Fashion Forward

AMPD students experience design life

Fashion Forward

By Lindsay Laurent

Last summer, six apparel merchandising and product development (AMPD) students took the advice of faculty and explored the world of high fashion resulting in experiences they will never forget. These students interned at notable brands such as Michael Kors, Elie Tahari, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Sephora, and up-and-comers Aluma Klein (Israel) and Shoshanna Lee (Chicago).

The world of high fashion might be synonymous with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) or the Pratt Institute, however, Bowling Green State University’s apparel merchandising and product development major is slowly making its way into the conversation. Throw in a partnership with FIT, and a diverse range of student internships with innovative faculty and state-of-the-art facilities, and the AMPD program is propelling itself to the top. 

Ranked 75th nationally and in the top 25 in the Midwest, students in the AMPD program receive a quality education from well-versed faculty and are encouraged to seek internships throughout their tenure in the program.

Each students’ experience was completely different, but their feedback was consistent—the AMPD program at BGSU gives students all the tools necessary to be successful, but what you do with the tools is up to you.

The FIT Experience

Carlina Showalter, Kaitlin Norris and Morgan Brumit, seniors in the program, experienced first-hand the face-paced world of fashion during their yearlong stint at FIT in New York. BGSU students have a high acceptance rate into the program due to the strong relationships between the programs’ faculty and are encouraged to apply. 

During their time at FIT, the students received an education well beyond what can be obtained living in the Midwest. Since all three women grew up in Ohio, branching out to the city was intimidating, but with the support of each other, they learned to navigate the Big Apple and caught a preview of the extremely competitive fashion industry.

Brumit called the application process to FIT "intense and only a handful of applicants get in. Dr. Diane Frye became our liaison throughout the process. She helped us with our application and made sure we met the deadlines.”

Norris added “while we were at FIT, we helped with fashion week, went on field trips to company headquarters, specifically the Calvin Klein showroom, and learned from faculty working in the industry. Our network has grown and we all learned so much about the entire industry.”

“If we didn’t go to FIT, we wouldn’t know the difference between jobs in the industry,” said Showalter. “I now know what areas of the industry I want to pursue and, most importantly, I know what areas are not for me.”

Although all three girls lived together in New York and spent the year together at the institute, each student encountered different aspects of the fashion industry through their internships. For Showalter, her experience culminated at Itochu, a Japanese company that picks fabrics for brands such as Coach and Alexander Wang. For her, learning about the basics of fabric was the best education she could have received. “Most designers don’t know about fabric, so having that education is extremely important,” she said.

Brumit finished up her time in New York with an internship as a sales intern for the special markets team at Michael Kors. She analyzed sales reports for stores in their off-price division (TJ Maxx and Marshalls) and determined the best and worst sellers for each line. 

Finally, Norris worked as a corporate closet intern for Tommy Hilfiger in charge of organizing samples and runway looks. “I literally worked in a giant closet,” she said. “I prepared pieces to send to certain designers and to the Amsterdam corporate office. I also worked at Elie Tahari as a fabric sourcing intern. My main task was communicating with international mills and creating fabric boards. Both internships were so different, it was really neat experiencing two different areas of fashion that not many people know about.”

Business advice from up-and-coming designers

Evan Adkins and Renee Monaco, both seniors in the program, experienced high fashion, but chose internships at smaller, lower profile organizations. Similarly, both students aspire to run their own brands.

Adkins traveled all the way to Tel Aviv, Israel, and spent two months working at Alumna Fashion, a one-room shop out of the designers house. 

“Working with Alumna was amazing,” he said. “She taught me how to create a clothing line and a brand image. Working with such a small operation afforded me the opportunity to see every aspect of the industry, from ordering fabrics to shipping finished pieces to the customer.”

Not all students have to travel across the world to get this experience, but for Adkins it was something he will ever forget. 

“I was in charge of marketing and running the online store,” Adkins said. “I was asked to create listings, take photos and develop product descriptions. I had no idea how important the right description is for an item, but Alumna was very detailed and every part of her company had to be polished.”

In the world of high fashion, few make it to the top, but Adkins was able to experience a small operation making it in the big leagues. 

Monaco also experienced a smaller operation during her summer internship at Shoshanna Lee in Chicago. Shoshanna Lee is an eCommerce operation that creates accessories for department stores such as Bloomingdale's and Bergdorf Goodman. Monaco was the merchandising and design intern for the young company. She applied and was hired directly by the CEO and designer, Sandee Zahn. 

“During my internship I experienced first-hand how to price jewelry and other pieces,” she said. “I used what I learned in my merchandising math class to set the cost of goods and determine prices.”

For Monaco, the internship showed her how essential pricing items is to running a business. She was able to apply what she learned in the classroom to actual business practices. She even said she is excelling in her second merchandising math class because of her experience this past summer.

However, when asked what the best part of her internship was, she said it was the diamond necklace given to her by the owner. In the world of fashion, working hard pays off.

A summer at Sephora

Most students choose apparel merchandising and product development because they want to work in the fashion industry, but Colleen Marshall, a senior AMPD major, choose to apply what she is learning in the classroom to her love for cosmetics. Over the summer she worked at Sephora as an operations consultant and applied her knowledge of visual merchandising, shipping and pricing to the cosmetics industry.

“Visual merchandising in cosmetics is similar to visual merchandising in fashion,” Marshall said. “SKU’s and shipping are the same across the industry and because of my internship I am able to relate what I do in class to projects I’m involved in at work."

Marshall still works at Sephora and hopes to stay on with the company after graduation. AMPD offers a marketing minor option for their students and she hopes to use her education to work her way up to a regional or national director with the company.

Monaco wrapped up the experience by saying “most students think the major is for people who want to become store managers, but it is so much more than that."