Marie-Louise Jacobsen’s The Art of Retail Buying: An Insider’s Guide to the Best Practices from the Industry (2009) is a detailed, step-by-step guide to the role of a retail buyer and the many skills it encompasses, written by a professional buyer with more than 28 years’ experience in the industry. Fiona Fang, co-founder of sustainable Hong Kong fashion label Allegory, which exclusively uses deadstock fabric, tells Richard Lord how it changed her life. I read the book when I was just starting out in my career. I didn’t study fashion at school – I studied marketing and accounting as an undergraduate, and international business for my master’s. Nothing in my education was fashion-based; everything I know about fashion is from doing the job. I didn’t even know that buying was a thing until I came into the working world. I couldn’t believe it. It sounded like the dream job. I was working at Dickson Concepts, which was the licensee for Ralph Lauren. I started right at the bottom, as a shipping clerk. Ralph Lauren had a head office person based in Hong Kong who didn’t belong to the licensee, and she and I went out for lunch one day. She said, “I know you’re a buyer and everything, but there’s so much you don’t know because you didn’t study fashion. You should look it up and get the technical side – you’d be so much better at it.” She gave me this book and said, “Look at this and see what you think of it.” It was a light-bulb moment. I have an accounting brain but I also love the creative side of things. This amalgamated everything in a text. It solidified a lot of things I already thought. I thought we needed to break down different stores by size so we were comparing apples to apples, for example; after reading the book, I realised that that is a real thing and what you’re supposed to be doing. The book was a confirmation: what it said was like what I was experiencing. It was like: “Yeah, you’re doing OK.” I was in buying and merchandising for a long time after Dickson Concepts as well. When Ralph Lauren’s parent company decided to buy back the licences for Asia, they bought me onto that team in a visual merchandising capacity. I went and worked in Shanghai for two years. Coming back from Shanghai, there was an opportunity to try something new. How reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People changed this man’s life I could not have done any of the other roles I’ve had since Dickson Concepts without the knowledge and technical expertise that came from this book. Everything in the fashion world has to stem from a business point of view. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything I do now without this book. I’ve been looking at it a lot the past few weeks. It still gives me that same feeling: you can do this; you’re on the right track; keep going.