The job requirements are clear: you will be responsible for the retail procurement of more than 200 luxury labels; have the adaptability to thrive on challenges; and, help the organisation you’re working for – one that earned a place on New York Times’ 2016 list of the World’s Coolest and Most Cultured Malls – strike the right balance between luxury and fine taste on one hand, and business sustainability and digitisation on the other.
Meet Yasmeen Tubailah, retail buyer and department manager at Al Hazm.
“Sound research-based strategy is key to the sustainability and saleability of high-end brands,” says the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) Class of 2018 Fashion Design graduate, who currently oversees six stores at Al Hazm that handles diverse retail segments including haute couture, fine jewellery, ready-to-wear, kidswear, luxury footwear, leather goods, accessories and more.
“Contrary to public belief, luxury designers, vendors and consumers are cautious of where and how they spend money. This means retail managers need to know their target audience; their budgets, their tastes, and their preferred brands to ensure that products are procured from outlets that offer value for money. That in turn, helps avoid surplus stocks and losses, keeping the business sustainable.
“Additionally, the sense of immediacy and accessibility of the digital world has resulted in customers who are well-informed of trends. Hence, a digital presence has become paramount to a brand’s sustainability.”
As she shares her business insight, Tubailah says that she became aware of just how complex the fashion industry is only when she was in her first year at the Qatar Foundation partner university. “I was surprised to learn there was so much more to the course than mannequins, measuring tapes, and materials; that it’s all about research. And when you look at the global fashion industry, it makes sense; the entire sector is built around the ability to analyse and anticipate. It was a steep learning curve, but VCUarts Qatar immersed me into it.”
The 25-year-old Jordanian – who is also a graduate of Qatar Academy Doha – says that there isn’t a day when she does not apply what she learnt in university, in her job. “My faculty introduced me to the essentials of fashion business including ideation, pitching, product development, target audience, brand positioning, logo design, return on investment, and market research. I understood the need to create designs based on cultural preferences, purpose, age, gender, seasons, weather, availability of materials, and of course, budget.
“Today, when I use specialised programmes to help me forecast fashion trends, I often recall my undergrad classes where Sonali Raman, a faculty member, introduced me to the same.”
Tubailah’s job requires her to travel abroad, mostly to Europe, to hand-pick clothes and accessories directly from the designers. It is a cycle that involves weeks of studying, analysing trends and markets, and preparing convincing discussion points to present to the stakeholders she works with, all in the hope that the price, quality, finish, and style of the ordered consignments appeal to her customers in Qatar.
“Fashion trends in this region follow the European market, albeit with slight modifications,” she notes.
“Typically, there is a six-month lag between a trend appearing in Europe, and Qatar, with the Fall and Spring collection dominating the industry. This means a retailer needs to be nimble to pick up what’s in vogue, have the skills to explain to the designers exactly what modifications need to be done to suit his or her clientele, and have it delivered within a time frame that allows for targeted marketing in Qatar.
Tubailah explains how, like any product, reordering is based on demand. But unlike fast moving consumer goods that are in store for a year or more, allowing sellers the luxury of periodically promoting products, the six-month fashion cycle leaves very little room for marketing.
Prior to joining Al Hazm, and soon after graduating from VCUarts Qatar, she developed her own label under her name ‘Yasmeen Tubailah’, offering ready-to-wear clothes.
Her current role required her to temporarily shift her focus, yet she says she still managed to start two ventures – named ‘Casi’ and ‘Shades’ – at Al Hazm, with ‘Casi’ offering luxury leather goods and mobile accessories, and ‘Shades’ selling luxury eyewear brands such as Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and more.”
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