STYLE: Lismore's Lady in Black, Clara Hilscher, will describe her experiences working as an international buyer for David Jones at the Lismore Library.
STYLE: Lismore's Lady in Black, Clara Hilscher, will describe her experiences working as an international buyer for David Jones at the Lismore Library. Marc Stapelberg

Lismore's 'Lady in Black' discusses the business of style

AS THE manager of international buyers for David Jones, Lismore resident Clara Hilscher travelled the world looking for garments to bring to the Australian retailer's shelves for decades.

Italy, New York, Paris and other fashionable locations were the places where Hilscher mingled with designers, models and fashion business moguls from the 1970s to the 2000s, when she moved back to Lismore, her hometown, after 50 years based in Sydney.

Last year, the film Ladies in Black told the story of a shy schoolgirl who takes a job in a prestigious Sydney department store in 1958, an opportunity that changed her life.

She hadn't read the book, written by Madeleine St John, but Clara Hilscher knew this was also her story: she moved from Lismore to Sydney in 1963, where she landed a job with David Jones, a company where she became the manager of international buyers.

Hilscher will offer a talk about her professional experiences this Friday: The Lady in Black will be a free Human Library talk by Hilscher at the Lismore Library from 11am.

Hilscher said the film was fairly accurate to what her experience was at the time and she was amazed by the feedback after her previous Human Library talk in Lismore, recently.

"I was surprised, I didn't think anyone would be interested, but I guess everyone has had an experience with David Jones," she said.

"I did some training and became an assistant buyer, and then I realised I was actually good at it, I've got a sense of what suits people and what's going look good on them, or look at a collection and say that neckline will sell well, or not.

"I went up the ranks and had some buyers under me, and I could pick who had that sense of style and business that I had, so I think people have 'it' and then it's refined on the job."

The former executive said an element of fashion that needs to come back is the idea of 'investment buying'.

"Once upon a time you bought the expensive item, better things that lasted; now you buy something cheap and it's a rag and you toss it, but if you buy something good, like we used to, it was more expensive but it was quality."



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