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British high street womenswear brand, Oasis, opened its doors in 1991 as the fashion destination for women seeking both style and substance. Available across 80 stores in the UK and Ireland, Oasis can also be found in 27 countries from the Middle East to South America. Sarah Ferguson, the International, Wholesale and Outerwear Buyer for Oasis recently told FashionUnited how the company has evolved, the supportive work culture and why she thinks it’s so important for women to empower each other in the fashion business.
What does being the International, Wholesale and Outerwear Buyer at Oasis entail?
My main role is to work with the design and merchandising teams on building tailoring, denim and outerwear ranges for Oasis. I mostly work on range building with the design team, this is where we aim to build a cohesive offering for our customers from the styles they’ve designed. I also work with our merchandising team on trading, checking competitor products and researching inspirational brands.
How has the company evolved since you have been there?
In my time at Oasis, the company has evolved in many ways. I think one of the biggest changes has been when it comes to ways of working. This has had a really positive effect on the workforce, especially with the introduction of flexible working hours. We’ve also worked hard on giving our customers more ways to shop. For example, we’ve started new initiatives based around our curve and bridesmaid products.
Has Oasis supported your career development and what is the company culture like?
Oasis is a very people-focused company and they’ve been incredibly supportive of me throughout my career. Their openness to flexible working has been very helpful, especially considering my changing lifestyle. In general, Oasis is a very friendly environment to work in and that makes it a special place to work.
Did you always want to pursue a career in fashion?
I always loved seeing the pictures of fashion shows in the newspapers when I was younger. It seemed such an amazing, creative place to be. I think those feelings that it invoked within me really made me see the impact clothes can have on people and inspired me to pursue the career that I’m currently in.
What have you learned from working in the fashion and retail industry?
To be flexible! I’ve learned how important it is to get involved and build an understanding of as many roles in the business as possible. This type of knowledge comes in particularly useful when you’re trying to help find solutions to problems, it also enables you to have an opinion when challenged on something. Working in stores also gave me an invaluable insight into understanding who the customer is and what they want.
How do you stay motivated and face the day-to-day challenges?
For me, it’s important to keep looking at where I’m currently at and how I’m developing, from there I can look at where the next step is.
What advice do you have for people who would like to work at Oasis?
You must be able to work in a fast-paced environment, and that means being able to look at the bigger picture and react quickly to things. The industry is always changing so it’s important to have the ability to adapt with your customer and ensure you are giving them the best product to fit their needs.
How do you become a senior executive in the fashion business?
I’d always start by mapping out what you want to do and how you plan to get there. If you’re not sure what you want to do, go and get some work experience, this will help give you a better idea of what the industry is like and what you want to aim for. You should always make sure you are learning as much as possible in each role you take. Just aim to get as much experience as you can and keep learning.
Are you consciously doing anything to support women looking to find success within the business?
The team I work in all support each other. It’s important to make sure junior members of the team get as much exposure to different parts of the buying process as possible, and that everyone feels they have a voice within the team and can affect change.
Do you believe in 'dressing for success'?
I think it’s important to feel good in what you’re wearing. Clothes can be empowering and have a big impact on mindset, so if it helps you get into the right mindset for success, you should wear something that does that.
Images: courtesy of Oasis, Oasis and Warehouse Group