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Design Studio Targets Winning Lines for Retailers

Date: Nov. 28, 2000
Story and photos by: Mary Bridget Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824

Christmas is crunch time for retailers. This selling season traditionally makes or breaks them, since the November-December period accounts for nearly one-fourth of annual sales.

Some University of Cincinnati students are currently brainstorming ideas for new fashion lines that could help retailers ring up more sales in seasons to come.

designing students

Led by Phyllis Borcherding, coordinator of the product development/merchandising program in UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), eleven juniors are working to develop theoretical fashion lines and marketing plans that would fit with the future of retailers J. Crew and American Eagle Outfitters, Inc.

The UC students are working in tandem with a group of about 15 product development/merchandising majors from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. The UC and the Texas students will share their results during a videoconferencing session set for noon, Monday, Dec. 4, in DAAP's fifth-floor videoconferencing center.

designing students

The UC projects are focused on a sports line for J. Crew and a more formal, professional line targeting American Eagle Outfitters' high school- and college-age market. They are designing their fashions three-dimensionally on computers.

Student Alexis Ficke of Anderson Township explained that J. Crew currently has a very limited gym line with a few basic tank tops, sports bras and shorts. She and her fellow students envision a much more versatile sports line for use in sailing, tennis and golf. The garments would also be appropriate for shopping or dining.

"Sports or active attire is hot because of the Sydney Olympics," explained student Lori Kuenzel of Toledo. "Right now, the J. Crew shopper gets active apparel elsewhere. We want to draw them to one-stop shopping."

designing students

The UC students also want to expand the fashion offerings of American Eagle Outfitters which currently focuses on casual attire. They are developing garments -- like cardigan sweaters, jumpers, turtlenecks, pleated skirts as well as dresses -- with clean lines and classic styling. In targeting high school- and college-age consumers, the UC team is even developing a humorous ad campaign using black-and-white images of high school students gleaned from a 1960s yearbook.

The project demands much more from the students than simply designing new lines of clothing, according to Borcherding. The students must also research and calculate production costs, target a specific market, and demonstrate how the new lines would fit in stores, in catalogues and on the Web.

designing students

In completing the work, the juniors are drawing upon valuable real-world experience they've earned during cooperative education quarters. UC design students are required to alternate their academic quarters with paid, professional work quarters. This practice, known commonly as co-op, was founded at UC in 1906. The students in this "Product Development I" studio have co-opped at Structure (part of The Limited Corp.); Bath and Body Works; Neiman Marcus Group Inc.; Abercrombie & Fitch; Liz Claiborne Inc.; and Sears, Roebuck and Co.

In addition to the students mentioned previously, others in the studio are Azhand Shokohi from Mason, Ohio; Michelle Holley from Jeffersonville, Indiana; Corinne Jakubowski of Cincinnati; Sara Minda of Colerain Township; Julie and Jessica Weiner of Englewood, Ohio; and Rachel Kowalski of Buffalo, New York.

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