My Fashion Career: Martin Roberts, Head of Menswear Buying at Jacamo
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Whether you dream of being a designer, fancy yourself as a photographer, or are made for marketing, we’ve spoken to individuals currently working in various areas of the fashion industry to find out how they made themselves stand out from the crowd in this increasingly competitive industry, and what their job is really like! Martin Roberts is Head of Menswear Buying at top men’s fashion retailer, Jacamo. He spoke to The National Student about his role within the company, and how he got there… ‘I went to Liverpool John Moores University to study for a BA Hons Business Studies degree. It’s safe to say I enjoyed the social side of university life a little bit too much in my 1st year, which resulted in me having to re-take the year! I subsequently buckled down and walked away with a 2.1 in the end. ‘Buying had interested me since studying the category within my BTEC and Degree courses. I originally liked the idea of being a toy buyer but, after completing my degree, I attended a careers fair at Manchester University and ended up on a stand run by Great Universal Stores (now owned by Very). I started to talk to the girl on the stand and we realised that we used to sit next to each other at primary school! She persuaded me to apply for the graduate scheme for the Men’s & Ladies Buying department, and the rest is history. ‘My first “proper” job was as Assistant Buyer in menswear at GUS. I worked my way through the ranks and, after three years, became a Buyer in my own right. I spent five years at GUS and then joined Adidas as the Menswear Category Manager for the UK and the Benelux countries. However, after a few years, I really missed buying and having the autonomy of creating your own range, and applied for a job at N Brown as Younger Menswear Buyer. ‘Travel was what appealed to me most about fashion buying; I had always wanted to travel, but didn’t have the finance to do it and backpacking never appealed to me, so I saw this as an ideal way to see the world. On top of that, I had always been interested in fashion, even though I had no set education in this field, so I killed two birds with one stone – and got paid for it! ‘Ahead of my interview with Jacamo, I tried to be as proactive as possible in thinking what questions I would be asked. In any interview situation you are often nervous and, as a result, forget points that you would have liked to communicate as to why you are suitable for the job. ‘I prepared a PowerPoint handout (which was not asked for) which I believed would show what I could bring to the job, examples of where I had demonstrated my skill set, and how I had overcome challenges. This allowed me to feel more in control and acted as a prompt for me, as I could refer to it throughout the interview. I believe it gave the impression of being proactive, professional and organised. ‘In fashion buying, you need to demonstrate your business acumen as well as the creative talent that you believe you have. A buyer needs to be a fully-rounded business person with the ability to cover all aspects of the job, whether its number crunching, negotiating or putting your range together. I also look for people who have a real drive about them; you cannot be slow paced, you need to have a passion for product, as that is the one thing that can never be taught! ‘Networking does help, whether that is through friends and family in the business or offering yourself up for work placements over the holidays for a couple of weeks – unfortunately, these are very likely to be unpaid! But this demonstrates your desire and determination to be a buyer.
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