fashion careers

Sam Howard’s Must-Haves

In my last post about BP. Assistant Accessories Buyer Sam Howard, we talked about the logistics and technicalities of her very cool job. This time we discussed fun and personal things like up-and-coming trends, easy ways to accessorize and how YOU can get more of the things you love into your local BP. department.

Brittany: Why do you think accessories are so important to an outfit? Can they really make or break it?

Sam: Accessories are the easiest and cheapest ways to change or update an outfit. They give you the final ‘oomph’ to make your look about more than just clothes.

B: Where do you look for inspiration?

S: I look at street style to see how people wear clothes and accessories. I look at blogs like FashionToastMan Repeller and BLEACH BLACK daily. I also look at independent designers to see what they are doing…designers like Pamela LoveVanessa Mooney and Concrete Polish. Another great website is BaubleBar because it showcases really trendy pieces.

B: Which statement do you agree with: Less is more, or more is more?

S: MORE! More is more. I am really into layering accessories right now.

B: With whom would you like to trade closets?

S: Alexa Chung. I’m crushing on her ombré hair too.

B: What trend are you loving for spring/summer this year?

S: Pendant necklaces, especially natural stones.

B: Finally, what are the three accessories every girl should own?

S: My favorite jewelry accessories are rings, and I think sunglasses can make you look cool even if you are not feeling great. Oh, and fringe bags—they’re great.

Before our meeting ended, I asked Sam if there is any way for BP. customers to request certain accessories be made available. Good news! She said that the buying team is in close communication with all the stores. So if you tell your local BP. manager about something that they should get (or get rid of), there is a very high chance that the information will make its way back to Seattle and to Sam.

So, fashionistas, what should the BP. accessories buyers consider bringing to Nordstrom?


The Glamourai
Haute in Miami



Have you ever wondered who picks out those cool rings and necklaces you find at your local Nordstrom store? Or who decides which fringe bags are in stock this season? Well, the answer, my fashion friends, is an accessories buyer! They work at the corporate level to arrange what items are sent out to the stores. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to BP. Assistant Accessories Buyer Sam Howard, and she gave me the scoop on this awesome job.

As an assistant accessories buyer, Sam is in charge of meeting with vendors (companies with their own designers) to create “assortments” of accessories for Nordstrom. She looks at trends on the runways and on the street to determine what Nordstrom should carry each season. The most important thing about these assortments, she says, is making sure everything has a purpose—that there are pieces for everyone and for every occasion.

So, how did she get such a cool job?

While Sam was in college (University of Delaware, B.S. in Fashion Merchandising), she interned at Urban Outfitters, working as an assistant to the buyers in the denim and jackets department. After she completed her internship, she was hired to be the merchandise assistant for denim and jackets at UO. Then she moved up to be an associate buyer for the dresses department. She came to Nordstrom five months ago and is loving it! I asked her about the transition from apparel to accessories, and she said, “I thought it was going to be a lot harder than it actually was… [but] there was definitely a learning curve. Apparel construction is very different from accessories construction.”

I asked her if she had any advice for someone interested in buying, and she gave me these tips:

  • • Use connections, if you have them, to get your foot in the door.
  • • Be willing to try anything. Don’t turn down a job, even if it isn’t in the field in which you think you want to work. You can always learn from those experiences.
  • • Make sure you have on-the-floor retail experience, because at the end of the day, the customer is the most important thing to the company. Being able to relate to and communicate with the customer is extremely important in a job like buying.
  • • She recommends getting a degree like hers, which deals with the business end of the industry as well as its creative end.

Stay tuned for the second half of this interview, in which I ask Sam about some of her favorite trends and celebrities and her must-haves!



It’s time for part two of my profile of Claire Haranda, styling coordinator for Nordstrom/the coolest person ever.

Claire Haranda

Claire strikes a serious pose in a photoshoot with a photographer friend.

In part one, I told you about Claire’s fashion career. Now I’ll tell you how she got there, other awesome things she does and her advice to people who are interested in working in fashion.

Claire’s island-y upbringing in Honolulu, Hawaii, drove her to wonder what else was out there, fashion-wise. Casual, comfortable beachwear and sandals just weren’t cutting it. So this savvy fashionista scoured the internet for any glimpse of fashion she could catch—a lot of which was on eBay (this was pre-Etsy). This was the first place she discovered creative clothes that people were making themselves and selling online.

When she went off to college on the mainland and needed a job, Claire was inspired by all the creative people she saw on eBay and decided to start her own eBay shop. She would go to crazy, big estate sales and the Goodwill bins and pick anything she thought was cool to sell online. Claire says she’s still addicted to “the adrenaline rush you have when you know you’re gonna find something”—like cute vintage slouch boots for $6, for example, which she could sell for $100 online.

Once her eBay shop took off, Claire started making little sets to photograph her merchandise. Soon she was working with photographer friends to put on full-blown photo shoots. She told me about their process:

  1. 1. Think of ideas.
  2. 2. Work together to cast models, scout locations and get props and clothing.
  3. 3. Plan your shoot.
  4. 4. Get out there and have fun!

When I asked Claire to name her number one tool for creative collaboration with other style mavens, she said, “An iPhone. It makes it so easy to share ideas and images, and to talk to each other on the fly.” She’s also a huge proponent of immersing yourself in a “local artistic community that supports your need to create.”  She suggests looking everywhere for styling inspiration—but especially music videos (which makes sense, since she’s a part-time DJ with a deep passion for music).

It’s obvious that Claire Haranda loves what she does. There’s nothing better than that. Bravo, Claire!




Person of Interest: Aaron

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Aaron, a past BP. Teen Fashion Board Member and current Nordstrom employee. He came to talk to my Fashion Board about the opportunities that the Board opened up to him, and we later sat down to talk some more. I thought I’d share some of his experiences because it might be helpful for any of you who are interested in a career in the fashion industry.

Aaron is currently a senior in high school and works in the t.b.d. department of his local Nordstrom. He got his start at Nordstrom by being on the BP. Teen Fashion Board, and then he became an assistant personal stylist! After a year spent as an assistant to the stylists, he transitioned to the sales floor. But Aaron’s achievements aren’t limited to Nordstrom; he also started a fashion magazine at his high school that showcases prom and homecoming style. As well, he was the teen correspondant for our city’s fashion magazine and attended Teen Vogue‘s Fashion University.

So what are Aaron’s keys to success?

1. Networking. “We are so involved in technology that we are afraid to network—to talk to people,” he says. Aaron stresses the importance of making connections in the fashion world, because many of the opportunities he’s had are the result of meeting photographers, designers, stylists and publicists.

2. Staying current. Aaron recommends reading as many publications as you can. “You must be current if you want to succeed.”

3. Being patient. “Be patient and nice. Don’t operate on a timeline.” The fashion world is all about interpersonal communication, so it is really important to be friendly and patient.

I ended our interview by asking him about some of his fashion favorites:

Fashion must-have? “Smoking slippers—I have three pairs.”

Favorite designer? “I would live in anything Burberry. And I’m currently obsessed with Jason Wu.”

Which celebrity closet does he covet? “Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl.

So where does Aaron want to end up in the fashion world? Publishing. With his initiative, passion and people skills, I have no trouble imagining him in the offices of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar or Vanity FairGood luck, Aaron!



Claire Haranda went from the relaxed island life in Honolulu, Hawaii, to the fun-filled, fast-paced fashion world. As a styling coordinator for Nordstrom, she takes care of and organizes merchandise for photo shoots. How cool is that?

Claire Haranda

Check out Claire’s hair!

She says her two favorite things about her job are (1) she gets to learn from and work with experienced stylists, and (2) she gets to see clothes before they’re even on trend. That’s right—one of the perks of Claire’s job is having an omniscient view of the future of fashion! Fabulous? Claire thinks so, too. She says, “I hope to eventually work with Red Godfrey [vice president, Nordstrom Fashion Office] and her team of trend forecasters, traveling the world, people-watching and searching for the trends that are brought back to Nordstrom for fashion direction/research purposes.”

In addition to being a styling coordinator for Nordstrom, Claire also works as a freelance stylist. Here’s a rundown of her styling process:

  • • First, she gets details about the overall vision for the shoot.
  • • Then, she asks questions like “How many shots will there be?” and “How many outfits do I need?”
  • • Finally, she selects clothing that fits the design of the shoot and “keeps it fluid” by making sure everything runs smoothly and the models are comfortable.

In the fashion world, where the styles are forever changing, Claire says she doesn’t like to pigeonhole herself when it comes to her personal look, which is influenced by whatever kind of music she’s into. Lately, she’s been mixing it up with retro mod style. One constant, though, is that she loves to wear black. She makes it super-cool by adding different textures and types of black—and, of course, a red lip. When it comes to her fashion philosophy, Claire says it’s important to “stay very true to myself and what inspires me and leaves me with a sense of fulfillment.”

I had a blast interviewing Claire. Maybe she’ll style me sometime?


P.S. Look out for more about Claire soon! That’s right, Part 2 is on the way!