Fashion internship takes ISU students to Atlanta

November 17, 2011

Instead of walking into a bleak office cubicle for her first day of work, senior JaRhea Jackson entered a marketplace filled with colorful designer clothing and bright, new accessories.

Welcome to the world of fashion.

"I love clothes. I love shoes," said Jackson. "To me, it's like a creative outlet."

Jackson was one of several Indiana State University textiles, apparel and merchandising (TAM) students who travelled to Atlanta for a four-day internship experience.

Students worked in the showrooms of AmericasMart, a wholesale marketplace that sells products ranging from household items to clothing. Store owners, or buyers, come to the marketplace to purchase items for their shops. The marketplace serves as a middle man between designers and the public.

"Somebody has to select the items that you wear," said Cheryl Kremer, assistant professor of textiles, apparel and merchandising. "At the market, they're selling to a buyer, who's going to bring it to a consumer." She said that while most of the students had worked in retail before, the internship gave them an idea of the wholesale industry.

In addition to the benefit of seeing the industry of fashion merchandising from a new perspective, Kremer noted the opportunity for students to work alongside professionals in the industry.

"We worked with the showroom and the owners of it, and represented the line to buyers from different boutiques from around the U.S.," said Tia Muhammad, a senior from Gary, Ind.

The buyers visiting the showrooms came from around the country -and the world- to purchase items for their boutiques.

"I loved the people," said Jackson. "They were really nice, genuine people in a warm atmosphere and environment."

"It was fun to talk to people, to see how much they actually spend and the decisions they make," said Nikki Neves, a senior from Mitchell. "They have to think, ‘I'm going to buy this, but I don't know if anyone is going to buy it in my store.' It was cool to see that."

In order to attract those buyers, part of the students' responsibilities included putting together eye-catching outfits.

"Things don't magically appear," said Kremer. "You have to do that. You want customers, as they're walking by, to look at what you have."

"We put outfits together so they can visualize how it could look on a person and what accessories could go with it," said Muhammad. As an example, she said they might put five different outfits together on one rack so they could interchange them for the buyers.

"A buyer could be like, ‘Well, my customers don't really like sequins," said Muhammad. "So we can be like, ‘Oh, they might like it with this,'" she said, pulling out another outfit.

Along with exercising their creativity, students witnessed firsthand the amount of work involved in the job.

"At times it was rapid, it was intense. People coming in, people coming out. I never expected it to be that crowded where we went," said Deja Mattox, a senior from Peru.

"You're there before everyone and you're there after everyone. You work 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.," said Kremer, referring to the four days the interns spent in Atlanta.
The friendly atmosphere of the showrooms made the long days worthwhile.

"It was really close knit," said Muhammad. "Everybody was laughing all the time. Everybody was always getting along."

The inviting feel of the showrooms extended to the buyers who walked into the stores.

"Everyone was greeting them like they knew them already," she said.

The opportunity to see those interactions firsthand made an impact on Jackson, a senior from Elkhart.

"That was my first time ever seeing something like that," she said. Jackson now intends to pursue a career as a buyer, working in a setting similar to the internship. "I might want to move to Atlanta and work at the apparel mart."

The internship was also helpful for Muhammad, who plans to move to Los Angeles in pursuit of a career in fashion merchandising. She said she gained a better understanding of the fashion merchandising industry as a whole and was able to see classroom concepts used in real life.

"We always talk about how you can have a job buying," said Muhammad. "But really, we didn't know what they actually did until we saw it and experienced it."

"We highly encourage this class to all of the TAM majors," said Muhammad. No matter what area of the fashion industry students would like to work in, they emphasized that the internship can offer valuable experience.

Neves, who wants to go into fashion photography, said she was able to tailor the internship to match her interests.

"I shot a lot of photos for my showroom while I was there," she said. Neves hopes to move south and work with fashion photography in the resort industry. "There are so many different options, but I definitely want it to be the two: fashion and photography," she said. "Since I was a kid, I've always wanted to do this."

Contact: Cheryl Kremer, assistant professor of textiles, apparel and merchandising, 812-237-2987

Writer: Bethany Donat, media relations intern, ISU Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3773