Apparel Merchandising and Design at Central Michigan University
A look into the world of the apparel merchandising and design program at Central Michigan University.
progress Life in APPAREL MERCHANDISING AND DESIGN progress Life in Everyone lives a life in progress. This same-titled publication is the first in a series to highlight the ongoing work in Central Michigan University’s College of Education and Human Services. From early childhood education to gerontology studies — and the daily joys and challenges in between — our faculty, students and staff recognize the importance of learning and leading along that human continuum. Editor William Meiners Designer Melissa Torok Printer CMU Printing Services Life in Progress is published by the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University. CMU, an AA/EO institution, strongly and actively strives to increase diversity within its community (see cmich.edu, keyword: AAE) 001 College of Education and Human Services A WORD FROM DR. DALE Situated within the Department of Human Environmental Studies in the College of Education and Human Services, AMD offers educational opportunities concurrent with our “life in progress” mission. From the sewing exams for young designers to the computer-aided design work of future merchandisers, it’s about creative classrooms, student associations and laboratory research opportunities combined with real-world experiences. Some students land in New York for required internships. Others spend a summer month at the Paris American Academy, immersed in a study of culture, history and haute couture. This summer, I travelled to France to work with our faculty and students. Their growth and professional learnings were evident as they presented their final capstone. I was so impressed by their sophistication and professionalism. I t’s not often that a university program housed in a tiny Michigan town gets associated with the worldwide fashion capitals of London, Milan, New York and Paris. Increasingly, however, you’ll find pure Michigan folks working as trendsetting merchandisers, researchers and designers in these and other global hot spots. Central Michigan’ University’s Apparel Merchandising and Design (AMD) program is building on a long history of success while placing its graduates everywhere. AMD faculty have long built upon their own expertise, advancing all aspects of design, creating new training and research labs and upgrading technology. They’ve examined and created fabrics, clothes and wearable equipment for animals serving people with disabilities. Working alongside students on the cutting edges of technology, they’ve developed protective clothing for combat, functional apparel for comfort and athletics, and, of course, fashionable frocks. It’s great to showcase AMD work, here with a feature on the heavy use of technology and brief profiles of 10 inspiring faculty. Or through Threads, our student-run spring fashion show. I invite you to the Central Michigan University campus to see the Threads Fashion Event held each April. I also hope you’ll contact me about partnership possibilities with AMD. It could be your best chance to catch one of our many rising stars. LIVING.LEADING.LEARNING. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, Dean College of Education & Human Services email@example.com 989-774-6995 stitch stem 002 Life in Progress into BRIDGING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN INDUSTRY-SPONSORED PROJECTS A graduate student secures electrodes to a subject’s head to begin a brain wave analysis. Another student places a thermal manikin in an environmental chamber to gauge how well a garment can hold up in extreme temperatures. These high-tech activities aren’t part of a specific STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project. They’re part of the ongoing research in the Apparel Merchandising and Design (AMD) program at Central Michigan University (CMU). And it’s a long way from your grandmother’s sewing class in home economics. That’s not a knock against grandmothers or the various programs in home economics that proliferated across U.S. campuses throughout the last century. Certainly sewing will always be a core component of this curriculum. Surprising to many, however, may be the ever-increasing use of technology that’s helping position these future designers and merchandisers squarely on the cutting edge of industry. Before they graduate. Neuromarketing news The word itself is barely 11 years old. Neuromarketing measures a consumer’s responses to marketing stimuli. This biofeedback is all the rage throughout industries that extend beyond clothing and apparel. For Benjamin Touchette, a CMU graduate student in apparel product development and merchandising technology, neuromarketing has been a door opener for a career he never even considered. His thesis on the integration of marketing and technology helped him land a business consultant training position at AT&T in Atlanta. Now he’s talking to businesses about marketing and technology and trying to develop IT solutions for them. “Some CMU faculty recommended me for the job,” Touchette says. “When I talked to people in corporate at AT&T, they saw I was at the forefront of marketing research.” A native of Troy, Mich., Touchette, ’11, did not expect the technology to be as pervasive as it was in both the undergraduate and graduate programs. But he embraced it, learning the ins and outs of electroencephalography and biofeedback. It changed the course of his thinking, his schooling and his career. “I was definitely attracted to stay at CMU because of the technology,” Touchette says. “I wanted a grad school that was 003 College of Education and Human Services completely innovative. Coming out of graduate school, all you really have to show is your research.” Touchette worked with Seung-Eun “Joy” Lee, professor of apparel merchandising and design, to measure people’s brain reactions as they viewed various apparel products. Lee says the emerging technology has never quite been used this way, particularly in fashion consumer studies. The traditional marketing measures requires self-reporting from subjects. Biases, bad memories and general inaccuracies could often lead to consumer-based findings that aren’t even accurate. “All of human behavior is caused by brain mechanisms, so it would be foolish to not look at how the brain reacts to different marketing stimuli,” Lee says. “They need to know what’s really going on in consumers’ minds.” The program’s use of innovative technology has caught the eye of industry as well, and not just for those looking for future employees. Faculty and students have tested apparel products for companies such as Carhartt, Lululemon, Reebok and the Atlanta Braves minor league teams. Taking the technological road could pay dividends for Touchette. “Neuromarketing sounded very intense, and I knew it was going to be tough,” he says. “But the faculty at CMU teach you to find your strengths, be passionate and go for it. Having that network of supportive people around you is great.” Finding the sweat spot Morgan Schanski, ‘12, also a graduate student in apparel product development and merchandising technology, grew up around sports. Her father was a coach. Proper athletic wear may have guided her to her major, but the technological component enhances it. “I did not expect it, but technology came along with everything I was doing. It was something I had to pick up and learn,” says Schanski, now fulfilling a six-month internship at Adidas in Portland, Ore. “The industry in general is very interdisciplinary. At Adidas I’ve worked closely with a biophysics team, so it’s good to have the background knowledge that included a minor in nutrition.” Much of Schanski’s technological tutelage came through work with the thermal manikin. In one project the manikin simulated a woman’s sweat patterns as she might pace herself through a marathon. The manikin allows the researchers to do some standard and repetitive testing that they could not get out of human subjects. Schanski took several of Tanya Domina’s classes. Domina, professor of apparel merchandise and design, has played a pivotal role in bringing much of that technology to CMU. She’s helped obtain the National Science Foundation grants that have led to the biofeedback system and the thermal manikin, as well as a body scanner, a guarded sweating hot plate, an infrared imaging system and an environmental chamber. Story continues >>> Professor Joy Lee, seated right, obtains biofeedback from a subject with Ben Touchette, a graduate student. “We have always tried to stay abreast, and in most cases, ahead of industry in terms of technology.” --TANYA DOMINA, PROFESSOR “The industry is looking to hire people with technological skills and the ability to learn more of those skills,” Domina says. “We have always tried to stay abreast, and in most cases, ahead of industry in terms of technology.” The upshot for graduating students is that they often step into managerial jobs where they immediately begin training new colleagues on the technological aspects of certain equipment. The computer-aided design (CAD) course, for example, is a core requirement for all undergraduates. Having a cutting-edge CAD lab translates into collective skill sets that result in a high placement rate for graduates. Good old-fashioned hard work could be part of it, too. Schanksi, a Harbor Springs, Mich. native, is finishing an accelerated master’s program. All undergraduates, some 350 these days, are required to find an internship and work at least 300 hours in the fashion industry. The path for all, it seems, is to embrace the hard work and technology in preparation for a career. 005 College of Education and Human Services Tailored technology The competitive and propriety nature of industry could keep the AMD program buzzing. The industry partnerships and real-world experience for students provide reciprocating benefits. Named No. 20 on the Fashion Schools’ website list of top fashion merchandising schools in the country and No. 31 fashion design school, the program can stand with any in the land. Study abroad opportunities and internships bolster the hands-on classroom and lab experiences. This summer, some 40 students worked in internships throughout Michigan, another 35 worked in other states and five worked internationally. CMU grads have taken to careers in several industries. Aerospace and automotive companies, in addition to a sea of apparel outfitters, seek fashion experts and marketing visionaries. (See back page). Part of that learning curve puts students into those STEM disciplines. “Whether they want to be or not,” says Domina. “It’s all about a scientific inquiry and the ability to think through a project in a logical way. It’s problem solving. We’re really trying to impart some sort of analytical and critical thinking.” For the outlying industry, eager to capitalize on the creativity and vitality of critical thinkers, the CMU AMD graduate often makes for a perfect fit. Norman, a thermal manikin who can also be reconfigured into Norma, allows researchers to test garments in extreme temperatures. 006 Life in Progress amd faculty PINS, NEEDLES & TECHNOLOGY 007 College of Education and Human Services 008 Life in Progress 009 College of Education and Human Services progress Life in College of Education and Human Services EHS Building 426 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI 48859 It’s not always a catwalk in Paris. AMD Sometimes the runway in the fashion industry is an assistant designer position for Cessna in Wichita, Kan. The Central Michigan University apparel merchandising and design graduates are landing in a multitude of spots, in myriad industries. Consider where some of our alumni now live and work. DESTINATIONS Novi, Mich. New York Boston 3. 2. 1. 11. Los Angeles 7. Wichita, Kan. 5. Chicago 6. 4. Dusseldorf, Germany Columbus, Ohio Shanghai, China 8. Dallas 9. 10. Bradenton, Fla. 1 Rocawear: Assistant designer 2 Macy’s: Department manager 3 Nordstrom’s: Visual merchandiser 4 Hollister Co.: CAD Designer 5 Axiz Group: Fashion trend coordinator 6 Cessna: Assistant designer 7 True Religion: Assistant designer 8 J.C. Penney: Product evaluator 9 Champion Sports: Visual coordinator 10 Eagle Ottawa: Color and materials designer 11 Esprit: Designer Partnership Possibilities Even trendsetters need table-setters. Would you like to support current and future students of the apparel merchandising and design program at Central Michigan University? Call me, Jennifer Cotter, to learn how. Jennifer Cotter Director of Development College of Education & Human Services Jennifer.Cotter@cmich.edu 989.774.1554