Next Wave

Buying textiles is an art you can learn

29-04-2018 in NEXT WAVE

Trending: textile buyers demand for trainings to improve their buying skills. Here are some tips to get started.

Thinking back of my early years in textile business, I was visiting as many textile trade fairs as possible. And, honestly, most of the time, I felt a little lost.

This changed completely the moment I started visiting trade fairs with a clear strategic approach. It changed my whole perspective. Although my focus was narrower, I discovered more and I found more opportunities to talk to people.

So I started digging into textile buyer’s needs. I talked to people, most of them experienced buyers, and I understood that I was not alone. But I also understood that the job of the textile buyer is changing. That new jobs are being created. And as always in the beginning of a new trend: here are opportunities.

“Buyers edit and curate within the DNA of their company.”

A good buyer is a curator with a vision

Susanne Tide Frater is one of the most experienced brand developers in the fashion business.  She worked a.o. for Victoria Beckham and Harrods. She nowadays is very successful in training buyers. Her trainings prove that the need for more professionalism in buying is growing. Tide Frater describes a buyer as a “curator or selector of a specific edit”. “Buyers edit and curate within the DNA of their company,” she says. This means buyers can only be good at their job if they fully understand the DNA of the brand.

Jobs that did not exist, but that will be trending soon

Digitalisation is often seen as a treat. But it also delivers opportunities and new jobs that are being shaped as we speak. One of these jobs bridges between the company and the buyer: it is a new type of planner. They conceive a collection plan and build a framework from which creativity can evolve. The tools these planners use are mostly analytics that help them identify patterns in buyer’s behaviour. But they also cast an eye on the future and do not mechanically rely on what sold best in the past. Here also analytics will help. Online this time. As testing of ideas and concepts before the collection is made, helps saving time and money.

What about buyers who follow their gut feeling?

It would be fantastic to go out in the market and buy whatever your heart desires. But this is not the way buyers curate a good collection. Good buyers will rely on the company’s DNA, its mission, analytics, trends and a lot of experience.

But is also depends on the type of company you work for. Highly creative collections will float more on gut feeling (mostly of top designers) than more commercial oriented collections.

Start with these 4 steps

1. Identify the DNA of the brand you are working for.

2. Analyse the numbers. This goes beyond knowing which colour or structure was a hit last season. You will have to craft on the numbers, bring them into relation with the type of customer you aim at. Talk to the customers, understand their pains and their gains.

3. The third step is to conceive a collection plan and to build a framework from which creativity can evolve and that will help you orient during the buying process.

4. Budget. And make sure budget is not a standalone. Budget is related to your goals, competition, opportunities to grow,…


You are ready to go out in the market and visit trade fairs now. Prepare your visit. Talk to potential suppliers, make sure you understand their organisation. See what items they did not display during the show. It might be exactly the fabric that you were looking for.

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