Maryam Ciaran – Using Fashion Buying and Merchandising Skills as an Entrepreneur

Fashion Buying and Merchandising

Business of Fashion

Fashion buying and merchandising skills can be used across multiple positions in retail or for setting up your own business.

Some brilliant new businesses were born since the global pandemic of 2020 hit and great new ideas came to life from the confines of lockdown. 

Maryam Ciaran’s Ionic Pillowcase™️ company is one of them.  

After graduating from our Fashion Buying and Merchandising course in 2015, Maryam worked in luxury retail in the Brown Thomas group before moving into clinical aesthetics and laser hair removal. It was there that she got her first introduction to clinical skin care.  

The fashion buying and merchandising skills she gained during the course were not lost as she always knew that she wanted to work for herself, and big things were coming. Those skills laid the foundations she needed to operate her own business. 

Ionic Pillowcase™️ is a premium Irish brand founded and created by Maryam during her battle with blemish and acne-prone skin, something that she didn’t ever expect to face in her adulthood, and while also transitioning her chemically straightened hair back to its natural, textured state. 

When researching all the ways to best care for her skin and hair health she found studies and recommendations from experts advising to sleep on a silk pillowcase or an ionic silver infused pillowcase nightly. 

However, she couldn’t find any on the market. So, she has created her own and in one year the company has gone from strength to strength, adding new products such as silk face masks.

Applying the fashion buying and merchandising skills she gained at Portobello, Maryam developed her company with these core business skills that can be applied to any industry from skincare to fashion to homewares which her company touches on.

Since its creation, Ionic Pillowcase has been mentioned in British Vogue, Condé Nast Traveller, Tatler and Image magazines and there are big plans for the future.

Fashion Buying and Merchandising Skills as an Entrepreneur

Maryam said she uses many of the fashion buying and merchandising skills she learned during the course now that she is a business owner.

I absolutely do use those fashion buying and merchandising skills now, one of them is trend forecasting. I remember during the course we had taken the Oscars that had just happened, and our assignment was to look at the gowns and see if we could spot any trends and take an element of that trend and incorporate it into a product for the high street. That stands to me now with my own products, for future lines I’m already forecasting and planning for next year. 

“There is going to be an introduction of limited-edition products and in those, we are going to do a similar story in what is happening across the skincare industry. I guess if someone was to look at my products, they may think that it’s homeware because it’s pillowcases but it’s more skincare-focused. It’s an extension of your skincare. So, I looked at other industries for trends and take elements of those trends and apply them to my product so it’s a crossover of different industries and that’s something I learned in this course. 

With merchandising too to keep an eye on my cash flow because my business can’t run without cash. Also, for my spending I might want to release a product but how is that expenditure going to affect the running of my business for the remainder of the year? So that’s something I learned in the merchandising module to watch your cash flow and to be organised to plan ahead. 

“We did a module on spreadsheets and Excel and that’s something I use every day not even just for cashflow but it’s for invoices and design spec too. 

“I can’t fault the course. It was a very supportive environment, it was flexible, it was quite friendly at a laid-back pace, obviously, there were deadlines, but it never felt like there was a lot of pressure put on us it was more of a nurturing environment rather than pressurised and for me that worked really well. 

“I believe at the time there were other fashion buying and merchandising courses, but they weren’t as extensive. They didn’t have the same qualification at the end of it and didn’t offer work placement support for work experience, that was a big one. I remember thinking that it was unique that they had their own personal or professional relationship with other companies to help facilitate and ensure it whereas other colleges didn’t offer that. Also, the timetable and location of the course suited me. The hours weren’t so demanding, the flexibility was there too. 

“I knew that I wanted to eventually work for myself, and I guess it begins with fashion, but it progressed into a different direction as my interests grew. The course gives you different skills that you can carry across different industries it gives you a good foundation for it,” she said.

The fashion buying and merchandising skills in this course provide the foundation for a career in the business of fashion in all of its forms.

Maryam gave us a sneak peek at where her hugely successful brand is heading in future.  

“For the future with my brand, I want to expand into other products. I look to see what people are asking me for rather than what I think is going to be great. I could have a wonderful idea that I think is fantastic, but it could be just my opinion, so I have an idea of what I want but I want to wait and see what people ask me for so definitely expanding the range but only where it makes sense.  

“I would like to branch into skincare products but only something that would make sense with my own brand. My brand already is selling internationally but I would like to get my two feet firmly planted in an international market so I’m looking at America and the UK I already have my products on sale in Northern Ireland, but I would love to branch into mainland Great Britain and have them stocked in some luxury department stores that would be amazing.  

“Looking back, I would absolutely recommend the course to anybody who is potentially looking at starting their own business.  

“I know that during this past year so many people have unfortunately lost their jobs, or their income has been cut so there’s no better time to branch out on their own if they have an idea if they have something that they were sitting on it’s the perfect time to develop that.

“I do recommend the course for anyone who is looking to get into the fashion industry, the retail industry, anyone that wants to start an online business,” she said.

Interested in Fashion Buying and Merchandising Skills?

If you are interested in gaining qualifications in the business of fashion, check out our Year 1 – Fashion Buying and Merchandising Level 5 course and Year 2 Fashion Management Level 6 course.

We also run a three-module booking package starting in September 2021.

Head to the Business of Fashion Knowledge Zone for more articles and follow @fashionportobello on Instagram.

Maryam Ciaran – Using Fashion Buying and Merchandising Skills as an Entrepreneur Maryam Ciaran – Using Fashion Buying and Merchandising Skills as an Entrepreneur