Why a Buyer Goes to Fashion Week

Elyse Walker tells us what fashion week is like for someone who decides what collection pieces make it into stores.
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Elyse Walker tells us what fashion week is like for someone who decides what collection pieces make it into stores.
Elyse Walker. Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Elyse Walker. Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Thousands of people attend fashion week every season, but why do they go? Does their job require them to be there? What are they looking for? We seek to answer these questions in a series of short profiles leading into New York Fashion Week. Next up: Elyse Walker, Fashion Director at Forward by Elyse Walker.

Why is it important for you to go to fashion week?

It helps set the tone for next season and it helps me and my buyers plan what we are going to buy for fwrd.com as well as my store in the Pacific Palisades. I find it easier to spot trends during fashion week, so in between shows and appointments we try and work out which ones we feel strongly about and anticipate which ones our customers will love. Fashion week is a great opportunity to catch up with everyone -- designers, editors and even customers. I always leave each city feeling inspired -- not just from a creative point of view but also a business perspective, too.

How do you decide what shows to go to?

I’d like to go to everything but so often it comes down to logistics -- there’s only so much you can see and do in one day. We prefer to attend shows in the mornings and evenings so that we can spend longer on buying appointments during the day. The buying appointments are a must. The shows are a designer’s vision in full effect and the buying appointments are a more commercial interpretation of that vision. Seeing the show and then attending a buying appointment makes me appreciate the value of both the runway look and the commercial piece. And of course at the buying appointment you have the opportunity to touch and feel and even try on the product, which allows you to get into the mindset of your customer. You start thinking about how she’ll style a piece and where she’ll go in it. Buying appointments can take hours and sometimes even days -- but they really help you to determine what you are going to place an order for.

Do you make orders during fashion week or does that happen later?

We place orders immediately after fashion week. We prefer to see everything and then make a decision about what to buy. There are so many things you have to take into consideration -- not least your budget -- and it’s much better to make those kind of decisions once you’re away from the frenzy of fashion week.

How do you keep track of everything you see and want to have in the store and online?

It’s not easy but technology helps! I create folders on my desktop for each city and then within those I create sub-folders for casual or evening wear or bags, shoes and accessories. I then fill them with all the photos I have taken. They serve as my own inspiration boards and allow me to figure out what direction we are going in for the season. And now vendor’s purchase orders feature photos which makes things so much easier too. Before all you had was a description or a sketch to work with.

Do you travel with a buying team or is it just you?

I travel with a team that includes our online buyers as well as in-store buyers, plus an analyst. Whenever I make dinner reservations during fashion week I always book a table for 10! We spend our days attending shows and buying appointments and then once we’ve eaten our evenings are taken up working out potential orders.