True Life: I Work in Fashion

Since I was once a buyer in the oh so glamorous city of New York (seems like light years ago…) I thought it might be interesting to see how the fashion world works in Madrid, like a behind the scenes peek.  One lovely lady, Lourdes, offered to speak with me about her job as a Visual Merchandiser for Cortefiel, a well known womens and menswear store here in Spain and all over Europe.  See below for image of the shop on Gran Via.

Lourdes dreamed of fashion as a child.  She loved clothes and accessories, fashion mags, you name it.  When she told her mother she´d someday like to work in fashion, her mom told her it was just a dream, she should work in something realistic, and that fashion was a hobby.  So Lourdes went on, as many of us do, the university, studied marketing, but her heart just wasn´t in it.  Know that feeling? I do!

You know those moments you have in your life when you realize nothing is right, and you have to decide if you have the courage to make a big change?  Lourdes had one of those moments, and made the decision she was working in fashion, and that´s that.  She knew she´d have to start at the bottom, so she became a salesperson at the very first Fun and Basics shop here in Madrid (now it´s a huge chain).  She also enrolled in a six month course on visual merchandising and window display.  After realizing that Lourdes was way to compentent to be just a salesperson and had an edge for fashion, she was asked to open the second Fun and Basics shop.  She took care of EVERYTHING, from ordering the merchandise to setting up the displays, merchandising all the way to cleaning the store at the end of the day.  The merchandising manager quickly realized he had a found a hidden gem and asked her to merchandise the eight shops he was opening, as a test, and if he liked it, she would become permanent merchandiser for those eight shops. Clearly, she did an excellent job because she then became permanent merchandiser.  During three years she merchandised these eight shops and then moved on to Cortefiel.

Her team at Cortefiel consists of six people and two directors. Each month, the directors come up with a window display theme, for example, November´s current theme for the windows is Cool Winter.  Other past themes have been mid season sale, 30 days of fashion, etc.  Lourdes and her team set up the windows and the entire store according to the theme. Then they write up instructions for all of the stores and these are sent all over Europe and the rest of the world so other shops in other places can merchandise their stores similiarly.

Lourdes spends about 20 days in the office a month and 10 in the stores. When asked to describe a typical day, Lourdes told me that there is no typical day, everyday is a new adventure of some sort, and there is always something unexpected to encounter.  She deals with everything from hanging clothes, moving fixtures, speaking with store managers, lighting, rugs, dressing rooms, and more.

Her favorite part of her job is the time spent in stores.  She enjoys getting feedback from the store managers and employees, and being able to execute the work done in the office to actual displays and visable change.  She belived that although you can plan all you want in the office, its more important to be in the stores.  Really the customers are the boss, they ´decide´in an indirect way which things should be put in the front of the store and what to be featured.  Lourdes feels the most important thing is to cater to what the customer wants, buys, because ultimately, they are the ones who create fashion.

When I asked Lourdes if she had any advice for anyone wanting to enter the fashion world, she told me, ´Believe in yourself. There´s no other way.  Make sure you truly love fashion, because their will be tough times, but if you love it, it´s worth it.  Never let anyone tell you that you can´t do anything.´

A huge thanks to Lourdes for speaking with me, I found it so interesting to understand how things are done here in the fashion land of Madrid, at least at Cortefiel.  I always like to put a face to a name so here she is, pictured below!


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