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Role Call | Raghda Amin, Buyer

Raghda Amin, a buyer at Harvey Nichols Riyadh, says that a buyer has to be someone "with an open mind, one that is like a sponge."
Harvey Nichols Riyadh | Source: Harvey Nichols
By
  • Rebecca May Johnson

There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. Role Call highlights some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them. For more buying jobs like this visit BoF Careers.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Raghda Amin is a buyer at Harvey Nichols Riyadh, where she has worked since 2012. After school she studied for a bachelor's degree in business administration at the King Saud University, and then, following a brief stint in banking, set her cap for the fashion industry. Amin then moved to London, where she took a wide range of courses at London College of Fashion, from art history to pattern cutting. Upon her return to Riyadh, she joined Harvey Nichols first as a visual merchandiser, and then moved into buying. Alongside her work as a buyer, Amin is an active member in the local fashion scene and also works as a stylist for Saudi magazines. 

BoF: Please describe your current role. 

I am a buyer at Harvey Nichols Riyadh. I'm responsible for buying over 30 luxury fashion brands including Maison Margiela, Giambattista Valli, Reem Acra, Zac Posen, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney. I am constantly travelling to the fashion capitals of the world to attend fashion shows during fashion weeks, to network with important fashion figures and, of course, to make my selection of the best items to bring back to the stylish Saudi customer.

I am part of a team that constitutes the core of our business, as we are the primary decision makers and trend-setters. Our merchandise sets the tone for marketing, visual merchandising and all other supporting business units.  It is a cross-disciplinary role, and knowledge of art, music, economics, finance and history are all instrumental to my work as a buyer.

A womans role within Saudi society is changing at a rapid pace... As a buyer, I am buying for a different woman tomorrow than I did yesterday.

BoF: What attracted you to the role?

As clichéed as it sounds, this is my dream job and I love every aspect of being a buyer. I maintained an interest in fashion from a very young age; designing several evening gowns for myself. I have dabbled in visual merchandising as well, designing several window displays at Harvey Nichols Riyadh. My ultimate goal is to start my own fashion label one day and I see this profession as an ongoing learning experience to help me attain that.

What attracted me the most to this role was the opportunity to meet designers and have the chance to enter into their somewhat hidden creative world of imagination. I really like the fact that it's very demanding and requires a grip of several areas of expertise, such as understanding my customer, local market and global trends.

Sometimes I feel like an ambassador to the designers; helping to translate their vision to the local customer and in the end help in making them successful! I wear many hats as a buyer; sometimes I am a merchandiser, sometimes I am an accountant, other times I am a stylist and that aspect of my job is what I cherish the most.

BoF: What is the most exciting project or initiative you have worked on?

When I first joined Harvey Nichols Riyadh two years ago; I was part of a new wave of young Saudi buyers that entered this field for the very first time. I'd have to thank HRH Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud for entrusting us with that big responsibility. Through her support, we flourished — and dare I say succeeded — in presenting some of the most exciting fashion to the local customer.

Being a young Saudi woman myself, I have an insight into my customers' taste palate and the ability to present an aesthetic to the local market. My role is always exciting and it is hard for me to pinpoint a single moment in my career as a buyer as the most exciting — I'm very lucky to be able to say that about my job. Every project I have worked has been extremely challenging yet fulfilling to me. For example, I was very honoured in 2013 to be part of a team that created a new fashion season in the market — Ramadan — at Harvey Nichols Riyadh.

BoF: How is your role changing? What are the forces driving this change?

Within Harvey Nichols Riyadh; my role is becoming more specialised and I am given more responsibility. I started out as a junior buyer and now I am a buyer, and, who knows, I might become fashion buying director some day. Externally, there are major changes such as the rise of e-retailers and services.

A woman's role within Saudi society is growing at a rapid pace; she is doing more and more for her country and for herself. Again, HRH Princess Reema has been at the heart of this change, and has given her unlimited support to the women in her country. As a buyer, I am buying for a different woman tomorrow than I did yesterday. I don't have a crystal ball to know what the future holds for us buyers but I don't think the job title "buyer" will ever cease to exist; rather it will adapt to external forces.

BoF: Tell us about a time you failed and how you learned from it.

There have been times when I experience a very slow sell-through for some of the selections that I have brought back here. Being in that position has been a difficult pill to swallow, seeing that I was the sole person responsible for such results. However, I'm very lucky to be part of a company that understand the challenges involved in buying and one that does not point fingers; rather lends a helping hand through these failures. Season after season, my analytical skills have sharpened because of these very experiences.

I am now able to buy with a lot more confidence because I am able to analyse (and pretty quickly too!) numerous factors such as sizes, colours, styles, prices and brand names with great ease. I've learned a great deal, the Raghda in 2012 is very different from the Raghda of 2015 and I will continue to learn and embrace both my successes and failures equally.

BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?

A buyer has to be someone with an open mind, one that is like a sponge, able to absorb all the inspiration and ideas around them yet able to distil the right information to bring back to their home.

When I travel, I am constantly exposed to many cultures dealing with people from all walks of life. Yet I come home to one of the most conservative societies in the world, so having the ability to tolerate others and keeping an open mind is not only useful, but critical to my success as a buyer. My advice for aspiring buyers is to be aware of everything happening around them, such as knowing the political climate, the latest movie at the box office and the latest fashion news. A buyer also has to be an astute negotiator and a consummate diplomat.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

For more buying jobs like this, visit BoF Careers.

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