The roles of fashion buying and merchandising are on the front line, leading the evolution of how people consume fashion. We caught up with Susanna Moyer, creative director, business executive, and creator of the new Parsons certificate, Fashion Buying and Merchandising, and Laura Nitz, Director of Adult Continuing and Professional Education, to provide insight on these two exciting career paths.
The Evolving Roles of Fashion Buyer and Fashion Merchandiser
Fashion buying and merchandising may not be as flashy as fashion design, but these roles are absolutely essential to the fashion industry, connecting the gap between product design and sales. “They understand consumer needs,” explains Moyer. “They look at trends, and forecast future demand for a specific market and season.”
Consumer needs have rapidly evolved in recent years, with developments in experiential, influencer, and social media marketing. “The role of a fashion buyer has changed with new concepts such as pop-ups, live streaming, and the evolution of online selling that was accelerated by the pandemic,” shares Moyer.
It’s a world of extremes. In some cases, trends are moving faster than ever, with niche influencer-inspired styles popping up left and right. In some industry segments, buyers need to be able to move quickly to curate collections that are inspired by or in partnership with influencers and trendsetters to monetize hype. In other cases, sustainability trends have brought rise to an increased interest in slow fashion and “seasonless” collections. Here, a buyer must be mindful to obtain products that meet their consumers' high sustainability and ethical standards—and to document transparency throughout the entire production line.
The role of fashion merchandiser is undergoing similar, exciting evolutions. In-store shopping is now competing with the ease of online. “The consumer wants more out of an in-store experience,” explains Moyer. “Visual merchandising needs to focus on how to attract the customer using the five senses and focus on designing the store experience.”
To that end, merchandisers are increasingly harnessing experiences such as blind bag events, where consumers can purchase a bag of mystery products at discounted prices. Pop-ups blend shopping and lifestyle experiences, and live-stream shopping can bridge the gap between in-person and online shopping.
How to Become a Fashion Buyer or Fashion Merchandiser
Fashion buying and merchandising are two careers that don’t necessarily have a straightforward path to entry, with professionals coming in with business or fashion degrees and even retail backgrounds.
Both roles are very hands-on, with insider knowledge gained by working through the ranks, a problem Susanna hopes to solve with this practical online certificate. “There are many people looking to learn about these roles for many different reasons,” says Moyer, “and they cannot get professional and practical industry information.”
The goal behind the certificate is to prepare students for the actual demands of the job market. "Whether you work in fast or slow fashion, there is no doubt that the fashion landscape is ever-evolving,” explains Laura Nitz, Director of Adult Continuing and Professional Education. “We work to teach our students to be savvy buyers and merchandisers navigating the shifting trends with adaptability and innovation."
To be successful in these roles, prospects must be able to marry art and business. Buyers and merchandisers use data-driven trend reports, research, and buying patterns from past seasons to influence their work—but there’s a certain creative flair that goes into creating and selling collections. “Fashion by nature is made to surprise us, like when high fashion meets streetwear or we see unexpected collaborations,” says Nitz. “It surprises us with unconventional materials and it surprises us when we see our '90s childhood outfits on all the trendy blocks of NYC. At Parsons, we explore these surprises to captivate our imagination and remind us that fashion has the power to keep pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation,” Nitz continues.
Learn more about the Fashion Buying and Merchandising Certificate