The celebrated fashion photographer Bill Cunningham once observed, “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.”
Fashion is also a significant sector of the economy — and that’s where Sacred Heart University comes in, with a new 120-credit Bachelor of Science degree in fashion marketing and merchandising that will debut in the fall 2019 semester.
“It is a gigantic industry in front of you every day of your life,” said David N. Bloom, adjunct instructor at the university’s Jack Welch College of Business and the program’s director. “Sales are up every single year in fashion.”
The new major marks the culmination of a 10-year evolution in how Sacred Heart has considered the academic value of the fashion world. In the spring of 2009, the school introduced a three-course, nine-credit concentration in fashion marketing and merchandising. Six years later, that transitioned into a 15-credit minor. This quickly became the largest minor at the Welch College of Business, with more than 100 students enrolled and many pairing this course with a major in marketing.
The new major program consists of nine courses and at least two electives. Bloom added that students “must have at least one internship before graduating,” noting that Sacred Heart students who pursued fashion industry internships in Manhattan over the last three years have already landed jobs at companies, including American Eagle, Asics, FitFlops, Jack Rogers, Reebok and Vineyard Vines, covering positions ranging from digital marketing, graphic design and product development.
“Our graduates are making us successful,” he said. “We’ve been able to take advantage of our location near New York City. And, you know, this is a word-of-mouth business.”
But Bloom stressed that this course will not be about red carpet glamour, but will consider the serious and often controversial aspects of the fashion environment.
“We will be looking at sweatshop labor, counterfeiting and other legal issues,” he said, noting that there will also be an academic focus on recycling materials and the impact of material culture in history. The impact of online retailing on the brick-and-mortar fashion retail world is also part of the studies, with Bloom pointing out that the students are already cognizant of that challenge.
“The students are very, very digitally savvy,” he stated.
Bloom considered today’s fashion merchandising environment as splitting into three different directions.
“The luxury level is doing very well and the mass level is doing very well,” he said. “The guys in the middle … are really getting socked.”
Bloom admitted there is a level of gender disparity in the school’s fashion-related studies. “The majority of students are young women who grew up knowing fashion,” he said.
The program will partner with the American Business School in Paris in 2020 for course work, thus enabling the Fairfield campus students an opportunity to experience the fashion industry at its European core. But don’t expect to find a catwalk and runway models within this new program.
“We are not staging a fashion show,” Bloom said. “The sororities here at the school have fashion shows during the year, but they stage those as a fund-raiser.”