Preparing Fashion Students for an Evolving Industry


Bret Schnitker, Emily Lane, Joshua Williams


January 11, 2022


Emily Lane 00:09 

Welcome to Clothing Coulture, a fashion industry podcast at the intersection of technology and innovation. I'm Emily lane. 

Bret Schnitker 00:17 

I'm Bret Schnitker. We speak with experts and disruptors who are moving the industry forward 

Emily Lane 00:21 

and discuss solutions to real industry challenges. 

Bret Schnitker 00:24 

Clothing Coulture is brought to you by Stars Design Group, a global design and production house with more than 30 years of experience. 

Emily Lane 00:35 

Welcome back to another episode of clothing culture. We continue our journey here in the great city of New York City, and have another amazing conversation lined up. Don't wait, Bret. 

Bret Schnitker 00:48 

Yes, we do. 

Emily Lane 00:49 

You're pretty excited about this one. 

Bret Schnitker 00:51 

Yeah. Well, we met Josh seems like a couple weeks ago, but I think it's probably a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, time fly COVID time. But we had a fascinating dialogue. And so you guys better just buckle up because it's gonna go on. We're gonna go short. And we're just gonna keep going. Because I don't know. It's great dialogue. 

Emily Lane 01:09 

Right? Well, Joshua Williams beyond being a talented musician, and started in the theater as we learned early on which we contemplated actually opening this segment with music today. But we're sparing everyone here. The initial thing that drew us to Josh was his experience as an award winning fashion creative director. He's a fellow podcaster, with a wonderful podcast called retail revolution also does the Fashion Consort News Bytes with Fashion United as very celebrated in this new realm of education that he's taking on working as an Associate Professor of Fashion Management at Parsons, a huge advocate of technology and innovation in the industry. I could go on and on and on. But maybe we should just start talking to the guy. What do you think? Well, he's here. Yeah. Sounds good. Welcome, Josh. Such a pleasure to be here. So I kind of want to just get a little quick beyond the introduction I just shared, I asked you early on when we first met today, but I'd love for you to share what got you into fashion? 

Joshua Williams 02:15 

Well, I think that it was always I was always interested in using art as a way to express who I was, and also to tell stories. So I think you know, saying earlier to all of you that I did that through music, I did it through theater, and I did it through shopping. So I think that's how a lot of us start but but just realizing that you could go to the store and pick out an outfit and kind of put it together in a way that was perhaps unique or different than everyone else. And that said something about you and and I grew up in the 80s. So there was a lot of exciting things happening in fashion at the time. And I think it was it definitely stuck with me because I moved into the kind of 

Bret Schnitker 02:54 

parachute pants stuck with you. 

Joshua Williams 02:56 

Oh, you know. You know, I saved every dime I could to get us a parachute pants. But I ended up in the theater world and realize that, that it's such a difficult place to sort of be heard and ultimately ended up working in production direction in fashion. And that's sort of where the creative direction came together. 

Bret Schnitker 03:20 

You know, it's an amazing dynamic time. But we've talked about this quite a bit. You know, being involved in some educational initiatives that I've been involved in my soapbox has always been look, things are changing. So fast education keeping up. And I think that that was kind of a hot topic when we talked last time, right, fill us in about your history as you shifted from, you know, all these creative things that you're doing in education, because for a lot of people that's kind of like, hey, it's a pivot. It's a big, huge, yeah, you're now you know, having to embrace the next generation wanting to embrace the next generation, perhaps, and and teach them as opposed to, you know, the entrepreneurial path and doing all this. Some people are doing it consecutively. Yeah. And you're doing all these things at once. Yeah. And but the challenges today are that technology, and its influence on fashion, is accelerating at a pace that I think challenges educational institutions today, 

Joshua Williams 04:17 

right? Yeah, it's true. I mean, one of the things because of my career, because I've been in so many different areas. And I sort of had to train myself. And I realized very quickly that there was a lot of crossover between theater for example, and fashion. There was a lot of between theater and retail, I mean, retail issues. talk a lot about experiential retail now you're right. But so I had to sort of train myself and I realized that there wasn't a lot of places to do that. And so I had to figure it out on my own. So I would go out and meet people and get mentored wherever I could. And I realized that there was a lot of information lacking on the academic side of things, ultimately went and got my master's degree. And as I was joking with you earlier in some cases realized I knew more than the teachers in a graduate program. Yeah. That's you had real practical experience. Exactly. Yeah. And you know, in the early days of Ecomm, in particular direct to consumer we had, we had no idea what we were doing. Yeah, you have a whole brand new technology that we're sort of trying to figure out how it works in a retail space. For most of us, we were marketing or creative directors, because it wasn't even considered a retail channel at the time. It was not sales. It was this weird thing that maybe we should try out. Yeah. Right. And so it's interesting, cuz a lot of people say, Oh, well, you grew up in retail. I mean, I didn't other than I was shopping doesn't care. But I had to figure that out and realized very quickly, that there's a lot of crossover, it's very cross disciplinary, I think fashion. And that's what kind of drew me to the academic realm is how do we take somebody who learned, you know, theater and music, you know, sort of in the academic space and ultimately worked in fashion? And by the way, I'm not the only one right there, 

Bret Schnitker 05:55 

you know, right, absolutely music, 

Joshua Williams 05:58 

but how to how to transition that and help students or to make that transition into what I think in terms of fashion has become much more corporate, much more business and much more global. So the stakes are much higher than they were in the 80s. 

Bret Schnitker 06:10 

Yeah, many cases. But there's this nice, fresh new injection of bowtique brands, yes, visionaries that are out there. And, you know, I, I did come up through corporate retail, right. And years ago, you know, there was just a way you did it, you know, you had brick and mortar you had, you know, seasonal launches, you looked at open the buys, you know, sell off, you know is all this traditional methodology that today is radically different one, it provides a lot of opportunity for people that are in this space, and creatives to recognize them niche and exploit that niche. And I don't mean in a negative way, just, you know, you know, be able to converse more directly with an audience than you were able to do before. Right. But in addition to that, it's just I think it creates a bunch of challenges, because from the education point of view, and I'm really glad you are pioneering and championing this in in the schools, is that there is so many other elements to e commerce, entrepreneurialism, the ability for a designer that's got a vision to be able to communicate with audiences there, but they've got to know how to do it. And so many of them. I mean, when I started much like you, you know, music, theater, art, it was all these extensions of creative outlets. You know, the last thing I really wanted to deal with is technology, numbers and the business plan. You know, when I mentor a lot of these kids today, you know, they would you be my mentor, and they're not like, you're my torment. You push me on all these, you know, financial things. And I think the framework today is important from an education platform. But I think the challenges it's moving at such a pace, yeah. Are the educators able to keep up with that pace? But then when it comes to curriculum planning, to get that curriculum kind of placed in the system? The minute it's placed in the system? It's almost outdated. Yeah. How are schools today? fashion schools? What are you seeing behind the scenes where they're trying to, you know, manager? 

Joshua Williams 08:07 

Yeah, there's a little history here that I think is worthwhile. I, you know, fashion education is a unique thing, first and foremost, because fashion was vocational in many ways. And it was, and it covered a lot of different realms. I mean, fashion is design, it's merchandising, its buying, its marketing, its its business, its financials. Right. So analysis, it's pretty hard to go to school and learn all of those things. Yeah. So what typically would happen sort of pre 1990s is you'd go to school, and they try to teach you a certain area, like, Okay, you're going to be a merchant. So we're going to focus on retail math, we're going to focus on that type of thing. And then you'd get really compartmentalized. And well, that wasn't very useful. Because as the industry started to become much more complex and globalized, you have to have an understanding of what you're buying, and what the the issues are related to the supply chain, which we know so well, right now, you can't just buy something, it doesn't magically appear. And then of course, you have all these other issues of sustainability and technology. And so it requires people who work in this industry to understand the bigger picture. And certainly fashion companies, I don't think or fashion educators were doing that. So in the 1990s, there was a real push to create more what I call sort of liberal arts, fashion education, right? So it went from Hey, going to fit for two years and getting an Associates in merchandising and then going to Macy's or Bloomingdale's and then learning on the job, so to speak, because they have their own training programs is that you would go and get a four year degree. Now of course parents all over the country like okay, well now my kids getting a four year degree they're getting a bachelor's degree that makes it all official, but the trade off was is in any institution. That means you're only getting six or seven, eight maybe classes in your major fashion, maybe an elective or two but then you're taking biology and math and all these things. One way to look at this is a liberal arts education is great because it gives people a big point of view. It gives them a lot of knowledge in a lot A lot of different areas so that the hope is they can go into the industry and be thoughtful leaders and critical thinkers and collaborators. So I'm a big believer in that. But on the flip side of that, what it means is you graduate from an undergraduate program and you have like one on one classes and everything. You're not you don't know. You don't have any skills. Yeah. And so there's become this imbalance, so to speak between sort of this goal of the liberal arts well rounded education, get a degree versus what are the skills you actually need to get into a job. I was thinking as you were talking earlier, you know, when I first got my first job in fashion, it was an E comm. In retail. And first of all, I was hired because I was a marketing person. And second of all, I was hired because I was young. Yes. 

Bret Schnitker 10:45 

They're like, Hey, you want to get in the fashion business? I want to advertising and marketing. They're like, no money in that in our company get into the fashion business. I was like, Okay, well. 

Joshua Williams 10:54 

And so I remember the first day they walked in, and they said, so by the way, you're also the photographer for all of our Ecomm shoot. So I said, I've never done photography my entire life. So I got a $4,000 camera they gave me and I had to go teach myself how to be a photographer. I laugh about that. But that's not so abnormal in fashion, you walk into a job, and all of a sudden, you're doing something that you had no idea even existed. And 

Bret Schnitker 11:17 

guess what it's cyclical. It used to be, you did everything. Yeah, we're like this solo entrepreneur in these massive organizations responsible for categories and sourcing and buying and, you know, even down to photography, right. And then departments expanded, you know, I would have interviews with people, like from some of these big department stores, I'm the button buyer, like, seriously, the button buyer. I mean, that's pretty niche. And now with everything that's occurring in the evolution of our industry, it's kind of going back to sizes are shrinking, that's a lot more, you've got to be capable across a lot of different categories. 

Joshua Williams 11:49 

Well, what happened in many ways, too, is that because fashion got so corporatized, especially in the 80s, and 90s. And it became a very global industry, it became very compartmentalized. You were just the sock buyer. Yeah. Buyer. You just sourced 

Bret Schnitker 12:02 

Not a button buyer. Yeah. 

Joshua Williams 12:04 

I mean, I knew I knew a sock buyer. And I was like, that's all you do for 15. I just sounds so excited. Passionate about 

Bret Schnitker 12:15 

I have an opening for ties, but unfortunately you Mentos Oh, God black. 

Joshua Williams 12:25 

Right? You just get so excited when strikes are in right. So you're right. So became corporatized. And what I found in the education space is a lot of students came in and said I don't want to work for that actually want to start my own business. Because of that they were they didn't want to work in that corporate environment. And of course, the technology had shifted as such that you could now go direct to that consumer three through E comm. And all of a sudden now that you have a lot more smaller, much more nimble, flexible businesses. But that means if you're a designer who started a business, you're a designer, you're the chief financial officer, you are probably sourcing everything on your own. Maybe you have a team of two or three people. But now the sudden these students are coming back and saying I can't just be a merchandiser. Yeah, like, I have to know the whole entire thing. Right? Yeah, we're back at a point now where the number one thing people don't want to know. But absolutely need to know is financial. Yes, absolutely. 

Bret Schnitker 13:17 

I say that to you know, again, when we're mentoring. And I said, you know, I hated numbers I have learned over the years to dramatically respect, you know, you, you know, your trainer, right, right, you got to have a little bit above as much as your passion is for creativity. You can be creative and numbers and numbers will speak to and help drive decisions and help avoid mistakes. Yes, you just have to stay awake. That's right, some of those gases? 

Emily Lane 13:42 

Well, there's been a dynamic shift since that era of corporatized. Fashion. You've talked in the past, Bret, about how, you know, the the fashion industry used to say, this is what you're wearing, this is what you want. And we've really seen that shift or driven economy. Absolutely. And so that in itself, I'm sure creates new challenges on the education side. 


Yeah, I mean, the number one job right now in fashion is is information technology and data analytics. It is the number one thing people don't come to fashion school. I probably should, I probably should. Absolutely. And then of course, the number one thing that people students will site is interesting is sustainability. But at the heart of sustainability is understanding how to make that profitable. Because if you're not running a business that's profitable, then you're not happy. 

Bret Schnitker 14:29 

Right? You know, I've said in a previous podcast, I think last year out of the 111 million metric tons of fiber that was produced last year, only 13% available and sustainable, right. And it's expensive, and people just think, oh, let's just shift a sustainable demand would far exceed supply. That's right. It's, you know, I was in a there was a graduating class and they were doing their final portfolios and presentations, and some would really embrace sustainability. I mean to the nth degree, and you're looking at it you're going it's not super attractive. The fabrications were so narrowly limited. And while it was exciting that they're using cactus leather, you know, you might not piece that with some, you know, piece of linen, it was just, you know, the weight was wonky, right, just look kind of, you know, unattractive. And so the ability to understand the evolution and the proper use of sustainability and realizing there's three pillars, people planet profit, you got to be able to digest all those different things, or I think it's an important part of the education, 

Joshua Williams 15:28 

it really is. And I work a lot in the graduate space, both in design and insert on the business side, and one of the things I'll do with my design students, is I'll walk them through a piece that they're creating for their collection, and will actually literally figure out how much time they spent on creating it, make sure that they've costed out every single material because as a student, you don't do that. You're like, Okay, I have $600. Right? My time is my time. And I'm not even gonna think about that. And by the time they start to calculate the cost of that sweater, right, that they're not going to go sell, they realize $2,000 cost. And I said, Okay, so how much are you going to sell that well sell for 2000? So you're not gonna make any money? Right? So funny. Okay, well, so let's mark it up, you know, for wholesale to a potential boutique, we're already talking three $4,000 Minimum right. Now, the sudden what does that look like at retail, and like just the mind that are blown at that moment, they realize that they were designing with zero idea of how it was going to connect back into the world is kind of astounding, right? But this is typical, also in education, especially on the design side, where we give students sort of the world, like, just go do whatever you want, which is amazing. Yeah. But there's no context for them what that means if they're going to go out into the world and start a brand, right, right. You can't have an $800 sweater, just like you're at cost. Unless you have some really great client. That's 

Bret Schnitker 16:46 

right. Thanks a while to develop the 

Joshua Williams 16:51 

various situations, you can do that and but even just having a conversation about costing versus, you know, final price is kind of a big deal for a designer. So you know, the good news is that a lot of schools are starting to incorporate that kind of conversation, basic conversation into the design process. Because in my mind, that's creativity. Yeah, right. Now, as I said to my students, it's not actually the easy thing is being able to make an $8,000 retail sweater. That's easy, right? But to make that beautiful sweater, for $400, resettable. That's exciting, right? You've turned something beautiful, 

Bret Schnitker 17:26 

and realize that your time is valuable. That's right, I'll use just a first name. We had a wonderful jewelry designer trained in Florence, you know, Teresa, and we sat down with her, and she saw me. And she was preparing to sell to a large retailer, women's retailer, and she sits down and she's like, well, I'm working on these pieces, they want to do a whole collection. And so I'm like, let's break down the components of cost. And I said, you tell me what your component is. She lists all the material costs, she lists all those zero for building and I'm like, you're gonna build this yourself, right? How long does that take you to do? Oh, this one's two hours. This one's three hours. I'm like, how many you gonna build? And she's like, well, this is what they want to begin with. And I said, you have put nothing in for your time and labor, right? Like, well, this is the cost that they want. And I'm like, you're free, you're making nothing, you know, and they don't even think about that only idea. You know, you could go to McDonald's and make more, you know, on McDonald's, but, you know, as a designer, you're creating these amazing pieces of art, and they feel challenged to put the dollars in. Yeah, you know, for those efforts. And I think that those are really important parts to this world economy. 

Joshua Williams 18:38 

We have, you know, part of what got me into fashion, that was an earlier question is is the beauty of it, right? Just the fact that it, it is an art form. And I think a lot of students go to school, because it's it's part, it is a way to express yourself. But at the end of the day, once you're in the industry, you realize it's first and foremost, the business, the art hopefully comes through in a way that you can sell, I would say to my students, you can make the most beautiful dress in the world. If it doesn't sell, you don't have a business. Right? 

Bret Schnitker 19:02 

You're absolutely right point. 

Joshua Williams 19:04 

So I think that, you know, there's kind of connecting those dots, especially in fact, in to me, this is where it's exciting is that this is a business and it is artistic. That's where, to me, that's why I love this industry is those two things are happening at the same time. And they create a lot of stress and anxiety and all the things but to me, that's where creativity comes out of. But the one thing going back to a question you asked earlier is I think there was a tendency for a lot of especially young designers or young people in fashion to think that they can skip steps. And I think in large part that happened because of social media, like they were seeing people that could post something and all of a sudden were famous, they think, right? Yeah, yeah. And, you know, it happened to a handful of people that got quite lucky with that. But in general, that is not the narrative, right or the reality. But what I mean by that is, at the end of the day, you still have to know how to design. Yeah, you still have to know the technical issues of design, even if that's not your focus, you do have to know on how a garment is built, and then how it's going to be sourced the materials, and then how it's going to be again costed, and then what its final prices. With technology today, I'm actually finding that that's becoming more important again than ever before. So you take a place like Parsons, which is really more art driven. So let's let students just imagine anything, and then give them a space to build it to the point where if you're going to start designing and close 3d, for example, you actually have to know pattern making, right? You can't skip that. No, you know, and there's nothing wrong with just draping and dress. But at the end of the day, if you want to be at the cutting edge of what fashion design is, and you want to be, you know, thinking about what the future is, and by future, I mean, three to five years in terms of where these companies are going, you're going to have to have some technical design experience, you can't just rely on the fact that you can drape a pretty dress. Yeah. And so I think that's another piece that a lot of schools are trying to figure out. Because technology is difficult, because technology is constantly changing. As you said earlier, not only does it take two, three years to get something accredited by a state in order to teach it. But if all of a sudden you're implementing a technology, and it takes three years to get that technology's old in three years, right, you know, clo three d three years ago, so whole different game. Yeah, and what's happening today. So you know, places like Parsons, and fit, are are teaching that it's become a really big part of it. But when I say that, it's because they're trying to catch up, it's not that they're at the forefront, right of this, right. There will be, I think, a tipping point to a degree because the more students that have access to programs, like clo 3d will force some of these slower companies to adapt to digital technologies. But at a certain point, it's going to shift completely to I think, mostly a digital design world, it will, 

Bret Schnitker 21:47 

we were interviewing Valentin Karabanov out of Israel, and one of our episodes, and one of the things that, you know, we talk about a lot is sustainability, its impact on this on this business. And he was he was talking about this design areas working with, you know, to create a collection for the runway shows and in Paris, and the designer was so amazed that he could just creatively explore all these different designs in a digital landscape. And the fact that after he could explore that, and then create them, he can send all of the patterns directly to the, you know, the sample house, and they were able to create that. But I think when you even look at sustainability backing up to the design process, and student's ability to afford, you know, you're buying yardage or meters of fabric, you're buying all the trims, you're doing all these different things, and your processes, you know, creative processes, you you evolved that process, try one and that doesn't work, you'll do another today in a digital landscape. You can explore all of that without spending that, that amount of waste material, yeah, and distill it down and then go down the steps and creative. 

Joshua Williams 22:58 

I had an interesting conversation with a graduate at Parsons, Chanel, because she's a creative director, she works at Conde Nast. And her key thing is, is data, which is so interesting, because most creative directors are like, you know, I go look at things I put a mood board together presented to my clients, and she's like, let's start with your data. Oh, what's happening on your Instagram? Let's look at exactly where you're getting engagement, how quick you're getting engagement? Is it because of a color? Is it because of a particular mood or whatever? And I asked her, you know, do you feel like that potentially weighs down on your creativity? And she's like, actually doesn't? What it does is it informs exactly. I don't have to sit anymore and go, Hey, my crazy ideas, you have to pay attention. I have all the data to prove, right, that we can go and take this risk. And so she's like, I've actually been able to be more risky. And my choices as a creative director because of data, I think is quite interesting, 

Emily Lane 23:51 

and have greater faith that there's going to be an audience for it. Right? 

Joshua Williams 23:55 

Yeah, yeah. And it might only and that's the other key pieces. It might be a small audience, but it doesn't mean that it's a less important audience. There has been a tendency in fashion, especially because of that corporatization that I talked about earlier to try to do everything for everyone. Right. And that's where a lot of these retailers have gotten into trouble because they became so generalized, and I won't name names, but they Yeah, everyone. I mean, I can go there and find something but I choose not to go there because I'm bored. I do want to go into a place and I always tell my students I want I always want to either love something or hate something. I don't want to I don't want to feel milquetoast or like milquetoast. But you know, fashion is supposed to provoke not be everything to everyone, in my opinion. And data allows you to do that because you can say, Okay, let's do a smaller campaign that will provoke this smaller audience. We don't have to necessarily this is in our national or global campaign that we're going to use school going back to the academic piece. Unfortunately, what we do is we sort of teach that generalist kind of idea idea of hey marketing is is you figure out everything and then you have your niches and then you, you know, that sort of thing. But, you know, some of these students have already figured this out on their own. You know, for example, as having a conversation with my brother who is a, an educator in the art space, and on the high school level, and he said, I just had a student drop out because it's million followers on Tik Tok, and he's like, why do I need to go to school? Yeah, wow. Well, I already have a try. 

Bret Schnitker 25:24 

Yo, you 

Emily Lane 25:26 

know, we have had conversations with influencers, talk about the fact that, you know, being an influencer is still a business. That's right. So College can help you learn how to look at those. That's right. 

Joshua Williams 25:37 

Look at those trends. My brother said, Yeah, 

Bret Schnitker 25:40 

I sort of wonder if, again, the full circle conversation about liberal arts moving more into a technical design, or technical school focus, where it's like, look, we're going to focus on specific classes that's going to prepare you for today's you know, business environment, you know, how I didn't know what I wanted to do. So I was 34 years old. So you know, the liberal arts thing worked for me. Yes, it was an 

- 1 0 - 

overview. Yeah. But today, I think that there is people that are going to a specialty school already believe this is the business God help them that they want to get into. And so if they want to get into that business prep, or preparing them in specific targeted classes today, because you're right, yeah, some of these guys already have the followers. And if you can say, look, here's the class that prepares you for technical design. Here's the class that prepares you for manufacturing. Here's the class that prepares you for the entrepreneurship of a small business. 

Joshua Williams 26:33 

Analytic. Yeah, right. Well, one thing I think that we can do better on and then I, you know, I keep going back to the same thing, and a lot of conversations I'm having with my colleagues is, I do think we don't do a good job of teaching the history in the past. And I think we sort of dismiss it because fashion moves so fast. I think in our original conversation, we were talking about how, you know, a lot of people are talking about customization as if it's this new thing, right? You know, that literally is how fashion started. 

Bret Schnitker 27:01 

Very fast in a really big circle. Right? 

Joshua Williams 27:03 

Right. So you know, I get students are like, Oh, I think it'd be really amazing to do one on one, you know, tailoring and I'm like, so Oh, just couture, right. They'll have a collection, they can come in and look at it, and then we'll customize it. So okay, so the same thing Charles Frederick Werth did in the 80s 70s. You know, and not to say that you need to know that. But I think that it's valuable to understand that it's not the things completely change. It's the tools have changed. Yeah. And the technology has changed. So for example, customization, it's no longer a one on one in the sense that you have to be in Paris at the Atelier measured three times before you get your piece. You could do that all online. Yeah. But and I think that's a key part of education is is an and honestly, we have to make a choice. Do they learn retail math? Or do they learn history and we to retail math, for obvious reasons. But then then I have to wonder, and they get back into those meetings, if they don't have that understanding of what came before them, then they're not really making a fully formed decision. Now, on the flip side of that, the thing that I think is missing in the industry, is there's a lot of internships, but I actually think we need to think more about apprenticeships. I mean, yes. wasn't so long ago that it wasn't internships that you would learn on the track in the trade, right? 

Bret Schnitker 28:16 

We do that for the more complex education, right medicine, 

Joshua Williams 28:19 

right. And it baffles me that we sort of left that behind. 

Bret Schnitker 28:25 

Half people in retail work 24 hours a day, like interns in medicine, sleep on the job. 

Joshua Williams 28:32 

- 1 1 - 

So but you know, it wasn't so long ago that if your father owned, you know, button company that you like, you were on the job from day one, and you learned everything about buttons, and then maybe you learned about dresses on the job, but it was, you know, there's this, we talk about as mentorship now, but I like to think of it more as it has to be more than just telling people and inspiring them actually have to learn how to do things. So my my sort of thought is, is that, you know, education is never going to be fast enough to respond to the needs of the fashion industry. So what is it that we can do that it's at the core of critical thinking, collaboration and making sure that they have a foundation? But then how do we engage with industry in a better way so that it's not an internship where you're watching people and getting coffee for them and right ever, but you're actually getting paid to do a job and you're doing it? Because that's, I think, the only way you're going to learn how to actually look for examples, go back to my photography, like I didn't know how to do that. So I had to call my photography friends and like, teach me I need three weeks I have a photo shoot the photographer, right? So they did and I'm not a good photographer. So luckily, I moved on from that. But that those things that I learned made it possible for me to be a great econ person because I knew what it took to take a great photo. I knew who to hire. Yeah, I get that right. 

Bret Schnitker 29:48 

For targeted externships. Yeah, it's really, yeah, 

Joshua Williams 29:53 

we have to sort of come to the idea. So I hear this a lot. industry will always say, Well, you guys aren't teaching the right thing. All right, well, you didn't get them when they were 18. And they thought they knew everything. And we're like breaking them down slowly to understand this sustainability isn't something you just do overnight, because it's a great value to have, right? Or the fact that they think that you can make anything and have no clue where like the cotton comes from here. And then you have to produce it here. And then you have to somehow ship it in a container that doesn't exist during COVID. Yeah, so we we have to teach them those basics, but we can't teach them necessarily the skill. So there has to be on the industry side, an investment on that education piece, you can't assume that Parsons or fit is going to do all the training. Again, it's not Macy's did that still does that? They never expected fit to train a fully formed, right employee, right? Well, every 

Emily Lane 30:46 

company has their own process. Right. 

Joshua Williams 30:48 

Right. Exactly. And that's the other piece too, when you come to technology, you know, Ralph Lauren, and come they might have a different technology for PLM systems. Right. So if I teach one in Parsons, then if they go to, you know, hopefully, the ideas they could switch? Yeah, but a lot of these technologies are so different. It really there's a 

Bret Schnitker 31:06 

lot more in the industry, so much. 

Emily Lane 31:09 

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So are you know, kind of hearing this, if you're a student looking to explore this industry, there really requires a certain level of industriousness, to dive in and learn all of these various skill sets. from an industry perspective. What are some things that other movers and shakers in the industry should be thinking about with regards to fostering this new talent? 

Joshua Williams 31:35 

Well, one thing and it's happening because of COVID. I mean, we're complaining a lot about not having enough people working at retail, but retail was always like this low paid job. Well, here's Sakina. A little bit of it in my 

Bret Schnitker 31:48 

kids, I had a few phrases that I won't use on this one. But yeah, 

Emily Lane 31:51 

the only good thing is you 

Joshua Williams 31:54 

pay for your clothes, right, you got a discount. But I most a lot of people start in fashion and actually even tell my students who don't go back and work in retail, if you don't know, retail, you probably shouldn't be working in this industry, because that's where the rubber meets the road, right. But I think we have to value that experience. That's where you learn about the customer. That's where you learn about pricing, and what people are willing to pay for not pay for. That's when you learn about fit, and materials and angry customers and customer engagements. I mean, you're watching 

Bret Schnitker 32:26 

while you're standing long, long, right? Right. 

Joshua Williams 32:29 

And it doesn't mean that you have to stick in retail. But I think a lot of the great people in retail, especially if you look at it sort of historically, the CEOs of the past are all retail people at the top and right now. But it forces you to hustle and be creative as well. I mean, I started my more formal retail a little later in life, but oh my God, when you're on that Salesforce, like you have to be so on, you know, point. And nowadays, I think it's even more I mean, we expect these people also to shoot and put it up on social media and talk about their jobs on the job and engage with customers through apps and all the different things and they become so much more than just, you know, an 18 year old kid at the gap, right? They're marketers they are, and they're good at it too. And so we have to put some value back into that. And I think again, it goes kind of back to that apprentice idea is giving people opportunity to learn sort of the bigger picture so that when they get into design, for example, they understand that there's a customer at the end of that, right, or when they are working in terms if they've been a manager at a retail store, they understand why there's a lie, right? What why last year was important, and why increasing your profit year on your wallets. Annoyed is also important, because that's how you grow business. And I think that when you learn it that way, and you're actually responsible, even at a small level at a store, it changes how you go into the industry. I actually think retail is very entrepreneurial as well. That's the thing, right? You have to hustle, right? So we get your commission. So I'm not 

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suggesting to everyone, you don't have to go back to retail. But I do think we missed a beat by just saying hey, Project Runway, everyone can be famous. Let's go out on Instagram and go direct to consumer and just it's not 

Emily Lane 34:22 

well, that's not an error exception. Right. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for all of those insights today. Joshua, I know we could just talk to you. And for us, we'll have to have an encore conversation another time in the future. I really appreciate you sharing your insights on this evolving economy and and it has the role of education with our do talent coming into the fashion scene. Do you have any other final parts of wisdom you would like to share? 

Joshua Williams 34:50 

Sure for incoming students or people who want an it's not an easy industry? Yeah, it's just not it's an exciting one, but it's hard and I think you have to Want it and you're gonna have to work long hours you can't skip, right? Even if you are an influencer and have a million followers at 18, you're gonna hit 23 and go, Oh my god, I actually now have to go figure out how to manage us. Right. That's number one. And number two is I think, especially in the fashion industry, it's evolving so often that you have to keep learning. And that goes for the C suite. 

Bret Schnitker 35:21 

Yeah, right. Absolutely. There's an ongoing education component. That's critic, 

Joshua Williams 35:25 

right. You can't you don't know everything, though. Yeah, right. There's just too many new technologies and too many new things and that you are going to have to rely on educating yourself and trusting those that are coming behind you that they might know a little bit more about tick tock, for example, right? 

Emily Lane 35:41 

This younger generation, that's okay. Yeah, this younger, 

Bret Schnitker 35:46 

you know, being this Guiding Light in education, because I think students of today have are met with a ton of challenges and having, you know, redeveloping the entrepreneurial focus as it relates, education is critical. I think it is important to understand, you know, we in the industry always want our students to be prepared that are coming out. But the reality to your point that you pointed out today, it's impossible. It's just give them give them some good base components, you know, evolve it, look at technology, there's a number of technologies, and then go out in the real world. And 

Joshua Williams 36:17 

yeah, deal with. Well, you said critical that's like, critical thinking, especially in the fashion industry. That's what I mean, as a boss. That's what I'm looking for. If you can critically think through an idea and understand all the different elements, I can train you. Yeah, but if you come in thinking you can solve everything and have no plan 

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Bret Schnitker 36:35 

generally doesn't work. 30 years, and I still can't like, wait a minute, where's this container? 

Emily Lane 36:44 

thing? All right. Well, thank you so much for this delightful conversation. Looking forward to another one soon. Don't forget to subscribe to clothing culture to stay apprised of upcoming episodes. Thank you 

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Preparing Fashion Students for an Evolving Industry