There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. In a new series that coincides with the launch of BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent, we highlight some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them.
NEW YORK, United States — Tomoko Ogura is the senior fashion director at Barneys New York, a high-end department store with locations across the United States and in Japan. Ogura herself was born in New Jersey but moved to Japan when she was 11 years old. She began her career at Barneys New York straight out of college as an assistant in the fashion office, and rose to become the fashion director of women’s Co-Op, Barneys’ lower-priced concept store.
BoF: Please describe your current role.
TO: As the fashion director, I am a set of eyes for Barneys. I am continuously observing, searching and discovering designers, collections and trends. Through an intimate collaboration with the merchant team, I guide and direct the vision of the store with regards to fashion and product. I spend much of my time in showrooms and meeting people to better understand what is happening in the overall market and from there what is potentially relevant to Barneys.
BoF: What attracted you to the role?
TO: Working in retail I am intrigued and driven by the balance of art and commerce. I am drawn to and inspired by the creative side but I like being grounded in my role knowing that at the end of the day we are running a business.
Whether as an assistant or fashion director, it is the dynamic and eclectic mix of people I have met through my various roles that keep me engaged and have shaped my passion.
BoF: What is the most exciting project or initiative you have worked on?
TO: It's difficult to pinpoint one project but in recent years I am more involved in the development of our private label collection, which has been an exciting learning experience. Through this process I understand even more now "the how" of all the beautiful product that is in Barneys. I love spending time at the factories and seeing each garment fit, develop and come to life. The drive through the country side in Italy to arrive at the factories, the tailors who come out in their lab coats with their impeccable eye for fit, the constant translations of English to Italian, the cleanliness of the factory floor — all of these things I appreciate and keep me excited.
BoF: How is your role changing? What are the forces driving this change?
TO: Online has become a huge focus for Barneys. The fashion consumer continues to be more connected and the Internet is satiating their growing curiosity quickly and extensively. At Barneys we are storytellers and it is important to continue sharing these stores in a unique and compelling way. Online is a platform from which to share to all of our customers our vision and point of view and so a big part of my role is directing the content of our digital communication; choosing the stories to tell.
BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?
TO: I've always felt that there is a difference between loving clothes and loving fashion and I believe that in my role the latter is what keeps me coming back to Barneys everyday. When you spend so much of your time working, developing a passion through work is what will fuel your energy and keep you inspired.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
To explore exciting fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent.