Fashioning a future: Competition the perfect fit for Lindner, DAAP

Crossover between two University of Cincinnati colleges leads to growth, scholarships and new connections

Imagine having to strategize on behalf of a fashion retail brand, run various financial analyses exploring sourcing and supply chain management, and develop a product launch plan. Sounds like the syllabus for a typical business capstone course, right?

Now, imagine having to deliver that plan as a presentation to a panel of CEOs representing some of the most iconic retailers in the world, with thousands of dollars in scholarship money at stake. For one Lindner student, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

Rachel Davis, MKTG ’19, was one of 30 students from the University of Cincinnati’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business and the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) to compete in the 2019 YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Case Study Competition. The YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund is a nonprofit organization that provides internship, mentoring and competitive opportunities for college students interested in pursuing careers in the fashion industry. Attracting nearly 750 participants nationwide, the foundation awards 90 percent of participants at least $5,000 in scholarships.

Student in dress smiles graciously and stands in large room at event

Rachel Davis, MKTG '19, was recognized at the 2019 YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Gala.

“This competition has so many real-world applications across business and design disciplines,” said Dianne Hardin, an associate professor of marketing at Lindner. “There’s this perception that the fashion industry is just design and clothing, but in reality, fashion is the biggest consumer of supply chain right now.”

The opportunity for DAAP and Lindner to participate in the competition came about when Zach Hoh, fashion design program coordinator, started teaching full-time at DAAP in 2017. Hoh participated in the competition as a student at Kent State University, and was eager to get students involved.

“From being a scholar of the FSF program to now being a faculty partner, this experience has been full-circle for me,” said Hoh. “The real value in FSF is the network that students become a part of as they launch their careers, and I’ve really enjoyed advising students as they work on their cases.”

The competition has four sections: Design and product development, merchandising and marketing, analytics, and supply chain management. Understanding the heavy emphasis on business concepts, Hoh reached out to Hardin to see if any Lindner students would be interested.

There’s this perception that the fashion industry is just design and clothing, but in reality, fashion is the biggest consumer of supply chain right now.

Dianne Hardin associate professor, marketing

Two women in dresses on the red carpet in front of a Fashion Scholarship Fund backdrop

Davis (left) and Hardin (right) attended the 2019 gala in New York City.

What started as a recruitment effort evolved into a new course offering. The case study is intentionally incorporated into the spring semester international retail study abroad program (INTB 3090) at the MIP Graduate School of Business in Milan, Italy, as well as the current topics course (MKTG4094) offered in the fall. Both courses are available to DAAP and Lindner students responding to the case as part of their coursework.

Out of UC’s 2019 cohort for the competition, five students were recognized as semifinalists and one — Davis — was recognized as a finalist. Davis attended the 82nd Annual Scholarship Awards Gala in January in New York City, which also honored industry leaders including Macy’s President Hal Lawton, radio and television personality Ryan Seacrest, and retail executive and television personality Martha Stewart.

“The whole experience was truly amazing,” said Davis, who runs her own vintage clothing business in addition to her studies. “It felt so good to present in front of CEOs of companies I’ve admired for so long. They were taking time out of their busy schedules to look at my work.”

While the awards gala was the main event, student finalists could network with professionals in the fashion industry at the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund career fair. Many offered interviews on the spot or at their NYC-based offices the following day.

“You put in all this work in the classroom and into your internships to be ready for a full-time job after graduation,” said Davis. “I feel that the FSF case study and competition has given me a competitive edge as I interview now. Plus, I have a mentor and a whole network of peers through the FSF to help me as I prepare for the future.”

Next year's YMA case competition, which was launched in early 2019, prompts students to brainstorm and strategize a collaboration between fashion brand and a non-fashion brand. To learn more or participate in the case study competition, contact Dianne Hardin.

Photos courtesy of Rachel Davis and the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund.