The Michigan Fashion Media Summit wrapped up its three-day virtual event Wednesday with a discussion of how the fashion industry pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as with a conversation on the power of branding.
The annual summit, hosted by the Ross School of Business, was intended for University of Michigan students interested in pursuing a career in the fashion industry. Participants were encouraged to connect with industry leaders and hear about their experiences during the livestream.
LSA sophomore Talia Potters, MFMS public relations manager, told The Daily she hoped students could learn from the speakers, who have a wide range of experience in the fashion industry.
“Many of (the speakers) have really incredible experiences, both from really high-up levels, but also I think there are people who are only a few years out of college,” Potters said. “I think that gives a really great perspective for people looking to go into these industries. They get a glimpse of the hard work that it takes and what working in these industries actually looks like.”
The third day of the fashion summit began with a panel discussing how the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the retail and commerce industries to adjust.
“There’s kind of a loose theme around the whole summit this year, which is ‘pivoting,’” Potters said. “We’ve been trying to have at least a couple panels that look at different ways that people have had to pivot, whether that’s COVID-related or just in their careers in general.”
Potters said today’s panel discussed how the e-commerce industry could adjust to the pandemic, since the industry already relied on online services.
“It’s a lot of speakers that have a lot of experience in e-commerce,” she said. “There’s (speakers) from different companies in the fashion industry that are more e-commerce-based, and how they’ve been dealing with the pandemic. (E-commerce businesses) were probably more equipped to deal with it than a lot of other companies, so (it’s good to) really just get that perspective and where they see the fashion industry going.”
Kejuan Wilkins, global vice president of enterprise communications at Nike, held a “fireside chat” to talk about his professional journey and experience working with branding for Nike. Wilkins, a U-M alum and Flint native, began by sharing how his background informed his passion for advertising and branding.
“I grew up (in Flint) and have always just had an interest and desire to be involved in two areas, one is really just this notion of being driven by this desire to learn,” Wilkins said. “I (also) wanted to figure out a career that allowed me to be connected to sport while also feel as if I’m contributing and learning at the same time.”
Wilkins said his time at the University, coupled with his experience working at an athletic department store, introduced him to communications and encouraged him to join the sports information department for the New York Knicks. This move acted as a springboard for his career, Wilkins said.
“Once I graduated from school, (I) was fortunate enough to have a number of opportunities in the form of internships that allow me to continue to get exposed to the industry itself,” Wilkins said. “And that led to me working for the New York Knicks for about five years in its communications department.”
Desmond Marzette, a partner and creative director of Creative Artists Agency, also joined Wilkins during the chat. He shared how he started his career in branding, which began during his undergraduate years at the University of California, Berkeley.
“One thing that was very exciting about my college experience was the ability to teach a course, an actual course on campus about hip hop culture,” Marzette said. “And that was another sort of passion point for me. Marketing and hip hop have always been just incredibly exciting to me, and so I brought an academic approach to the hip hop space at UC Berkeley which is still going on to this day.”
LSA senior Katie Lowenbaum, co-president of MFMS, said the fireside chat was her favorite event because of the camaraderie between the speakers. Lowenbaum said she was inspired by the different approaches both Wilkins and Marzette took to reach their career points.
“It was really cool to hear them talk about style and culture and power brands,” Lowenbaum said. “(It was) a really impactful conversation. They had great chemistry together.”
After the fireside chat, students were given the opportunity to network with speakers and professionals. LSA senior Juliette Sibley, co-president of MFMS, said the MFMS team designed the virtual event to be as much like a real networking event as possible.
“(On our app) there’s an integrated component that’s called ‘Wonder Me,’” Sibley said. “It acts very much like a virtual networking booth, so there’s different setups … Individual professional networking attendees have the ability to roam around … (and there’s) a colloquium room where there’s a setup of different stands that are … led by different company representatives or industry representatives and (participants) can pop in and quickly talk to these individuals.”
The summit wrapped up with closing remarks by entrepreneur and philanthropist Diane von Furstenberg, interviewed by Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Business senior Uma Chalik, MFMS chief operating officer, said she was excited to hear about von Furstenberg’s experiences.
“Diane (spoke) about her new book, which is called (Own It: The Secret of Life) and it’s just about using any imperfections that you might have as assets to your own self,” Chalik said. “I think it’s a super empowering conversation and a great way to close out our summit on Day Three.”
Daily News Contributor Vanita Seed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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