We had the good fortune of connecting with Phyllis Posner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Phyllis, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
The biggest misconception about the fashion industry is that it is all glamour, models, and runways. While that is true some of the time, it is only about 5% of my job. The rest is hard work and hustling — nothing too glamorous! Once a year I get to be involved with big runway shows, and it’s definitely a rush being around the next season’s collections, surrounded by gorgeous models. But most of the time my job consists of reaching out to buyers for orders, projecting my sales figures, and presenting reports to my brands. The fashion industry is just like any other industry, you generally start at the bottom and work your way up the ranks, putting your time in and building relationships. Something else people may not realize about the fashion industry is the cycle/calendar we work with. We sell collections that eventually ship to buyers roughly a year later. You rarely work in the “present,” you always work with future dates. We get to see the fashion trends and color palettes before they appear in all the shops, which is exciting. Corresponding to my sales calendar, I’ll also go on the road quarterly in order to visit buyers in my region. I’ll show the lines in boutiques, in hotel rooms, trade shows, and even a parking lot (once)! I’ll hold sample sales and pop up events and trunk shows depending on the season.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I work as an Independent Sales Rep for several top women’s swimwear brands. I’m a small business owner and function as the conduit between the brands and buyers (stores). Brands hire me to represent their lines in various territories, and I cover a large portion of the US. For some brands that means the west coast; for other brands, it means the entire country. I sell the lines at wholesale prices to buyers who in turn sell at retail. My buyers range from small “mom and pop” surf shops to lavish hotels and resorts, from major department stores to retail websites. I have unique relationships with each of my buyers, and many of them have become close personal friends. Even my brands feel like family — I’ve repped one line for twelve years now. Even though I’ve worked with various brands over the years, I’ve been lucky to have had great working relationships with all of them. I think what sets me apart from the others is my time in the industry and my commitment to customer service. I’ve spent years cultivating my relationships with my buyers and many times they recommend me to brands who are looking for a rep. I pride myself on my customer service skills, I go out of my way to help my buyers — and sometimes that means responding to emails late at night or on weekends. I understand them — they are people who care about their businesses and their customers, and in this uncertain time for retail, we’re all in this together. I empathize with my brands’ needs as well. They look to me for sales feedback, and ultimately, I am the eyes and ears of the business as they rely on me to promote the brand and open new accounts in addition to serving the current accounts. They need a lot, and I try to give it to them! I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy getting where I am today. I worked hard for this! I put in long hours building relationships with buyers, traveling all over my territories, and pushing for sales during difficult times. I proved to my brands that I could sell their products with genuine enthusiasm. It’s my job to convince all my partners that I will be there for them, and that they can count on me. As a small business owner, I’m always trying to prove myself to everyone — and hopefully overdeliver!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would definitely take them to the Broad museum, it’s the best example of contemporary art in Los Angeles, and in my opinion, the country. Hauser & Wirth in the downtown Arts District also has really unique exhibitions. For food, I love the Grove Farmer’s Market, and if it’s summertime, the Yamashiro Farmer’s Market in Hollywood. I love Kazunori for hand rolls. Bar Stella for the best cocktails in town. Sqirl has amazing brunches. For shopping, you can’t go wrong with the Melrose Flea Market and the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Melrose Place is great for boutique shopping. For entertainment, I love seeing bands. So I’ll catch live shows at The Regent, The Ace Hotel, The Hollywood Bowl, the Palladium, and the Echo. When I want to get outdoors, Temescal Canyon is great for hiking. I also love weekend trips to go wine tasting in Santa Barbara and Los Olivos. Los Angeles has a little bit of everything — I could keep going. These are just a FEW of my faves.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Any success I’ve had is a product of all the amazing people who have impacted my life. My family has always been incredibly supportive. I grew up in Austin, Texas, and I think the city itself instilled an energy and curiosity in me. I have so many hometown friends now — they’ve been there for me through thick and thin. When I first started in the fashion business, I worked in retail in Beverly Hills, and I made several lifelong friends — friends who would later recommend me to other brands. I attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) and dove into the ins and outs of the business. FIDM gave me a solid academic foundation in fashion — but it was only a small part of my journey. After my stint in retail and school, I moved to the UK to work as an in-house rep for two different brands. I owe so much of my education to the designers who gave me a shot. Coming from retail, I had plenty to learn about being a sales rep, and it was through the patient encouragement I got along the way that I was able to finally learn the business. When I came back to the US, I worked in a showroom in downtown Los Angeles. I learned more about repping multiple lines, and through the guidance of a particularly supportive mentor there, I took my first steps to become an independent sales rep. Each step of the way, I’ve relied on my friends and colleagues — and they’ve relied on me. We refer brands to one another, we recommend people for jobs, we cover for one another during hectic trade shows. And now, I work when I can to pay it forward. Sometimes that means having chats with young designers, sometimes it means chatting with recent FIDM grads who want to make their way in the business. When I can, I try to mentor young people because I was so lucky to benefit from that myself.