Everyone has got to start somewhere and in MATCHESFASHION Buying Director Natalie Kingham’s case, it was behind the counter of iconic British clothing store, Joseph. It was only a matter of weeks before the sales assistant began bringing in new British labels on the store’s behalf, under the mentorship of Joseph Ettedgui, the “creator of modern retail”, and founder of the Joseph retail empire. From there, it’s been an evolutionary journey for Natalie, who leads the buying department at one of the world’s biggest e-commerce sites, MATCHESFASHION.COM. Here are a few things she’s learnt in her journey to the top:
My career in fashion started at the Joseph shop at Brompton Cross, a major fashion hub at that time. I was working in the store and an incredible opportunity came up when Joseph asked me to find interesting British labels for him and to help with the buy for the store which was so exciting. Patrick Cox was a favourite of mine, as well as Alexander McQueen – I attended some of his first shows and bought the collection, promising Joseph it would be a success! I have also been a stylist, had my own line of clothes and wholesaled collections so have had a diverse cross-section of jobs within the fashion industry.
I have always wanted to learn all aspects of the fashion industry from VM, production, press, styling to buying – so I tried to experience as much of these as possible in the early stages of my career. Then when I got to meet the team and met Tom and Ruth (Chapman, founders and CEOs of Matches), they’re a very dynamic and entrepreneurial couple to work for. It’s an incredible journey to be a part of – how the company has grown with our .com business, it’s really exciting.
After having my daughter, I was designing so it meant I could work my hours around her at the time – once my daughter was a bit older I also started exploring photography, styling. I then pursued opportunities within the industry – I had no inroads into the world of fashion so knocked on doors until I was noticed. I believe that if you want something enough, word gets about and offers will arise.
After having children, nothing is daunting! It was only about seven years ago that I wanted to come back into the retail part. I got involved in sales and then I came to MATCHESFASHION.COM. When I was younger, there was a lot of admin to do and I admire all those young girls who want to get into buying because there’s just so much admin involved in orders and I’ve been very lucky in coming back later and I’m very hands on with product and understanding what women want. I’m very product driven. The styling part, working with designers and factories… I’ve got a good 360 degree angle of how the whole machine works within fashion and my job now is to make sure that the money I’m given is spent in the best place on the best product with the most integrity.
When I joined MATCHESFASHION.COM, I was already an avid shopper and customer – I wanted to expand the offering to offer more fashion items, accessories and exciting new brands to sit alongside the existing super brands. Our customer is really astute and fashion savvy so they do want newness and integrity. I’d only ever bring them what I think is the best design with the best quality and that’s really, really important to me. There is a very high bar that we’ve set as a company that you have to reach. It’s also about trying to spot talent and working with the talent to make the product work at retail.
As womenswear buying director I oversee the buy across all our categories – international, contemporary, vacationwear, activewear, bags, shoes and accessories. The focus as a team is to always ensure that we have the best edit of luxury brands in the world that have fashion authority and are commercially successful. It is also important for the team to always look at where trends are developing and find what we believe our customers will want next. Another key part of our job is to continuously review our edit of brands, re-evaluating and working out what is missing. In my opinion, the most important thing for a buyer to remember is to buy with a strong point of view and to keep things fresh and exciting. As well as attending shows and visiting showrooms during fashion weeks, we also spend a lot of time meeting designers outside of these weeks where we discuss how we can partner even more successfully through exclusive collaborations – we are shortly launching exclusive capsule collections with Altuzarra and Emilia Wickstead and can’t wait to see how our customers react.
When we are in the office, I collaborate and work closely with the editorial, marketing and press teams on developments in the marketplace and how we are best going to communicate our new brands and exclusives to our customers.
You have to be very decisive and sure of your decisions, when you start to view collections and get orders together it is a very short time frame before it needs to be completed. You have to view a collection very quickly and need to be very efficient at getting all of the information you need. I have a strong team around me and we all work together.
[I] always keep an open mind when attending shows and visiting showrooms. We are always on the lookout for interesting new brands that can offer something different within our edit. It is less about looking for specific categories and more about discovering that exciting new label that we know our customer is going to love.
You must be hard working and passionate at everything you do. Flexibility is also key in this industry as there is a lot of travelling involved, which is a highlight of my job but it can also be hard.