Ask Blanche Macdonald Fashion Marketing graduate Emily Buhr about her role as Stock Coordinator at one of Vancouver’s most exclusive fashion boutiques, and the first thing you notice is the huge grin that instantly appears on her face.
“I’m the very first person to physically see what’s arrived at the boutique!” she beams.
But Emily’s excitement goes far beyond the thrill of having Vancouver’s first look and feel of the latest looks from Paris. She fully understands that she’s part of a Fashion House with over 100 years of history.
Every piece has a story. Every button has a meaning behind it and I love that.
Growing up in Victoria, BC, a life in high fashion once seemed like an impossible dream for Emily. Instead, her first career aim was to create unforgettable days for happy couples.
“I always had an interest in fashion, but from the time I was ten I wanted to be a Wedding Planner. I would watch Four Weddings on TLC with my Mom. I loved it.
“I was always interested in fashion, but I didn’t think that a career was something that was attainable. I’d describe my personal style back then as ‘weird’ for the era. I was a bit of a tomboy, which was a lot different to how I dress now. I would bring a skateboard to school that I didn’t know how to ride. I thought it was cool but the popular girls at school did not dress like skater boys.”
The Event Planning module at Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion Marketing program attracted the attention of the budding Wedding Planner, but once Emily had the chance to study the full curriculum she knew the opportunity to begin a career in the fashion industry was beckoning. Just one challenge remained. What should she wear that first day?
“I was really nervous,” she laughs. “I remember waking up three hours before class on my first day thinking, I need to wear the perfect outfit. On the second day I saw people wearing sweatpants and realized that it didn’t really matter.”
More important than the outfit selection was the information and understanding Emily was absorbing on a daily basis.
When I started Fashion School I wanted to be a stylist. That’s what I thought my career would be, so I loved Lyndi Barrett's Styling class. I loved being an editor and making our own magazine in Robert Collins’ Effective Communications class. It was difficult and I stayed up very late doing it. I worked really hard but the finished outcome was worth it.
“When I started Fashion School I wanted to be a stylist. That’s what I thought my career would be, so I loved Lyndi Barrett’s Styling class. I loved being an editor and making our own magazine in Robert Collins’ Effective Communications class. It was difficult and I stayed up very late doing it. I worked really hard but the finished outcome was worth it.”
“Peggy Morrison’s Fashion Elements was one of my all-time favourite classes. As soon as we began I realized how little I knew about fashion. When you break down an outfit how do you describe a specific collar or cut? I didn’t have the terminology. That knowledge is so useful in my job now.”
The now Stock Coordinator was excelling academically throughout her first semester. It was time to take advantage of the opportunities Blanche Macdonald could provide outside the classroom.
“In my second semester I went to [Career Director] Mel Watts and we talked about styling, because that’s what I thought I wanted to do. Mel is very charismatic and likeable. There’s an authenticity with her that’s incredible. She gave me the opportunity to be an assistant stylist for a creative shoot with Leila Bani. The experience was great, but I quickly realized styling wasn’t what I wanted to do for a living. There’s so much hauling!”
More tempting was an internship at the Vancouver boutique of an exclusive global fashion label, posted on the Blanche Macdonald Facebook group.
I remember going up to Mel, like, ‘Oh my God I got an interview at the boutique! Thank you!’ I had my boyfriend give me mock interviews, covering the ideas we learned in our Career Prep classes, like strengths and weaknesses and where you see yourself in five years. I was incredibly nervous!
Emily was offered the internship. Still in her teens, she had officially entered the world of couture fashion.
“At its core my job was to help out, and do whatever needed to be done. I listened and did it. You learn so much in the back of house. I was grateful to get to experience what it takes to run a successful business.”
Instantly infatuated by the brand’s iconic style and story, Emily was desperate to turn an internship into a full time job. A great work ethic, combined with more than a little patience, turned a wish into reality.
“I was an intern for a little over two months. I loved it. One of the women I was working with – I have her position now – wanted to move onto the floor. The Director asked me if I wanted her position and I said, ‘Yes! I’m taking it.’”
The Stock Coordinator role was hers. Since then every day is an adventure in high fashion, made possible by the knowledge and expertise Emily gained during her time at Blanche Macdonald. She understands the literal and metaphoric fabric of fashion, but that hasn’t dimmed her sense of wonder at both her present and the future ahead of her. The sense of glamour is a huge part of the appeal.
It’s important to understand that nothing happens overnight. In any industry, you have to prove yourself. I find this to be especially true in fashion. Every day offers the opportunity for you to learn something new and make important connections. No one graduates from school and has their dream job the next day. I’m very lucky to be where I am, but it doesn’t come from nothing.
“Even if we’re just unpacking boxes we know we’re going to see some awesome pieces from the collection. I take my job seriously but it’s still easy to have fun every day.”