She sits still and looks right into each and every outfit before it walks down the runway. She does not see the garments solely; instead, she sees her clients, their lifestyles and their genuine personas. As a buyer, she knows that she still has two more shows to attend in one day and four more showrooms to visit before she returns back to her sanctuary; her department store.
Ines Gohar is a world-renowned buyer, which is considered a rarity in Egypt. The expert’s role is often misunderstood in Egypt due to the lack of buyers. Gohar however has been changing lots of those misconceptions while raising awareness with her job as Beymen’s buyer.
Gohar breathes, speaks, and lives for fashion only and that makes her a profound advocate and expert. Throughout her career at one of Egypt’s leading high-end stores, Gohar met and worked with several international brands and designers. She also become a fashion-week fixture in many international capitals. Daily News Egypt met her to understand the essential role of buyers and their evident influence.
How would you define your job?
Full of travelling, colours, clothes, numbers, budgets, sizes, cuts, fabrics, finish, quality, delivery dates, models, shooting, shows, designers, payment terms, negotiation, price-points, line-sheets, look-books, styling, racks, brand-mix, shoes, bags, accessories, and showrooms. Meanwhile, it is focused, intense, disciplined, artistic, and challenging. Most importantly it includes lots of decisions, decisions, and decisions every single second.
What made you pursue this career?
I always knew I wanted to work in fashion, I never wanted to design though; I wanted to be in this world, in this business. I have tried every possible job in this business until I knew all the ins and outs. Fashion has no secrets for me.
I have worked and interned all throughout university then I did two masters. I worked in all fashion-related positions. Once I was done and had a full understanding of what the industry is really about, I decided I want to be the buyer and I became one. I believe a successful buyer needs this cohesive and general background.
How did you find your way to Beymen?
I was living in New York at the time when I started flirting with the idea of coming back to Cairo. I looked up stores in Egypt and Beymen was the only store that caught my attention as it was – still is – the only international high-end department store in Egypt.
I sent in my resume and shortly after they called me for an interview. However, they wanted me to work in another position since they had enough buyers at the time. I said no and stayed in New York City. Months later, their women’s wear buyer quit and they called me and I have been working for Beymen ever since.
What is the biggest misconception related to your job?
People tend to think I travel to buy the season that is about to hit the store but, when I travel I actually buy next year’s collection. So now I have already finished my selection for the Summer 2016 collection and I am about to start the buying session of Winter 2016-17.
What are the criteria you follow when choosing garments for Beymen?
Actually I cannot give you my secrets! I would say that my job is to know the right balance between fashion pieces – new trends – and commercial. We have a very diverse market in Egypt, which makes buying for the local market extremely fun. I know my customers and their personal styles. I have been buying for Beymen for a little over seven years now.
Buyers are not represented well enough in any local fashion show; how is the lack of buyers’ representation affecting the local scene?
Immensely. Believe it or not I am never invited to fashion shows in Egypt except for Amina K. Egyptians are not used to criticism, which is maybe one of the reasons. Fashion in Egypt is not yet considered a business. Designers invite their friends and customers plus a few selected press representatives that would never write a bad review. That being said, to be fair, there are very few buyers in Egypt, which I guess makes it quite complicated for designers.
What should be done to fill this gap between local designers and buyers?
Buyers should be looked at as the fashion experts that you want on your side. Even if I will not buy your line for the store or if the store does not buy your category of clothes, buyers have all the pointers you need. I can tell you what will sell, what will not, and if a buyer endorses your brand, it is great exposure for you on the market. Fashion people look at each other and value each other’s opinions.
Fashion insiders have extended influence and it all happens behind the scenes, which is something that, in my opinion, the local market is not used to yet. They would rather have “insta-celebrities” who buy their followers than actual professionals. I think it will take some time for it to sink in but we will get there eventually.
How do you perceive the latest trends after previous round of fashion weeks? Will the Egyptian market welcome them?
The Egyptian market never welcomes new trends. A small minority keeps up with international fashion. Anything too new needs a season or two to be accepted by the majority. But in the last few years I have seen the interest in latest trends grow. Surprisingly, I feel men in Egypt are more informed and daring than women!
What should upcoming buyers do in order to become qualified?
First they need to be sure that it is their passion. As a buyer you will miss your friends’ weddings, important events, holidays, and much more because showrooms do not wait for you, they are open for a short period on specific days and you cannot decide not to go. Buyers constantly need to sacrifice a lot of their personal life.
They need to love it, love the back-to-back trips, not mind the jet lag; basically they need to know how to live in a suitcase. They need to love clothes and they need to be workaholics. Mastering numbers is a must and to become better, they need to be on top of sales reports. We are constantly working, a buyer does not clock in and out, and there is no such thing as “working hours.” Even when you are out, you look at what people are wearing, how they style it, and where they got it from. You read fashion magazines, follow street influencers, and need to know upcoming designers. A buyer is never on holiday, it is not a job but rather a lifestyle.
You made sure to give local talents a bit of a push by wearing their garments to international shows; how far can buyers aid the growing industry?
Buyers dictate the future of any given brand or designer. If we buy a line for our stores, the line has a future. If we wear it, others in the industry will ask us about it and this puts the brand on the fashion map among the experts, which again leads to the brand having a future. Bloggers and celebrities get the mass attention, which is great but ephemeral. Buyers get the professional attention. With only mass attention you will die fast; with the professional attention, you have a future.