Career Paths
Taking a collection from concept to the rack is a team effort. The following graphic illustrates the relationship between each industry professional along a product’s lifecycle.

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Merchandiser | Designer | Product Developer | Marketing Manager | Account Executive | Public Relations Specialist |
Retail Buyer | Financial Planner | Store Planner

Merchandiser

A Merchandiser acts as the primary liaison between design, production, product development and sales. The Merchandiser is responsible for developing a profitable line of products by creating a financially based product plan, researching competitors and anticipating customer needs. The Merchandiser plays a critical role in the company’s overall financial success. Therefore, it is important that the Merchandiser utilizes analytical skills in creating product lines that sell well at retail. The Merchandiser often analyzes past selling history, develops pricing strategies and seeks out new categories of business.
In order for a product line to be executed as envisioned, the Merchandiser works very closely with a team of designers and product developers. These counterparts work together to edit the line, conceptualize designs and work on product costs to ensure profitability. The Merchandiser plays a huge role in keeping everyone on a time-and-action calendar and making sure everyone understands the end goals. A Merchandiser will typically plan out 4-6 product lines a year, one for each market.

Qualifications

Education: College degree required. Business or fashion merchandising coursework helpful.
Experience: Internships in merchandising, product development or buying.
Personality/Skills: Must love fashion and following trends; good analytical, negotiation, leadership and business skills; ability to work under pressure.

Career Paths

Assistant Merchandiser > Associate Merchandiser > Merchandiser > Merchandise Manager > Merchandise Director

 

 

 

Fashion Designer*

A Fashion Designer’s role is to create apparel and accessories for a company’s target customer. Before sketching initial designs, it is important for a Fashion Designer to consider trends by visiting trade shows, understanding competitors and studying international fashion. In this role, Fashion Designers are also responsible for creating garments that fit the company’s branding and market position. Often, a Fashion Designer will begin the creative process by creating mood boards, which are a collection of inspirational images, colors, and fabrics.
A Fashion Designer also has to be a team player. After they have determined the style direction they’d like to go in, they consult with the Merchandiser to understand how their designs play into the overall financial scheme. For example, each season the Merchandiser will lay out a financial plan with their wish list for styles and color schemes, also called a line plan. It is the Fashion Designer’s job to design into this outline. Additionally, a Fashion Designer works closely with the Product Developer and Technical Designer to ensure styles are both wearable and within cost parameters.

Qualifications

Education: College degree required. A specific Fashion Design major is important.
Experience: Internships in fashion design, technical design and product development.
Personality/Skills: Team player, ability to forecast trends and understand customer, Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator, AutoCAD, sketching abilities.

Career Paths

Assistant Designer > Associate Designer > Designer > Senior Designer >
Creative Director/VP of Design

 

* Note, Fashion Campus NYC is focused on exploring the fields that comprise the business side of the garment industry, therefore, the program will not delve into this valuable part of the value chain.

 

 

 

Product Developer

A Product Developer is in charge of taking a merchandising/design concept and turning it into a tangible product that will eventually sell at retail. After the merchandising/design team has decided on what the style will look like (including colors, material, size specs), cost and quantity, it’s up to the product developer to figure out the next steps. This involves finding the right factory, making sure costing is in line, checking on sample status, materials/construction quality control, and maintaining the production calendar.
This position requires both attention to detail and creativity. A Product Developer needs to be detail oriented when communicating with factories, tracking sample status, negotiating/calculating costs, and communicating these details to the merchandising/design team. Creativity comes into play in problem solving. For example, if a handbag is costing out higher than the merchandiser’s planned cost, the product developer will often suggest solutions for reducing the cost. In this case, perhaps a cheaper zipper would bring the cost down enough.
A Product Developer will typically work with the team on 4-6 product lines a year, one for each market. There may be some traveling as many factories are overseas.

Qualifications

Education: College degree required. Business or fashion merchandising coursework helpful.
Experience: Internships in merchandising, product development or buying
Personality/Skills: Must love fashion and following trends; good analytical, negotiation, leadership and business skills; ability to work under pressure.

Career Paths

Assistant Product Developer > Associate Product Developer > Product Developer >
Product Development Director > VP Product Development

 

 

 

Marketing Manager

A Marketing Manager analyzes consumer behavior and market trends to develop strategies designed to increase sales and raise the awareness of the brand at the consumer level.
The Marketing Manager is responsible for gaining visibility through advertising, events, partnerships and online tactics. This role often works with outside advertising agencies on ad development and media placement to identify the media outlets that best suit the brand and use the ad budget in the most effective manner. The Marketing Manager also plans special promotions and stunts, including pop-up shops and trunk shows, to gain consumer attention and garner interest from editors. It is also the Marketing Manger’s responsibility to find sponsorship opportunities and collaborations that would gain a larger audience for the brand through the partner company’s fan base. In addition, this position develops online campaigns and social media outreach to drive excitement and traffic to the brand’s website and retail partners.
The Marketing Manager is responsible for managing the budget, billing and forecasting for each project, insuring a measurable return on investment.

Qualifications

Education: College degree required. Experience leading marketing initiatives with demonstrable results at a fashion firm or agency.
Experience: Internships in the marketing department of a fashion firm
Personality/Skills: Excellent written and oral communication skills; analytical and data driven; creative problem solver; detail-oriented; energetic; ability to prioritize

Career Paths

Marketing Coordinator > Marketing Associate > Marketing Manager > Marketing Director

 

 

 

Fashion Account Executive (Sales Representative)

An Account Executive sells their company’s products out of a showroom to Fashion Buyers. Account Executives work hard to get the Buyers excited about each new product line and work with them to customize orders for their stores. This requires the Account Executive to have a good understanding of business, competitor/industry knowledge and an upbeat, motivated attitude. Account Executives often develop symbiotic relationships with Buyers; through trust and experience, they can help each other reach his/her financial goals—if an Account Executive can gain the trust of a Buyer and help them select items that will sell well in their store, then the Account Executive will get larger orders.

Account Executives can expect to be busiest during market week (which occurs 4-6 times a year) when the showroom is revealed for the first time and the Buyers come to place orders. During non-market week times, Account Executives are developing business plans, monitoring and reacting to how product is performing at retail, suggesting reorders for Buyers to place and insuring orders are processed properly.

Qualifications

Education: College degree required. Business or fashion merchandising coursework helpful.
Experience: Sales associate and/or corporate retail experiences are in helpful in understanding product, consumer habits and business operations.
Personality/Skills: Excellent communication skills, both written and oral; self motivated, competitive, upbeat; must love fashion and following trends; good analytical, negotiation, business skills; ability to work under pressure.

Career Paths

Assistant Account Executive > Associate Account Executive > Account Executive >
Account Executive Manager > VP of Sale

Fashion Public Relations Specialist

A Fashion Public Relations Specialist interacts with media and other outlets to ensure that the company’s products and corporate image remain favorable in the public eye. The PR Specialist strategizes new and creative ways to gain the attention of the media; often times, the PR Specialist will generate buzz by holding press conferences, working with magazine editors and bloggers, and sending press releases.

In order to develop and cultivate relationships with their media counterparts, a successful PR Specialist should have excellent written/oral and interpersonal skills. Members of the media are always looking for industry news so this relationship is important for both ends.

Qualifications:

Education: College degree required. Fashion Marketing and communications coursework helpful.
Experience: Internships in journalism or other media outlet.
Personality/Skills: Excellent communication skills, both written and oral; good interpersonal skills; energetic; must have fashion knowledge; ability to work under pressure.

Career Path:

Promotions Assistant > Public Relations Specialist > Public Relations Coordinator > Director of Public Relations

 

Fashion Buyer (Retail Buyer)

A Fashion Buyer is responsible for buying wholesale goods from vendors for a department store, retail chain or individual store (in a department store or retail chain, each Buyer is typically responsible for a category of business i.e. Women’s Shoes). The Buyer is ultimately accountable for the “bottom line”—selecting merchandise that the consumer will buy and that the store can make a profit from.
A Buyer needs to possess good business skills and fashion knowledge. These attributes go hand in hand. Strong retail math and negotiation skills are needed to plan a business from top to bottom. This includes managing inventory, markdowns and margins. At the end of the day, the Buyer’s goal is to contribute to the store’s financial success. Fashion instinct and competitor/industry knowledge are also imperative for planning successful buys. Most buys are made up to one year ahead of time so it’s very important to look into the crystal ball and make intelligent decisions about what will sell.

Qualifications

Education: College degree required. Business or fashion merchandising coursework helpful.
Experience: Sales associate and/or corporate retail experiences are helpful in understanding product, consumer habits and business operations. Some department stores offer a structured program for entry level buyers with classes and on the job training.
Personality/Skills: Must love fashion and following trends; good analytical, negotiation, business skills; ability to work under pressure.

Career Paths

Assistant Buyer > Associate Buyer > Buyer > Divisional Merchandise Manager > General Merchandise Manager

 

 

 

Financial Planner

A financial planner plays a critical role in ensuring a company’s profitability. This executive is responsible for guiding the merchandiser or buyer on how he/she plans assortments and reacts to sales trends. The planner will give the merchandiser or buyer guidelines on markdown plans, pricing strategies, margins, and sales forecasts to ensure that inventory turns quickly, profit margins are maintained (and exceeded if possible) and, most importantly, that the company hits their financial goals. A financial planner will determine these guidelines by analyzing selling history, recent sales information, understanding stock levels, and company goals. Often times, a financial planner will advise the buyer or merchandiser to see if an order can be shipped early to maintain momentum with high sales of a particular style or color. He or she may also advise the buyer or merchandiser to markdown a style sooner than originally planned to reduce overstock liability.

Qualifications

Education: College degree required. Business or fashion merchandising coursework helpful.
Experience: Internships in finance, sales, merchandising, or buying.
Personality/Skills: Must love numbers; good analytical, forecasting, and financial planning skills; ability to react quickly; team player.

Career Paths

Assistant Financial Planner > Associate Financial Planner > Financial Planner > Director of Financial Planning > VP of Financial Planning

 

 

Store Planner

A Store Planner plays an important role in allocating inventory to the proper channels. This process requires extensive analysis into how styles sell by criteria including color, fabrication, cost and demographic. Store Planners typically work in department stores and vertically integrated stores.
Once a Buyer or Merchandiser has purchased inventory, it is the Store Planner’s job to make sure that the inventory is sent from the warehouse to store locations (often referred to as “doors”) that will sell the goods the quickest and at the highest margin.
A Store Planner will often accompany a Buyer to market and provide guidance on particular store selling trends. Similarly, a Store Planner will often provide a Merchandiser with insight that can assist with line building. In addition, as a Buyer or Merchandiser checks his/her weekly selling report, he/she may place a reorder and ask the Store Planner to best allocate the styles based on specific selling trends.
A Store Planner should possess excellent planning and analytical skills. It is important to use these skills to gain foresight into how products may sell in various locations. Strong retail math skills are needed to create inventory plans.

Qualifications

Education: College degree required. Business or fashion merchandising coursework helpful
Experience: Internships in buying or wholesale positions (such as merchandising).
Personality/Skills: Excellent analytical skills, ability to forecast selling trends.

Career Paths

Merchandise Analyst/Assistant Store Planner > Associate Store Planner > Store Planner >
Senior Store Planner > Director of Store Planning

 

E-commerce Manager

E-commerce (electronic commerce) involves the sale and purchase of products or services through Internet-based (online and mobile) platforms. Fashion companies can sell product exclusively through e-commerce or through a mix of both traditional retail and e-commerce channels.  In cases where companies have both types of channels, e-commerce is usually considered a separate entity or division of the business, having its own operating budget, team, and revenue.  Many companies find e-commerce to be convenient and effective, especially given the rapid growth of digital marketing and social media, and it is often profitable for many fashion companies.

 

Qualifications:

Education: College degree required.  Communications, fashion merchandising, graphic design, marketing, and technology and computer science coursework helpful.

Experience: Internships in digital media, graphic design, marketing, merchandising and social media.

Personality/Skills: Excellent project management and communication skills, sense of urgency, passion for collecting and analyzing data, understanding of customer experience and how it relates to technology.

 

Career Paths:

Marketing Coordinator > Marketing Associate > E-commerce Manager > Director of E-Commerce > VP of E-Commerce