Fashion students spent this semester in an innovative immersion course that provides hands-on experience in the New York fashion industry by meeting with top industry professionals, visiting fashion houses, attending New York Fashion Week and collaborating on possible new product designs and merchandising concepts.
As part of the course, 39 Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising and Management students presented their final projects to Rick Darling, executive director at Li & Fung, and other top executives at the company’s New York office on Dec. 8.
“The students were poised, professional and extremely polished during their presentations to an impressive panel,” said Nioka Wyatt, Fashion Merchandising and Management program director at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University), who co-teaches the course. “I was impressed to see how they answered some tough questions about their design and merchandising concepts. The students demonstrated lifelong skills that they will utilize to jumpstart their careers in fashion.”
Throughout the semester, students collaborated with design and merchandising experts at Li & Fung. Six teams of students presented projects centered on finding open markets in various product categories for Anthropologie. While Li & Fung—a global multibillion-dollar apparel supply chain leader—doesn’t actively work with Anthropologie, it’s using the course as a platform to cultivate a business relationship with the company, Wyatt said.
“From our vantage point, it is always exciting to work with such a talented group,” said Wendy Santana ’83, executive vice president for Li & Fung/Oxford Collections and a member of the University’s School of Business Administration Advisory Board. “We can always use fresh ideas and perspectives into the current retail landscape and environment. The talent that comes out of this immersion course is exceptional.”
After the presentations, Darling told the group, “We need to infuse this type of talent into our company.” In fact, the University plans to soon offer an internship program at Li & Fung for students.
“In this course, design and merchandising students worked side-by-side, as they will in industry, to develop a comprehensive concept, which encompassed competitive research, branding, design and product development, and in-store merchandising strategies,” said Fashion Design program director Sheila Connelly, who also teaches the course. “Our students wowed the team of 10 senior-level executives from one of the most influential apparel companies in the world. It was a proud day for the Jefferson fashion team, and we couldn’t be more grateful to alumna Wendy Santana for her support on this initiative.”
Fashion Merchandising and Management student Julia Allison said the course helped her develop her professional speaking and teamwork skills.
“Plus, not only did I get to familiarize myself with New York,” she said, “I also went to amazing companies, learned a lot about the different jobs and their role in the industry, and gained some great experience.”
Jefferson’s highly regarded fashion programs regularly rank among the best in the world. For example, the influential fashion web site Fashionista recently placed the University’s fashion programs in the top 25 globally and top 10 in the United States.
In addition, in the Global Fashion School Rankings 2017, Jefferson’s graduate fashion business program—which includes Global Fashion Enterprise, Strategic Design MBA and Fashion Design Management—ranked No. 3 in the United States and No. 6 internationally; the graduate fashion program—which includes Surface Imaging, Textile Design and Textile Engineering—ranked No. 3 in the United States and No. 23 internationally; and the undergraduate fashion program—which includes Fashion Design, Textile Design, Fashion Merchandising and Management, and Textile Materials Technology—ranked No. 9 in the United States and No. 31 internationally.