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Confessions of a lingerie buyer
by Benita Aw Yeong

An extensive collection of lingerie is a "job hazard" for the woman in her 30s, who purchases new underwear every two weeks.

After all, her job involves making overseas trips several times a year, to hand-pick lingerie that will fly off local shelves.

When it comes to underwear, she admits to having a handful of pet peeves.

"Many Singaporean women don't wear matching sets. It's something I don't really understand... you never know who you're going to meet!" she exclaims with a hearty laugh.

"And what if you get into an accident and need to have your clothes cut open by a cute doctor?"

She confesses that whenever she reveals her occupation to a new friend, eyes immediately travel to her chest.

While she has learnt to ignore those unintended looks, she hasn't stopped checking out the outfits of women on the street, with a focus on their lingerie.

"I think to myself what a pity it is that the woman's lovely look is spoilt by the poor underwear choice.

"But I've never gone up to a stranger to point (that) out, of course," she says.

Visible panty lines are a huge no-no for her, along with flesh that spills out from the side of a bra cup due to a poor fit or the lack of "tucking in".

She is kinder when it comes to exposed bra straps - which many consider a fashion faux pas.

"As long as you're not showing a strap which is worn out or loose!"

The petite woman, who has been working for Marks & Spencer for the past six years, reveals that padded strapless bras and those with a plunging neckline are the most popular among Singaporean women, given the warm weather here.

Sleeveless and strapless tops are a popular choice in hot weather.

Basic colours such as black, white and the skin-tone hues remain the bestsellers.

And for a piece that looks good, fits well and feels comfortable, local women are willing to shell out between $50 and $100.

Silk and lace remain favourites for hot dates with that special someone. In such cases, price is typically not a factor of consideration, she says.

Local women are also getting more busty, she notes.

"Years ago, our best selling size was the A and B cups, but these days, it's actually the B and Cs," she points out.

To keep tabs of consumer preferences and trends, Miss Kuek trawls popular blogs, websites and the Instagram accounts of celebrities. She says: "Kim Kardashian's 'Belfie' on Instagram saw our more sexy underwear lines fly off the shelves.

"After the big craze for 50 Shades of Grey, we also saw a lot more women buying sexy, lacy pieces!"

But there remains one bra that has never been a passing fad.

Miss Kuek says it is the Marks & Spencer's every day bra, which features a full cup, padded plunge piece.

A continuing trend is the demand for seamless bras, due to the popularity of bodycon (tight-fitting, body conscious) dresses.

Miss Kuek has had her fair share of bizarre requests from customers. The most unforgettable one was when a woman demanded a refund for a pair of panties she bought some 10 years earlier.

Her reason? Poor elasticity.

"The customer was adamant that the item was faulty and demanded a refund, Miss Kuek says.

"We pride ourselves on quality but of course cannot guarantee our products will last years of wear and tear."

In spite the customer's insistence, Miss Kuek refused the refund.

"It was a little awkward as the customer did not take it so well," says the cheerful woman, who declines to reveal how much she earns.

Despite the occasional obstacle, the job is satisfying, especially when she sees regular women selecting bras from her collection and heading to the cashier.

"That's one of the best moments," she says.

Secrets of the trade

1 When attending buying conferences, don't simply pick what you like. Numbers don't lie. Keep past purchasing patterns in mind.

2 You may be a buyer, but learning to sell your ideas - to your bosses and different departments in the company - is key.

3 Always try on before you buy. Sizes and fit vary across brands.

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This article was first published on July 06, 2014.
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