Career Progression in the Fashion Industry – An Interview With Sarah Ferguson

If you have ever wanted to work in the fashion industry, or learn a bit about what happens behind the scenes, here is your opportunity. Today I have the wonderful opportunity of posting this interview with Sarah Ferguson, who is an International, Wholesale and Outwear Buyer about what it’s like to work in the design and sales team for a leading high street brand in the UK called Oasis.

If you are not familiar with Oasis here is a bit about them:

Oasis opened the doors of our first-ever store in 1991 and brought style with a smile to the great British High Street. They are proud to trade in 96 locations across 27 countries in Europe, Scandinavia, Middle East, Mediterranean and South America.

They have 80 stores in the UK and Ireland, including the amazing concept store at Tottenham Court Road. They also have Little House of Oasis boutique stores in smaller towns up and down the country. Plus, 200 concessions across Debenhams, Fenwick, House of Fraser, John Lewis and Outfit.

My hope is that this interview will help inspire and motivate you to aim high and go after your dreams!

CAREER PROGRESSION

Could you tell us about your day-to-day role and responsibilities?

My main role is to work with the design and merchandising teams on building tailoring, denim and outerwear ranges for Oasis. I mostly work on range building with the design team, this is where we aim to build a cohesive offering for our customers from the styles they’ve designed. I also work with our merchandising team on trading, checking competitor products and researching inspirational brands.

What has motivated you to keep pushing yourself further in your career?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been very driven to be successful. I’m the oldest child in my family, so perhaps it’s got something to do with ‘oldest child syndrome’ that pushes me on to prove myself!

How has the company changed since you have been there?

In my time at Oasis, the company has evolved in many ways. I think one of the biggest changes has been when it comes to ways of working. This has had a really positive effect on the workforce, especially with the introduction of flexible working hours. We’ve also worked hard on giving our customer more ways to shop. For example, we’ve started new initiatives based around our curve and bridesmaid products.

How have Oasis supported you in your career? What makes the company special?

Oasis is a very people focused company and they’ve been incredibly supportive of me throughout my career. Their openness to flexible working has been very helpful, especially considering my changing lifestyle. In general, Oasis is a very friendly environment to work in and that makes it a special place to work.

EXPERIENCE AT UNIVERSITY/GRADUATE

What motivated you to pursue a career in fashion?

I always loved seeing the pictures of fashion shows in the newspapers when I was younger. It seemed such an amazing, creative place to be. I think those feelings that it invoked within me really made me the see the impact clothes can have on people and inspired me to pursue the career that I’m currently in.

What did you learn in your roles before Oasis?

To be flexible! I learnt how important it is to get involved in and build an understanding of as many roles in the business as possible. This type of knowledge comes in particularly useful when you’re trying to help find solutions to problems, it also enables you to have an opinion when challenged on something.

Working in stores also gave me an invaluable insight into understanding who the customer is and what they want.

Did you have a role model or inspiration that guided you on your current career path?

The first person I’d always say is my mum. She knew that I loved the idea of getting into fashion but saw that I wanted to develop my commercial skills, she suggested that I try and get into buying. My first ever manager when I started out in fashion also had a big influence on my career. She guided me through my first couple of years and showed me everything she knew; this gave me an amazing foundation to build on for the future.

Do you have any regrets?

Nope! Making mistakes is all part of learning and improving, so it’s important to make them and not regret anything!

CAREER IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY

In your first role did you see yourself reaching the heights you have today?

I don’t like to think of myself having reached any heights! I’ve never really stopped and thought about where I’ll end up in my career. For me, it’s important to keep looking at where I’m currently at and how I’m developing, from there I can look at where the next step is.

Any secrets to success in the industry? What makes the industry unique?

You must be able to work in a fast-paced environment, and that means being able to look at the bigger picture and react quickly to things. The industry is always changing, and it’s important to have the ability to adapt with your customer and ensure you are giving them the best product to fit their needs.

SENIOR WOMEN IN BUSINESS

What advice would you give to women aspiring to take a similar role to yours?

I’d always start by mapping out what you want to do and how you plan to get there. If you’re not sure what you want to do, go and get some work experience, this will help give you a better idea of what the industry is like and what you want to aim for. You should always make sure you are learning as much as possible in each role you take. Just aim to get as much experience as you can and keep learning.

Are you consciously doing anything to support women looking to find success within the business?

The team I work in all support each other. It’s important to make sure junior members of the team get as much exposure to different parts of the buying process as possible, and that everyone feels they have a voice within the team and can affect change.

WHAT TO WEAR TO WORK

Do you have a work uniform?

Not really. I generally open my wardrobe each morning and wear whatever comes to my attention first!

Do you believe in ‘dressing for success’?

I think it’s important to feel good in what you’re wearing. Clothes can be empowering and have a big impact on mindset, so if it helps you get into the right mindset for success, you should wear something that does that.

How do you decide what to wear to work every day?

I like to feel comfortable but structured. Also, I love a jacket as I’m always cold!

 

Sarah Ferguson is an International, Wholesale and Outerwear Buyer for Oasis. Sarah has worked in the fashion industry as a buyer for over 13 years.

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