October 15, 2019
You might not think fashion and sports have many commonalities, but the level of coordination and teamwork involved in putting together the collection you see in Intermix stores requires Super Bowl-level athletics. We sat down with three key players in the game of buying to get a behind the scenes look at how they put together a cohesive collection that’s always true to the Intermix brand. Susan Asmar, Sr. Fashion Office Manager; Rachel Ahn, Buyer; and Sarah Vallimarescu, Buyer, let us in on their secrets to making every new season touchdown.
How would you describe your career path?
Susan Asmar: I’ve been surrounded with fashion my entire life. My mom owned a tailoring shop, so I knew how to tailor a pant at the age of seven. Being the baby of the family, I spent my weekends with her while my siblings were with their friends, and she would take me shopping every chance she had. I knew the name of boutiques such as Alan Bilzerian, Barney’s and Henri Bendel at a time I should’ve really been learning how to write in cursive. She’s my style inspiration and still at 75-years-old can spot trends before they’re “trending.” Today, my life is still fashion, and it’s everything to me. I grew up in the industry with my first job at the age of 16 at Abercrombie & Fitch. I’m fortunate to have 360 experience within the industry from brand building, sales, merchandising, design and buying to now trend directing. My job never feels like work because it’s what I love to. I’ve been at Intermix for a little over five years now. I started in design development and buying, and now I’m the Sr. Fashion Office Manager leading trend and concept for the buying team that inspire me the most!
Rachel Ahn: I’ve grown up at Intermix; it was my first and only job out of college. Surprisingly, I studied chemistry in college, and I love science for the same reasons I love buying, it’s so clear to me why some things work and why others don’t. There’s a mathematical and formulaic part to discovering trends and putting a collection together.
Sarah Vallimarescu: I’m from New York, and after I graduated, I worked at a small women’s contemporary brand called Milly. I knew I wanted to work on the business side of fashion, but the path wasn’t clear to me. I decided to seek out a retail training program to help build the foundation for my fashion career and was fortunate enough to find and be accepted to Gap’s Rotational Management Program in San Francisco. During the nine month program, I participated in merchandising, inventory management and production rotations. Ultimately, I landed a job as the Merchant of Women’s Denim at Old Navy and then moved to Women’s Dresses. After living in California for 4.5 years, I decided it was time to be closer to family and continue my career on the East Coast. I spent some time at a large family value brand, but wanted to gain experience managing a business that is positioned at the other end of the spectrum. Ultimately, I landed a job as a Buyer for the Private Label brand for Intermix.
Let’s get down to business. How does the buying process work?
Susan: As we’re prepare for the upcoming buy season, I create inspiration and directional mood boards based on research I’ve done to align the team. Discovery is also a big part of what we do here at Intermix, so I work on providing the team with new brand updates. During this time, we review as a team and align on the strongest direction, keeping in mind what worked and what didn’t from the past season. We then go out to market to meet with our vendors, continue the conversation closely while in market and then return to style out, which is a process beyond a couple meetings. It’s a daily cross functional department effort and it’s truly a team effort. Since we work with so many different brands, teamwork is key to ensure we land on a cohesive edit that works together in our stores to create the Intermix edit. We’re always looking for what’s next and new but also saleable, and of course, rely on our private label brand to fill in the gaps.
Rachel, what’s your piece in the buying puzzle?
Rachel: Susan’s really like the quarterback in the buying process. She puts together that initial trend mood board, and we all weigh in on what we should buy. It’s so collaborative, and we always put the product first. Once we’re in market, that’s when we, the buyers, take the ball and run with it. In showrooms, we select both strong investment pieces, along with emotional touches that elevate each brand. The key to the buying process is our ability to edit. We have such a clear view of who our customer is and can translate the season’s key trends to her in an approachable way.
How is Intermix’s private label involved in the buying process?
Sarah: In the beginning, we’re trying to uncover every stone to understand what the customer is voting for in the current business. We then strategize for future seasons and develop a line plan to share with design. We also partner with Susan and the buying team to decide what we need to design and create ourselves to fill the gaps for next season. That way we can outfit our customer from head to toe. Once design presents the line to us, we edit it down to the best of the best. Like Rachel, we need to ensure we’re fitting into the overarching concepts and color stories of the season.
Susan: The best part of the job is the product. Nothing beats that feeling when we’re in market scoping out the latest trends and feeling the product. It’s the same feeling when you walk into our stores and see it for the first time. It’s like Christmas morning but on a weekly basis! We get to come together as a team each day around this passion for fashion, and it’s a beautiful thing. We’re all so positive and motivated people. It's contagious; we have a joke in the office that we continue to drink the Intermix juice!
Sarah: Growing up in NYC, I’ve always loved the brand. The team does an amazing job at selecting the best product each season. After being in my role for almost a year now, I can also say that I love how the Private Label team works together to develop and create a compelling assortment each season. Because of our hands on approach, it is incredibly rewarding for everyone to see the clothes come to life. It is even better when the customer reacts positively to the choices we made together. It has been invaluable for me to be a part of such an entrepreneurial process.
How has your career grown with the company?
Rachel: I’ve been lucky to have the right kind of managers for the different stages of my career. From early on, my managers have given me the freedom to lead business decisions and come up with high level strategies. They trust me to go with my gut (in both my business approach and fashion taste). My manager continues to push me every day, knowing that I like to learn and always willing to adapt to the various approaches thrown at me.
Sarah: I can’t reiterate enough how well the Rotational Management Program prepared me for the various roles I’ve held at the company. I was able to learn the ins-and-outs of three key functions and use these skills to become a better cross-functional team member. I also feel lucky that within the Gap Inc. portfolio I’ve been able to work for and learn from two very different businesses.
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and love to be a part of the team, we’d love to have you! Apply for jobs here.