Manhattan may be all new to some of the 16 Central Michigan University fashion students now on a weeklong study tour, but they will feel at home amongst members of the CMU family.
"This trip represents a chance for me to show the students from my alma mater an insight into the fashion industry," said CMU alum Kelly Mason, design director at men's apparel company 2(X)IST.
"I talk to the students about what the experience was like for me starting out after graduation in the city — hunting for my first job, landing a position and how I made it to where I am at today," Mason said.
At least six CMU Chippewas working in New York fashion are meeting students on this tour, and connecting with those alumni is a vital part of the trip, said Michael Mamp, fashion merchandising and design faculty member and instructor of FMD 350: Professional Study Tour/NYC.
CMU senior Mariah Bahr, from Muskegon, Michigan, was eager to make those connections.
"This trip is an important opportunity for me to network," said Bahr, a fashion merchandising and design major whose goal is to become a CEO. "I will get to meet with alumni working in the field and learn about various companies. I also will get to know people in my program."
This is Mamp's fifth annual New York tour course. Applicants accepted for the class meet three times during the spring semester, create presentations about New York fashion companies and do three projects after returning from the tour.
"The trip is really designed to give students an introduction to the fashion industry in what is probably the fashion capital of the world," Mamp said. "Oftentimes, this could result in thinking about a potential internship or a job."
Students attend product development meetings and learn the fashion industry from design concepts to product delivery as they tour 10 or more fashion businesses including such familiar names as Kohl's and the Victoria's Secret PINK brand.
Here's an introduction to three of the CMU alumni on the week's itinerary. All three majored in fashion merchandising and design.
Traveler for trends
Kelly Mason is a 2002 graduate from Birmingham, Michigan.
• Position: Design director at 2(X)IST.
• Time in New York: 16 years.
• Job description: "Each year, we design for spring/summer and fall/winter in the following categories: underwear, swim, lounge and sportswear. To launch each season, we start by doing trend research. We travel to various parts of the world to gain insight and shop the market looking for emerging trends. We follow each design through the development process, working closely with the factories overseas to keep us on calendar for the season.
• Tour thoughts: This trip is a direct connection to my past, going on the same trip that was offered while I attended CMU. It provided me with an overview of various career paths in the industry while turning what we had studied into a possibility. I hope this visit will inspire the students while giving me a chance to connect."
Zachary Stoner is a 2016 graduate from Portage, Michigan.
• Position: Assistant designer for Vince Camuto men's sportswear at W.R.K.
• Time in New York: One and a half years.
• Job description: "Communication among all teams in development and development approval. Each season begins with trend analysis, fabric research and development, and collection design. As the season progresses, I focus on development tracking and follow-up and technical package assembly, until the developments are adopted into the final collection. My task then becomes communicating purchased styles to production. Within my current company, I'd like to move up to become a designer for my current client, as well as design for other clients acquired by the W.R.K. Long term, I plan to expand my design capabilities by experiencing different categories of the fashion industry, including film costume design.
• Tour thoughts: "Just as there is a plethora of things unknown upon graduating and becoming an adult, there are even more unknowns when moving to New York City and trying to join a fast-paced industry. The opportunity to share a realistic perspective with students is of high importance to me, as I understand the transition."
Creator and collaborator
Clarissa Tamez is a 2012 graduate from Essexville, Michigan.
• Position: Associate product manager, Kohl's corporate New York design office.
• Time in New York: Five years in October.
• Job description: "I'm a product developer of women's and juniors' fashion accessories, which includes cold-weather accessories, sunglasses, leggings and tights. My day to day consists of collaborating with vendors, designers, buyers and planners to build product assortments. My favorite part about the job is collaborating with my cross-functional partners to create product that the Kohl's customer buys and loves wearing."
• Tour thoughts: "I enjoy giving office tours and sharing my experience in product development with students, and I hope they leave with a better understanding about the product life cycle and the jobs offered in the apparel and accessory fields."