Rebecca Fox: Finding Fashion Buying Success Through Portobello Institute
Career paths aren’t always clear in life, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic thrown into the mix.
Portobello past-student Rebecca Fox found her passion for fashion buying through our Business of Fashion programmes.
Having successfully completed our two year programme of Fashion Buying and Merchandising (QQI Level 5, Year 1) and Fashion Management (QQI Level 6, Year 2), Rebecca is now working in the exciting role ofAdministrative Fashion Buying Assistant at Pamela Scott.
Graduating in 2020, adaptability was second nature to her, changing assignments at the last minute to suit a Covid-19 world and now working in an online ‘explosion’ of growth.
Rebecca shares her inspiring journey that led her to the successful position she is in now.
“I had travelled around Australia for two years and when I came back, I was feeling super lost.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at all. I was out shopping with a cousin of mine and my sister.My sister said she had been offered a buying internship with Primark and she turned it down and I said that is crazy why would you do that? That clicked in my mind then that that is what I wanted to do, and it seemed ridiculous to me that I had never thought of it before so straight away I was looking up courses and how to get into it,” she said.
“With the first year in the fashion buying course, I absolutely loved that from day one, all the tutors were amazing, so friendly, supportive, super helpful and the other girls in the course were great.
“On the open day they answered my questions so easily, the interview process to get into the college wasn’t scary it was really comfortable. It's a welcoming college.
“The styling class I found helpful with Sinéad in my first year because I learned about the different body types and what suits different customers so I find now it’s a lot easier if I have a customer calling me saying ‘I have bigger hips or smaller hips do you think this will fit me?’ I have a better understanding of what looks good on different customers.
“The finance I found helpful, I don’t deal too much with finance in my current position, but I did just start my own company with my sister, and I found that helpful for that.
"For visual merchandising in my second year, we had to come up with a creative concept and we could pick whatever store we wanted to do it on.
“I picked Penney's, I had the first section of it done which was a 10 – 20-page presentation. The night before I was due to submit it, I thought this idea would never work because we are in Covid now there's no way you could possibly do that so I spent hours completely changing the concept and even made notes in it about more Covid friendly things and I was so much happier with it when I handed it in, and I got great feedback from it.
“With that, I feel like for me it’s a really positive thing to take away from Portobello they really made me think about myself in the position where this is actually my job asking me to do this rather than just here’s a college assignment go do it. I found that good and I was super happy with that presentation then,” Rebecca said.
Support and Preparations for the Real World
“The first year, the Programme Manager, Anne Marie, organised internships with us with Bestseller, Primark and Pamela Scott.
“One of the girls that I am still good friends with went for Bestseller and got that. I was going to do the Primark one, but I ended up being extremely ill around the time and I couldn’t.
“Then with Covid it was like who knows what is going to go ahead? But then Anne Marie sent me the job spec for Pamela Scott so I decided I wanted to get that.
“I looked back on all my notes because we covered interviews so much in our classes with Anne Marie, even little tips that she gave us like to make sure to wear an item of their clothing to the interview and do store visits, be able to talk a lot about their store, it’s not just about looking them up on the internet and knowing their info page, you need more than that.
“I done two store visits to Grafton Street and bought one of their blouses, so I wore that to my interview, and I was able to talk about my experience in the Grafton Street store. Because I knew it was going to be competency based, I felt so much more comfortable in the interview, I was so prepared with a folder of previous work and I was able to say look at all this stuff I can do it was really helpful to be able to do that,” she said.
What Does Your Role Involve?
“I am the Administrative Buying Assistant for Pamela Scott. It changes a lot I could be doing a lot of admin one day then the next day I’m completely on the photo shoots and the next day I’m creating content for the website.
“Some days I go in and my main buyer and I would go off to an appointment, look at different items, select some items and when we come back, I’ll put the images into a folder and create a provisional order so we can send that back to them and get that done.
“Other days I assist on photoshoots, so the model comes in and I go through each of the outfits beforehand and make sure they are being styled the way we want them to be styled and getting the next outfits ready while she’s shooting and putting the others back.
“The next day then I go through each item and put the content up on the website so when you click into a red coat for example there’s the description, the size guide and all of that information.
“I love working on the photoshoots, I absolutely love that. I’ve always been interested in fashion and have always loved helping my friends find the perfect outfit for any occasion but the main thing I love about that is, when you see that friend or customer who is a little shyer try something on that’s perfect for them, it’s like their whole aura changes and they look so happy and feel so confident in it.
“I loved the styling element in that, but I mostly loved the look on their face when they find that perfect piece. Buying for me is doing that on a much bigger scale, I know I can’t see their reaction to finding the perfect thing, but I love picturing my customers buying those type of items,” Rebecca explained.
Experiences Through Portobello
“I got so much hands on experience during my time at Portobello. I done a couple of days with the stylist Kathy O’Connor working on charity fashion shows, picking things for the Brown Thomas fashion shows.
“We had another tutor who had so much previous experience she just knew what she was talking about and all her side stories about when she was a buyer were so helpful even down to the little things.
“She said sometimes clients will try and gift you something and she said you should not accept the gift you’re just not really meant to then I was at an appointment and I was offered a pair of jeans, I knew when I was coming back from the appointment that I wasn’t meant to accept it. If you were fresh out of school and you had no idea you’d be like ‘yeah deadly I want free clothes!’
“I was so prepared after the course there’s nothing that they’ve given me to do where I’ve been clueless.
“I think the great thing about Portobello is that when you first start and they tell you that you’ll get internships and you can get jobs after this course - and you actually do. There are so many colleges that say that and then the course ends, and you have no idea where to even begin.
“I know people who have gone to college to study this, that and the other and there was no help once they were finished it’s like ‘okay bye, off into the world yourself’ whereas Anne Marie even text me shortly after I started my job to see how I was getting on.
“They genuinely care about the students and they genuinely want to see them succeed afterwards. They care about that individual and how they are going to succeed,” she said.
Rebecca has started her own fashion business with her sister, you can find them @thefoxxsisters on Instagram.
If you can relate to Rebecca’s story or want to find out more about our fashion programmes, sign up to attend ourVirtual Open Evening on April 21 at 6pm to hear about the courses from our ProgrammeManagerAnne Marie McAuley and ask any questions you might have.
Portobello Institute offers a range of fashion programmes, see the Business of Fashion Department here.