THE PROPER CONVERSATION ™ 001 | RODOLPHE NANTAS
By Sonia Tanoh
By Sonia Tanoh
Q:What was your first job in the industry ?
My first real job is actually the one I have right now. My first experience as an intern salesman was at Lanvin in Paris. People usually have respect and admiration for skills they don’t have. I was just out of this ‘sell it’ machine with no commercial techniques of persuasion, while not even being attracted to it. I couldn’t fit into this part of the business. Although I was fascinated by it.
Q:How did you work your way up to becoming Men fashion buying director at The Webster?
The Golden Age of social media. I was handling the accounts for The Webster and was traveling with Laure Heriard Dubreuil and the only buyer at the time in order to take pictures at the shows and showrooms. Back in the days, every single look from any brand was posted online without approval from anyone. Being so close to the team all the time and growing with the company helped me reach the position I have today. This started 8 years ago.
Q:What was it like to immediately jump into fashion buying without the traditional training involved?
Like many other positions in the fashion/art world, I don’t think there is traditional way. That’s one of the reason it makes people dream about this ‘unaccessible’ universe. It’s a tough market to be in, you have to adapt and I guess I did
Q:What's the biggest difference in buying for brick-and-mortar boutique versus e-commerce? Has there been a learning curve?
The line is thin. We are now welcoming clients from all continents in the store as well as online. Internet, social media and the over exposure of brands (and celebrities) have created a unique way to shop. Clients are looking for identification brands and recognition. The buy for brick-and-mortar and e-commerce is the same. The final product is the same. The experience although is different. Imagine yourself shopping in a physical store at The Webster : You sit in a Paul Frankl chair or a BDDW couch, with a glass of Louis XIII next to an Aaron Young or Adam McEwen piece is a unique adventure. E-commerce is bringing speed and convenience. 2 different ways for 2 different expectations.
Q:The conversation of whether fashion week is still relevant has been a hot topic for a while now. What's your opinion on it as a fashion buyer?
Buyers have a very large period of buying. For example, we start Spring Summer season early May and our last appointment is mid October. Lots of brands have lost interest in showing during fashion week for many different reasons besides the cost (busyness of calendar, factory production delays, etc.). Traveling time has increased a lot but work load is now spread out through the year. However, fashion weeks are still relevant for bigger brands and the main shows remain the ones that make people dream and push young designers to more creativity.
Q:How do you find new brands?
Multi brand boutique stores were always seen as forward thinking. People would walk into Colette or Maria Luisa in Paris to discover upcoming designers and new brands. The schema has changed. Lots of new brands I’m adding are suggestions from clients (Amiri, Alyx, etc.). Buyers will always be on the look out for new brands but they also need to listen and communicate a lot with clients with the help of the sales team.
Q:What you wish somebody told you before moving to new york ?
New York is a city full of anxiety. That feeling you get when you walk around for the first time as a citizen (as opposed as a tourist). But feed yourself with this anxiety to become responsible. It’s the very condition of your action and role.
Q:How hip hop is changing the fashion buying landscape ?
Hip Hop and music artists in general have always been very influenced by fashion. And vice versa. Today, and as Kanye said, rappers are ‘the new rock stars’. Mick Jagger inspired a full generation of fans with his skinny jeans and leather jackets. Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Pharrell, Kanye, etc., in 2019, are the ones influencing clients but most important, brands themselves. Collabs with Adidas but also Chanel, sometimes their own line with the biggest fashion group in the world (cf Fenty). Fashion changed in the sense that clients are no longer looking to buy craftsmanship but are buying a concept, a universe that they can relate to.
Q:What is the best advice that you ever received ?
If you’re not happy with your work, it means you’re not good enough. Work more. Work to develop your faculties and talents. That’s how joy will come out of it.
Q:Last, What advice do you have for others who want to go into fashion buying?
Accept changes, adapt, discover, do not wait and see. Show your singularity in a universe of assimilation.
Follow Rodolphe on Instagram @rodnantas
Questions | Sonia Tanoh
Photography | Neil F. Dawson
Stylist | Lisa Nguyen