In an Afterpay Australian Fashion Week special, asks key buyers about trade, trends and what's on their agenda. First up is Lisa Ruffle, Senior Buying Director at Moda Operandi.

How have consumer purchasing habits changed since the pandemic?

Our customer is ready to return to all aspects of her pre-pandemic life and she is looking for a versatile and hard-working wardrobe to accommodate the shift. Purchasing habits are currently very occasion and vacation driven, and while we don’t anticipate a slow down there, we’ve started to see the transition back those looking for chic, day-to-day wardrobing. At Moda, we’re calling it “Power Casual”. As merchants, we remain incredibly focused on our client and her needs and believe more than ever, that it is so important to curate an assortment that is focused, differentiated to others in the market, and supremely special.

What designer collections are you most looking forward to seeing at AAFW 2022?

I’m so excited to see so many designers across a number of wonderful venues that really highlight Sydney — my schedule is extremely packed! I’m looking forward to seeing longtime Moda favorites like Matteau, Bondi Born and Michael Lo Sordo. We’re also constantly on the hunt for new brands— Beare Park & Jordan Dalah are high on our list to review. Moda will be launching several Trunkshows where customers can preorder the collections almost immediately following Australia Fashion Week, and I can’t wait to see how our Marketing & Editorial teams bring the magic of the week to life for a digital audience.

What are the key pieces or categories you will be searching for?

I’m searching for newness (both from a collection and designer standpoint) that I feel will resonate with our clientele. Our platform is a place for discovery, so we’re hoping to bring her something she hasn’t seen before. In terms of key pieces or categories, dresses are always very high on our agenda — in more recent times, we’ve seen a huge pendulum swing back towards event dressing and we are looking to expand our evening assortment significantly. We’re also hoping to find great wardrobing pieces that are anything but basic: Australian designers do “cool girl”, minimalist wardrobing so well. 

How are you managing the global supply chain challenge this year?

Supply chain delays most definitely have been a challenge. Thankfully, we are fortunate to have a client who is accustomed to the pre-order model and is willing to wait for her pieces. Being strategic and creative with exclusive deliveries and front loading receipts into the pre-collections has helped us manage our delivery cycle successfully. Above all, staying in close contact with our vendor community has been crucial and it’s been a high priority for us to keep partnerships strong. 

Looking forward to the resort season, what do you think will be the key trend to emerge?

Knowing it’s also our holiday delivery, I think we will continue to see designers expand their occasion wear offering, upping their game with special products that elicit that emotional, “gotta have it” response.

What is the biggest hurdle to navigate for buyers at this time?

Continued uncertainty around the economic outlook for the end of this year, into the next. As merchants we need to keep an eye on market indicators and the stock market at a macro level, whilst also managing the significant sales opportunity we see today. It’s going to be a constant delicate balance.

What are some of the top-selling Australian designer brands you currently stock?

Over the years, Moda Operandi has built up an incredible roster of Australian designers. Many of these brands have gone on to become highly-coveted best sellers amongst our global clientele. Our customer is always on the lookout for newness, and likes to be the first in her social circle to wear a designer, so she appreciates the unique point of view that the region’s designers have to offer. It’s undeniable that Australia dominates the resortwear market, with brands like Zimmermann, Matteau and Bondi Born continually driving that business for us. Several Australian brands that were first brought to the US market through our platform, like Christopher Esber & Aje, are best sellers, season after season.

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