The Michigan Fashion Media Summit’s fourth annual conference began virtually on Monday morning, drawing an audience of about 200 people. This year’s summit, which features several leading professionals in the fashion industry, is the first to span three days.

LSA seniors Juliette Sibley and Kate Lowenbaum, co-presidents of the MFMS, kicked off the event by explaining the summit’s mission.

“The MFMS was created to provide professional resources and programming to those interested in the fashion industry on campus,” Lowenbaum said. “We're excited to extend our platform to the largest audience to date, spanning from college students across the country to industry professionals at all levels.”

LSA junior Stephanie Chengary told The Daily she was excited to attend the MFMS after seeing the event on LinkedIn. Chengary said the companies and executives featured at the event caught her eye.

“I really wanted to just see what it was all about and learn from a bunch of different perspectives of people that have kind of been in the industry for a while,” Chengary said. “I’m excited for everything else, like the agenda, for the rest of the week.”

Monday’s events began with a keynote conversation featuring Maverick Carter, CEO of The SpringHill Company, a video-production and entertainment company.  Carter, who began his career at Nike, said telling stories is crucial to selling products.

“Nike, actually, is a storytelling company, much more comparable to Disney than they are comparable to … a footwear or apparel company,” Carter said. “They just happen to use Michael Jordan or Lebron and Serena and Tiger. Disney happens to use Star Wars and Captain America.”

Carter said he aims to empower his employees at SpringHill as well as consumers of their content. 

“Empowerment does not mean just making more money or being on TV,” Carter said. “It's an emotion, that you feel something in here, that I can achieve something.”

The afternoon featured a panel of four prominent female executives who discussed their careers and the fashion industry. Marisa Thalberg, executive vice president and chief brand and marketing officer at Lowe’s, discussed her career move from Calvin Klein to a home furnishings company. 

Thalberg said she was able to learn about emerging marketing technology while working at Lowe’s. She also shared that even though the home furnishings industry was not the ideal place for her, she was able to use her knowledge of new technology to advance her career.

“The pivots might be small and sometimes they might feel massive, but they are about pushing yourself to adapt and go where the opportunities are,” Thalberg said. “And allowing yourself to own … the narrative of how that all fits together in your own career.”

Chengary attended this panel and said it was inspiring and encouraging to hear the panelists discuss their careers, especially on International Women’s Day.

“One thing that I understood from the panel was just give yourself time to find what you really want to do with your career,” Chengary said. “And it's totally okay to pivot to different industries and really take all your experience from your previous jobs in general and apply them to different industries and roles.”

Marcus Collins, marketing lecturer at the University of Michigan, moderated a separate panel discussion on social impact and brand purpose. The panelists discussed how some companies have tried to engage in activism and social justice work, especially in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests last summer. 

Monique Francis, co-head of content and social impact executive of brand consulting at Creative Artists Agency, spoke on the panel and said the shift toward promoting anti-racist messages as well as other social justice initiatives including worker’s rights and sustainability through brands predates the pandemic. 

“This is part of a trend that precedes the pandemic — and sort of racial awakening that we've had — that consumers have expected more of the brands that they patronize to support and align with their values,” Francis said. “That has just been accelerated even more by what we've seen over the past year.”

The panelists also discussed how consumers could spot the difference between performative activism and real change within a company. Samantha Fennell, founder of HONE / The Athari Collective, a New York-based consultancy, said it is important for companies to be both consistent and transparent.

“There were a lot of companies … that made pledges, but then kind of went silent,” Fennell said. “From an authenticity standpoint, again, it's about following the money and seeing how consistent the effort is in the long run.”

Serena Kerrigan, creator of the Instagram live show “Let’s F*cking Date,” led a separate Q&A session on confidence and career empowerment. Kerrigan, who calls herself the “Queen of Confidence” on her social media platforms, said she quit her job as a video producer in June 2020 to create her own path — a decision which greatly boosted her confidence.

“After about four months of deliberation (about quitting), I realized there’s no person that's going to believe in me more than me,” Kerrigan said. “Because I knew that I had the potential to be a star.”

The final speaker of the day was Matthew Trent, senior vice president of human resources at the luxury division of L’Oreal. Trent spoke about landing a dream job, highlighting the importance of networking and using platforms such as LinkedIn. Trent said students and other people looking for jobs should use LinkedIn to find senior leaders who they can message, or to look for job postings.

“Anyone in a senior position for a company that you want to work for probably has some type of a presence, and you should feel comfortable to not only follow them, but also interact with them and requests, connecting with them,” Trent said.  

Daily Staff Reporter Justin O'Beirne can be reached at justinob@umich.edu. 

 

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