In honor of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s new book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($12), we’re running an interview series featuring 17 questions (in honor of the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of the most inspirational female leaders in the fashion industry. So far, we’ve tapped Yael Aflalo, Jennifer Fisher, Candice Lake, and more. Up next? Sarah Rutson.
As the vice president of global buying at Net-a-Porter, Sarah Rutson has, I guess we could say, a thing or two to do with where we spend a lot of our online time—and paychecks. So as you could imagine, we jumped at the chance to pick the brain of the woman who’s as stylish herself as the site she oversees. We couldn’t wait to ask everything from how she stays up to date in such an ever-changing industry as fashion to what she does when she’s feeling uninspired to where she gets lunch on a regular workday. As we should have known, her answers were neither disappointed nor expected.
Scroll down to read the full interview and all her amazing advice!
“As vice president of global buying at Net-a-Porter, I set the overall strategic direction of the buy across the site. Running such a large buying team over many departments and categories, I have to ensure that the whole team has a very clear direction on how we need to drive and grow our business as well as what we need to do from a fashion standpoint to always be ahead and exciting to our customers. The Net-a-Porter edit and point of view is recognized as a world leader in retail and fashion. I have to ensure that our messaging for the season is clearly presented, not just among my team but also throughout the business. My role means that I front face CEOs of brands, journalists, creatives, as well as sourcing new and up-and-coming designers. I get a full 360-degree view of the business side to the creative side.”
“The difference between e-commerce and a brick-and-mortar store is that you don’t physically walk a floor. However, what people don’t realize is that I do scour our site in all three regions as if I was walking the shop floor. Net-a-Porter also has personal shoppers who work closely with customers, so we do actually meet our customers in person as well as do events with them. It is great that I still get to physically see our customer around the globe in this manner and respond to their feedback. Critically, Net-a-Porter is a truly global company. We individually buy for all markets including Latin America, North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and no one else in the world does that. Our global perspective is thrilling and very exciting to buy for because I really have to know our customers globally and understand what drives or moves them forward in each region. I also spend a great time poring over spread sheets.”
“I was still at school when I had my first interview for a Saturday job, so I was in my school uniform. I literally had to rush straight from school to make the interview.”
“I love both the business and the creative sides of fashion. I love talking business with Andrew Rosen, CEO of Theory and investor and mentor in the brands Rag & Bone, Alice and Olivia, and Proenza Schouler. I also love talking with creative directors like Riccardo Tisci because they feed the creative soul, and that is so important.”
“My personality has always been to have my antenna up. I’ve always been someone who is a discoverer. I am often told that I see things that other people often miss or look past. Everything about my being is sensory, be it music, fashion, or food. I go out a lot to listen and discover new music. I’m constantly watching how people are wearing clothes and how they style themselves. Trends start from the street, music, and art, so I pay close attention to what is going on culturally. I love Instagram, as well. I am so busy that it helps keep me up to date with everything, be it my daughter, fashion insiders, or the latest dog that needs to be rescued—whatever interests me. It keeps me hooked in.”
“I make it a point to live by the motto ‘you only regret the things you never tried.’ So by nature, I try everything at least once. I believe that you make your own opportunities. It’s about making choices and not being scared. No one has 20/20 hindsight, so it’s important to learn by making an attempt and not sitting back and letting an opportunity pass you by. I live by my gut instinct, and it’s served me pretty well thus far.”
“I look for someone who is willing to do whatever it takes and who isn’t afraid of starting at the bottom. It’s all about passion. It’s important that they have a wide variety of interests and are open to change. Having strength of character and sticking to your convictions are also key.”
“Heels. They give you good posture and pull you up by the spine, which makes you feel strong. It has nothing to do with extra height, but to do with how you stand.”
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“Strong, inspiring, hardworking, focused, funny, and kind.”
“I listen to music. It lifts my head to a new place immediately.”
“Never ever burn bridges. It’s important to be graceful and professional. You never know who you’ll cross paths with down the road.”
“On a workday in NYC, I like to get take out from City Bakery in Union Square. It’s usually a mix box of roasted sweet potato, kale, and coriander chicken and pesto pasta.”
“Wanting to be promoted before they have even got to know the ropes. That experience when starting out in your career is so crucial.
“When you get to my level, your peers are more experienced. It becomes less about mistakes and more about differing management styles.”
“There are so many brands, causes, and people that I love to follow in addition to my friends’ and family’s accounts. I adore George Cortina’s account (@georgecortina) not only because I love the photos but his captions have a lot of irony and humor in them. I’m a huge animal lover and rescuer, so I follow countless rescue sites across the world from @animalsasia to @rescuedogsrocknyc. Finally, I do have a soft spot for the ones that make me laugh, like @textsfromyourex, @beigecaridan, and @thefatjewish. Humor is so important in life.”
“I cannot function in the morning without an English breakfast tea with milk and sugar. I have it as soon as I open my eyes, and then I drink it as I go through all my emails. In the evening I like to finish my work and maybe unwind with a SoulCycle class a few times a week and then cook dinner. I find cooking to be very relaxing. Cooking and walking my rescue dogs are my times to switch off.”
“You’re always going to be criticized, and sometimes envied, but never let that distract or unnerve you. Keep pushing ahead with your gut instinct, knowing you can do it. Negativity is an insecurity.”
“We have a very exciting launch coming up this September with a big retailer/brand that I am looking forward to. I can’t say who it is with just yet, but I know it is something our customers will really enjoy! Earlier this summer, we launched our exclusive capsule collection with Gucci, a project I closely worked on. Alessandro Michele has completely revitalized the brand. It was thrilling to see the capsule through and to see the tremendous customer response.”
If you could ask Rutson one question, what would it be? Let us know in the comments below, and then shop Net-a-Porter’s new arrivals.