The Marist fashion department is giving student retail a new meaning with three classes combining product development, buying and marketing together to run the on-campus hub for the latest trends, MPORIUM.
“My biggest goal was to transform Fashionology, which was primarily a “fashion buying lab” course to MPORIUM, an entirely student run enterprise that could better speak to the entire Marist Community” says Professor Jennifer Finn, who teaches the MPORIUM course FASH315, originally titled Fashionology until this semester. The class is divided into four sections: buying, human resources, store management and marketing. Students are completely hands on in researching the latest trends and bringing them to the MPORIUM store. Victoria Marzano, a senior in the home-buying section of the class says “In August I had put together buys from different wholesalers online. When I do a weekly recap after a good week in home it is very rewarding.” However, Marzano says that the most popular department is Marist’s own brand, River+Stone. According to Finn, “River +Stone is still our top performing category, with over 55% of the total business.”
The amount of behind the scenes work done by students shines through the store, which is constantly bustling. Being a part of the work is competitive, too. Finn’s class is now one that you must apply and interview for as there are levels of leadership from entry level to advanced. Next semester, the class will have two student directors who will use the course as their senior capstone project. One will be the director of store planning, overseeing the buying and marketing teams, and the other the director of store management who will oversee the human resources, visual, and staffing teams. “Buyers are solely responsible for finances and profitability for their assigned area of business” says Finn. They communicate business strategies with the visual teams, who make sure the product presentation on the selling floor is exceptional, and speaks to target markets. The buyers also work with the marketing teams, who help create messages that will speak to the student audience and create brand awareness. This internal work is strictly student driven. “My role is to continually evolve this course, acting more as a senior level VP to these students” says Finn.
Finn works side by side with professor Kathy Boyle from the Communications department, who teaches COM416 which is the creative marketing side of MPORIUM, executing many of the marketing strategies seen on campus, from posters to weekly posts on Instagram. “Kathy and I may share the visions we would like to see implemented, and ultimately have the final approval, but many of these campaigns are the result of our extremely talented Marist students!” says Finn.
The MPORIUM students range beyond just the students taking COM416, FASH315 and the Marist Brand product development class FASH300, taught by Professor Jodi Hartmann. The Marist Brand, River+Stone connected with the Student Ambassador Program to select brand ambassadors to promote awareness for the clothing, which can be found exclusively at MPORIUM. Brand ambassadors are required to post pictures wearing the clothes, including #MaristBrandRep. They must also spend one hour at MPORIUM talking to customers. “Being a part of something in the fashion department is special because as a business student, I never thought I would have opportunity to do work like this here at Marist” says current brand ambassador Erik Nilson.
Since Fashionology has remodeled to MPORIUM, the store is flooded with a variety of clothing, accessories and much more for both men and women. “We have improved gross margins and net profitability considerably, with sales per square foot numbers that rival some of the top retail brick and mortars today!” Finn stated. Marzano, who has seen the store evolve since her freshman year, says “the biggest accomplishment so far is being open three days a week this semester instead of two like previous years. We have grown so much that the demand is there to be open more and have more depth in merchandise. I think that MPORIUM has the potential to become its own stand alone store within the next 5 years.”
You can shop at MPORIUM, in Donnelly Hall on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30am to 5pm.