For the past four years, I’ve had a notion that graduation day would mark a major transition in my life. Part of me believed once I walked across the stage and was handed my diploma, I’d have a peace of mind about the next chapter to come I’d wouldn’t just be a small-town girl from Georgia, but also a girl who could hold her head up high knowing she was ready to pursue her dreams.
It wasn’t until two months into spring semester of my senior year that I realized I was finally becoming that girl. Before, I was convinced I’d leave the same way I arrived- scared and uncertain of the path I was supposed to take. But thanks to Interdisciplinary Studies, I was able to find what I was truly passionate about. It may have been a twisted road filled with wrong turns and a million dead-ends (so to speak), but as it turns out every wrong turn and dead-end lead me to where I’m supposed to be, and that’s Fashion Marketing.
So how’d I come to that conclusion? As I mentioned, it was a tangled journey with obstacles around every corner. I changed my major, struggled in major classes, and spent most of my days doubting myself in disbelief that I’d ever find my niche. However, once I discovered Interdisciplinary Studies, I realized all I needed was the freedom to explore the possibilities of working in other fields without the fear of having to start over.
My First Emphasis: Fashion Design
I will never forget the day I switched from graphic design to fashion design. I probably spent three hours in Spidle in awe of the projects prominently displayed throughout the hallways. There were window displays, concept boards, garments made of muslin- it was enchanting. It’s been nearly three years since I first entered Spidle and I’ve yet to find the perfect words to describe how happy I was that day. Being surrounded by so many creative outlets within the industry sparked something in me- it was as if I knew right then and there that I was going to work in the fashion industry.
In the beginning, I was exposed to many areas within the industry. Courses such as Textile Industrial Complex and Aesthetics for Apparel Design taught me about the various roles within the fashion industry. I learned about fashion merchandising, design, marketing, management, buying, and photography-the fundamental roles that make up the fashion industry. Being able to see the different dynamics and multiple perspectives gave me a new outlook on fashion as a whole; It’s very strategic yet fascinating.
Not long after that, I attended the NYC Study Tour with CADS. We visited many companies with the fashion industry and saw firsthand the applications of what we were learning. This allowed me to better understand the different parts of the industry and how they compliment one another. Over the course of the trip, we visited 17 companies where we were able to interact with industry professionals and learn about their careers and areas of interests. While every person we met with had something great to offer each of us, there was one person that stood out to me above the rest; Diane Alexander, the PR director for Buffalo David Bitton.Diane taught me something I could never learn in a classroom (or even Google for that matter) and that’s the power one person could have on a brand.
Before our visit, I had never heard of Buffalo David Bitton let alone what their brand image was and within 30 minutes of talking with Diane, I was on my phone buying a pair of their jeans. Diane’s spunky attitude and her unique promotion techniques sold me on a brand I had never heard of prior to that day. I left our visit with a completely new perspective. Before I always thought a brand’s image was simply the feeling you get when you get when you walk into their store, or the type of clothing they produce, but I was wrong. What makes a brand stand out amongst competitors is their ability to establish a personal connection between a consumer and the product. From that point foreword, personal connections became my primary source for inspiration.
When I returned to Auburn, my remaining courses were creatively structured. Most of my work was done on the computer, digitally rendering garments, creating mood boards, and designing window displays. It was challenging, but extremely beneficial for it taught me the stages of production before a garment is constructed. I loved everything about it. Once we exchanged our sketchbooks and Prisma markers for a needle and thread, I found myself on a slippery slope. Although I understood the concepts of sewing, drafting patterns, and draping techniques, I struggled with the application. What took my classmates two hours to complete took me six or more hours. It didn’t matter how much time and energy I put into a project, I was barely making the grades needed to continue and falling behind.
On the contrary, I may have been struggling in constructing garments but I was thriving in Fashion Event Management- also known as the AMDA Fashion Show. Being on the creative team for the fashion show meant overseeing every area of production and creatively connecting each of the teams. This experience showed me fashion design wasn’t the only creative route I could take post-graduation. Before, I had always assumed the most dominant careers were the fashion designers or merchandisers because they are more publicized, but that was far from true. One of the coolest things this course taught me was that each sector within the fashion industry depended on one another; one simply cannot thrive without the other.
After spending two years in the program, the fashion industry became more and more like abstract storytelling. Each sector has the same story line and the same message they are conveying to an audience- it’s just told in different ways and at different times. It was this realization that showed me I could pursue a career outside of the traditional fashion design and merchandise curriculum models. At that point, it was clear that I had reached a fork in the road. I could continue down the design route and hope my skills improve or begin to explore other creative outlets within the industry that would compliment my skillsets. It was then I was introduced to interdisciplinary studies.
My Second Emphasis: Marketing
Once I discovered IDSC, It was imperative that I evaluate myself from a personal and critical perspective. I knew if I wanted to find where I was going, I would have to define my strongest suits see how they correlated with my interests. I found that my best attributes pertained to graphic design, inter-personal communications, and evaluating brand images. It was this conclusion that lead me to the decision that a second emphasis in marketing would be more beneficial in the sense that their curriculum would better prepare me for a career in which I will thrive as opposed to continuing my education studying curriculum that did not compliment my talents and interests.
I met with Sarah Henry, the marketing adviser for IDSC students and with her recommendation and those of students currently in the marketing program, I have selected the following courses needed to complete second emphasis: Advertising, Personal Selling, International Marketing, and Consumer Behavior. I chose these courses because I feel as if they would expand on the knowledge I have from my previous courses in CADS to better prepare me for a future career in fashion marketing.
Personal Selling and Consumer Behavior are two courses that go hand-in-hand, primarily because they are consumer driven. Consumer Behavior will teach me the way consumers react to different marketing strategies. Personal selling does the same thing only on a more intimate level. Rather than looking at numbers and statistics within a market, it focuses more on interpersonal relations- or the way we feel about certain products. Diane Alexander immediately came to mind when learning about this course. I loved how her unique personality was able to speak volumes about a brand I had never heard of and have now grown to love.
I believe both of these courses are critical in my curriculum model for they will give me the knowledge I need to relate to consumers from more than a designers perspective, but from a business perspective as well.
Advertising is one of the courses I am most excited about for many reasons. Several students that have taken the course have defined it as: “Creative Strategies 101” for it approaches design and consumer reactions in a tactical, business-like manner. This will allow me to take the skills I developed in graphic design and fashion illustration and apply them to a vocational perspective. Aside from complimenting my previous courses in CADS, I have currently seen the benefits I will have by marketing into my curriculum plan due to an current project I have been working on outside of school that incorporates both fashion design and marketing elements.
The Idea That Changed Everything
One of my previous courses required me to do a case study and trend analysis for a clothing brand (of my own choosing). I was to research a brand’s history, identify their current trend analysis and create 3 new trend proposals. I chose to do Gap for my company because it is a brand I’ve always felt personally connected to. From the timeless but trendy aesthetic to their bright and bold advertisements, Gap was a brand that I had grown to love for as long as I can remember. However, during my research, I noticed that Gap I once knew, was not resonating as loudly as it had before; it lacked clarity. It was dark and mysterious one season, then neon and spunky the next. Not being able to establish a brand image not only made the project difficult to complete, but it also left me with a puzzle that I desperately wanted to solve.
After the course ended I thought I’d forget about the conflict Gap was facing and move on with my life, but for some reason I couldn’t let it go. I constantly found myself thinking, "Gap has such a strong brand built around the classic items-khakis, oxfords and denim. Why would they alter the reliable iconic-american style that consumers relied on for decades?" These questions led to an idea. This idea turned into conversations, which then turned into actions.
I was listening to the song Classic by MKTO and an idea hit me. I pictured 3 people with 3 styles wearing a white shirt 3 different ways, passing each other on the street and nodding at one another. At the end they say to each other,“Go. Gap. Classic.” Suddenly, all of the questions stopped and a wave of peace came over me.
Picking the brains of my marketing and advertising friends, I realized it was actually a good idea. Before I knew it, people were approaching me wanting to help me bring this project to life. In a matter of months, I had friends from fashion design, marketing, media studies, and public relations helping me create an advertising campaign for Gap.
While my journey as an undergraduate has taken me in unexpected directions, I have discovered that what I love the most is the entire process: the big problem, the big idea, who is going to buy the product, the actual branding, how we are going to tell our demographic about the product or service, and ultimately, how our brand achieves longevity and adaptability. Along the way, I have learned that I am a "big picture" girl who loves and respects the details. So with a big, wide grin, I say to the future, "Bring it on!"