The Role Of A Buyer/ Product Developer with Michelle Nevshehir

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

As part of the blog, podcast and support channels here at Fashion Podcast, I will be interviewing a selection of industry professionals about their roles, with the vision to support students in their early career choices as well as supporting graduates into their first or future job roles. I hope that you all find them insightful! These blog posts are scripted from the Podcast episodes from ‘The Fashion Toolbox Podcast’ available on all Podcast listening platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

Michelle is a Buyer and Product Developer specialising in Menswear with 15 years of experience under her belt.

Her interests are in sustainability, commerciality and product and she prides herself on having a keen eye for detail including the latest trends and customer requirements.

Michelle began her career as a Buyers admin for Dorothy Perkins, where she began in Womenswear before moving into Menswear in 2007. She has worked her way up over the years from Admin to Junior all the way up to Brand Manager. She uprooted her career from the UK to progress her career in Australia in 2014 where she worked for Target Australia and Myer.

She had planned a well-deserved travel break where she planned to expand her global knowledge of the world by witnessing first hand, but unfortunately this was cut short by the Covid pandemic, instead she has returned home to the UK and has been studying to plan for the sustainable future of fashion which lies ahead for us all.

Fashion Toolbox 00:07

When did you first become interested in fashion?

Michelle 00:10

So, I think an interesting fashion has been with me forever. I definitely remember as a young girl, raiding my mum's wardrobe wearing her tops as dresses and my poor sister was used as a bit of a fashion model when I used to take my mum's tights and make creations out of them, these lovely little one pieces for my sister. And then when I was at school, I was very much into art and fashion, textiles, but also, I was really good at business studies and economics as well. So, I did not really know how to mix those two together. I went to Clothes Show Live, I just used to love watching the Clothes Show on a Saturday afternoon, and there used to be back in those times a Clothes Show Live at the N.E.C in Birmingham. They had University stands there, and you go to the university stand, I knew I wanted to go to university. And there were these leaflets to say if you like this, this, and this, this is the course, and this is the job, which was Fashion Buying. And I just read that I knew that that was the direction I wanted to go into. So, a few thinks really, but I think it has always been with me.

Fashion Toolbox 01:22

I think it is really interesting that you came across Fashion so early, because so far, the people that I have spoken to have not really stumbled across it that young. And I think that if you are creative, you have always got that art kind of mindset and you are driven towards it, but Fashion was never there so early for me. So yeah, I just find it really interesting.

What made you go to the Clothes Show?

Michelle 01:48

I think by that time, it was just something I used to watch on TV. So, it was called the Clothes Show Live and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. I think I actually did my Textiles GCSE just to be able to go to the Clothes Show Live as well because that was part of a trip that you went to if you did your GCSE in Textiles which was the trip to the N.E.C to see the Clothes Show Live.

Fashion Toolbox 02:16

That is so lucky at GCSE level, I wish I had that!

Can you tell me about how you came to working in the industry?

Michelle 02:24

So, I think it is obviously from a young age, well I was 14 when I saw that university stand and knew that that was for me. So, I always kind of worked towards a career in Fashion. So, it started with my university degree. And also, I grew up in quite a small village so there was not really access to clothes stores to work in as a Saturday girl and things like that. So as soon as I got to university, I took a part time job working in River Island in the store and while I was a student, so I gained work experience in stores. The reason I chose my university degree is because they had a year work placement, and also a six-month exchange program with New York with the Fashion Institute of Technology. And I just knew even being a 17/18-year-old girl, that having that type of experience would set me up in my career for the future. So, I would already when I finished university had a year work placement with Marks and Spencer’s. So then after I finished university, I was looking for that next role to be a buyer so, I just applied to lots of different companies, luckily had the choice between the Arcadia group and Tesco’s actually at the time when I chose the Arcadia group and started as a buyer's admin there.

Fashion Toolbox 03:48

Wow, it just sounds like you have been so focused on what you wanted to do from being so young!

Michelle 03:54

I have! I did not know quite what else I would do really!

Fashion Toolbox 03:59

Well you've kind of already answered this, but what field did you want to get into from the outset?

Michelle 04:06

Yeah, I have always wanted to be a fashion buyer. And I think from the age of 14, But I think if I had not done that, I think the next one was always an art teacher, or a teacher of some sort. I think that is always within me that kind of wanting to teach people and especially in my last role in fashion, is that I really helped to develop the junior members of the team and set up the Buying Academy within the company that I was working in to try and help promote and develop buyers within the business. So, I think that wanting to be an art teacher’s kind of still in there somewhere. Wanting to teach people and kind of help the industry in that way.

Fashion Toolbox 04:49

I have that same passion, as you probably gathered! So, I think that definitely the more experience that you gain through your career, the more successful that you will be a teacher, won't you? It is it is never harmful to just keep moving up that ladder.

Michelle 05:07

Yeah, definitely.

Fashion Toolbox 05:10

I just I think it's just so fascinating that with you again, just a completely different case that you chose that so young, and you have carried through in that Buying role all the way through your career, which is, I have just done so many different rules to get to what I want to do.

Michelle 05:29

And there is not a right or a wrong route. Some in some people can stay in a business for all their career as well. And I have had different experiences with different sized businesses and different opportunities when it was right to take them in. And there is not a right or wrong to any of that for whatever path you are following.

Fashion Toolbox 05:53

How did you get into your latest role and what you are doing at the moment?

Michelle 06:00

So, my latest role was in Myer, which is a department store in Australia. It is probably easier to tell you how I got to Australia, probably from the UK! I was a Senior Buyer in tailoring for House of Fraser. And my husband got offered a role in Australia, and then also at the same time Target in Australia, were looking for UK buyers specifically to come and help turn around their fortunes in their stores. So, myself and my husband moved out to Australia with not knowing anyone but wanting the opportunity at one point to work aboard. We kind of told our families that we will be there for two years, and five and a half years later, we moved back to the UK in the middle of a pandemic, not ideal. But yeah, I had two roles in Australia. One at Target, and then the second role was at Myer, which I loved. And that was the most similar probably because it is the most similar to house of Fraser, which I had worked at in the UK. So, that is what took me to Australia. I still loved the UK but wanted to have a chance to work in another country.

Fashion Toolbox 07:20

That must have given you a really diverse skill set going and doing Buying in another country?

Michelle 07:28

Well, you think so. But I think it more, it was exactly the same job just in another country. So, I am not sure if it changed necessarily my skill set, but maybe that kind of readiness to move and try something new. Yeah, definitely took me out of a bit of a comfort zone from, living in London for at that time I had been in London for over 14 years, with a great friendship set and working for a great company to do that change is probably something, a skill set in myself that I learned. But the other job was pretty similar. But then really working with different people because customers are different.

Fashion Toolbox 08:11

Yeah, I guess it is being receptive to change isn't it?

Michelle 08:18

Yeah, definitely

Fashion Toolbox 08:21

So, speaking on skills, what skills would you say are paramount to your role in the industry?

Michelle 08:27

I think definitely organisation. I think definitely is a buyer one thing I love about it is that it not every day is the same. So, you have got to be organised and there's definitely curve-balls that can come different times of the day, you know, different days. So, I would say organisation and teamwork. You know, there is not an I definitely in the Buying team or Product Development team. You have to work strongly with Designers, you've got to work with Merchandisers and lots of different people around the business and lots of times I think I found, especially in Australia, because the teams were a lot smaller than what I was used to in the UK and people just wanted, they thought he had all the answers, you had to answer everything for everyone. So, I think it is, being able to multitask, and work with lots of different characters those I would say were the main skills.

Fashion Toolbox 09:25

And would you say that you learn those skills within your Education or within Industry mostly?

Michelle 09:32

A mixture, I think university and degrees in Fashion, well the degree I did in fashion definitely set me up for team working, we had to do lots of projects together, and at the time you think, you know, "What do I need this for?" But actually, all that project work is exactly what you need when you are in an in a team. And then I think, as you get older as well, I think you know, when you're at university, you're still in your late teens, early 20's and I think as you get older, there's even more different characters and managers and things like that to work with and develop your skills in that way and when you are at university you don't really have lots of management, you're not dealing with managers or you're not a manager yourself. And I think that is something that you do learn more on the job.

Fashion Toolbox 10:21

Yeah, there's just so many different types of people that it's hard to know, and hard to think how to react to situations as well without causing friction or problems it is definitely one of the hardest things in working in industry, knowing how to deal with people.

Michelle 10:41

Yeah. The jobs usually fairly straightforward!

Fashion Toolbox 10:53

So, what was the most useful thing that you learned at university that helped you in your career so far?

Michelle 10:59

I think well, one I've which I've taken everywhere I've been for the last 20 years is we did a module on CV writing, and even though my obviously my experience has grown, that way of writing my CV hasn't really changed or kind of put that across, I was really grateful for that module. And I was also really grateful for the course set up and that was a year and a half at university, a year work placement, and then a six month exchange program with the Fashion Institute of Technology and then a year back at university. And I think that diverseness was really good. And I just think for people in the future, looking to do a degree I think, really look at ones that have an opportunity to work in companies and that the universities will support you in that because some of the people that I met as a year work placement, I still see now one has been my mentor nearly my whole career and two, we actually ended up in in the same company in Australia, which is bizarre. But, you know, these people are still people that you see in the industry. So, that that kind of support from the universities to have that work experience and having a work experience was really invaluable.

Fashion Toolbox 12:24

I couldn't agree more with that our university offered the same we got to do a year out in industry, and that was the most experience and the most skills that I had learnt in the course I would say.

Michelle 12:37

Yeah, I would say the same.

Fashion Toolbox 12:40

And like you said, those contacts as well. I am still in touch with all of the people from that placement. It is definitely an experience not to be missed!

Michelle 12:50

Probably one more thing, was learning to use a WSSI which is merchandising tool, because the degree I did was Fashion Merchandise Management. So it was a mixture of Merchandising and Buying, it was actually set up to find Merchandisers at the time because they knew people wanted to go into either Buying or Design but there wasn't a lot of people in very trained in Merchandising in the 2000s. And so, the university degree was set up to find future Merchandisers. So, to have that skill set as a Buyer and learn that from an early age was really useful as well, has been useful.

Fashion Toolbox 13:30

Could you explain to anybody that might not know what a WSSI is?

Michelle 13:33

Oh, yes! It is basically how you monitor stock in a business. So, it monitors your sales, your stock, and it is basically a merchandisers Bible. And that is what they work on all the all the time that's kind of their job is managing a WSSI because that helps them see their sales and their plans and where their stock is. So, it is basically a big Excel spreadsheet that monitors all of that.

Fashion Toolbox 14:04

So, what does your job entail and an average working day?