The insider's guide to the Jerome Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania

Our Summer in NYC Fashion: an M&T Collaboration with Wharton’s Baker Retail Center

Each summer, M&T students intern across the country in a variety of different fields. From Microsoft to Morgan Stanley and everywhere in between, M&Ts get first-hand experience collaborating with professionals and gaining insight on a variety of different career paths.

This past summer, M&Ts Ece Sahin (’18) and Pranav Pillai (’20) interned as consultants for the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in collaboration with Wharton’s Baker Retail Center. This unique opportunity allowed them to see the latest in fashion technology and investigate its supply chain. We asked Ece and Pranav to share their experience in the M&T blog.

1.)  Tell us a little about your internship experience this summer.

This summer, we had the opportunity to consult for the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Working closely with Wharton’s Baker Retailing Center and the M&T Office—specifically Mina Fader, Barbara Kahn, and (M&T Director) Gad Allon—we researched the latest in garment manufacturing technologies. From 3D printers to automatic sewing machines, we learned about garment supply chain firsthand. We went on factory visits and interviews and performed cost-analysis to identify technology that could help bring garment manufacturing back to New York City.

Ece (middle,left) and Pranav (middle , right) with Andrew Rosen of Theory and Stacey Bendet of Alice and Olivia

2.)  What prompted you to apply?

(Pranav) I really wanted to learn more about consulting, and learning from Wharton professors was a big plus. Working in fashion was my biggest motivation: getting to ask for style tips from some of the world’s top designers was too cool to pass up.

(Ece) I have been interested in the fashion industry since I was a kid as my family has been in the fashion business across three generations. Personally, I’m interested in the intersection of innovative technologies and management. This internship gave me the chance to combine all three major interest areas in one job. My goal is to have my own company producing high-tech and high fashion products at a global scale. So, this internship gave me the chance to learn more about the industry and what it’s like to work in a major global fashion center like NYC.

3.)  How would you describe the overall experience?

(Pranav) It was amazing. New York Fashion is such an exciting place to be, and visiting the offices of top labels like Alice and Olivia and Theory put us at the center of the action. We saw every step of the fashion supply chain; designers sketching the next trends, textile developers innovating “smart” fabrics, and seamstresses putting the final touches on dresses set to hit the runway.

As someone who dreams of starting their own company, I was really interested in the analysis part of the project: how to perform cost analysis, how strategic decisions were made, and overall how businesses make financial choices. At the same time, I saw it as a way to learn about a really dynamic industry, and expose myself to a completely new environment.

Also, it was cool to meet such important people in the fashion industry. Interviewing Andrew Rosen of Theory, who pioneered contemporary fashion in New York, and Stacey Bendet of Alice and Olivia, whose bright, stylish label is continuing the city’s history of excellence in contemporary fashion, was unreal.

(Ece) The overall experience was fascinating. It was incredible to see the whole garment industry in NYC, a global center of the fashion industry. Seeing the manufacturing in action, how decisions were made on designs and production was very unique. It definitely is an excitingly dynamic industry!

We saw technologies that could revolutionize the industry. One example are sewbots: essentially sewing robots that require only one engineer to operate about ten machines, completing the work two times faster. We also investigated advanced fiber technologies. These groundbreaking fabrics show the potential areas of growth in the industry. We saw how engineering and designing are combined for an innovative approach.

 4.)  What is one moment that stands out?

(Pranav) I got to go to my first fashion show as part of the internship. The atmosphere was incredible; even while waiting in the lobby. A cameraman even took my picture! Catch me in the next edition of Vogue!

(Ece) We visited MIT labs to see how Advanced Functional Fibers of America, which was established with the funding from Obama Administration, and MIT professors collaborate on research on functional high-tech fiber manufacturing. We saw and tried on a Li-Fi technology enabled hat. It was impressive! There was no cable and the fabric itself was able to transmit signals to the earphones attached to it through embedded chips inside the fabric threads.

5.)  What did you gain from your experience?

(Pranav) I definitely learned a lot about the fashion industry; people who know me well are shocked that I can now tell the difference between Gucci and Prada. More than that, the support from professors went well beyond my expectations. Professor Allon showed us exactly how to analyze different manufacturing technologies, while Professor Kahn shared thoughts on what the next generation of luxury apparel could be and how to approach the project from a Marketing perspective. It was overwhelming how willing everyone was to help us. They ensured I learned from the internship and came out of it with real-world skills.

In the end, the biggest value I gained was learning how to communicate with a variety of people. As a computer science major, I certainly wasn’t used to talking to models and fashion designers, and this internship was good practice for me learning how to communicate with and present to a relatively unfamiliar audience.

The analytical skills I gained are also really useful. Many of the statistics and procedures I learned are already paying dividends in case competitions. The analysis I performed in this job has repeatedly come up in interviews for potential internships next summer.

(Ece) I learned how to analyze and make an effective decision-making model about an industry. Now I can use data, extrapolate results and make recommendations about a given industry or situation comfortably. I’m more knowledgeable about these new technologies and I can confidently continue research on my own for my future business plans.

Learning current market trends, seeing why some thrive while some decline or fail was another priceless take-away for me as an aspiring future entrepreneur. And, the network I built in the NYC fashion industry will be extremely valuable for me in the future.

6.)  Tell us a little bit about the strategic report and recommendations you made to the CFDA.

(Pranav) One of the most incredible parts of this internship is that what we did will be put into practice. Ece and I prepared a strategic report with recommendations that the CFDA will use to promote garment manufacturing in New York, and potentially develop a new manufacturing hub outside of the city. The end result could be thousands of jobs returned domestically.

(Ece) Our report included a decision-making model, which we crafted with Professor Allon, and recommendations that could make NYC a tech-driven fashion hub. Our recommendations could make NYC garment manufacturing much more active, productive and creative. If implemented, the recommended results could have both domestic and global impact on the overall fashion industry. It’s incredible to think one summer’s worth of work could make such an impact.

Pranav is a computer science major concentrating in finance and marketing. He’s a member of the Class of 2020 and plans to go into fintech after graduation. Of the M&T community, he said “M&T has provided me with a community that is as entrepreneurially minded as I am. A lot of my best friends are in the program, and I’ve gotten to spend hours with them brainstorming startup ideas and working on side projects. The people make this program great!”

Ece is a member of the Class of 2018 majoring in electrical engineering and concentrating in finance and entrepreneurship management. She plans to work for an established firm concentrating in big scale operations or start her own wearable electronics company after graduation. Her favorite thing about the M&T Program is that it provides an amazing business and technology skill combination for future entrepreneurs.


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