Olivia Zarantonello- Director & Buyer at Designer Forum

FBI Past Student Olivia Zarantonello

Director & Buyer | Designer Forum

1- Tell us about your time at FBI. What have been the most memorable highlights?

My time at FBI was so enjoyable. I loved going to class and getting to meet my teacher and learn about their experiences in the industry. Another one was when I graduated. FBI put on such an amazing event and made the students and especially myself feel so grateful to have studied there and so proud of my achievements.

2- How did you move your way up to being the Director of Designer Forum?

Being the Director of Designer Forum was never my intensions when I started working at Designer Forum, so working my way up was never a planned process. I was just lucky enough that I worked super hard every day and took every opportunity that came my way. I later realised it was getting me ready for when the one big opportunity arose which was to become the Director of Designer Forum.

3- Can you tell us what the role of a Fashion Buyer involves?

It involves so many things but I will start with my favourite which is attending the showings and getting to see all of our amazing designer’s collections! It is so exciting to be able to see what is coming in 6 months time and pick out the best pieces for my boutiques. On the flip side it involves a lot of admin which includes setting budgets, analysing sell through reports to determine mark down opportunities or re order opportunities, planning your buy and making sure you aren’t doubling up on anything and making sure every pair of pants or a skirt has a matching top. I also buy differently for each of my boutiques as every store is different so I need to make sure I am buying correctly for that stores customer.

4- What inspires you when looking for trends on buying trips?

My biggest inspiration comes from the brand themselves as they usually design their collection based around a trend or inspiration they have found and I love hearing about what that is and the story about how they got from their inspiration to the finished collection. It really gets you invested in the collection and helps you to understand the key pieces and design aspects of each garment.

5- How do you know what works when buying for your consumers?

I am always getting feedback from my stores and the staff, they always give me such a great insight into what their customers want. We also look carefully at sell through reports to be able to understand our customers buying habits at different times of the year. You also learn so much about your consumer by spending time in the stores and chatting with them and seeing what they pick up and what gets their attention.

6- You have stores located in Castle Hill, St Ives, Terrigal as well as Queensland. How do your customers style differ within the different locations?

They are so different! Terrigal and Queensland can be similar as they are more coastal and customers tend to live a beachy lifestyle. Castle Hill and St Ives are also similar however we find that the St Ives boutique is a little more conservative. Personally I love to buy for the Castle Hill boutique as this is where I grew up and I feel like I really know the customer because I am one of them.

7- What are essential skills you need to run a successful Fashion Business?

Organisation, passion, people skills and a good eye for style.

8- What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?

100% without a doubt ever since taking over Designer Forum, these rewarding moments have just kept coming. Certain things like people asking me for an interview makes me realise that my hard work is being recognised and that I must be doing something right. It’s a nice feeling for people to want to learn and hear about your story and also to be given the opportunity to be able to share it with them.

9- What advice would you give to a student wanting to start their own Fashion Business?

Set yourself apart from all of the other fashion business’s out there, do something unique and make sure you have it all planned out and know your direction. Also gain as much experience as possible before you go and start your business, even if its interning because you learn so much from this and you learn so many business skills which are so essential in this day and age.

10- Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Where I am now, with my boutiques and maybe our own label that we sell in store. I am getting married next year so in 5 years time I will most likely have a baby or two!


Interviewed by Nicole Oraha | FBI Fashion College