If you’ve ever wondered how all of those coveted items in your MyTheresa shopping cart came to be on the renowned luxury e-commerce site, you have Tiffany Hsu to thank. With a decade of experience in the fashion industry as a buyer for major retail names like Selfridges and a pedigree from Central Saint Martins, Hsu’s eye for the next big thing in fashion is one of the best in the business.
However, the key to being a successful buying manager blends aesthetic direction with the bottom line. It’s a job that’s as much about predicting style as it is about real, tangible results – or what styles will sell the most units. As a street-style star in her own right, she effortlessly reaches for up-and-coming trends, designers, and brands before placing them (virtually) into the hands of eager, well-informed customers.
As the newly appointed Buying Fashion Director at MyTheresa, Hsu touched down in Dubai recently to get to know the key players in one of her biggest markets, and Savoir Flair was there to pick her brain about everything from emerging trends to her worst fashion moments.
Welcome to Dubai. How often do you actually travel?
I’m not home over six months of the year. I think I travel every other week, and I’m not home for about two months during Fashion Week. I come home to change my luggage before heading to the next city.
And how long have you been doing this for?
But you love it…
Yes, I think you have to love it to be able to do it.
How does buying for MyTheresa differ from your previous experiences?
I was previously working at Selfridges, which is a very large department store, but the set-up is extremely different to MyTheresa because it [MyTheresa] is pure e-commerce. I think the main difference is that when you buy for e-commerce, you have to make sure all the details are easy to see – people sometimes forget that. Over 50 percent of our customers shop with mobile now, so it’s really important for the product to be easy to see and easy to recognize on the mobile app – that’s something that we had to take into consideration.
Other than that, speed is very important. Things have to be fast, things have to be new and accessible, but I don’t think there is a massive difference in terms of certain types of brands that we carry. The store I work for is localized in the UK, but I also have to think about the customers worldwide because we ship to 120 countries. It’s really important we make sure who we are buying for is not just one type of customer or nationality.
And do you keep Middle Eastern consumers in mind when buying? I hear a lot from stores here that they’ll buy a runway piece, but then, they will make it long-sleeved or line it if it’s unlined.
We definitely do. Basically, we keep in mind what you just mentioned. We also specifically pick up items that are Middle East-friendly. We don’t pick them based on aesthetic, we pick them based on functionality. I don’t think Middle Eastern clients have a different aesthetic taste – they’re as trendy as everyone else, but obviously, there are certain restrictions: the shoulders, the arms, the length. Obviously, we don’t buy kaftans and things like that specifically for that customer, but we do keep in mind that those customers may want it more, and we need to make sure it’s convenient for them.
Are there any specific brands or trends that you’ve noticed are particularly popular with the Middle Eastern client?
There have been a lot of maxi items recently, especially for casual wear – not evening gowns, but for the day. You see a lot of floaty fabrics and bright colors. I think it’s always super easy for the region; the mini-trend isn’t there anymore.
What’s one brand that our readers should have on their radars?
We chose Magda Butrym. I think that’s a really good one because we already have all the major brands that you can think of, so I think we are now starting to look into more special and targeted customers’ collections.
Contemporary brands have never been your priority.
We have some of those brands, but we are specific with what type of contemporary brands we pick because some of them get repetitive. We still carry them, but we are not trying to bring 12 or 15 [contemporary] brands at one time. They have to be special. We don’t consider contemporary brands to be just T-shirts and jeans; they have to have their own flair, and they have to be good for whatever season we picked it for.
We are very selective. I’m not saying that we are not growing that part of the business – in fact, we have massively grown our resource business, and all of that comes through the contemporary category because of the price point. For example, we’ve just brought in Jonathan Simkhai products [that are] not only day-friendly, but also holiday-friendly.
And have a lot of personality.
Yes, for sure. It’s really different to what we already have. What’s important for us is that when we pick up something new or contemporary, it has to be different because we don’t want to cannibalize what we already have online. That’s why we are a little bit more selective.
Is there one trend that you’ve been wearing this winter?
Puffer jackets. I think they’re very ‘me’ because they’re a little bit sporty, but they also keep me warm and have a lot of volume. A puffer jacket is easy to style up and down and, because it’s kind of a trend, it isn’t considered to be too casual anymore.
Is there a specific brand that’s doing puffer jackets you love?
We launched a brand called Ienki Ienki recently. I think it’s from Ukraine. It does metallic and really brightly colored puffer jackets, and they’re so soft and comfortable. I just love it.
Can you name some items from 2017 that are current for 2018, and some items that we should get rid of?
Hold onto white boots because I am wearing them now, and we saw a lot of white footwear for Fall/Winter 2018. And hoodies. Get rid of skinny jeans. A lot of people still buy them, but they’re not something that I wear much anymore.
Aside from being a buyer, you are also a street-style sensation. Are there any rules that you follow – whether they are conventional or self-imposed rules – or anything that you’d never pair together?
I have to say, as long as it doesn’t make me look fat, it’s all good. Actually, I don’t have rules because I sometimes ‘emergency dress’. So I wear whatever is there and try to mix it together like, ‘That’s fine, let’s go’. Also, because I travel a lot, I don’t really have time to plan my wardrobe at all.
I pack as much as I can in my suitcase, I go on my trip, and then have a panic attack over what I should wear and try to throw things together. I guess there’s a certain time of the year when I change what I like on myself, so if I am inspired by a certain silhouette, I tend to build everything around that. I then dress from the bottom up. I have more of a passion for shoes than bags, so I really bring more than I need. Also, your shoes depend on the weather, as boring as it is. Sometimes I have to dress quite practically.
Do you ever find yourself buying based on what you love?
Do you find it hard to look at something knowing you might never wear it, but that your customer might?
All the time! I think what’s important for being a good buyer is that I think about my customer all the time and, obviously, we buy a lot of brands that aren’t my personal choice. I have to know who is shopping this brand and who I am buying it for, and keep that in mind at all times. Obviously, with brands that I like personally, there is a little bit of a personal touch to how I would wear them.
Overall, I think what’s very important for us is that I represent the brand well – not my personal self, but the designer. If the designer has an aesthetic, we make sure we represent it well, besides just buying a thousand T-shirts because I know they’re going to sell. We are proud of our edit and what we represent at MyTheresa, and it’s important that we respect the designer or the brand in general.
Personally, what is your best fashion memory?
The reason I got into fashion is because of John Galliano. I went to high school in England, and I didn’t know what I wanted to study. I always knew I wanted to go to art school, but never thought about fashion. I didn’t grow up with fashion and, one day, I saw an editorial of a collection designed by John Galliano. I was so obsessed with it that I bought the book and found out he went to Central Saint Martins, so I called my dad and said, “I know what school I am going to and this is what I’m going to do.”
He didn’t know the school or who I was talking about, but that’s where I ended up studying. My best fashion memory is when I got an invitation to John Galliano’s show and my name was handwritten on the invitation. I almost cried because I was so excited. He flew out onto the stage with a rope to close the show, like a circus type of a thing. I think that was my fondest fashion memory.
Cultural appropriation is something that everyone is talking about, so I wanted to know if this is something you have to be conscious of when you’re buying?
I mean to me, yes. I think it’s an inspiration. I think people are being too pissy about that. I think fashion is inspiring, it’s about being inspired and wanting to be something you are not, [fashion] is something to have a little fun with.
I don’t really think too much of it as long as it’s not offensive to anyone. Each culture should just be very honored that people think about their background or what their aesthetic means to others. People appreciate it enough to be like them, so I don’t see the particular problem with it. People love your country enough to take an inspiration and translate it into their own. It’s also hard to trace where the influence came from.
Have you seen an increased interest or demand from your consumers for sustainable brands or those with a greener approach?
This is definitely something on people’s mind, but there aren’t a lot of sustainable brands that make a great product. I think what’s good is that we serve the luxury consumer and, to be fair, they are probably more sustainable because you are not buying things to throw away – you are buying special things to keep. None of them are disposable.
So, in a way, if you buy a beautiful Chanel suit or a Balenciaga bag, you want to keep it in the family because a lot of them are about craftsmanship. They’re not made with cheap labour, they’re not badly sourced. In a way, while luxury fashion is not 100 percent sustainable, it’s better than fast fashion, which entails you just throwing things away.