In this extract from Ragtrader's latest print edition, Wittner general manager of merchandise Niki Sarantopoulos talks shoes.

What is your previous experience in the industry?

Being around for so long, this may take a while! After finishing a Bachelor of Economics I “fell” into the wholesale/retail space. I’ve worked in the accessories and cosmetics industries, but mostly within the apparel industry working for large
global brands such as Calvin Klein Jeans and G-Star. Finally landing in an Australian owned vertical company which I’m loving.

What is your day to day role?

My umbrella covers the planning/buying, allocations, shipping, warehousing and distribution. Every day is different but I have an incredible group of people I work with so it’s crazy and amazing all at the same time. Whether it’s debating a colour
for a shoe, setting the buying budget, or working out what stock to allocate to a new store that is opening, no two days are the same….and that’s just the way I like it.

What is the biggest challenge in your position?

The biggest challenge is keeping all aspects of the business in mind in every decision made and making sure that all departments and stake holders are updated accordingly.

What is the most rewarding aspect?

Two things make my heart sing. Firstly, seeing our shoes on peoples’ feet. Secondly, hearing about how much they love the shoes, particularly the way our shoes feel. We go to such efforts to use top grade leathers and superior padding, that when
people thank us for their happy feel I feel incredibly grateful to be part of the process. We are a team and all work closely together so where there is a win, we all celebrate.

What is an initiative you are most proud of?

In 2017, I played a pivotal role in the development of the partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria for the “Art of Style” range as part of the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces 2017: Van Gogh and the seasons. As a team, we designed a limited-edition collection of wearable art exploring colours and textures that were inspired by the painter’s portrayal of the seasons. I saw this as a beautiful synergy between two long-standing Victorian based companies and it worked so well all I can say is stay tuned!

What do you see as the biggest change ahead for the company?

A change that we are all excited about is what Wittner will mean to our customers in terms of their experience with Wittner. For us it is about producing something that is incredible to wear, AND incredible to buy.

What about the biggest change ahead for the fashion industry as a whole?

I find the biggest change in terms of fashion is predominantly two-fold. Firstly, transseasonality of fashion. We are now wearing long boots in summer (with our short shorts and tanks) and wearing high heel sandals in winter (with socks). We want things to be wearable all year round.

The second is the actual experience or emotion of buying that item. It’s about buying AND sharing that purchase journey with your “village”. Fashion can no longer just hide behind cheap prices and throw-away items. We [the fashion
industry] need to be accountable for what we produce and make sure that people handing over their hard-earned cash, love every moment of that hand over.

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