A day in the life of Kristina Nissen, Buying Manager at Minimum
Kristina Nissen is a bit of an outlier in the fashion industry. In a world where people shop for new jobs as much as new dresses, she has stayed with Minimum for 10 years now. After two decades in the industry, she feels like she still has to learn and is excited to take on new challenges, for example, supporting the choice of the brand to focus more on sustainability.
Tell us more about your role as Buying Manager. What are your responsibilities?
My responsibility is everything from the design to quality control to buying department, and I take care of both our male and our female line. It’s a lot of planning, as I need to structure the timeline with the designers. We discuss starting up a new collection, how big should the collection be, is there anything we need to have a special focus on price-wise, sustainability, anything like that. Then it moves to our QC team. I need to plan the timeline from when the designers are finishing up to making their patterns and sending them out to the suppliers. Finally, going into the buying department, which is also where I started and where my roots are. In short, I need to make sure that everybody has what they need to move on and give them guidelines regarding data, gross margin, and so on. Then, I have another role in our management team. We work on the strategy, thinking of where we see ourselves in the future and what’s the general direction we want the brand to take.
Your role seems to touch upon a lot more things than a traditional Buying Manager does.
Yes, I think it’s just because I’ve never changed my title after I also started working with design. You’re right: normally, a Buying Manager mainly works with pricing, suppliers, and vendors, but my role is bigger than that. So yeah, I think in other companies my role would be called Product Manager or Design and Buying Manager, or something like that.
What does a normal day look like for the Buying Manager? Do you have a routine?
Not at all, not at all. It has never been there (Laughs). But I think that’s also why this role is so interesting. On one hand, I am taking care of the staff. One employee might have a difficult time, another might want to challenge themselves a bit more, and so on. On the other, I am managing suppliers and need to make sure they send everything online. So really every day is something different. And then, sustainability has become a huge focus for us in the last two years, and I’m involving myself quite a lot, trying to find new projects.
Can you give us an example?
Right now, we’re doing a project in Portugal. When we come up with collections, we have to estimate how many garments each client would buy, and it is impossible to get the exact number. Especially due to COVID, orders were canceled, so we found ourselves with a warehouse full of goods. But if you send the goods to this factory in Portugal, they shred it up and turn it into new fibers, adding virgin fibers to strengthen it. At the end of the day, the fabric will be just as good as newly made. So, we can make new styles from old ones, and they have just been launched in June, this year.
What inspired you to take this career path?
It started back when I was like 13 or 14 in primary school. In Denmark, we have to spend one week working somewhere, just to try out different professions, and I was in a clothing shop. I liked it. I thought it was cool to see some of the new clothes and they offered me a job after school. So after college, even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I remembered that I was interested in the clothing industry, but I knew I wanted to be on the other side and not stand in the shop and sell the goods, I wanted to know how the clothes were made.
And before joining Minimum you were already in a buying role?
Yeah. I started in another company. At the time, it was just amazing to me to be able to travel so many times a year to countries I’ve never dreamed of visiting and to be paid for it. To go to a foreign country far away like Bangladesh or China to measure up one jacket after the other, to make sure everything was fitting. I think this is a way of learning things the hard way. How the garments are being produced, who is making your clothes, what does it mean in reality when a designer says ‘I don’t like that shade of pink, it should be another one.’ I am just very pleased that I had the opportunity for so many years to be traveling and seeing the factories.
So do you miss not being able to travel?
Yeah, I think it’s awful. It’s not about bargaining for the last half of a dollar for a better audit. It’s about the respect for the people I’m dealing with. In many cultures, it’s about looking each other in the eyes, and you get a closer relationship with suppliers. So for me, it’s like missing my friends.
Would you say that that’s one of the favorite parts of being a Buying Manager?
Definitely. If you don’t want to go and see the factories and the people in the offices, you shouldn’t be a buyer. It’s even better if you can go further down in the chain to tier, tier two, tier three, where weaving happens. It is fascinating to see.
That sounds fantastic. What do you think are the biggest challenges that you face?
Lack of time. You’re always running around when you’re involved in so many projects and departments, and so many people are waiting for your approval before they can move to the next stage. It doesn’t matter how much you delegate, I think especially in a company this size, that is not that big, it almost becomes a family. People just want to share what they have been working on.