The Style Shop, FIT’s student-run retail boutique on the ground floor of the Dubinsky Student Center, sold a record $120,298 in merchandise this school year, 54 percent more than last year.
The shop is run by the Merchandising Society, a student club with about 180 active members, mostly in the Fashion Business Management program. Members are in charge of every aspect of the shop: buying and planning, merchandising, product development, and sales and marketing. Each member works there at least one hour per week.
The shop is a microcosm of the fashion industry, where students practice skills learned in the classroom.
“The process is 95 percent like the real world,” said club co-advisor Todd Blumenthal, Fashion Buying and Merchandising ’82 and assistant professor of Fashion Business Management. “The students behave as if it’s their job. They deliver every week.”
“When you enter the industry, you’re on the ground floor,” said Christie Suozzo ’16, a co-manager who already works in product development at Tory Burch. “Overseeing 45 student employees helps me understand where management is coming from.”
Students teams source different categories of merchandise, following the buying channels used in industry. The Designer team consigns one-of-a-kind clothing, jewelry, and accessories created by FIT students, faculty, and alumni. The Industry team analyzes trends, then buys stylish, affordable apparel and accessories from wholesalers and trade shows. The Vintage team purchases a limited assortment from vintage and secondhand stores around New York City, upstate, and Long Island. This category isn’t a big profit maker, but the classic looks enrich the shop’s selection and atmosphere.
Last, the Product Development team works with local apparel manufacturers to produce on-trend FIT-branded clothing and accessories. Much of the Style Shop’s increased revenue derives from savvy product development—particularly top-selling sweatshirts produced by Spirit Jersey, with “Fashion Institute” in puffy letters on the back.
“We’re mainly an accessories boutique, but adding apparel has skyrocketed our sales,” co-manager Marcella D’Attilo ’16 said.
Profits help defray the cost of two annual Merchandising Society trips to the corporate headquarters of major brands, most recently Fossil in Richardson, TX, and Nike in Beaverton, OR. These trips give students opportunities to learn from and network with industry VIPs, explained co-advisor Catherine Geib ’84, assistant professor of Fashion Business Management.