Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lam Nguyen from Barneys

Today in my design class, we had a guest speaker: Lam Nguyen, the CO-OP menswear buyer for Barneys.  The CO-OP part of Barneys is their less expensive (they still have $230 Prada t-shirts though) wing of the store.  I would have felt über-weird asking to get a picture with the guy so this is the only image you get!

Barneys was one of the first places I went to check out when I moved to New York, and I really liked the set up of the whole retail space.  I remember the sales associates being extremely accommodating and attentive.  Lam has been there for 12 years now and shared his experiences with us this morning...
  • Fashion is a business and a professional job.  There's more to it than just the social aspects.
  • In co-op, price point is key.  Barney's has a focus on breaking emerging designers first and tends to want exclusivity if they do.  
  • They think of themselves as a big specialty store, not a major retailer (even though according to their website they have 19 co-op stores, 13 outlets and 14 Barneys New York locations)
  • When approaching any retailer, “Where do you sit on our floor?” is an important question the buyers will ask.  Reference what other brands are like yours.
  • Tailoring is a big "trend" now.
  • Varsity jacket will be everywhere in the Fall.
  • If you have your own company, the aesthetic you’re projecting has to be true to who you are as a person.
  • When evaluating a designer, retailers want to know who you are and what you could become, i.e. "Oh, I could see them as the next Ralph Lauren..."
  • Men care MUCH less about what clothes male celebrities wear than women do about prominent females.
  • The American market follows the European market.
  • Aesthetic and story behind the collection is important.
  • Present in a manner that is congruent with your brand (i.e. presenting a line of t-shirts in a suit = disconnect).
  • Steps a customer goes through when deciding if they like something: The overall aesthetic of brand, they feel it, ask themselves "Is something missing in my wardrobe?"  By then a sales associate will get them a fitting room.  Fit is the most crucial and if it doesn't fit, they'll probably never go back to that brand.
  • Don’t try to react and design for retailers and buyers because "we’re fickle."
It's always refreshing to hear from someone that is on the other side of the table dealing with the realities of SELLING clothes.

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