Ditch the fashion degree

Editorial staff

Fashion is engrained in campus culture. It may be a student’s personality, livelihood, community or dream-career. The Fashion Institute of Design & Marketing (FIDM) in California is the most renown institution of learning for fashion careerists, but professionals in the business don’t always advocate fashion degrees as the best course to break into the industry.

UTSA does not offer a fashion degree. The most recognized fashion degree in San Antonio can be earned at the University of Incarnate Word (UIW). The Juren Sullivan Center for Fashion Management at UIW offers an “industry-driven, professional degree designed to prepare students for career opportunities available in the fashion industry including: fashion production, fashion retailing, design and brand, sales force and product sales management.” But the truth is most students would be better positioned for success with a standard business-marketing or communication degree paired with experiential learning related to fashion.

The Business of Fashion (BOF) is a wonderful resource for students interested in careers the fashion industry offers. BOF is a London based multimedia fashion blog for the “fashion creatives, executives and entrepreneurs in over 200 countries.” The Career tab in the blog provides a running list of job opportunities including Visual Merchandisers, Buyers, Sample Coordinators, E commerce Photographers, PR-Marketing Managers and so much more.

Jonathan Elijah, UTSA alum and sample coordinator for Neiman Marcus met with The Paisano and shared his journey from the UTSA classroom to his corporate office in Neiman Marcus Dallas.

His latest task as a sample coordinator was unpackaging a Zegna Spring 2018 collection and bringing it to the Adolphus hotel for a menswear shoot. Before the action began, he reviewed the designer’s notes for the products presentation and ensured his photographers understood what they couldn’t change about the shoot. The shoot and the repackaging was on a strict time crunch—the shoot began at 12 p.m., ended at 4:30 p.m., repackaged at Elijah’s studio and next-day shipped to Zegna’s buying office in New York.

Before Elijah coordinated incoming and outgoing samples of designer collections for promotional photo shoots and managed an office of photographers and models he was in the UTSA classroom earning a communication degree, selling menswear at Nordstrom and racking up business internships with varying companies, including HEB.

Fashion is an art but it is a business too. Whether at a retail store or a fashion house, the lives of people need to be translated into a tangible product a consumer can wear it is a series of interpreting how a potential customer will interact with a product. It starts with a designer’s sketch and ends with a smiling associate handing a bag to their customer–or more frequently the click of a mouse.

Much of this process is taught through experiential learning, but what can’t be taught is the intricacies of driving a business, such as understanding the marketing mix, advertising to a target customer, articulating a brand’s message and engaging in other impactful means with the fashion community.

In business, communication or even e-commerce related degrees can give students pursuing a fashion career the skills needed to propel a design, brand or industry forward and to gain experiential learning outside of the industry in order to break in don’t get stuck with a specialized degree if you can accomplish the same results with a general degree that offers more points of entry and opportunity.