brand relationships are an integral part of my role. A lot of my time is utilised in negotiations—decision-making on tactical activities and strategic initiatives that are in collaboration with finance, marketing, e-commerce, retail stores, logistics, and customer service.

A normal day at my job would consist of suring up productivity levels, gross profit and management of operating expenditure. At the epicentre of what I am responsible for is ensuring that we are continually innovating and surprising the customer, showing them things they never knew they needed, as well as redefining what true luxury is in Australia.

What are some of the highlights of your career so far?
It’s always special when Australian labels we have mentored and supported receive accolades for the work they are doing in the industry. We are proud to nurture new and local talent. It’s always special when I can make it to shows and my favourites are always Thom Browne and Comme des Garcon.

What’s your advice to someone who’s interested in a career in buying?

The industry can be incredibly challenging, as retail always is. It’s important to understand that in buying, it is all about using both your left and right brain and trusting your gut instincts. The industry can be exhausting, but also incredibly rewarding. Time management skills and having balance are crucial in helping you become a strong and inspiring buyer.

*Holmes Institute Fashion is a college of The Masters Institute of Creative Education

Are you interested in learning more about the places fashion can take you? Check out our fashion courses here!