Assistant Buyer, Lingerie & Accessories, BHLDN
Are you on the hunt for the perfect wedding dress? Maybe a sash (or tiara or clutch or hairpin) to go with it? Alexa Egeck needed to be your first call. Like yesterday! As an assistant buyer for BHLDN, weddings have been Alexa’s passion since she was ten and she’s putting that passion to good use.
After getting her start as an intern at Vogue, Alexa knew that she wanted to be more hands-on in the fashion world, which led her to buying. The fact that BHLDN is Alexa’s first job out of college speaks to her enthusiasm and drive; not everyone prepares for an interview with the thoroughness of prepping for an exam. Alexa’s confidence and “dive on in” approach got her the job, and it’s that confidence that keeps her clients coming back for more.
It can be hard to work at a young company, but for Alexa, working for a brand that’s just barely two years old is stimulating. There are more than a few perks, including late night pizza parties and being in her own boss’s wedding—yes, they’re that close! With creative drive fostered through a few stolen moments alone (and Pinterest), this girl is definitely headed somewhere in the bridal world. Who knows—she could be helping to pick out your wedding dress next!
Copy: Beatrice Helman
Photos: Emily Wren
her starting point
It’s so impressive that your first post-college job was working at BHLDN! Give us the inside scoop on how you made that happen. What previous experience helped you land the role?
Thank you! I feel very fortunate that I’ve always had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted to do with my life, and that I’ve been able to make those things happen. Both of my parents work(ed) in retail—my mom was a shoe buyer for Nordstrom in the 80's—so I grew up reading Women’s Wear Daily, and always imagined that I would go into the fashion industry. My passion for bridal, though, is entirely my own. My parents were legitimately concerned when I begged them to buy me wedding magazines at the tender age of ten.
In college I pursued my love of fashion by interning in the West Coast offices of Vogue, under editor Lisa Love. It was far less glamorous than “The Hills” made it out to be, but was an invaluable experience. I had initially thought that I wanted to work on the editorial side of things, but after the internship I knew that I wanted to be closer to the actual product, which is what lead me to buying.
I was first introduced to BHLDN prior to their official launch, via the blog Cupcakes & Cashmere. Blogger Emily Schuman was engaged at the time, and BHLDN had invited her to their launch party. As soon as I saw the photos I was head over heels in love. I began avidly stalking the company and sending in my résumé, before they were even online! They informed me there weren’t any entry level positions open at BHLDN, but kindly invited me to interview at Anthropologie instead. While on the URBN campus, I had the opportunity to meet with Nicole Sewall (now our Managing Director). During the meeting, I confessed my love for the brand and made it clear that BHLDN was the only place I wanted to be. Persistence paid off because, by the time I got to the airport for my flight back to LA, a position had opened up, and it was mine.
Persistence and passion are key to landing a job. Since BHLDN was newly launched, what research did you do prior to your interview to be prepared?
At the time I interviewed for BHLDN I was still a senior at UCLA, three months away from graduation, and while I was very much looking forward to leaving academia behind for a career, I was still in “study mode.” I treated the interview the same way I treated my Shakespeare final. I brought a stack of papers on the flight that covered everything there was to know about BHLDN, its directors, URBN Inc., and the wedding industry, and dove in with my neon highlighters and my margin notes. I wrote out a list of my favorite bloggers and designers (this was a question I failed miserably during my Vogue interview and I was cautious not to make the same mistake) as well as potential questions to ask my interviewer. I think they could tell how much effort I put in, and knew that I would bring that same effort and dedication to my job every day.
What do you love most about working at BHLDN? What is the company culture like?
The creative freedom and the people I work with! We’re a small but very close-knit team. My boss actually just got married on New Year’s Eve, wearing BHLDN of course, and I had the honor of being a bridesmaid in her wedding—wearing BHLDN! Working with all women, you’d think there might be more cattiness, but everyone is an extremely hard worker. We all love what we do and are here to help grow this precious thing that we’ve created together.
The overall company culture at URBN is very relaxed—I love that we aren’t clacking down the halls in pencil skirts and kitten heels. The wardrobe is more about having a sense of personal style, which contributes to the company’s overall emphasis on creativity. Plus, I love that URBN is a dog-friendly campus; even though I’m a cat person at heart, it’s comforting to have pets around, lounging at my feet during meetings or playing in the park outside my window. We’re definitely not your typical corporate environment!
her big break
With no formal buying experience, how did you learn the ins and outs of the position? What resources (i.e. websites, people, etc.) helped you?
I think the best way to learn is to jump in headfirst! A lot of it is about following your instinct, but then also not being afraid to ask for help. Seek advice from as many people as possible, even if they don’t work in your department there’s something you can learn from them. Ask to schedule time with them, even if it’s just ten minutes over coffee, and pick their brain.
Take the initiative! Working for a brand new company, nothing is set in stone—there is a lot of “figure it out as you go” and, in that kind of environment, you can’t just sit at your desk and wait to be told what to do. You learn by trying, and the more you’re able to prove yourself, the more they’ll let you try! I’m also lucky to have an incredible boss who is serious about me growing as a buyer, and who takes the time to teach me rather than just tell me. That kind of mentorship is really invaluable.
Tell us about the daily tasks and responsibilities of an Assistant Buyer. How often do you travel? Does your job offer good work/life balance?
As an Assistant Buyer I have a number of daily tasks that include checking sales from the day prior, managing inventory levels, coordinating samples, writing purchase orders and assessing new product for the assortment. A good part of my day is dedicated to communicating with our vendors, which I love! I truly think we have some of the best, most talented and sweetest vendors in the bridal industry. I also try to devote a portion of each day to reading bridal blogs, looking for new designers and hunting for inspiration.
My boss and I travel to New York about once a month to attend trade shows and meet with our vendors. One of the things I love about working in Philadelphia is that you’re removed from all of the chaos of Manhattan, but at the same time only a quick train ride away. My boss also travels to Paris twice a year to meet with our overseas vendors, and this past September I was lucky enough to accompany her, which was an absolute dream come true. I am not a morning person, but the entire time we were there I bounded out of bed at 8:00 a.m. pinching myself.
My job does offer good work/life balance—of course, it’s long hours when you’re working for a new company, but if we do have to work late, we try to make it fun, occasionally ordering late night pizza to the office. Naturally it’s a lot easier when you love what you’re doing!
BHLDN is said to offer “unusually beautiful garments.” How do you find accessories that match that brand statement? Do you seek out designers, or do they seek out BHLDN?
A little bit of both! We start each season with a series of inspiration meetings across all buying teams—apparel, accessories and décor—where we brainstorm ideas and start to pull together images. This helps to unify our different categories so that we are presenting a whole and cohesive story each season. We talk about what’s inspiring us currently, whether it’s books, movies, exotic locations, runway trends, etc. This is my favorite part of the season! From there we embark on our separate missions of finding product.
As I mentioned, we have an incredibly talented group of vendors, and most of the time we are working directly with the designers themselves. It’s so much fun to sit down with them and say, “okay, this is what we’re thinking for spring.” We’ll show them our inspiration and then, oftentimes, just let them run with it.
There’s a very symbiotic energy between our vendors and us—they’re equally as excited to design the product as we are to see what they come up with! We also have some very talented resources that help us develop product to match the visions in our head when we can’t find quite what we’re looking for in the market. In that sense, we also get to play “designer” a little bit.
How do you stay creatively inspired?
Given my busy schedule I’ve come to really appreciate time spent alone—it’s when I feel the most creative. Whether it’s reading a good book or the latest fashion magazine, perusing Pinterest or going to the movies, I think one of the greatest things you can do is spend time with yourself, to be able to enjoy your own company. It’s then that I can let go of the day-to-day and open my mind to feeling inspired.
I also try to surround myself with things that keep me inspired. My desk has taken on a life of its own—part library, part collage and part photo journal, but that’s what I love about it!
What is your favorite part of your job? What is the most challenging?
My favorite part about my job is that it allows me to be creative every day. The most challenging is how dependent I am on my calculator! Buying involves quite a bit more math than I initially realized (especially considering the last math class I took was Trigonometry my junior year of high school), but it also allows for a nice balance of left brain and right brain. It’s not just picking out pretty things, but it’s not all crunching numbers in spreadsheets, either.
What professional advice would you give to first-time job seekers?
Don’t be afraid to let them see how much you want it. There’s something to be said for walking into an interview and saying, “This is where I want to be. This is what I’m passionate about.” It makes people sit up and take notice.
That, and don’t underestimate the power of eye contact and a strong handshake. That’s something my dad taught me when I was about seven years old. It made people laugh then, but it’s a great business tool now!
What skills are essential to working as a buyer? Do you think having an industry niche is important?
A creative sensibility, a keen eye and clear edit, a strong sense of intuition, the ability to follow your gut and have opinions—All of these are essential to working as a buyer.
I do think it’s important to have an industry niche; the goal of BHLDN was to build something new, to fill a void in the market by teaching brides that they don’t have to wear white, they don’t even have to wear a dress! We’ve offered lace shorts, floaty jumpsuits and mix-and-match separates. Your wedding day should be a reflection of your personal style, and that’s what we’re trying to capture.
And finally, what do you wake up looking forward to? What’s next for your career?
I wake up looking forward to seeing what it is that our brides are going to teach us today. One of my favorite parts about this job is that we’re always learning from our customers, trying to gauge their interests and predict what it is that they’re going to want next, and then we go out and find it for them! It’s incredibly satisfying when you find the right earring or the perfect pair of shoes, and then the customer loves it just as much as you’d hoped she would. It’s like finding the perfect gift for a hard-to-shop-for friend, something that proves how well you really know them.
I don’t know what’s next for my career, and that’s okay! I have a lot to learn, I’m only 24, and right now I’m happy to keep learning from BHLDN.
Published April 17, 2014