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Role Call | Will Forrester, Chief Merchandising Officer

Will Forrester, chief merchandising officer at womenswear and bridal brand Temperley London, says that as the industry becomes more globally minded, merchandisers have to consider all buying initiatives with multiple perspectives.
Will Forrester of Temperley London | Photo: Adrian Lourie
By
  • Lisa Wang

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.

LONDON, United Kingdom — As the chief merchandising officer for womenswear and bridal brand Temperley London, Will Forrester is responsible for the brand's products, from founder Alice Temperley's creation to sales floor, and distribution across multiple channels around the world. A dual citizen of the US and UK and an FIT graduate, Forrester has also held positions at Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes, Burberry, and Ralph Lauren.

BoF: Please describe your current role.

WF: I consider myself first and foremost a product merchandiser. This includes being a business strategist, process engineer, product assortment architect and inventory economist.

I plan the business demand and work closely with design and development. Beginning with Alice Temperley’s intricate designs, the sourcing, costing or pricing, development, and time to market are carefully considered. Showroom samples are carefully fit, balanced and tweaked; the showroom produces collections six times a year across the mainline, eveningwear and bridal offerings.

Helping bring Alice’s creative direction and design to market through careful engineering and through global perspectives is fast-paced and exciting. Product is king, and therefore creative direction must be balanced with salesmanship and consideration for the brand. Constantly staying aligned with her vision, we follow the process from prototype to sample and then to our retail stores and partners around the world.

To sum it up, I am using my left and right brain all day long. Even spreadsheets need to have colour balance, font sizes and usable data – and of course great formulas. The product needs are carefully considered in Alice Temperley’s details in design and colour balance for each season.

BoF: What attracted you to the role?

WF: The people, the design, the foundation of the brand as a British dressmaker, Alice herself, her lifestyle, and approach to design. Also the new management team, who are hungry to maximise the potential of this business, which has a unique heritage in the marketplace.

The strategic growth planned by the CEO, Ulrik Garde Due, to whom I report. And finally, sharing Alice’s vision to contribute to building on the brand’s expertise.

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

WF: With a career spanning 20-plus years, I have had the opportunity to work on many exciting projects: creating a vertical retail merchandising supply chain at Ralph Lauren; a fully factored model at Burberry London womenswear; balancing product directives at Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes; and now being at Temperley London, where I am working with the team to develop a strategic plan in order to bring the product to the market with an efficient global supply chain.

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

WF: Since coming to the UK 14 years ago, I see that the role of “merchandiser” is taking an important place on the stage of fashion. With global calendars and London Fashion Week, the marketplaces are becoming globally minded – it is important that the assortments become more conscious of these ‘staged’ deliveries. Seasons, receipt flows, margin efficiencies, and other buying initiatives should keep both a wholesale and retail perspective. It is important to remember that all needs are warranted and the delivery of the product is globally coherent.

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

WF: I am human so I have made mistakes. I look at the word ‘failure’ and think the worst thing that comes to mind is regret – I strive to live my life and my profession with no regrets. If you make a mistake, chalk it up to a mistake, own it and move on. Mistakes happen; allow them to be a learning experience and grow.

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

WF: Always keep learning and be humble – when you don't know how to do something and you want to learn and solve problems, be honest and work with your team to solve those issues. Strive for efficiency, accuracy, accountability and not perfection. Recognise this is a business and be happy – no matter how difficult that is, follow your passion! Be humble and flexible; know that everything is both poetic and mathematical! Study hard, work hard, pave your own way and always live your own passion and dreams. I personally do a lot of yoga to remind me to focus on what's important – like breathing!

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.

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