Five Minutes with Michelle, Buyer for Urban Outfitters

Urban Outiftters have always been a favourite of ours on the high street. They always do something different. They have tapped into a niche – quirky, kooky, cool mixed with vintage and slightly Americana. All their stores are amazing, the Oxford Street one especially, with its multiple floors of fashion delights, is a realm waiting to be explored, not least for their exclusive designer women’s mecca right at the top!

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What strikes us with Urban is their choices of brands they buy into. In any one store you might have the genius of Westwood sitting next to the glam of TBA or vintage Levi’s teamed up with Lyle and Scott knitwear (for the men). To be able to mix and match designer and high street fashion is a concept every fash mag harps on about, in this store it really does come to life.

When we got the chance to ask Michelle, the force behind the buying team at UO, a few questions, we knew we were going to get some plain old honesty. We don’t know about you, but we’re so fascinated by the buyer’s job, after all without them, there would be no fashionable us!

Here’s what Michelle had to say…

HF: Obviously Urban Outfitters have their typical customer. From your buying expertise could you tell us who that is and what they shop for?
Michelle
: The brand’s customer is pretty mixed at UO. It’s more about a look than a demographic. She has sophisticated tastes and is happy to mix branded pieces with key pieces from own label and renewal- making her look individual.

HF: When buying into brands, are you now conscious of the online shopper? And how does it make a difference?
Michelle: We are extremely conscious of our online shopper. We think about exclusive pieces for the web which are often the real ‘out there’ pieces which we could not physically display in store. We also consider how the product will come across on the screen, as you cannot physically handle the garment, so for example textured knits do not always work.

HF: Who would you say are the most popular brands you buy and why?
Michelle
: This season we have seen great performances on brands like Whyred, which is something we are adding to more stores for AW10. I think it has worked well because of its cool masculine tailoring being completely different to everything in the market at its price bracket. Our exclusive brand Vaudeville & Burlesque has also had a storming season – this is such a pretty vintage inspired brand that uses hard edges, i.e. visible zips, to create a real urban feel.

HF: Can you tell us a secret about the Urban Outfitters office?
Michelle: No way!

HF: We’ve always been fascinated by the buying process. Do you just get given a huge budget and the choice of thousands of brands? How does it work?
Michelle: That is pretty much it! No, really we work really closely with our merchandise team reviewing performance of brands in stores constantly to see what we could grow and what we need to work on. We travel extensively to find new brands and as we buy 6- 8 months in advance we can get a real feel for the coming season well in advance. We like to offer our customers some continuity of brands in stores- we cannot do a complete overhaul every season. But we strive to have new brands in each store every season to really challenge our customer and offer them something new. It is a fine balancing act!

HF: If you were an objective shopper at UO, what brands would you love to see them stock?
Michelle: Luckily for UO they already stock my favorite brand, Carin Wester !

HF: Any new brands we should know about for upcoming seasons? 
Michelle
: The fab Australian brands Evil Twin and Mink Pink are hitting UO in October which is super exciting – I don’t think our customer has seen anything like this before! We are also excited about the Richard Nicoll shirting line. Richard is such an amazing designer who is so highly regarded and we are really happy to be stocking him. We’ve worked with his team to create two exclusive pieces as well! We are also stocking Stine Goya for AW10 – one of the coolest Danish designers. Her collection features the most beautiful plait detail jumpers I have ever seen!

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