Helena Hughes, Former Class Rep and Gold Medallist
I first encountered the DIT Fashion Buying and Management programme when I was managing a vintage shop in the creative quarter of Dublin. I had returned from a year abroad teaching in France, yet working in retail in Dublin had always been the role I enjoyed the most. I knew I wanted to work within fashion, but I was not interested in exploring a design path, so I focused on building my management and business experience while looking at ways to break into a role with greater prospects.
As my undergraduate degree was in English Literature and French from Trinity, I felt the need to build on this and attain a more business-oriented qualification. With a little research, I came across DIT’s Fashion Buying and Management. I reached out to former alumni to talk through the course content and career expectations, and after meeting the course co-ordinator to confirm my interest I decided it was the right choice for me. This was an investment into my personal and professional development that I felt would stand by me, and I was particularly impressed with the course’s glowing reputation within the industry, as well as the presence of alumni in all major buying offices in Ireland and the UK.
When I started the course I was delighted to meet like-minded people like myself – most of us had tried our hand at different roles in very different industries, but all of us had come to realise that fashion buying was the dream job. The course prepared us for the multiple facets of buying; finance, merchandising analytics, logistics, supply chain management, fabrics and materials, sustainability and ethical issues, marketing, designing store environments, trend forecasting and many other areas of critical importance. I had little or no education in traditional business subjects such as finance and analytics, but I had nothing to fear. The lecturers delivered each module in an accessible manner at a high level that was tailored to the needs of fashion buyers.
A key highlight of the course was the six-week internship, of which I ended up doing two. I spent six weeks in Primark’s Dublin buying office learning about fast fashion, high volumes and low prices, and putting into practice what I had learnt during the first semester. This was also an incredible networking opportunity as it gave me the chance to meet former students of the course who had gone on to become buyers or merchandisers with Penneys. I also spent six weeks with Irish designer Liz Quin, formerly of Quin and Donnelly. This was an incredibly interesting contrast to Primark, as I learnt about the luxury end of Irish fashion, and put into practice much of what I had learnt about fabrics, logistics and marketing.
I was tremendously excited to enter the working world when I finished the course in January 2017, and immediately set about going for interviews and looking for trainee buyer positions. Six weeks after finishing in DIT, Brown Thomas advertised a cosmetics buying assistant position. This was the dream job, although I had no idea what my chances were with my level of experience. After sending off my application I was contacted for an interview, during which I was able to demonstrate my education and work-based skills earned from interning via examples and references. I brought along projects I had created while in DIT, and presented my analysis of the Brown Thomas business to the HR and buying teams. Although it was a role in beauty buying as opposed to fashion, the postgraduate degree had helped me develop analytical, buying, and retail skills, and the same understanding of trends, marketing, finance, logistics and analytics were needed for the role. As my interviewers felt I had the right skills and an accurate understanding of what the role entailed, I was happily offered the job.
Two months into the role, I am loving every day in the buying office, and I credit the course with being the best thing I ever did for myself. The DIT Postgraduate Diploma in Fashion Buying and Management acted as a springboard for me to enter the world of fashion buying, and it has also given me transferable skills that I believe will enable me to diversify down the line in my career should I wish to explore other areas of business. I have met incredible people thanks to the doors the course opens, and developed my understanding of the business of fashion thanks to the hands-on nature of the coursework. Not only was it an incredibly rich learning experience, but this course also directly led to me securing a future and career path within the buying industry.
Jen O'Dwyer, Founder of J.O.D Clothing
Jen O’Dwyer, Buying Assistant at Arnotts Department Store and Founder of J.O.D Clothing talks with DIT Fashion Buying & Management Programme Director Dr Dee Duffy about her own experience on the course. Jen explains how the fashion business knowledge she learnt at DIT has helped her both in her own entrepreneurial endeavour with J.O.D Clothing, and in her buying role at Arnotts Department Store in Dublin.
Can you tell me a bit about your background and what led you to apply for a place in Fashion Buying & Management at DIT?
After completing a BA in Fine Art a number of years ago I went on to work in an art gallery in Dublin city centre. I knew I wanted to start my own business in fashion down the line but felt I was missing the basics of fashion business knowledge and training. I choose the DIT Postgraduate Diploma in Fashion Buying & Management as I felt it was the right path for me, marrying my interest in fashion with numerous years of retail experience.
Can you tell me about your personal experience of this programme?
Coming into this course from a purely creative background was a bit of a shock to the system initially! But in saying that it really ticked a lot of boxes for me. I needed a broader understanding of the business of fashion and that is exactly what I got!
The study trips were fantastic - Premiere Vision fabric trade fair in Paris and the visit to Mod`Art International Paris were a real eye opener. In my current position with Arnotts, travelling and trade fairs are a big part of the job and getting this insight through the course was extremely helpful.
Were there any particular highlights of the course?
Personally I benefited hugely from the Finance for non-financial Managers module and also the Marketing Luxury Brands module. Starting and running J.O.D [Jen’s clothing company] has been a real learning curve and I can say with confidence without the course I would be way behind. The focus on supply chain management was extremely important for me and to gain a real understanding of the importance of margin and costing your product correctly was a life-saver.
Before the course I had no experience in marketing and honestly I underestimated its importance. It is absolutely essential to have a regular, honest and up-to-date communication with your customer - after the product I would put this as the second most important aspect of building a brand.
When did you graduate and what did you do from there?
I graduated from the fashion buying & management postgraduate in January 2011. Having completed internships with both Penneys and Awear during my postgrad (organized by DIT), I began a third internship for Oriflame, a Swedish cosmetics company. Interning is not easy but in the current climate it is vital to get out there and gain real experience. This was a particularly difficult time to be looking for a job and I was lucky and thrilled to get the call from Arnotts for a buying role. I began in the hosiery department, moved to accessories and now I am assisting the Buyer for ladies classic fashions and shoes. Along with this I run and manage J.O.D Clothing. Time is tight! But I wouldn’t change a thing!
What aspects of the course did you feel you were able to use in your working life?
The course really gave me the tools I needed to kick start my company J.O.D Clothing. In particular the trip to Heriot Watt University in Scotland was a big source of inspiration to me. I am extremely interested in garment technology and found this trip to be engaging and informative.
It is difficult to separate out which parts of the course I have applied in my working life more than others. Honestly there is not much in the course that I did not go on to use. The business of retail is an enormous machine and I am constantly learning life in retail is never boring!
Would you recommend DIT’s fashion buying course to others?
If you are thinking of starting a career in fashion buying the reality is you need a relevant qualification. This course is a great base to gain a thorough understanding of the buying role. If like me, you have an art or design background it is essential you tick the business box.
Have you any advice for individuals considering a career in fashion buying?
If you think this is the career for you - invest in a course. It is genuinely an investment in your future and you are simply more likely to get a job in the industry.
Phillipa Ryan's journey to become a Fashion Buyer
Phillipa Ryan, who completed DIT’s Fashion Buying & Management postgraduate diploma, now works with two leading companies, If you think this is the career for you - invest in a course. It is genuinely an investment in your future and you are simply more likely to get a job in the industry.
She explains how she came to study at DIT, how she became a fashion buyer and what advice she’d give to someone thinking of doing the course. “A familiar story to anyone trying to break into the 'fashion industry' is lack of contacts and not knowing where to begin - the scope of roles is so vast and the Irish industry so small that finding your place can be difficult,” she says. “My decision to join the Fashion Buying postgraduate came after a multimedia degree, four years working in media buying and a year travelling the globe. The course was a start, a change and a push in the right direction.
“Entering the course as a mature student was a leap of fate. For anyone attempting to return to college after years in the workplace, it can be one part exciting, one part frightening and one part challenging. “The work placement is invaluable to students in gaining industry insight, experience for your CV, contacts and direction to which area you work best in. I interned in Brown Thomas - it was a great learning experience and has really stood to me since finishing.
“One of my favourite parts of the course was our week in Scotland studying the Materials and Fabrics module. Visits to manufacturing factories and class work help inform and raise awareness of processes, work and all that is essential to form and function of the garment. Learning about clothing fit and understanding faults are essential pieces of knowledge in any buying office.
“Immediately after finishing the course, I started a paid internship with Harris Agencies after which I was kept on to work on a part-time basis. Following on from this, I joined Lennon Courtney on a part time basis so I now balance both jobs during the week.
“Everyone finds where they suit best. The PG Dip in Fashion Buying gives a great start, insight and introduction to the industry. The best advice I can give to anyone looking to join the course is to have an open mind, seize every opportunity and work hard. It's 12 months of intensive practical and academic based work. It will most definitely give you the start in fashion buying that you are looking for.”
Amanda McDermott, Gold Medal Student
The idea of working in Fashion can seem quite glamorous like one is living the life of a Kardashian but in fact it is the opposite. Retail is known to be a very challenging business and customer focused industry. I could continue to talk here about the credentials of the course the qualification it gives you for the industry but this is all in the course description so I’ll give you my personal experience.
I worked in retail from the age of 18 starting as a Sales Assistant in Dublin City Centre working part time while I studied Multimedia in DCU. I quickly found out by the end of the course that that Multimedia wasn’t quite for me. I loved retail but as most 21 year olds I questioned my career goals. After graduating my degree, working 5 years a Visual Merchandiser and spending 1.5 years travelling, I finally knew fashion retail was the place for me. Fashion buying balanced the creative side with core knowledge of business and finance because if you can’t make money then creativity just doesn’t cut it in the fashion world. This course did just that. It gives you the fundamentals of hands on experiences through a Paris trip, 6 week placement and mill visits, but also modules that are closely interconnected with the role. This helps you understand not only the day to day you will have as a fashion buyer but also how incredibly important the relationship and understanding you have with other people in other departments.
DIT’s Postgraduate Diploma in Fashion Buying and Management opened a step into the job I currently have as a Trainee Buyer in Penneys. I love this job but can be challenging just as this course was. This is a role where I learn more and more every single day but without the knowledge and contacts I gained from this Post Grad it would not be possible. It is so important for one to be flexible, open minded and open to change when taking on this career which is something I learned from this course. If you are willing to fully commit yourself to all aspects and take advantage of what is on offer from this course you can build great contacts, networks and a good reputation for a very competitive profession.