Design and Merchandising students win scholarships, trip to the Big Apple

Story by Kristin Breakell

Six outstanding students from the Colorado State University Department of Design and Merchandising earned themselves a free trip to New York City, along with a $5,000 scholarship from the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund. The students prepared case studies for the FSF contest and were selected as winners.

The FSF is an organization that seeks to advance the fashion industry by encouraging gifted and enterprising young people to pursue careers in design, merchandising, retailing and business. The FSF awarded 208 scholarships this year to students from various universities.

The CSU students fared well in the first year of competition.

“We have six student recipients out of 15 who applied in our first year of eligibility,”said Nancy Miller, department head. “That’s a great success rate, and we were competing with students from 58 schools across the nation.”

The six winners consisted of three seniors, one sophomore and two freshmen, four of whom submitted merchandising case studies and two of whom submitted design case studies. The merchandising case study recipients were Emily Short, Mackenzie Brigham, Michaela Knollmann and Lillie Pettibone. The design case study recipients were Arran Senn and Cayla Zubarev.

The case study

Design and Merchandising scholarship winners
Left to right: Emily Short, Arran Senn, Lillie Pettibone, Mackenzie Brigham, Cayla Zubarev and Michaela Knollmann were awarded scholarships by the Fashion Scholarship Fund.

To apply for the scholarship, students were required to submit a case study based around a relevant industry topic, which was provided to them by the FSF. This year, the case study examined the new partnership between Etsy and Macy’s.

In 2015, Etsy launched Etsy Manufacturing and announced a new retail partnership with Macy’s to combat a growing trend of successful sellers leaving the site. Students applying for the scholarship were asked to explore the realm of possibilities that Etsy’s new manufacturing platform offers to its seller and customers through its partnership with Macy’s.

Students with an apparel design or product development concentration were asked to develop a brand and design a product line that resonates with the chosen target market. Merchandising and marketing students had to identify an existing Etsy seller who has the greatest opportunity for growth and develop a plan for the company’s success. Industry professionals then judged the case studies on depth of research, creativity, feasibility and clarity.

Along with the $5,000 scholarship award for their education, the winning scholars received an all-expenses-paid trip to New York the second week of January, which included a gala awards dinner, meetings with major apparel industry companies, and an internship fair.

The experience

Carol Engel-Enright, an instructor and internship coordinator for the Design and Merchandising program, mentored students and accompanied the winners on their trip to New York.

The students got a chance to walk around the garment district and explore various aspects of the New York fashion industry. They toured the design studio of Jonathan Simkhai, a luxury womenswear brand, and discovered the brand’s design process from concept and sketch to patternmaking and production. Students also had the opportunity to attend the Kohl’s Design Office Tour, where they got a closer look at the inner workings of the American department store. The following night, they attended the Annual Awards Dinner with some of the most influential members of the New York fashion industry.

Engel-Enright gave the scholarship program high praise and recognized the importance of the experience for students.

“Students had access to major executives in the industry who care about bringing in new, fresh talent and who were willing to share their expertise,” she said. “It’s a really great program. I would like every student to enter a case study.”

For her case study, Arran Senn, a sophomore in the product development concentration, used Macy’s philanthropic involvement and the Make-A-Wish Foundation to create a line to be sold in Macy’s stores.

Senn was glad she took the chance to apply for the scholarship and grateful for the unique experience.

“Previous to this experience, the New York fashion industry seemed pretty unattainable,” she said. “It existed in a world that only the rich, highly connected, or uniquely talented could be a part of. This experience taught me that with hard work and a dream, anything is possible.”