“Be Truly Fashion Forward”: An Initiative with a focus on Career Development and Inspiration

by guest blogger Rachel Lee, Campus Engagement Ambassador, Faculty of Comm. and Design, Ryerson Career Centre

Under a new model for student engagement, Ryerson’s Career Centre collaborated with the Fashion Union for the very first time to host an event. On November 30th, over 100 Fashion design and communication students gathered at the Sears Atrium to meet 15 industry professionals, who were all invited to talk and inspire students in an intimate setting. These professionals represented Coach, Aritzia, Fashion Magazine, GotStyle, the Fashion Zone, H&M, and more. Unlike a typical panel discussion or a “mix & mingle” networking night, “Be Truly Fashion Forward” resembled a carousel-style discussion module — groups of students rotated through five different “pillars” (each “pillar” was lead by different industry professionals) that had very specific and important discussion topics. By allowing students to choose which “pillar” they would like to participate in, the opportunity to design their own event was a major appeal. Now, you might be thinking: how did this event get created? Why was it tailored for fashion students?

Fashion forward event photo 2

In September, I realized that there was an opportunity to engage fashion students, who are talented, creative, forward-thinking people with a need to connect deeper to professionals in the industry. As a Campus Engagement Ambassador at the Career Centre, one of my duties is to plan, manage, and execute student-based events. With a desire to throw an event for Fashion students, my goal became this: to create a time and space that allowed close connections to industry professionals, and a meaningful exploration of topics that everyone is thinking or already talking about. While I conducted some preliminary research (mostly by talking to other fashion students and Career Centre staff members) I found out that while students can easily find resources and opportunities for retail jobs or internship positions, their questions and curiosities about transitioning from retail to corporate, creating a label (becoming an Entrepreneur), and staying relevant in the industry were lacking. What’s more, while many fashion students are aware that becoming professionals is essential to any major of study, information about the business side—or money side—of fashion is not discussed enough. Essentially, Ryerson fashion students needed something more.

Through a collaborative effort with Luke Severin and Cassandra Daines, the Co-Presidents of the Fashion Union, the event was a tremendous success. At one point, some of the organizers were amazed at how engaged the students were in all of the “pillars”. Although some students were shy to ask questions to the industry professionals, the attention and passion to learn from these new contacts was noticeably present.

Fashion Forward event photo

Some of the notable responses to the event included:

“It was such a pleasure and honour to be there. I absolutely loved talking to the students because I was in their spots not too long ago! I wanted to offer any advice I could.” –Monika Markovinovic, Associate Style Editor of Huffington Post Canada

“We thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it’s a great opportunity for students to get a good sense of “real” life post- graduation.  They were a great group with some good questions and interactions.” – Delia DeLuca, District Manager of Coach

“It was really great to speak to the students and hear about their ambitions… I spoke about the importance of understanding numbers, analytics, financial as in the end… It is a business. I think that it opened up many people’s eyes.” – Neelesh Mistry, Sales Director at Microsoft

“[The biggest takeaway was] meeting someone who is on the career path I want to follow (Eliza Grossman). This was one of my favourite student organized events in my three years here!!” – Student, 3rd year

Additionally, the event was considered “next level” with the inclusion of some generous sponsors and warm hospitality. Little details (like a designated photographer, personal thank-you cards and gifts, giveaways and swag bags) made a huge difference in making a lasting impact. In conclusion, “Be Truly Fashion Forward” left a legacy — not just among Ryerson students, but also among the industry professionals and Ryerson’s staff members who we invited to connect with our students. Remember, The Career Centre is a resource that is available to students for free, and a hub of hardworking people who want to create and execute events that maximizes a student’s potential and interest in their career developments.