The Future of Fashion at Babson
By Carrie Hecker MBA’18.
Launched in the fall of 2016, The Fashion Entrepreneurial Initiative (FEI) supports and inspires students at Babson to create a positive social, environmental, and economic impact in the fashion industry. FEI is housed at the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, and over the past year has grown to become a community where students can learn from each other and be in contact with fashion companies and industry professionals.
As a One-Year MBA student at Babson, I was ecstatic to learn that there was a community here focused on the fashion industry. Fashion has always been an important aspect of my life, and it helped pave my way to Babson. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Management and Marketing from Binghamton University, I landed my dream role in merchandising at the corporate headquarters for a women’s knitwear company. It was a unique role because I was able to combine my traditional business background with my creativity and passion for retail. From naming styles and creating seasonal sales and marketing materials, to overhauling the company’s international pricing strategy and analyzing multi-channel sales on a weekly basis, I lived and breathed the product.
I love data, but I’ve always found it to be more impactful when the data is attached to a product and customer experience. In my position, I was able to use this data to drive sales, improve margins, and work with the design team to understand customer preferences. I knew I wanted to go back for an MBA, and found that the entrepreneurial spirit of Babson was exactly what I was looking for. Being a part of FEI has been extremely inspiring because I get to work with Professor Caroline Daniels, who has become a role model and mentor for me here at Babson. She is always encouraging me to research new companies and future trends, and above all to never stop learning. FEI has also allowed me to be surrounded by fellow graduate students and undergraduate students who share the same passions as I do, which has been invaluable.
Our signature event this fall was the Second Annual Future of Fashion Panel on November 14th. Well-known companies in the industry such as TJX, Wolverine, Life is Good, and Baycrews executives described their visions of the future and the actions the companies are taking to get there. While all of the companies represented on the panel focused on different markets, each company is continuing to grow and be successful in a time where the retail industry seems to be at a tipping point. Success can be attributed to their business models and ability to innovate while staying true to customers.
Innovation means something different to everyone, and, in particular, for these companies. Life is Good, for example, uses focus groups and co-creates with their customers to drive growth. As for TJX, innovation means opening more stores and continuing to provide a treasure-hunt experience their customers enjoy. This event was a great way to learn how these companies are working to engage more personally with their consumers in this data-driven era, and how they are shaping their business models to do so.
Looking toward the Spring 2018 semester, there are a few exciting events to look out for. In February, FEI will be hosting an Imagine-A-Thon in partnership with Disney. In April, there will be an action tank focused on Fashion and the Environment with speakers from Patagonia, Ashoka, Ministry of Apparel, and more. And also in the spring term, Babson will offer the first Fashion Entrepreneurship class for undergraduate students, filled within 15 minutes of open registration! Come join us and learn how we at Babson College can make an impact in the fashion industry. To connect with FEI and get involved, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.