Before we jump in, let’s break down the front row of a fashion show, which consists of the most influential people in the industry. There are the editors (hi there!) who preview the collections to identify the must-haves that’ll eventually appear in editorials. Then there are the stylists who identify the key silhouettes they want to see their clients (celebrities, influencers, and models) in. Next up, the actual celebrities and tastemakers themselves. And finally, the buyers—some of the most crucial to the game—who actually buy what they want to see in their stores and online next season (i.e., they decide what you’ll actually be able to shop from the runways). Elyse Walker, founder and fashion director of Los Angeles–based site and store Forward, falls into this powerful group.
While there are numerous aspects to Walker’s job and the empire she built (read more about her and her career advice right here), during fashion week, her job is to scout emerging brands her customers will love, decipher which runway items will be surefire hits on her site, and of course, pinpoint the biggest trends of the season.
Now that the S/S 17 shows are officially wrapped up, Walker is sharing with us the four most noteworthy trends of the season that’ll be the foundation of her spring buys next year.
Keep scrolling to get a sneak peek of the trends you’re guaranteed to be wearing in the next four months (and shop each from Forward, too). Plus, go a bit further to learn even more about Elyse’s job, including the designers she’s currently loving, and what it takes to become a buyer.
Why Elyse loves them: “Our customer is generally very feminine and ruffles offer a major fashion statement. It’s sometimes risky and hard to pull off, so keep everything else minimal.”
Why Elyse loves it: “Silk is the fabric of the season! From staple slip dresses, bombers, blouses, and shoes, we love that dressing can be so simple. Silk can so easily be taken from day to night, super effortless but very chic.”
Imagine this beautiful cami for your next night out.
Why Elyse loves them: “We love that metallics can translate to daytime; metallics are not just for evenings anymore. Do something unexpected, and wear a sequin dress over jeans with a pair of flats, or use a metallic bag as your daytime staple.”
WHO WHAT WEAR: What do you look for on the runway and in market appointments when buying?
ELYSE WALKER: Something new that the customer doesn’t already have in their wardrobe. We’re always looking to fill gaps in the market and our selection. We look for brands that feel fresh and new … designers have been very safe the past few seasons and customers are looking for what’s next!
WWW: How do you discover emerging brands?
EW: Our buying teams for both the store and FWRD.com have monthly meetings and everyone is always coming to the table with new lines that they have found. Social media plays a huge factor—it’s a great place to validate new lines that we find in the market.
We’re always looking for the next big brand so we test anything that the team loves. We have a hard rule about picking up new lines—at least one buyer has to completely love it. If we only like it, we don’t try it!
WWW: Do you pick how much of each item to stock?
EW: That’s currently a work in progress, but we analyze the previous season and the current season we are in to see the sell-through and we are constantly checking inventory too.
WWW: What types of items are always surefire sellers?
EW: Great cashmere, the perfect leather jacket, and anything on a square mid-heel. We use data to guide us but we won’t let it hold us back from placing big bets on products or brands. If the team believes in a product or a trend, we go after it and push it hard on the site. It’s easy to buy into and believe in a new trend, the hard part is when to pull back and move on to the next trend. Our customer is knowledgeable and is always on to the next trend very quickly.
WWW: Do you have any advice for aspiring fashion buyers?
EW: 1. Work in retail! The customer is our boss. Be a sales associate first because you get firsthand intel as to what the customer wants.
2. Start from the bottom—you will gain experience that can’t be taught.
3. Follow your instincts and be decisive —your first choice is almost always the best choice.
4. Network! It’s all about who you know.
Check out snaps from Elyse's buying appointments in Paris:
Johanna Ortiz S/S 17
Ellery S/S 17
Jacquemus S/S 17
What spring trend are you going to try first? Let us know in the comments below!