What Fashion Week is Like for Barneys Fashion Director Tomoko Ogura

Find out how a big-time buyer gets through her busiest time of the year.
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Find out how a big-time buyer gets through her busiest time of the year.
Tomoko Ogura. Photo: Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Barneys New York

Tomoko Ogura. Photo: Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Barneys New York

In case you haven't noticed, a lot goes on during New York Fashion Week — from street style to celebrity sightings to runway beauty trends — that almost makes you forget why it exists in the first place. Fashion is first and foremost a business, and for a designer, the end goal of showing is to get his or her clothes into stores. That's where someone like Tomoko Ogura, the fashion director at Barneys, comes in. 

If you ask any new designers where they wants to sell their clothes, chances are they will say Barneys. In addition to leading the buy for one of the country's most influential stores, Ogura is also tasked with deciding what ends up in The Window, Barneys's seasonal magalog. She goes to 10 to 12 shows a day, but for her, it's the showroom appointments that are the most important (and that take up most of her time). Read on for our interview about what Fashion Month is really like for her.

How do you prep for fashion week?

My team will converse about what we're looking for. Let's say we need more feminine collections, or we're looking for shoes and accessories, so that we have a little bit of a game plan going into market. We also make sure we're all in line in terms of who's covering what, so it's a little bit more administrative in that sense. The buying team has to do a ton of market prep — they're preparing to go into showrooms, thinking about what historically has sold and the metrics they need to prepare to go into buying.

How do you decide what shows to go to?

The shows of the designers we have at the store are a priority. In terms of new designers, we're always looking at the calendar to see if something stands out. I would say that altogether we cover at least 10 to 12 shows a day; on top of that, there are a number of designers that don't have a show presence so we have to hit up all of those.

The market appointments are really what take up our entire schedule because that's where we go back and touch and feel all the merchandise. It's where we're making all the decisions for the season in terms of the edit, in terms of advertising styles that we collectively choose together, and whether we're working on exclusive styles with the vendor.

What else are you doing during fashion week — events, stopping by the office?

We have events of our own that we have to attend in addition to supporting other events, and it's a great time to catch up with people who aren't usually in town. You always have to find time to go back to the office — if not every day then every other day — to catch up on emails.

How do you keep track of everything you see? What information do you need?

Luckily you can take notes on your phone now... I usually separate it by city so it keeps me organized that way. One of my responsibilities during fashion week is selecting the advertising looks. That needs to happen pretty quickly so that we can get ad exclusives and style exclusives, so I usually communicate that right after the show to both the vendor and the buyers. Once you go back to the showroom you can ask, how much is it, do we like the texture, is it too heavy, is it too light — all of those things are questions that we ask and then collectively as a team we decide if this is what we want to advertise.

What do you mean by advertising?

We have The Window magazine, which comes out twice a year, so the spring book is what we'll be working on. Everything that's in that is what we choose during market, whether it's the Dries van Noten look or the Alex Wang look or the Rag & Bone look.

Do you go to all four fashion weeks?

I usually do. This season I'm actually coming back between London and Paris, but we will have someone covering Milan so we have someone in every market.

What happens post-fashion month?

For my job it's about wrapping up what we want to advertise in terms of each vendor, but also collectively what kinds of fashion themes we want to make sure to promote within our marketing vehicles — overarching trends or themes. We have a lot of meetings right when we get back and we'll start to put together fashion stories for The Window magazine. For the buying team, they really just have to wrap up all of their orders. Other than the print advertising we do a lot of digital advertising as well, so choosing the looks for those marketing vehicles takes place right after. It's a lot of wrapping up our plans for the season.

We're always looking for new designers, but we can't pick up all of the ones that we love because of budget and space constraints. It's also a time that we put our heads together and decide which ones we feel are the most important to bring on or the most relevant — it's a brainstorming session as well.

At buying appointments, are you interacting with sales reps or the designers themselves?

We still have a lot of designers that are one-man shows [like Ryan Roche] so they're always there at the appointment. Then for the big brands we usually work with sales reps, so it's a little bit of both. That makes it more eclectic so it's nice to have both.

Are there any designers you're particularly excited about this season?

Brock is a collection we just picked up for fall so I'm definitely excited to see how their spring collection evolves. They're a very sweet couple and I believe their sensibility is something that will be interesting to watch unfold.

This interview has been edited and condensed.