The Wall Street Journal has a nice look at a portion of the fashion ecosystem we tend to take for granted: translating the sometimes daring, avant garde designs of the runway and bringing them into the retail environment. It's not as simple as just choosing pieces and hanging them onto racks in the hopes that customers will buy them. Buyers and merchandisers take a close look at the pieces they like and continue to make changes and tweaks in order to appeal to their customers.
This story focuses on Saks Fifth Avenue, who was on hand at Paris Fashion Week working to bolster its F/W 15 designer repertoire against the likes of Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman. For some pieces, it can come down to something as simple as the material on the lapel of a suit jacket. As Tom Ott, Saks' men's merchandiser, noted on a particular jacket from Etro, the use of grosgrain felt too formal for their customer and he wanted the label to swap it out for a fabric that matched the jacket. Etro, in order to make the sale, agreed.
It's not always that simple to get into the minds of the man thumbing through the racks. They don't necessarily get as close to the details as buyers or nerds like us do, so something like a scalloped breast pocket on a blazer from Zegna might not necessarily stand out to the guy trying it on in the store, instead signifying that something is "off" about it and, at worst, prevent the sale. With Saks' relatively conservative reputation, it's also possible that certain brands might not want to be stocked there and others may not match up from a viewpoint perspective. For example, Raf seemed a bit edgy for the department store, while Dries Van Noten didn't want to add any new accounts. Just another reminder that the behind the scenes work is just as vital as the actual designs themselves. Shout out to all the buyers. Your job's not completely thankless from where we're sitting.