As we are wrapping up our editorial coverage of the Fall/Winter 20/21 collections, it made us wonder what take an Editor has versus a Buyer. We got to pick the brain a bit of Menswear Buyer from iconic London multi-brand boutique Browns known for introducing many now-famous fashion brands to fashion lovers for the first time. We even got wondering more, what the future of retail looks like especially against an environment that is facing multiple crises and how does one end up with a job that is on many fashion graduates’ wish list. Time to talk to Thom….

Thom Scherdel shot by Adam Katz

Let’s start at the beginning of your fashion journey, how did you get into buying?

I moved down to London at 16 to study for the Fashion Retail Academy’s pilot year, it was the first of its kind and was kind of like a crash course in all things fashion from buying all the way through to visual merchandising and store management. It was the first time I’d enjoyed ‘learning’ and as a result, ended up coming out with top grades and a few awards which was a novel experience for me.

The buying tutor had previously worked at Selfridges and she was a real driving force in nurturing my obsession for product and making me realize there was a career in it. When I graduated she made a few calls and got me an interview with the Buying Director. I started there as an admin just after I turned 17 and that’s where it all kicked off.


That’s incredible! You are now the Menswear Buyer at Browns. What attracted you to Browns?

It’s the one isn’t it; a completely unique proposition, I knew it was high profile but I didn’t realize how much it was revered in the industry until I started telling people I worked there. It’s one of the last true pioneers in the market, nobody believes in new talent more than Browns, and nobody delivers that array of brands with more conviction. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make.


How would you describe the “Browns” Man and is he English?

There are a few variants; he’s someone who has a real understanding of what’s going on in the scene but also curiosity with confidence to dabble in brands outside of the hype sphere. His nationality isn’t important as he’s a traveled man and can take his orders wherever he needs them. The world is a small place these days and we never buy with a certain nationality in mind – we buy for occasions, weddings in Italy, parties in LA, shows in Paris – it’s all about the ethos of the guy rather than where he is from.


We just wrapped up Men’s Paris Fashion Week. What trends stood out for Fall/Winter 2020?

It’s more of the same this season it feels, which isn’t a bad thing. The trends don’t need to be seismic every season, consistency gives the consumer time to adapt and actually buy into it in a richer way. We are seeing the steady move away from streetwear into a more considered look but it’s gradual, it’s the same with sneakers, the runways are all committing to a more formal shoe but the sneaker ship is a big ship to turn around, we’ll see a steady erosion of that dominance but it will take some time.


When going to a buying appointment, what do you look for?

You look for what you’ve sold before, sorry to pull back the curtain on the dynamic world of menswear buying but it makes sense to buy what you know works. Once you’ve found a bit of that then you can add a bit of flavor, this is just stuff that you feel is new, commercial, a bit different and suited to your customers. That’s where you can have some fun with it.


When do you take a risk? Do you have a risk factor?

Always, every time we write an order. But its educated risk, you have sales history and you have data to help you but essentially you are spending X amount to try and generate sales a lot greater than that, the business can succeed or fail on your taste levels.

To really succeed you have to back something that nobody else does and that in turn connects with the customer. If I’m the only person who selects a hoody from Raf Simons and Kanye wears it and no other retailer has it in stock then we’re going to win those sales. You have to place a few chips in the showroom for scenarios like that. When they come in it’s a great feeling.


What has surprised you most about your job?

The normality of the people, the majority of people just love clothes and love doing business together, no dramas, no divas, just people who like clothes and working with people from all over the world. The atypical fashionista is 1%.


What is the fashion industry really like, especially during fashion week?

It’s a lot of people bumping into each other and telling each other how busy and tired they are, the only tiresome bit of fashion week for me is listening to people do that. These are the pinnacle jobs everyone at fashion college would die for, we get flown around the world to be tastemakers for the masses, we buy clothes for a living in fancy showrooms which is an amazing job to have.


What is your opinion on the future of streetwear, how do you see it evolving?

I’d say at the moment it’s not getting bigger but also not going anywhere, it’s the punk music of our generation. People still relate to it in a tribal way and big houses are still referencing it, it’s popular and it’s easy to wear, you can feel good in a logo sweat and it feels effortless. If that’s what people want to feel part of something then we have to give it to them. There will be a move away from it but fundamentally it’s based around comfort and ease, and there will always be a place for that.


Browns Nomad Berlin

Tell us about the concept of the Nomad Pop-up store?

Browns Nomad was conceived with the intention of taking on the local environment and culture of the city and inspiring the client with experience at the heart and since its inception has been brought to life in east London, LA and more recently Berlin. It’s our pioneering take on semi-permanent, roaming retail – a 21st-century response to the pop-up model and by creating unique experiences that are tailored to the city and neighborhood within which they live, we can have a chance to engage with the consumer all whilst in keeping with the distinct Browns vibe.


What do you see as the biggest difference between cities when doing the pop-up?

The whole point of our Nomad project is to adapt to the fundamental culture of that city and environment so whatever the difference might be, we look to embrace it and really cultivate a unique experience for that local customer. At the heart of it, people shop and behave differently however fundamentally the consumer coming through the door is just looking for that unique human connection. Noticeably we have seen that whatever city we visit the typical client has been to our London location which makes the idea of our presence in their home even more impactful.

Browns x Duran Lantik

Last year you did a Collab with LVMH Prize nominee Duran Lantik, how did it come about?

The Duran piece came about after he met our New Gen buyer on Womenswear, Costanza Lombardi, and Buying Director Ida Petersson, they loved what he was bringing to the forefront of sustainable fashion.

Our Conscious initiative is extremely important to us and we kick-started our offering with a collection made by Duran using deadstock from our warehouse, an ongoing issue as part of the retail ecosystem. I love the idea of giving these amazing luxury items a second life, and our customers did too. We are currently looking at a third collection with him as his upcycled pieces are a continued success.


Browns East

In 2017 Browns opened its door in Shoreditch, how is it different from the iconic South Molton Street location?

Browns East was actually the first iteration of the Nomad proposition, it was the first time Browns had opened a new store in 20 years. Building on the idea that we can adapt to any location, we created a new environment that spoke to the Shoreditch area.

In today’s retail climate where customer behavior is constantly changing, the Browns augmented retail approach looks at these experience-driven shopping concepts bridging the physical and digital space and delivering multi-faceted campaigns for a global community, evolving with the needs of the customer and fusing product, culture, community, and creativity together to amplify the Browns narrative across our multi-channel landscape. Browns East has been a real pioneer for us in being able to achieve that goal.


What do you look for in a designer and who should we watch?

Commercial creativity, do whatever you want and be as conceptual as you want but if people don’t want to buy what you’re making you won’t be doing it for long. Make mad clothes that make you different but think about the boys wearing it to the pub or to a party, can they pull it off? It’s about marrying the amazing talented output while making it viable to sell, without diluting the ethos of your brand. I think Paria Farzaneh is doing a fantastic job.


Browns has been supportive of young talent. What advice would you give a young designer?

Design stuff people want to buy, don’t get lost in your ego and your art school project, think about the business and the longevity you can have if you can actually make a business out of it year after year. Be cool, be creative but be commercial.


Retail is more and more online and in many ways, it can be information overload and saturated at the same time. How do you create a shopping experience online and in-person?

It’s very difficult and many who have tried have failed, ultimately the online piece needs to be engaging and functional, those are the key metrics, how to deliver those side by side is often the great online quandary.

The approach we take is just a super clean website with high-end editorial content, not too much going on, just talented people pulling together shoots with great clothes on a platform that’s easy to use. In-store it’s a lot easier, you have multiple senses you can engage with, you have staff who can get involved, the music you can play and visuals that you can make a statement with. That’s the beauty of being in a store, and that’s why it should never die.


Finally, what do we have to look forward to this year?

Browns celebrates its 50th year this year and we are opening our new flagship on Brook Street in Mayfair so I can promise it’s going to be an amazing year for us with lots of exciting things from both the product and the experience side – and all in true Browns style of course.

Browns Nomad Berlin


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