Tips for a Career in Buying from the Urban Outfitters Divisional Merchandising Manager

Posted on June 1, 2015

Intern Queen recently caught up with the Urban Outfitters Divisional Merchandising Manager, Kris Babet, about how he worked his way up in the fashion industry and what advice he has for those following a similar career path.

Hi Kris, you’ve worked your way up through various retail roles until now, so could you tell us a bit about your current role?

My title is the Men’s Apparel DMM, which stands for Divisional Merchandising Manager but, essentially its Men’s Apparel Buying Manager.

I look after all the men’s apparel whether that’s on the branded side, own brand, or graphic t-shirts. If you can wear it on your body and it’s not footwear or an accessory, that’s me.

Rebecca N: What did you study in college? And if you didn’t study buying, how did you manage to relate what you studied to the job and land the job?

I didn’t go to university. Hugo Boss was my very first job, which gave me a taste for fashion. I then started working in a men’s independent store on weekends whilst I was at school, and then a company called Cecil Gee part time. After that, I worked for Box Fresh. So I had a lot of part-time jobs, just moving more towards the products that I personally liked.

I ended up going to work for Kenzo in the January and summer sale seasons, and it was at that point that I knew it was buying that I wanted to get into. A sales agency is where I made my progression: I worked up from being part time, to working in-store, to manager, to being a buyer.

I then worked for a store called A Butcher of Distinction in trade work, which is just off Brick Lane. I was lucky enough that Lee, who is the Urban Outfitters Buying Director, was friends with the guy who owed A Butcher of Distinction and he used to come into the store a lot. It was kind of like a buyers store, buyers use to come and see what we were doing and take that and put it into their stores. Lee told me about an opportunity to work at Urban Outfitters, it was a no brainer so I took the job and here I am.

Ten years later and I’m still here. I started as assistant buyer and now the Divisional Merchandising Manager of men’s. You don’t have to go to university, just put hard graft in.

Reyna C: What skills and qualities does a buyer need to have?

You need to be very organized and a good communicator. Communication and time management are two of the most important things.

You also need to be passionate and into your role. You can tell the ones that are and the ones that aren’t, and the ones that are passionate are a lot more successful.

Tory N: How does the menswear market differ from women?

If I’m being completely honest I would say the women’s market definitely turns much quicker. The trends change quicker and they’re a lot more frequent.

Jeanette B: What trends are you most looking forward to?

For winter this huge trends are over coats, roll necks and the rip and repair distressed denim. There is also inspiration taken from patch work; so t-shirts and shirts all mixed up.

Who most inspires you in the fashion industry and why?

David Beckham. He is an absolute idol for any man. When I was younger I thought Pharrell was really cool but I don’t think I dress like him now. Also, Eugene Tong works for Complex Magazine as their stylist. He’s definitely a style icon.

What influences does your personal style have on the clothing you buy for UO?

I like to dress on trend but I would say it’s more a case of colour palette. The UO customer always comes first, but at the same time I do want to shop where I work.

Kristianne Y: What does the career path to menswear buyer look like? Do you have any advice?

Stick with it, try and get as much experience as you can, wherever you can. Try and get experience where you can be as hands on as you can.

If you want to be a footwear buyer work in a footwear shop, even if somewhere else offers better money. You’re planning what you’re going to do for the rest of your life and that’s what’s going to pay off in the end, so just think about what you’re doing for your part time jobs and what it says about you.

You can find out more about Kris’ recent collaboration with Champion and Ellesse on the Urban Outfitters blog here.