By Naidelly Coelho
Asst. News Editor
Changes have been made to the structure of the fashion design and retailing major with the addition of two new concentrations to fulfill students’ needs.
The Fashion Design and Retailing Department now offers two majors: fashion design and fashion merchandising. Fashion merchandising offers two concentrations: apparel product development and retail merchandising, according to FSU’s website.
Haewon Ju, Fashion Design and Retailing Department chair, said the concentrations were designed by the faculty to expand opportunities for students.
She said students wanted more courses related to merchandising and the structure of having a concentration in retail merchandising would provide students with that.
Virginia Noon, fashion design and retailing professor, said the product development concentration offers a mix of design classes and courses for product and apparel development.
The merchandising concentration is more on the business side of fashion, in which students are able to position products for sale, Noon said.
Fashion design is the creation of original products, including clothing, accessories, and footwear, she said.
Students in this major sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they design, Noon said.
The changes in the original concentrations resulted in essentially a different model with two majors, but with the same courses that were offered before, she said.
Ju said two new hires were made by the department in order to offer the extra courses for the concentrations.
Noon said there are three new gen ed courses that are available for students: Sustainability in the Fashion Industry, Designer to Consumer, and History of Textiles.
“Designer to Consumer is our foundation course - which is an overview of the entire industry,” she said.
History of Textiles as a gen ed provides students with the basis of cultural dress and history costume through the years, Noon said.
“We really appreciate the flavor that students from across campus bring to our classes. So we really value that and hope that they can see the depth and value of our field,” she said.
Rui-Rui Zhang, fashion design and retailing professor, said big companies, like TJX, have a product development department. The new structure allows students to have the same mindset as if they were in the company.
Students want to go more into the business side of fashion and explore the new trends everywhere they go, Zhang said.
Noon said, “We see a true trend - our students are kind of getting a job within this area, including product development in general, product development, design, merchandising, and also marketing.”
Zhang said the program developed a project in 2020 in which students collaborated with Boston Theater and City Ballet of Boston.
Students engaged with these organizations to help with merchandising, creating T-shirts, logos, designs, and visual elements for the show, Zhang said.
The students were able to engage with professionals in that area and experience how it feels to be in the real world, according to Zhang.
“The students learn to use the information from the class and really practice that knowledge in real, authentic projects,” she said.
Students in the Fashion Design and Retailing Department “have very high intuition of how to use the visual and business mindset to promote something - so I think our students really get the most [out of it],” Zhang said.
She said many students plan to start their own businesses, and the courses that are offered help them in many different ways.
The department provides all skills necessary for students to create their own business, including learning supply chains that help them in the business world, Zhang said.
The Department of Fashion Design and Retailing offers internship opportunities for students, she said.
The intentions of internships are to involve students in real experiences and allow them to see how the real world works in the industry, Zhang said.
“The apparel world is huge and we are preparing our students for that,” she said.
Zhang said the department is unique from other departments because they are theoretically oriented and also hands-on.
Noon said the department has offered internships at many different companies: TJX, DC Consignments, Top It Off, Aerie, Newbury Street’s diverse boutiques, Anthropologie, and Nordstrom Rack.
“My challenge about placing interns is it's very dynamic. It is not like we have 15 opportunities and 15 students to match. It's constantly evolving and changing - it’s very dynamic. And that's the hardest part for students because they just want to know that they're secure. And I say, ‘You just got to see what happens,’” she said.
There is a non-credit requirement of 200 hours of work in retail that is completed earlier in the student’s college careers, Noon said.
She said she has a student who is currently an intern at a boutique called DC Consignments in Natick.
The student’s main role is social media manager, for which she used her experience from her internship in courses in the department, Noon said.
She said she has another student currently working as an allocation analyst in a cooperative program, where she works in the buying-process side.
Noon said a student who worked in a high-end footwear store in Newbury Street was able to travel to Paris on a shopping trip.
“One of the things we do in the business is we go out and we shop - we look around - we see what other people are wearing and buying and of course you go to Paris. You go to Europe. You go to New York City. And then you apply parts of it to your customer,” she said.
Jaida Melendez, a fashion design major, said her internship started last summer, which turned into a job.
The program is connected to TJX company and has many other FSU students who were also offered the same opportunity as she was, she said.
She works with the people in charge of designing sweaters and labeling for brand names, Melendez said.
“We have to sit down with buyers and sell them [sweater designs] to buyers like, ‘Hey, these are trending now,’” she said.
Noon said she has a student who graduated recently who is now working as a location planner for CVS. The student is a buyer for the candy section.
“Our program can take students to many different places - we just want them to be successful,” she said.
Noon said some students have come to her after many years post-graduation saying how grateful they are for the program.
“We have a strong alumni connection. You know, recent grads and graduates from years and years [ago] - we still stay in touch with them,” Noon said.
Students in the department can go many different ways with the fashion and retailing major, she said.
Noon said, “The students have the focus and drive and love for fashion.”