Students in the Premier Groups for Merchandise Product Development and Merchandising & Marketing were treated to three special guest speakers from ModCloth this week—Erica Brosman, Sr. Product Development Specialist and FIDM Alumna, Sr. Designer Sara Dunne, and Sr. Buyer Maria Andrade. They shared advice and tips on making it in the fashion industry.
“I came to FIDM and I was super determined,” Erica told the students. “I went to the Career Fair and made sure I got everyone’s card. I asked everyone about internships.” And it worked. She secured an internship in a showroom, then became a production assistant at another company. It was then that she decided to return to FIDM for her B.S. in Business Management. She’s been at ModCloth now for six years. “I used FIDM projects to prove I could do the job.”
ModCloth was founded in Pennsylvania fifteen years ago, by high school sweethearts Susan Gregg Koger and Eric Koger. Susan had a passion for vintage clothing and Eric was a computer specialist. The day they built their site, they had a sale—and they were in business. It wasn’t long before they started selling new vintage-inspired pieces in addition to their vintage inventory. ModCloth now employs 350 people, with offices in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles.
“The environment at ModCloth is very open,” Erica said. “There is an entrepreneurial spirit there. You are pushed to be your very best.” Their CEO wants feedback from the employees, and actually seeks it out.
The ModCloth customer is a vintage lover. She is intelligent, quirky, and dresses modestly. She loves literature and art. “She knows who she is and she wears it loud and proud,” Erica said.
The ModCloth creative process starts with the design team. They sit together and discuss trend research and inspiration. They come up with a beginning concept which they then present to the team. The production team sends a wish list for fabrics. It’s a very collaborative process. This is where any issues are raised about fit and construction. They visit the vendor to look at samples. Eventually it goes on a fit model for fit rounds, then it goes into production.
To keep up on trends, the design team attends tradeshows such as MAGIC in Las Vegas and Pure in London. This year they also attended MAGIC in Tokyo and a fashion tradeshow in Australia.
Sara goes trend shopping in China and India on trips when she is visiting vendors. Maximalism is a trend she’s noticed—shine, puffy sleeves, bell sleeves, high necklines, low hemlines. There is a move toward individual expression and personal style, whatever that may be. And ruffles just continue to get bigger and more absurd. Sara said, “There is a lot of fun going on in fashion right now.”
As a product development specialist, Erica is the voice of the factory, communicating to the designers and buyers. She is responsible for fabric sourcing and costing. She is also in charge of allocation, among other things. “I really enjoy fabric sourcing and giving recommendations to the buyer,” said Erica. “I enjoy cost negotiation and numbers. Product developers need to be detail oriented.”
“Buyers,” said Maria, “build the entire assortment for ModCloth.” She said she works with 400 vendors. There are currently 950 dresses online and 3K or 4K styles. She told the students that as a buyer, she is responsible for constant data analysis.
Go into things with an open mind, they advised. You will always learn something from every position you’re in. Maria worked at several different companies before landing her job at ModCloth. “This is absolutely my dream job,” she said.
Students interested in interning at ModCloth should contact the Career Center.