Today’s Notable Young Professional is Alton Gray Merchandise Manager Noemie Crepeau who’s able to combine her passion for travel and fashion to create an inspiring and profitable lifestyle-driven store concept…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
As the Merchandise Manager for Alton Gray, I’m responsible for buying and marketing for a lifestyle-driven store concept. Every item has to be carefully chosen in order to both please the customer and make business sense. When buying for Alton Gray, I travel to some exciting destinations to draw inspiration from trade shows and key retailers, as well as to find pieces that are different and can work in our store. It comes down to a few things: find something people don’t already own, follow trends but don’t be too fast, and pick items that combine great quality at a fair price. In a brick-and-mortar store, what will set you apart is having great product at the right time in a comfortable, inspiring shopping environment with sales associates who are fun and add something positive to the experience.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
Alton Gray is part of a group of companies, including a major player in the Canadian fashion industry on the wholesale side of things, Manhattan International. It distributes key brands in our market, such as AG Jeans, as well as designs, produces and wholesales apparel brands like Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. I was originally hired to work in the wholesale division, but with Alton Gray coming close to fruition and a location locked down, construction about to start, they needed someone to buy product and secure brands for the store. Needless to say I jumped on the opportunity and have been devoted to this project ever since.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part of my job is working with awesome people every day. The fashion trade is filled with exceptional individuals, many who have this unique combination of strong creative and business aspects to their personality. Throughout the years, I’ve met some of the most unforgettable people in my life, many who have become good friends. A close second would have to be the travel: I get to go to New York on the regular, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Berlin, Florence, Milan… but it’s definitely a challenge keeping things balanced at home between the travel and the extra-long hours. In my 30s I’m starting to get the hang of it and am better at incorporating healthy meals, quick workouts or yoga to the mix. Oh, and I’ve also come to be very good at looking fresh after a late night out… after all, fashion is a work-hard, play-hard kind of industry!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m not the type who projects that far in the future, but I’m a dreamer who works hard to achieve her aspirations. In five years I’d like to have a few more Alton Gray locations under my wing, with a boosted e-commerce/m-commerce component to our business. It’s in the plans once this first one is fully up and running; our dedicated team will need to find the right opportunities and work towards our goals.
What does success look like to you?
Confidence. Most truly successful people I’ve met were very confident, but not arrogant. I’m sure they weren’t always this way, but maybe the struggle made them stronger.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
It’s a recent one – getting this position. For 12 I worked in wholesale, building brands by either selling or managing them, and I like to think I was pretty good at it. The changeover to the buying end of things has allowed me to see exactly what takes place on the other side of the table. I’d almost recommend every buyer and rep spend a year in the opposite role; they’d both be a lot better at working together. It truly is an opportunity to have helped build this new concept from the ground up and has taken my career to the next level, expanding my network internationally and given me exposure I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
I can’t speak for what works in other industries, but if you want to make it in fashion you need to be smart, prepared to work hard, get your hands dirty, and put in the hours. Contrary to what my distant relatives may think I do for a living, we don’t all just sit around sipping champagne, putting on fashion shows and dating models. There is no room for prima donnas in today’s fast-paced world, at least not if you want to work with those who make things happen.
What to you is notable?
Local talent making noise abroad, brands expanding their horizons internationally in order to have a viable business, the rise of e-commerce and the changes it’s bringing to the industry, and mostly, the conscious efforts some players are making in terms of building a responsible chain of supply, reducing environmental impact in production processes and making sure the human beings who are making our stuff are treated relatively fairly.
BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
I’m forced to have a BlackBerry at work and the latest one has admittedly sort of grown on me. I’d almost say I like it, if only it had a native Instagram app. My heart still belongs to iPhone though!