I talk about my career as a merchandiser A LOT around here, and it’s easily one of my favorite things to talk about.
Since I DO talk about it so much, I spend a lot of time reflecting on my career. And it always comes back to the same realization: I FREAKIN’ HAVE MY DREAM JOB. I know I’m absolutely one of the lucky ones. I do love talking about how much I love my job in hopes that I can connect and chat with people who may be looking at Merchandising as a career. I talk about my career A LOT on It’s Casual, but today I want to talk a little more about my journey, and why I consider Merchandising a DREAM career.
how the dream started
Let’s be honest: I’m a SUPER indecisive person. I also tend to be a follower, not a leader. Specifically when it comes to BIG decisions. Luckily, my sister is six and a half years older than me. She can 1000% take credit for the reason why I’m in the fashion industry. Once she began working in the industry after college, I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. Well I mean, I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just knew it HAD to be in fashion.
Remember when I said I was a follower? Yeah, SOOOOO instead of making the *smart* decision of going to the Fashion Institute of Technology, I followed my high school boyfriend down to the DC area where I went to school at Marymount University. They had a fashion program there, so I figured it was a great idea (spoiler alert: We broke up the first week of college LOL). I stuck it out — but ended up changing my major to Communications with a minor in Fashion Merchandising.
I switched my major because I was having doubts about becoming a buyer because I was HORRIBLE with numbers and I really was intimidated by them. I figured because I loved writing and speaking so much, I could always do something in fashion PR or journalism. PS: While you don’t need to have a degree in Merchandising to get a job as a merchandiser, I definitely recommend having relevant courses under your belt (economics courses, retail math, etc.).
During my senior year of college, I realized that being a merchandiser was the ONLY thing I wanted to do. And then for WHATEVER reason, I was inspired by menswear. So I wanted to become a merchandiser for a menswear company.
my career path
ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT: I landed a job as an Assistant Merchandiser for Perry Ellis — one of the first American menswear brands. It was then and there I realized just how much I would love being a merchandiser. I had amazing bosses who took me under their wings. I love my designers. I loved my cross-functional teams. I loved watching our product come to life. I learned how the design process worked, how to use their inspirations to create a compelling assortment, I learned how teams negotiated costs and how planners bought units.
Then, I hit a wall.
I didn’t hate my job. I never did. I always loved it. But there was a point that I just felt super stagnant. I wanted to work for a company I could WEAR. A company I could relate to. Long story short: I ended up at Free People.
While I won’t go into specifics: It wasn’t the best job. It was almost the opposite of what I wanted to do (even though I was a “merchandiser”, I was really more of a wholesale buyer who mainly kept track of inventory). I didn’t love the way the wholesale company was run, and I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I will say, it was a good experience to see the buying side of things…and probably lead me to where I truly believed I belong.
In February 2020, I started my job at Lou & Grey.
And honestly…it’s been a dream. A saving grace during the pandemic.
Lou & Grey is everything I’ve ever wanted in a company. The brand itself is basically everything I love about fashion and clothing: Comfortable, effortless, easy head-to-toe dressing, fabric driven, trendy yet classic, versatile clothing. I’ve been wearing the brand for years, and to be able to now work for the company? A literal DREAM. But let me tell you why merchandising is the best.
I get asked what exactly goes into being a merchandiser. And the answer is: There’s no simple answer because SO much goes into it. Merchandisers truly see EVERY aspect of the business. So much of being a merchandiser is going with your gut, and I really love that. I also am really learning a lot of the business side of things — which is a HUGE goal of mine. I want to be able to not only put together an amazing assortment, but also have the numbers to prove what we did worked. And I really, really have a hard time with numbers, so this is a good challenge for me to get to the next level of my career.
While every company operates slightly differently…one thing is pretty consistent: Merchandisers are involved in A LOT. We see everything from the ground up:
- Concept and color from design
- Sketches to colored illustrations
- Review and pick fabrics with design
- See samples
- Help figure out fit of garments
- Build the line and coming up with big ideas
- Share big ideas with marketing team
- Review in-store visuals
- Discuss buys with planners
We literally DO. IT. ALL. I’m so lucky to be able to see so many aspects of the business and see the product I helped create come to life. Seeing it on customers is even BETTER. Oh, and I stalk online reviews like CRAZY because I want to know what YOU (the customer) love (or don’t love). I love getting to know the Lou & Grey girl: what she loves, what she doesn’t love, and how she lives her life. I also am 10000% THE Lou & Grey girl — I love being comfortable yet put together. Fabrics are a BIG deal to me. I like to mix and match getting dressed with comfort and ease. Everything about the Lou & Grey brand is what I strive for when it comes to dressing.
And the fact that I get to move this brand forward with an incredible team? It’s a dream come true.