More from Sarah Hutton Joel . . .
Who do you work with on a daily basis at NEXT buying?
With a variety of people that extends right through Childrenswear Buying. The Baby Girls Woven team consists of Trainee buyers, Assistant and Senior Buyer, Merchandisers, Garment and Fabric Technologists, Designers and many others from different departments. We all must ensure that we don't have product overlap and that everything in the range sits well together. We deal with suppliers constantly in both face to face ways and by phone and email etc. Written and verbal communication skills are vital as is having a polite and pleasant personality. You do deal with many of the same people every day and quickly esatblish a rapport, its not as hard as it sounds and the teams become close knit which is enjoyable. You learn to enjoy successes together and work to support each other if things don't turn out as hoped. The suppliers are also part of the team as we do have very close relationships with them and are working towards the same end goal. I have made good friends.
Inspiration v Perspiration?
Make no mistake, fashion can be long hours and hard work and many of the tasks are less than glamouous eg photocopying, preparing swatches and samples etc but everyone has to learn and Trainee Buyers are no different. I didn't expect it to be easy at the start with Next and it does take a while to adjust to the pace and professional standards but it is enjoyable learning. Trends come and go and you do have to spend quite a bit of time working out how to interpret them for the range and overall image of the brand. Baby Girls isn't the most high profile department but it is vital to keep abreast of forecasting as Next is a leader in the childrenswear sector. As I was adjusting to my new job I remember thinking that although it was hard work, there were plenty of students who would have gladly taken my place. This kept me going. My son has always been my biggest motivation and its important for me to be a good role model for him. Working hard is a big part of that. Life is what you make it, I have found.
Advice to current fashion students?
My advice to those currently on HNC/D at Adam Smith College is simply this . . . . get the most out of your time at college, work hard and play hard. Some graduates may not use their HN in their future careers but it does prove that you are educated to a specific level, which is always good and for me it became a completely fresh start. The resources at Adam Smith are great and one to one contact with the tutors is supportive and was invaluable to me. Tutor contact time at uni is much more limited so make use of it while you can during college class times. Ask questions. Believe in yourself as you reach those assessment goals and let your confidence grow as you progress. This will motivate you.
Since starting at Next my personal circumstances have also changed. I am now married and have a 4 month old daughter too. I plan to progress within the industry and although being a working Mum is demanding, it is also very satisfying. Never give up on yourself, that is key to landing a great job in fashion.
Sarah, Many thanks indeed for your time to give us such a detailed testimony. We are proud of you as an Adam Smith College graduate student and all that you have achieved and wish you lots of luck with your growing children and future career. Any time you are back up our way, we would love to see you!