If you wander around luxury retailer Lane Crawford and check out some of the fashion on display, chances are, they have gone through the vetting of Fashion Director Kelly Wong. With an edgy yet relaxed style, a sharp eye for creative talent and a love of sports, the fashion maven joined Lane Crawford in 2008 and rose through the ranks to become the coveted store’s Fashion Director in 2017. One would think Kelly has always been a bit of a fashionista since she was young and was dressing barbies when she was 3, but she actually only fell into the industry by chance. We recently caught up with her at her home to learn more about how she got to where she is and what it takes to become a successful fashion buyer.
How did you first get interested in fashion?
I didn’t! My dad was pressuring me to get a job after graduation, so instead of banking, which is what he wanted me to do, I applied to any job that was available, and got a job at Lane Crawford. I thought I’d give it a try, and voila…
I guess my mom was always quite fashionable, and was a buyer in her younger years at Henri Bendel when she lived in NY – that might have had some influence, but honestly, I just fell into it.
What do you love most about what you do?
That things keep changing, and you can challenge yourself to try new things all the time. I like that I’m part of inspiring customers to try new styles and trends as well, and help them feel good about what they’re wearing. I guess the exciting part is, fashion allows you to be different versions of yourself.
I also like mentoring, which is the later part of my career when I started management. To be able to teach someone something, or guide, advise, or mentor them so that they have something that would stay with them forever is rewarding. They can learn something valuable from me and then pass it on to whoever they mentor in their management career.
What is the most challenging?
The most challenging is when something doesn’t look great, and you still have to give a strong perspective to make it look as good as you can to sell it.
It’s also challenging when trends have been persistently the same for a few seasons and there’s nothing new, but you still have to come up with something new to sell to the customers – especially the women customers, they’re always in search of new trends and styles. Men are more creatures of habit (thank god!) and don’t demand newness AS often.
What is a typical day like for you?
Emails, meetings, budgets, sales, emails, meetings, budgets, sales…
It’s not like how it is in Devil Wears Prada where it’s all glamorous and the sample room is the size of a Walmart, and there are all the best designer styles in there for you to play with everyday. It’s a business that requires results.
What are some of the most memorable fashion shows/collection you’ve seen/attended?
All of the Céline ones by Phoebe Philo, and the Celine one not by Phoebe in 2018.
Valentino show, where the Zoolander brothers came out at the end… Most of the Valentino shows to be honest, they’re always stunning.
I’ve also been a fan of Alexander Wang my entire career and the first show I ever went to was an A Wang Show – I was so so so excited and happy that I had the chance to go.
What was the best lesson you learned in your time being a buyer?
Be confident, have a point of view, and have a story to tell.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a buyer?
You need to have an eye. It isn’t always just about looking at performance and choosing the best selling styles over and over again. You need to dare try new things – and it’s not just about daring, you need to dare with perspective and a point of view.
What are your must-read publications and sites?
Business of Fashion, BBC and The Economist. BBC and the Economist seem random, but like I said, fashion is still a business, and whatever is happening around the world which impacts the economy impacts fashion. When things get shaky, fashion is the first thing people forgoes.
What are you favourite designer brands?
Pick 3 items from HULA you think everyone should own?
There have been so many changes / talk of change in the fashion industry recently. What one thing would you like to see happen?
Make the industry more sustainable. By 2025, the fashion industry will be contributing to 1/3 of the entire world’s pollution. STOP AND THINK ABOUT WHAT WE ARE DOING!
Photography: Daniel Murray