When the fashion powerhouse that is Net-A-Porter.com launched The Outnet.com in 2009, you could hear the sighs of relief from style obsessed women all over the world. Finally, a website where last season’s trends can be purchased at a price that won’t break the bank. From Christian Louboutin to Oscar de la Renta, any brand worth its star studded runway features on the site, as well as exclusive collaborations with the world’s biggest fashion names. One lady whose (no doubt designer) shoes we’d give anything to walk a mile in is buying manager Charlotte Southern. The Outnet’s most senior representative in Europe, Charlotte and her team of twelve are in charge of selecting the clothes, shoes and accessories on the site.
Perhaps one of the online fashion world’s biggest VIPs, we were more than excited when Charlotte agreed to take a break from haute couture and tell us a little more about her journey. From internships tales to the brands to watch this year, if you dream of getting into the fashion industry get ready to take notes.
So Charlotte, has fashion always been a passion?
Yes and shopping in general. As a young child I embraced many dubious 80s fashion trends! I loved trips to ‘Way In’ (a former boutique) at Harrods. I remember going to Galeries Lafayette when I was about ten years old and my mother bought me a jacket – I was so proud of it!
Did you attend university?
Yes I went to London College of Fashion. I studied a degree in product development which wasn’t really a natural fit for me as it was far too practical; however it was a last minute decision as I swapped from a banking degree. At the time, London College of Fashion didn’t do a degree level fashion management course.
What about internships?
I did an internship in Harvey Nichols’ buying office and ended up staying fifteen years – so you could say it was very beneficial!
So what made you go into buying rather than other areas of the fashion industry?
I found out one of my mother’s friends was a shoe buyer for Freemans catalogue. I had never thought of it as a career before as I had always wanted to go into finance. Once I discovered that people buy fashion for a living, there was no turning back for me.
How did you end up at The Outnet?
After fifteen years at Harvey Nichols I wanted to gain experience elsewhere. The Outnet offered me both a pure play e-commerce experience, and it was a totally different way of buying, but still within the luxury world. I had also always admired the Net-A-Porter Group.
Can you describe a typical day in your working life?
The morning often involve reviewing brand performance and working on brand strategy with the buyers and the merchandising team. The afternoons are our crossover time with the US office, so this is when I catch up with the VP of global buying and when we have our global buying and merchandising meetings.
Are there a lot of perks to your job? What do you enjoy the most?
The opportunity to travel, seeing products before anyone else, going to some unusual places for buying appointments, attending the runway shows and the staff discount!
What is the most challenging part?
It’s very fast paced so you have to make quick decisions and then own them. At The Outnet the buying is constant so it’s always buying season and there’s less downtime to fit in other important parts of the role.
What brands/designers would you say are the ones to watch this year?
Erdem is looking amazing and going from strength to strength. Delpozo and Self Portrait are certainly ones to watch.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Try and get some internships or temping work – if you do a good job there are often opportunities to stay on and move up.
In your opinion then, what has been the worst fashion trend of the decade?
The skyscraper heels we saw a few years ago were not my favourite.
To keep up with Charlotte’s work and shop for the latest designer looks, head on over to The Outnet. If Charlotte has inspired you to swot up on all things fashion, take a look at the courses listed on our site and get inspired – who knows where you might end up!