Fashion studies and retail merchandising: “A balance of creativity and professionalism”

Fashion studies and retail merchandising: “A balance of creativity and professionalism”


The fashion studies and retail merchandising major has been around campus for a long time, but many people don’t know much about the curriculum or careers available to students with this degree.

“I think it is one of the most misunderstood majors,” instructor Annie-Marie Junker said. “You don’t need a four-year degree to put a scarf on a mannequin … this is more of a management or business degree.”

She describes the program as “a balance of creativity and professionalism.”

Students take courses studying the socio-psychological aspects behind fashion and buying as well as the history and patterns of clothing styles to learn how to trend-forecast and stay ahead of the game in the fashion industry.

“We have businesses classes also … because at the end of the day, if it doesn’t sell, we just have a really expensive hobby,” Junker said.

Courses like these are not initially what comes to mind when thinking about fashion, but knowing the connections between business and fashion is essential to be a good buyer or merchandiser.

“I think they are challenged in a lot of ways,” Nancy Lyons, associate professor of consumer sciences, said. “I hear (students) say, ‘This major is way harder than I would have imagined.’”

Lyons stressed that students appreciate this challenge because it prepares them for their careers.

Students with the fashion studies and retail merchandising degree can go into advertising and promotion, marketing, global sourcing, e-commerce or other areas.

“It is a fairly broad field … it’s not just fashion – it’s textiles too,” Junker said. “You find your area that really interests you.”

SDSU’s fashion studies and retail merchandising program is paired with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. Students are given the opportunity to study for a year at FIT, come back to finish at SDSU and graduate with a bachelor’s degree from SDSU and an associate’s degree from FIT.

During a year at FIT, students can make connections with people in the fashion industry that they would not be able to make in Brookings. SDSU is the only college in the state of South Dakota to offer an opportunity like this.

As well as a year at FIT, the program also has a travel requirement. Lyons has taken her students to Las Vegas and New York for many years.

Madelyn Vancura, a student pursuing this degree, plans to open her own boutique after graduating.

“I want to be an entrepreneur and take on the roles of selecting and procuring the right merchandise for my customers,” Vancura said.

She has worked at a boutique for four years and loves the work she does, including creating visual displays, helping with social media promotion and being a sales associate. She hopes to mix this experience with her education to make her store successful.

Her favorite assignment thus far was creating window displays for Fashion Promotion, a course taught by Lyons.

“We had to work in groups, and trying to align all of our ideas was challenging at times,” Vancura said.

Through this project, students gain experience working with design elements and principles, styles and trends, developing a brand image and telling a story through fashion.

The Fashion Promotion class just finished their third window display project of the semester, which are open for viewing on the second floor of Wagner Hall.