Apparel Merchandising: In touch with changing trends

Rebecca Schultze

Rebecca Schultze

Dr. Nancy Lyons asks her students to watch television and award shows and to read magazine to keep up with the fast-paced changes in the fashion industry.

Lyons, a professor of apparel merchandising at SDSU, said she wants to instill on the apparel merchandising students how important it is to be well-read and to be aware of new trends in order to stay current.

Aside from keeping up on the latest trends outside of the classroom, SDSU apparel merchandising students take classes in design and manufacturing, textiles, international trade and on the history of costume. Product knowledge, design principles, consumer behavior and the organization and operation of the fashion industry are also emphasized by the department.

“Textiles is an important subject students study,” Lyons said. “A key facet is apparel and there are many ways it can be studied and applied.”

As an SDSU student wishing to broaden his or her horizons in the apparel merchandising major, SDSU has a collaborative agreement with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City that allows students to spend a semester or a year studying fashion in New York City.

Dean of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences Laurie Stenberg Nichols said that SDSU is a great place to complete all coursework for straight retailing positions, but for students who want more of a fashion design background, FIT is a way they can go to enhance the SDSU curriculum.

Lyons said that the FIT experience is beneficial because “FIT is located where the [fashion] industry is located.”

SDSU apparel merchandising students gain other fashion experiences through the practicum. Lyons said that the real-life experience hours are optional at many other institutions, but SDSU requires 280 documented hours on on-the-job experience.

“We encourage [the students] to go away to a larger area for the practicum,” Lyons said. “It gives them a more cosmopolitan background.”

Seeing and working with fashion are integrated into the classroom work. Students in this major are responsible for the window displays on the second floor of the Nursing, Family and Consumer Sciences and Arts and Sciences Building (NFA) and for the fashion show held during the Family and Consumer Sciences Expo each spring. Students undertake these tasks while enrolled in the sophomore level fashion promotion and visual merchandising class taught by Lyons.

“It’s designed to be experiential learning and hands-on,” Lyons said.

Amanda Campbell, a senior apparel merchandising major from Lemmon, said that the most fun she has had in classes was planning the fashion show and working on the display windows.

Campbell, who decided that her career would be in fashion when she was 16 years old, worked at Dillards Department Store in Houston, Texas, for her practicum. When she graduates in December of 2003, she hopes to move back to the Houston area to work in the fashion industry.

Senior Andrea Schiller of Blooming Prairie, Minn., also really enjoyed working on the fashion show and also enjoyed the study tours that SDSU’s Apparel Merchandising Association takes annually.

“It’s fun. You get to meet lots of interesting people,” Schiller said, remembering the time in New York City when they met the fashion editor for Glamour magazine.

Sophomore apparel merchandising major Loni Carmichael form Brookings, was unsure of what direction to take career-wise as a freshman. After visiting with Lyons, she said she thought that apparel merchandising sounded like fun and would be a good career option.

Carmichael said she likes fashion and seeing and selling the trends.

Careers for options in the fashion industry include department or store manager, retail store owner, a buyer or a distributor, a fashion consultant, marketing assistant, merchandise coordinator or analyst, freelance fashion promoter and museum curator.

Nichols said one of the benefits of the apparel merchandising program is the small size.

“There are about 50 students majoring in apparel merchandising,” she said, “so you get lots and lots of one-on-one interaction with the faculty and the other students.”

Nichols continued her praise of the program, and said that the job placement, even in a down economy, has continued to be strong.

“We have no problem placing our students,” she said.