FRA News

How to Become a Menswear Buyer at Urban Outfitters


11th March 2016

We recently sat down with Kris Babet, Divisional Merchandising Manager at Urban Outfitters. He spoke to us about his career so far and what advice he has for Fashion Retail Academy students looking to work in fashion buying.  

Could you tell us a bit about your current role? 

So I'm Men’s Apparel DMM, which stands for Divisional Merchandising Manager. That’s quite an American term, I’m essentially Men’s Apparel Buying Manager. I look after all the men’s apparel, whether that’s on the branded side, own brand, or graphic t-shirts. If you can wear it on your body and it’s not footwear or an accessory, that’s me! 

interview with buyer at urban outfitters

What is a typical day in the life of Head of Menswear Buying for Urban Outfitters? 

When I start the day, I’ll come in to the office and see what’s urgent. Do I need to look at any brands’ orders to sign off? Do I have any brand appointments where I have to go and view the range? 

We’ll also check the figures from the last day to see if we have done well in terms of trade. We’ll look at what has and hasn’t sold, what’s sticking and what’s going to cause problems. 

What is your background? 

My first job was working in Hugo Boss in their sales office, which was great. After that, I started working in a men’s independent store on weekends. Then I worked for a company called Cecil Gee part-time. Following that, I worked for Box Fresh. 

I ended up going to work at Kenzo in the January and summer sale seasons. It was at that point I knew it was buying that I wanted to get in to. I then moved on to a sales agency, and I worked up from being part-time to working in-store, to managing a team, to being a buyer. 

Then I went to work for a store called A Butcher of Distinction in trade, which is just off Brick Lane. Lee, who is the Urban Outfitters Buying Director, used to come in-store a lot and he told me about an opportunity to work at Urban Outfitters. It was a no-brainer! So, I took the job and 10 years later, I’m still here. I started as an Assistant Buyer and now I’m the men’s Divisional Merchandising Manager. 

What inspired you to work in menswear buying? 

Growing up, we always had to be quite smart for family parties, church and things like that. In terms of dress education, that was always in me. The experiences I had in showrooms and trade shows also made me think ‘I could probably do that better’. 

What do you enjoy most about your role at Urban Outfitters? 

I like that when you walk into a showroom, you see a great range but also missed opportunities. At UO, we’ve got the ability to build the range that’s missing. We have the opportunity to fully look at the collection and put what’s missing in, so we can always give a guy a reason to come back to UO. 

What’s the most challenging part of your role? 

It’s a very busy, very stressful job. It’s long hours and you work weekends, you have to put a lot in. You do it because you love it but sometimes it can be challenging. I also think it’s difficult finding the right people. It’s hard to replace someone when they leave with somebody just as good. 

urban outfitters buyer interview

What are your three top tips for a career in buying? 

  • You need to be organised because time management is one of the most important things. 
  • Communication is key. If you let people know what’s going on then they won’t hassle you. 
  • Be into it! You can tell the people who love their role, and the ones who don’t. The ones that love it are a lot more successful. 

Do you have any advice for current and future students of Fashion Retail Academy? 

Stick with it! Get as much experience as you can, wherever you can, and be really hands-on. 

If you want to be a footwear buyer, work in a footwear shop. Even if somewhere else offers better money. You’re planning what you’re going to do for the rest of your life and that’s what’s going to pay off in the end. Think about what you’re doing for your part-time jobs and what it says about you in interviews. 

If you’d like to do what Kris does and work in buying, our Level 4 Fashion Buying course is a fantastic place to start. All our Level 4 courses include three weeks of work experience with a major brand, boosting your CV and making sure you stand out from the competition.

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