Less fashion, more business...
Professional pipelines, or relationships universities and corporations maintain for their mutual benefit narrow student focus and limit our ability to consider using acquired skills in a disruptive way. These branded relationships are a direct line of sight to future career opportunities for students, but pipelines drive students to approach postgraduate career decisions with a lens of limited awareness and “you can’t be, what you can’t see”. In the status quo, electrical engineers go work for GE, mechanical engineers can leverage these pipelines for roles at SpaceX and computer engineers come to companies like Amazon, but innovation is inevitable when students disrupt these pipelines and marry their skills with their passion.
A 2018 McKinsey & Co report, in collaboration with Business of Fashion (BOF) notes that the fashion industry is undergoing a transformation. Consumers have a higher expectation for customer experience and place higher scrutiny on convenience, price, quality, newness and a personal touch. Over 60% of the key trends and disruptions influencing this industry transformation are directly linked to technology. So, among other economic, consumer and industry changes, customers are focusing on personalization, looking to the web and platforms first for style inspiration and product research, mobile obsessed, benefiting from AI in product development and customer UX, caring more about sustainability and finding utility from the innovations in startups and startup culture.
This phenomenon points to a need the fashion education market has not recalibrated to meet. GiFT has identified that the skills gap in this industry will require computer science, project or program management and supply chain management to close. However, based on our research 40% of schools offer Computer Science as a major, 18% offer PJ/PG, and only 5% offer Supply Chain, diluting the possibility that students are gaining these skills while matriculating through the top 20 US merchandising programs.
Pipelining is responsible for the gap between talent and the industries that require it. We systemically push homogenous skills into specific companies and sectors, when we know that inherent and acquired diversity in the workplace drive innovation, increase return on investment and create free cash flow. Students in fashion should think about broad ways to incorporate interdisciplinary study into their curriculum to ensure a competitive advantage as they pursue their career!