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Fashion Marketing: Where Fashion Meets Business

If you dream of working with Chanel or Ralph Lauren, start with a fashion marketing degree.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   09-12-2013
A Merchandising Worshop; Photo courtesy of Parsons The New School for Design
“When I first moved to New York I was totally broke, sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more,” the fashion forward character Carrie Bradshaw quipped in the popular tv show, Sex and the City.

If you can identify with the sentiment perhaps a career in the booming fashion industry may be for you. It’s glamorous but hyper-competitive, so a fashion marketing degree can help you get a foot in the door.

There are colleges in the U.S. that provide an education more focused than an MBA for the special needs of marketing professionals in the fashion business. A Bachelor of Science Degree in Design and Merchandising offered by Drexel University in Philadelphia is an intricate blend of fashion and business.

“As great as an MBA is, I was looking for something more. I have always loved the fashion industry so I focused on an education that would get me in the fashion industry quickly,” says Brinda Menon, a graduate from Drexel University’s program in Design and Merchandising.

Menon says an internship helped her to land a job as a marketing coordinator with a luxury retailer after graduating from Drexel.

The Parsons advantage

Parsons The New School for Design; Photo credit Martin Seck

New York’s Parsons The New School for Design offers targeted fashion marketing programs integratating design, craft, and marketing. They are taught both on-campus and online, and the average age of a student is between 25 and 28.

Professors urge students to value cross-disciplinary teamwork - the goal is to combine creative confidence and analytic ability. Students in the Fashion Marketing Associate Degree in Applied Science (AAS) program, acquire a foundation in textiles, color theory, fashion history and master business skills in consumer analysis, manufacturing, merchandising and price structuring.

“The Fashion Marketing AAS program is focused on the fashion industry and many of the MBAs are not. What separates us from the MBA degree is that our faculty members are working executives in the fashion industry,” says Parsons Director Fashion Marketing and Merchandising James Mendolia.

Fashion marketing students at Parsons collaborate with fashion design students on projects with partners like Louis Vuitton, Under Armour and Braccalini to research strategies involved in bringing designs to the market.

“I stepped into the program 11 years ago,” says Mendolia. “I developed the program so that it really speaks to students who want to get into the fashion industry.”

Mendolia’s goal was to make sure business students took courses with the fashion design students on textiles, digital fashion, fashion history; and design students paid attention to fashion marketing and merchandising.

“The goal is not to separate these students but make sure they are in the same arena together. It is important for the design student to know what a merchandiser does and it is important for a merchandiser to know how design functions. They learn not only to look at trends, but anticipate what the trends will be or anticipate the direction of fashion,” says Mendolia.

Parsons, ranked one of the top five design schools in the world by the Business Insider magazine, is a magnet for international students.

“At least 60 percent of the students in the fashion marketing and merchandising program are international, predominantly from Korea, India, Mexico and South America,” says Mendolia.

Parsons has also developed a hybrid course called “PAFM 1500 Fashion Merchandising: Italy” which starts out online then shifts to a two-week excursion to Italy. Students studying online and onsite meet in Italy to participate in an intensive study abroad course.

“The program equipped me with a strong base in techniques as well as sharpened my creative voice. I am learning how to conceptualize and implement fashion design with a warp eye at commercial viability," says Shriya Bisht, an AAS Fashion Design student in Parsons, who completed the study abroad course in Italy.

Finding yourself in fashion

A Student at Parsons; Photo courtesy of Parsons The New School for Design

Anjali Sharma had a degree in accounting and got her first job as a staff accountant in a hotel company in Mumbai.

“I was bored and kept asking myself am I on the right career path? A friend, who is a fashion designer, asked me to help her with some cost sheets,” says Sharma.

“It was a revelation — I was fascinated by the fashion business,” she says – and it was this that encouraged her to take a leap of faith and enroll in a Master's in Professional Studies in Design Management at the Pratt Institute, in New York.

Agyesh Madan, studied computer science at the National University in Singapore and was selected for Stanford University’s global entrepreneurial strategies program. It meant working at an e-commerce firm focused on fashion which sparked his interest in men’s clothing, leading him to Parsons’ AAS Fashion Marketing program.

While studying at Parsons, Madan interned at luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman, working in men’s visual merchandising. He is now director of product development at Italian tailored-clothing powerhouse ISAIA.

“The AAS program’s experienced faculty and courses helped me define my place in the industry. The textile survey, merchandising workshop, and menswear history courses were pivotal in shaping my interests and enabling me to identify my true passion,” says Madan.

Neeti Metukunta’s background in electrical engineering didn’t stop her from taking the fashion plunge: “I’m really happy with the decision to change my career path and be at Parsons. I traveled to Italy in the summer with Professor Mendolia on a study abroad program and it gave me a deeper understanding of the luxury market.”

Jobs that pay well

University Center Building; Photo courtesy of Parsons The New School for Design

For generations the prevailing wisdom has been the same: get a good degree and you're set for life. Is it true for a fashion marketing and merchandising degree?

It trains you to work as a fashion director, merchandise planner, brand assistant, sourcing materials manager, account executive, marketing coordinator, visual merchandiser, product developer and buyer.

Schools in the US offer students plenty of exposure to the industry and internships often lead to exciting jobs. In the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in California students work on classroom projects with retail companies. Their guest lecturers include top executives from Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, and Guess Inc.

According to, fashion marketers and merchandisers can make anywhere from $40,384 to $124,728 annually. Keep in mind that executives based in the fashion meccas of Milan, New York, London and Paris find jobs with the best prospects.

Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.



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Hi Shaugat, glad you enjoyed the article. We will also be adding more information on doing an MBA in Fashion Marketing in Paris, so do keep checking out the e-zine for updates!
13 December 2013

Mridula Sen
10 December 2013

Shaugat Ghosh
Braingain, thanks for this terrific story by Uttara Choudhury. I am interested in the fashion industry but was considering a MBA. This article has made me rethink my options and consider a more targetted fashion marketing and merchandising degree.
10 December 2013

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