Bethany Clough

Retail Therapy: Fresno State students learn the business of fashion

The fashion show at Fresno State last weekend was a night of pretty dresses and elegant models on the runway.

But it was also a dose of real-world experience. Students studying fashion merchandising who are part of the Fashion Inc. club organized the show.

Fresno State offers a fashion merchandising major along with a minor and certificate. About 75 students are learning the business side of fashion — the school does not have a fashion design program — including business strategy, buying, sourcing international products, budgeting and how to display merchandise.

Event planning is also one of the skills students learn, putting on the show for the fifth year.

“It was one of our strongest shows yet,” says club president and junior Danika Brumbeloe. “We had a very large turnout, a very smooth production.”

Some students who design outfits, creating and sewing them from scratch, got a chance to show them off. Others used existing clothing to “style” an outfit on a model.

This year’s theme was “All dolled up.” One student created outfits for adults inspired by Hmong dolls wearing traditional clothing. Others were inspired by Barbie, celebrities and Ever After High, the fairy tale-inspired dolls and Web series.

Videos also featured the designers talking about their creations.

Though the show was plenty fun, a lot of behind-the-scenes work went into it. It’s the same in the fashion industry, says Lizhu Davis, fashion merchandising program coordinator.

“People always have misconceptions, thinking that fashion is fun and glamorous and it’s all about the celebrity,” she says. “But they don’t realize the fashion industry is a very competitive industry. There’s a whole lot that happens behind the scenes.”

Many students in the program go on to become retail buyers or retail managers. Others become entrepreneurs, such as the owner of the recently opened Flower Child Boutique in northwest Fresno or the owner of California Chi, a company that makes clothing for pets. Some also go on to get their master’s in fashion design at other schools.

For now, students in the fashion merchandising major get bachelor degrees under the name “family and consumer science,” but an effort to change the degree name to fashion merchandising is underway, Davis says. “It’s in ... the review process and we hope the proposal can go through approval pretty soon, maybe next semester.”