As head buyer at renowned Malaysian-based e-shopping site, FashionValet, Asma Nasaruddin seems to be living the high-flying life, fleeting between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Having had her start in the publishing industry, the stylish go-getter gives us a glimpse behind-the-scenes at FashionValet, as well as shares some personal style tips of her own.
Asma Nasaruddin, 25 years old, Head buyer at FashionValet
What’s your background story?
I spent half my life in Perth actually – went to high schoool, Penrose College, and university, Curtin University there. When I came back to Malaysia, I started out as an Editorial Assistant at Her World magazine, and after 3 months, I was lucky enough to be promoted to Fashion Writer there.
What was your first job?
My first job was actually at a textile store in Australia, Lincraft, which is a big store there. I was 16 years old. In terms of first jobs in the industry, being an Editorial Assistant was definitely it.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
I wanted to study it but my mum didn’t allow, so I ended up doing marketing and management. It worked out well anyways because you know, in fashion you still need to know the marketing side.
How did you arrive at FashionValet and what was your journey there to being Head Buyer?
After two years at Her World, I left to focus on my cake business, Gateuxlicious. My friend, Vivy, had an idea for starting a shopping platform with a focus on local brands and she asked me to come on board as buyer. This is how I ended up at FashionValet!
Describe a typical workday for you.
Usually I’ll come into the office in the mornings just to check in for a bit. I’d have meetings throughout the day, so I usually go in and out and sometimes I go to the studio to see the whole production process. My position as head buyer is really flexible so I may not be in the office five times a week. But on Thursdays, I’m usually in because that’s when we have new arrivals and we need a lot of help with that because FashionValet is a really small team – there’s only about 7 full-timers.
What are your favourite and least favourite things about your job?
Favourite – It’s flexible. I get to travel – between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Singapore is more for the husband [laughs]. I did explore the fashion scene there but when I converted it back to ringgit, it’s quite expensive cause of the exchange rate. And so I thought might as well go to Jakarta, where there’s a similar fashion sense and the currency is good.
Least favourite – honestly, I don’t have a least favourite thing. So far, so good. Is that bad?
For a head buyer, would you say that you need to possess style?
Definitely, because you’re kind of representing your own brand so people are going to have faith that you really know what you’re doing.
How do you then represent the greater public instead of just shopping for yourself?
It comes down to interacting a lot with shoppers. Initially, when I started I was very selective with the brands. And then I realized that we’re not targeting just me, we’re targeting Malaysia. So that helped me understand what customers really wanted. And that’s why we have a wide selection of clothes and labels here.
Debunk a common myth about your job.
Is that it’s easy! I guess people think that it’s a really glamorous job where you just go to fashion shows and then [gestures] pick, pick, pick, but it’s not really like that. Malaysia when we started out, was very limited so I really had to go out there and hunt – look at blogs, magazines, go to shops, talk to people and really find something that’d be interesting to feature on FashionValet.
What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to be a fashion buyer?
Definitely go for it. You’d have to know what your customer wants, that’s the most important thing knowing who’s your target market. It’s a good idea as well to start out in the fashion industry too so you get a good feel and sense of the scene. I feel that interning in a publishing company really teaches you what the fashion industry is like. It’s not easy or glamourous, it’s a lot of hard work. Like I say with all our jobs, we’re all one-man shows, we’re all responsible for everything, so if you’re not there, things aren’t getting done.
The one thing I wish I had known when first starting out…
That I should have more flats! I still do wear heels, but I wear a lot more flats running around. Remembering people’s names too. You always meet a lot of people and in this industry, networking is very important so that’s a good skill to have.
In your opinion, how has the rise of social media and blogging affected the fashion industry and where do you see it in the next 5-10 years?
It’s been amazing. It’s definitely affected it significantly cause it’s so fast, people are always clicking on blogs and on Facebook. And I guess cause it’s free as well, so that’s the best thing about it – that’s the biggest advantage you have. It’s low cost and its very fast, you can reach such a wide audience.
Is there a danger of too much noise though?
Of course. But for me, any kind of publicity is good publicity. I mean, cause people are naturally nosy. Even if it’s bad, people will want to check it out and see what everyone’s talking about. That’s the most important thing – you want people clicking on your link or site.
What lies ahead for FashionValet?
Since FashionValet has started, we’ve made a presence not only in Malaysia, but we’ve got a regular audience, in Brunei, Singapore, Australia, even London. I think slowly we’ll be more recognized cause we’ve made clothes here accessible here to people outside of Malaysia. That’s our main target – to get our brands there and help our local fashion industry.
Who is your style icon?
Honestly, I don’t have one person. But what I find inspiring is going through streetstyle blogs, especially like Bazaar, WhoWhatWear or Tongue in Chic [Ed’s note – we swear we didn’t coerce her to say so!].
I will never be caught dead in …
Crop tops. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s not my thing anymore since I’m a hijabi now! Denim head-to-toe too.
I splurge on …
Pants. I would say 50% of my wardrobe is pants – printed, coloured and in different styles. I think it’s really important to invest in a really good black tailored pants cause that will take you so far. Recently I got a pair of Stella Rissa pants, I was living in it and had to actually put it away for a while.
I skimp on …
Accessories. I love to accessorize but I don’t that you really need to spend that much on it. Going to bazaars is great for accessories.
Describe your personal style in 3 words.
Feminine. I like a little bit of edge. I also love prints – any kind of prints. My signature look is always a blazer and pants.
What are your personal style rules?
Don’t do the matchy colours look. I would say to mix it up with colours, prints or a unique piece of jewellery. Wear whatever feels right, sometimes an outfit doesn’t have to make sense. Invest in beautifully tailored pants, it’ll compliment your figure and perfect your whole ensemble. With regards to my heels, go high or go home!
What is your most treasured possession?
This blazer. I got it from Milan from an Italian designer, Trussardi, before the structured jacket style was in trend and I’ve gotten so many compliments on it.
When are you at your happiest?
At home with my family, niece and nephew. I talk fashion with my 4 year old niece and she loves criticizing what I’m wearing. I love doing that with her.
What is your beauty regime?
Wash your makeup before you sleep. Before I sleep, I’ll take my makeup off and after washing, I put on Vitamin E oil, I actually use that as a makeup remover too. I wake up, and I just put on face lotion. I can’t go without eyeliner for a daily look.
What is your favourite scent / smell?
I like florals, but not the pungent ones. My favourite perfume is from Chloe and I just love going to the boutique, cause everywhere in the world, it smells like that.
Yay or Nay? John Galliano.
I hate it when a man ….
Looks too pretty. I’m not on for these metrosexual guys.
I love it when a man …
Is bald. I have a thing for bald guys!
What’s currently playing on your iPod?
Honestly I’m not really a music person. What I like do while doing work is putting on a TV series in the background. Usually I’ll have Friends on. That’s music to me. It reminds me of home, reminds me of the college days. I can have that on repeat. I’m not even watching it, that’s my music. I end up laughing at the jokes too. It’s a little weird.
My idea of a perfect holiday is …
Visiting a city. I’m not a beach person. I like walking, so I like a city I can walk around in and experience the culture.
What’s in your bag?
In my Fendi Peek-a-Boo tote are…
Images by Sharina Shahrin.