BSc Fashion Management student Victoria Stace has recently been crowned the Fashion Retail, Buying and Merchandising Undergraduate of the Year 2018, beating over 3,330 applicants for the award that is organised by TARGETjobs and sponsored by Marks & Spencer. We talk to her about her placement year at Ralph Lauren, receiving an internship offer from M&S and what fashion business means to her.
Hey Victoria, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and life before LCF?
Of course, I am originally from Plymouth in the south west, positioned on the coast and close to beautiful Dartmoor but always had a desire to move to London. I am an only child with two dogs whom I adore and I have the weirdest obsession with eating popcorn and minstrels at the same time! I went to a girls grammar school until my GCSEs and then spent my sixth form at Plymouth College on an art scholarship. On completing my A levels I went straight to university; I knew if I got a taste of gap year travelling I may never want to go into education again!
Was studying fashion always the plan…
As cliché as it sounds, it has always been the plan. I was always one to be watching Haute Couture runway shows and dreaming of a ‘Sex in the City’ walk-in wardrobe whilst watching Gossip Girl. I studied both Textiles and Art, and Design all the way through school and then combined these with Maths, Business & Economics for A-level. I had my heart set on being a designer for years until I found my love for business and took part in a few business and accountancy competitions, so I thought what better way than combine the two things I love and call that your day job!
What made you want to study fashion management at LCF?
If you want to study fashion is there really any place better or more highly thought of?! Having now worked and networked with people in the fashion industry, the majority you meet are LCF Alumni which instantly gives you something to bond over, it is so beneficial. The university is iconic for what it does, who it represents and the talent it has nurtured over the years, I always wanted to be a part of that! I chose this course in particular because I genuinely wanted to keep my options open and test the fit whether that be; Buying, Merchandising, Marketing or even Analytical Research.
Congratulations on winning the Fashion Retail, Buying and Merchandising Award, how did this come about?
Thank you so much! I simply saw it advertised on a university email and being super keen to get more placement experience under my belt I knew I would regret it if I didn’t give it a go, so with little hope and expectation, I applied. The competition consisted of a 4-stage process very similar to other industry placements I had applied for. It began with 2 essay questions, 2 online tests, a 20-minute video interview and finally a half day assessment centre with M&S who sponsored the award. Having completed all these stages I was invited to a finalist awards ceremony in Canary Wharf where Rachel Riley presented the awards to all winning undergraduate categories.
What does this mean for you and your career…
Firstly, I was able to network with various M&S buyers and merchandisers at the event and exchange details with the Director of Buying for Womenswear as well as winning a 2 month paid placement with M&S in their Buying department and a £200 shopping spree. Being given this opportunity has been absolutely invaluable and such an amazing thing to add to my CV and LinkedIn especially when you outline that it is a national award, employers have really taken notice.
You also spend your placement year at Ralph Lauren, very exciting. What is your role there and your daily week now?
I work in the Watford office for the outlet sector of the business. My role as an Allocator is an entry-level merchandising role with a focus on managing stock, sending it to our 62 stores across Europe, and conducting all trade reporting and analysis for the wider department. I have worked across Childrenswear, Accessories, Footwear and Home and have had great exposure to how you deal with varying products. The daily focus is to ensure you are sending sufficient stock to stores to ensure they are hitting capacity and making their targeted sales. At the same time, you are continually working alongside Buying, Logistics, Retail Planning and Brand Presentation which guarantees you are making the best moves for the company. It has been amazing to get involved in the life of Ralph Lauren; participating in training courses, sample sales, office socials, ‘Pizza Fridays’, charity functions and so much more. It is the people that keep the day job fun and motivating.
What have you learnt from being at Ralph Lauren?
Honestly so much I am not sure where to begin – all I can say is that industry placement years are the most valuable thing university can give you. You learn small things like corporate etiquette, writing business emails and handling situations when things don’t go to plan. On the flip side, you learn a great deal about the business, picking up all the skills involved in your everyday role and find yourself talking in businesses acronyms sooner than you think! The thing that has most amazed me about working there is that no matter your position in the company, everyone is actively involved in getting the job done and the free flow of communication between myself and directors is the most humbling thing I found. It has just been the most amazing and at times stressful exposure to the fashion industry.
Have you started thinking about life after graduation and where you’d like to be…
Having a year out has made me excited about working full-time and I can’t wait to get back out there and start working, who knows, hopefully, I may end up back at Ralph (although I would be very keen next time round to work in their full price sector). It has definitely given me great direction regarding what I value in a job and a workplace and has provided some clarity as to what I should look for after graduation and where I would thrive. I am hoping that my short time in a buying role at M&S will help clarify this further for me.