JACKIE DEVITO: OK. I'm just going to get started. So hello, everyone-- friends, faculty, staff, alumni, and distinguished speakers. Good evening, and welcome to the Fourth Annual Fashion Speaks Gala, hosted by the Cornell Fashion Industry Network.
My name is Jackie DeVito. And as President of the Cornell Fashion Industry Network, I am thrilled to welcome you all here.
The Cornell Fashion Industry Network, or CFIN, is a student-run organization that works to bridge the gap between Cornell and the fashion industry. Our mission is to bring students together from all over campus who share a common passion and excitement for the fashion industry. We provide our members with exposure to various perspectives on the fashion industry at large and support them in navigating their career goals.
Throughout the year we host a number of speaker events and career workshops here at Cornell in which we invite alumni and other industry professionals to campus to share their insights. We also organize annual networking trips and alumni receptions in New York City, as well as peer and alumni mentorship program. There are larger alumni events, like the Fashion Speaks Gala. We aim to foster long-lasting connections between current and former Cornell students.
I'm sure many of you have noticed a change in our branding, particularly our new name, as we were formerly known as Careers in the Fashion Industry. We are excited to have rebranded ourselves this year to better represent our mission and initiatives. We're honored to have six industry leaders here with us tonight to speak about their lines of work and career experiences, as well to lend their perspectives on this year's theme, which is Innovation and Technology.
Tonight's discussion will focus on the intersections between fashion and technology and the way in which technological advancements are shaping the future of fashion, retail, and media. Also, as I'm sure you've all seen, we have a fantastic raffle on display tonight. If you haven't yet gotten a chance to do so, to put tickets in for the raffle, there will be time to do so during our intermission. We'll be announcing the raffle winners towards the end of the program.
Lastly, I am asking that, out of respect for our speakers, you please stay seated and quiet throughout the entirety of the program. If you look in your silver goody bags at your seats, we've provided you with notepads and pens to jot down questions and inspiring quotes that you hear throughout the night. At the end of the program, you have the chance to personally ask our speakers questions, so keep this in mind as you listen to their stories.
Please text your questions at any time to 315-757-0166-- and this number is listed on the cards at your table-- so we can read your questions to the panel. Also in your goody bags, you will find samples from The Laundress. The Laundress is a collection of eco-friendly home and fabric care products based in New York City and founded by Cornell University alumni Gwen Witting and Lindsay Boyd. We are very excited for you all to get to try their amazing, innovative products.
Throughout the evening, we will be highlighting some of the designs that are displayed on mannequins throughout the room. To start off, I would like to invite Professor Denise Green to give a few opening remarks and introduce the pieces from the Cornell Costume and Textile collection.
DENISE GREEN: Thank you so much, Jackie. So Jackie has worked with us in the Cornell Costume and Textile collection for the last four years, and we're going to be so sad to see her go. But she has many exciting things ahead of her when she graduates this May.
So as many of you know, we have a historic Costume and Textile Museum right here at Cornell. It's a library for all of our students, for our faculty, for researchers, for the general public to come in, to learn about fashion history through the actual objects themselves. We have over 10,000 garments, flat textiles, and objects of apparel dating back to the late 1700s all the way up to the present. It's an incredible resource for all of us here.
You'll probably notice that, as you move your way towards the Step and Repeat, if you want to get your photo taken later, just turn right down the hallway here. And you'll see an exhibition curated by junior Rachel Dorin. She will be graduating next year.
Right now, I think she's out of town, unless-- is she here? Is Rachel here? No, she's not here. She's away this semester.
But last fall, she curated the exhibition Go Figure, The Fashion Silhouette and The Female Form. So you'll see how women's bodies have been shaped in Euro-American fashion from about 1800 to present. So make sure to pick up an exhibition guide and have a look at all of those wonderful garments that she's put together.
So the Collection provides research opportunities for undergraduates. We use it in the classroom. And we've also pulled a couple of pieces here today for you to look at that relate to our theme on technology and innovation.
So we have all of our smartphones, all of our computers-- the reason they exist is because of textiles. The first programmable device, arguably, is the Jacquard loom. And it operates according to a punch card, a chain of punch cards.
And you can create really complex weaves with a Jacquard loom. It was actually an attachment to a power loom. So these cards would connect to the warp yarns, which are the yarns held under tension in the loom. So you can create wonderful patterns.
So a lot of brocades that we see in 19th century fashion were created using the Jacquard loom. So we have a bridesmaid's dress from 1878. So please go and have a look at that beautiful brocade. It's got a thistle pattern. As we move into spring, we also thought it would be nice to highlight a brocade that also included a plant that hopefully we will be seeing very, very soon.
We've been waiting eagerly for spring for a while. So that's a really fabulous dress from the 19th century. And we've actually paired it with a Burberry shift dress from the mid-1990s. And the question of course is, why is this one an example of technology?
And it's an early example of a digitally printed textile. It's one of the first digitally printed textiles. So it's the Burberry tartan. So we see both the early precursor to the computer on the left, and then we see what the computer can produce and output in a textile form printed on the right.
So it's really great to share these pieces with you today. Please go and have a look more closely. That's why we have the collection, is for all of you to look, see these garments in real life. It's a lot different than looking at them on a computer screen. So please have a look. Use the hallways to go and see the current exhibition.
So thank you so much for listening. Keep in touch with us on Facebook or Facebook.com/CornellCostume. And we're on Instagram @CornellCostumeCollection. And I'm pleased now to introduce Sloane Applebaum who will be moderating our panel tonight. So please join me in welcoming Sloane.
SLOANE APPLEBAUM: All right. Hello, everyone. Again, my name is Sloane. And I am the Vice President of Relations for careers in the fashion industry. So to begin the panel, I would like to ask each of the speakers here to tell us what they studied at Cornell, where they're from, what their background in fashion is, and what they're doing today. [QUIETLY] Um, if you can start?
CAROLINE DELSON: [MICROPHONE OFF] Hello. [MICROPHONE ON] Hello, great. OK. I'm Caroline Delson. I'm from New York City. I live in Pittsburgh right now.
I studied apparel design here. I worked at American Eagle before leaving for a company called Thread International in June. And we make recycled polyester fabric and yarn from bottles collected in Haiti, Honduras, and Taiwan.
VIRGINIA NAM: Hi. My name is Virginia Nam. I'm from Jersey, work in New York at Instagram. I studied communications and development sociology. My background includes working for a couple of magazines, Teen Vogue and Lucky, and for designer Rebecca Minkoff. Now I'm at Instagram on the fashion partnerships team, where I help designers, models, stylists, anyone in fashion with their Instagram strategies.
MICHELLE LI: Hi. I'm Michelle Li. I am from New Jersey as well-- originally China, but New Jersey for majority of my life. I am at Amazon currently, and I do marketing. But I studied at the Hotel School. So interesting story there which I will fill you all in on.
NANCY CHILTON: Hi. I'm Nancy Chilton. I studied government at Cornell and also wrote for The Cornell Daily Sun and worked at WBBR. I live in New York City. And I'm head of communications for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Before that, I've worked at HBO, Burston Marsteller, which is a PR firm. And I was head of publicity at Ralph Lauren.
ANDREA WASSERMAN: Hi, everybody. I'm Andrea Wasserman. Thanks so much for having us. I'm originally from Long Island. Have been living in Manhattan for most of the time since I graduated from Cornell. Currently live downtown and work for Verizon, leading retail experience. I was a PAM major here and have mostly been on the business side of retail for fashion companies, including Nordstrom, Soul Society, Hudson's Bay, Lord and Taylor, and Nine West.
GRACE CHOI: Testing-- hello, hi. I'm Grace Choi. Hi. I see some of my professors are still here. So that's good to see.
So I studied-- [MICROPHONE NOISE] oh, boy, clearly not public speaking-- I studied fashion design here, did womenswear. And then after graduating, I mean, it hasn't been that long, so I don't really have a cool extensive history like most of you guys do. I worked at a company that develops software, 3D software, for the fashion design industry called CLO virtual fashion, yes, that's correct.
And then afterwards, I jumped ship to Theory. And I'm helping them, pretty much, onboard 3D into their process. And then also, looking into different technologies that are important in the future and bringing that on as well.
SLOANE APPLEBAUM: Wonderful. Thank you all. So we're going to jump right into the questions and feel free to jump in whenever you like. So today it is impossible to have a career in fashion without the influence of technology. How were your careers defined by technology and social media?
VIRGINIA NAM: I'll answer first. OK. I'll answer first because I would say social media is my career. So prior to Instagram, like I said, I worked at a couple of magazines and for a designer. And at those places, my role was primarily managing and overseeing the social media there.
And so for a magazine, you communicate something that the team has put together through print. And so it was my job to figure out how to translate that to the various social media platforms that we were on. And same for the designer-- my job was to translate her vision and speak to her consumers through social.
ANDREA WASSERMAN: A number of my roles have been responsibility for e-commerce businesses. So by nature, that's obviously using a technology that wasn't even prevalent a couple of decades ago. I have a very specific Cornell experience where I was invited to a crush party and didn't have a dress to wear. And I remember calling the J Crew number in the catalog-- like, on a phone that was connected to the wall-- to order something.
So e-commerce now feels like we should be able to walk down the street and order anything we want from our phones. But that obviously is a technology that has become more integral to, I think, the whole fashion industry over the past many years. And then that's just sort of the foundation and the pipes. But obviously, there's so much software behind the scenes that's powering that.
So a lot of B2B2C technology companies, the personalization software, the FIT technology-- all of that has been a big part of a lot of what I've done. And then in terms of social media, in addition to using it to drive the businesses that I have that I have formally lead, it's definitely been a tool for my personal and professional growth. I'm very active on Twitter and Instagram and use it for both business news about the retail industry and also for fashion and store design inspiration-- so use it in lots of ways.
NANCY CHILTON: I think Instagram is really the major platform right now for the fashion world to communicate on in terms of social media. And as overseeing media that covers the Met Gala red carpet, we have a lot of traditional newspapers, TV, et cetera. But everybody's using social media in addition to everything else.
We experimented a few years ago with live streaming the red carpet and decided that actually that kind of is almost an antiquated concept right now. Because everybody is posting in real time on Facebook Live and Instagram and tweeting. So it's almost right in everybody's hand. And so it's really changed the way that we manage media on the red carpet at the Met gala.
CAROLINE DELSON: I'll speak to one thing from supply chain. I'm now texting and Skyping with suppliers around the world. We have a team that's based in Haiti. And it's totally different for me that my cell phone is now my primary mode of communication with most of the people I work with day to day-- so pretty funny. I think texting, WeChat, WhatsApp-- it's beyond friends now. It's, like, only suppliers for me.
MICHELLE LI: The area I work in at Amazon deals with consumer engagement. Which is a hugely broad term where we try to figure out how do we connect with the consumer at the person level to figure out what is it that you want-- or you don't even know you want-- and use machine learning and algorithms to serve you the products and the services that would appeal to you through various channels. So one of the channels that we work with to drive traffic to Amazon is the affiliate marketing channel. A lot of our influencers actually work on Instagram and also work with magazine editors and writers to create content that would end up in print.
So in terms of technology that we're using-- that we just launched a few months ago-- it's not new technology, but we're leveraging QR codes. We worked with Cosmo on this. We put QR codes next to different beauty products to allow the consumer, if they're seeing that product and they like it-- they can scan it on their phone and direct them directly to that product page on Amazon. And as you're reading through the print magazine and you're reading about try this new great shade of eye shadow, you scan it.
It'll bring you directly to Amazon. And we'd recognize if you're already signed in on your phone, and direct you to that product page, and let you buy it right there and then with one click. So that's, I guess, one way that we're using technology in my day to day right now.
GRACE CHOI: OK, so for technology, since I am sort of oddly positioned in the IT team and also in design, you could say my consumers are the designers or the people in Theory itself. Because I am basically trying to sell to them and show them various things that can solve their pain point. Such as lead times on samples, and things like that. So for technology in my day to day job, it's really what can I find that exists out there to make their lives easier so that they're not always doing Excel spreadsheets and things instead of doing what they're supposed to be doing, which is designing.
And then, as for social media, I don't personally do anything with social media right now. But my boss has been using it as, oh, look. ZARA's during this AR thing. How come you haven't found that yet?
SLOANE APPLEBAUM: Great. Thank you all. So my next question for everyone is for a bit of advice. As students entering the workforce very soon, what can we do to best prepare ourselves for a career in fashion, retail, or art? And how can we best adapt to constant changes in technology.
ANDREA WASSERMAN: I'd say in terms of how to stay abreast of changes, just read absolutely everything you can. And I think that that's a great way to prepare as well. There's so much out there now. Like I said, I think Twitter is a great news source.
But there are so many free industry newsletters, from the Smart Brief publication, some of which NRF puts out, and Business of Fashion and Glossy and Women's Wear Daily, and there's just tons of them. So those are all really great sources that, I think, they help prepare for interviews and for just general awareness on the job. It's amazing how many people don't read that much. So when you do and you have insight about the unique AR thing that Zara is doing and you're able to bring that to the table, it tends to go a really long way.
NANCY CHILTON: Yeah, I would also say use social media to stalk the people that you want to work for and interview with so that you know everything about them when you go in there. And you also have an edge in that your digital natives, and you will be working for some digital immigrants like myself. And so you really have your finger on the pulse.
And we want to know what you guys think and what you're reading and where you're reading it. So being the really annoying PR person that I am, can everybody who still consumes print magazines and newspapers raise your hand? That's somewhat encouraging-- and faculty, you don't count. Sorry.
VIRGINIA NAM: Well, at least in fashion, and I guess it translates to other industries, too, I think work on honing your point of view. I think particularly in fashion, if you try to be something for everyone, I think you get lost. I think you have to have an identity and a strong voice that most successful designers, and Instagram accounts, I guess, are the ones with a point of view. So hone that. Don't be afraid to experiment.
And on a more practical note, I guess, pursue informational interviews. There was a week-- and I don't think you should do this, necessarily, and I know the professors wouldn't agree-- but there was one week my senior year where I kind of took off from everything. I didn't got to classes. Again, I don't recommend this.
But I didn't go to classes. I didn't go to any of my club meetings. All I did was email and do informational phone calls with alumni, just to learn as much as I can. And not necessarily angling for a job, but just to learn from them. So pursue those informational interviews, and make it easy for those people.
Go to them. Buy them coffee. Just ask them for, maybe, 20 minutes of their time. And I think you can learn a lot.
And it's also a good way to kind of figure out what you don't want to do. So if you feel like Instagram sounds like an interesting place to work, if you do an informational interview with me, you might think I actually really don't want to do that. But instead, I might want to work at Amazon inside. So you know, informational interviews all the way.
CAROLINE DELSON: And I'd say I did a bunch of that through Hum Ec. So finding those programs. The externships, internships every summer-- you know, I think being able to talk about those experiences when you then interview for the place you want to be at are really helpful. It will show your employer that you've put the time in and the thought.
MICHELLE LI: I would say fail a lot. So what you guys have right now is time, right? You're just starting out, like, the world is your oyster. So don't be afraid to fail. Look for things that scare you. And that scare you, but that also excite you. It has to be something that you're really passionate about.
So I think to Virginia's point about informational interviews, I think that could help you figure out what it is that you are going to be excited to wake up every day to do. So you've got to figure that out first. And then look at what you're good at and be honest with yourself on stuff that you suck at, because we all suck at stuff. We're not going to be good at everything. That's just a matter of fact.
So hone in on what your super powers are. And then try to match it with what your passions are, and figure that out-- well, you know, especially during this time. Don't take a job just because oh, that looks really good, or that's going to be respectful, or people are going to recognize, oh, I work at Amazon.
Don't take a job for that. Take a job because you're going to be really excited about it. You feel like you have something to contribute. And you can also learn from it. So that would be my recommendation.
GRACE CHOI: For design students who don't have a job lined up, especially if you're in your senior year-- this is going to sound like a lot of work. Especially because you are just about to graduate, so you've just done your senior collection. And you're doing job applications. And then you're putting together your portfolio and whatnot.
But I would also recommend, whatever company you're applying to, keep your portfolio as is, sure. But also include just a little mini collection-- and I know it's a lot of effort-- but just a little mini collection that shows how your aesthetic can line up with that company specifically. Because if you just show them whatever you have, if it doesn't line up with their aesthetic at all and you don't prove that you can meld to their aesthetic, then they're not going to want to talk to you at all.
SLOANE APPLEBAUM: That's great advice. Thank you. So what are some of the challenges that you've faced in your career, especially those associated with the rapid changes in the fashion industry? And how did you overcome them? To everyone.
VIRGINIA NAM: So I'll give a very specific example. There have been so many changes in the industry. But one is on covering Fashion Week. So when I worked in magazines, the main objective for all publishers was to try to post the very first photo from the Alexander Wang show. And that ultimately led to a lot of noise on the platform-- on all platforms. And particularly Instagram, where you can easily feel overwhelmed and flooded with information.
So when I was at Lucky I realized, OK, a lot of the fashion content is not doing as well as we hoped. There's a lot of noise out there. And ultimately, the blurry front row shot from Lucky is not different from the blurry front row shot from Glamour. So we need to figure this out.
So what we decided to do was we're not going to try to post from every single show and add more to the noise. What we've decided to do was-- every day we're going to pick two or three designers at most and cover just their shows. And we chose the designers who are right for the brand, and we decided to tell the story of that show from all angles.
So it wasn't just from the show. We went to the designer studios to capture the prep work, to capture their sketch boards, their mood boards. And obviously, we got the show content. But we also got the backstage stuff, too. The hair and makeup, the interviews that the lead makeup artist was doing-- and so we went deep. We cover fewer shows, but we went deep on those shows.
And so now at Instagram, when those shows or those designers come to me and ask what should we do for our fashion shows? What should our Instagram fashion show strategy be? What we try to tell them to do is, again, find your own distinct way that will be different from everybody else. And that could mean working with an artist and having them illustrate your collection and have them interpret your collection that way. And that's different from just posting the standard Vogue runway shots. And so we try to encourage designers to kind of think of communicating their shows a little bit differently now. So ultimately, the goal is how you experience Fashion Week is a little bit more diverse than just seeing the standard straight on photos.
ANDREA WASSERMAN: I'll give an internal example. So right now there so much-- there is so much change in the industry that you really have to be comfortable, I think, with the ambiguity of your role and your career path. There are so many organizational structure shifts where a company will be very comfortable having teams of certain sizes in different divisions. And then they'll say, oh, we have to find a better way to compete with Amazon. So let's hire a bunch of technology people.
Or we have to find a way to use Instagram better. So let's hire a different type of marketing skill set. And these things kind of swing like pendulums over the years.
You can be in a certain area of the company and find that, maybe, your job doesn't exist. Or your boss has moved to a new function. Or there have been layoffs, and you see friends who are going.
And so I think it really requires just doing a great job at what you're doing and keeping your head down and being well-prepared to weather that storm. Whether its within the company you're at in potentially changing roles or getting a new manager, or maybe leaving or having the decision to leave be made for you-- just be prepared to roll with that a little bit. Because there's just so much change going on now that, you know, when I'm in the room of any given company and somebody says, how many of you are in the same job today that you were in a year ago?
You'll see that very few hands go up. Because even if people are technically holding the same title, it's likely that their role and true responsibilities have shifted a lot. So it's just kind of going with the flow on that and knowing that if you're doing a great job, you'll likely land on your feet regardless.
NANCY CHILTON: I work at an art museum, which in many ways is not exactly the most forward, modern, high tech moment. We were all about art and history. And so one of the policies that we had when I first started was that there were no photography in any of the galleries. So the public would come to see art, but they weren't allowed to take pictures of it.
And then, I think, probably two years ago we said, OK, wait a minute. I think we need to change this policy. Part of the issue is that flashes can be detrimental to fabrics as well as paint finishes. So we were able to change, especially for special exhibitions in the Costume Institute, slowly but surely, we were able to change the policy so that we can allow visitors to photograph what they're seeing.
And I mean, everywhere you go in every exhibition in the museum, you see people with their phones out taking pictures for Instagram. And actually, now as we're putting together exhibitions, I personally do think about, OK, which is going to be our biggest Instagram shot in the show? And it's a very special shot. And that, I think, was something that, really, technology-- we just had to be flexible about it. One thing we're not flexible about are selfie sticks.
We do not allow them in the museum for obvious-- we don't want anyone knocking over sculptures or hitting other people in the face with their selfie sticks. I think they're calming down a little bit. But they're still around.
GRACE CHOI: So for an industry that is always constantly changing, they're surprisingly very set in their ways and resistant to new technology. So my challenge has actually been trying to get people to change. And this is terrible. But we always joke that until the old guard leaves, no change is going to happen. We're just waiting for the new generation to come sweeping in and break down all the walls.
But I mean, the thing is we've identified people who are very keen on learning technology. And then we train them, and then, with the fast-paced turnover, we've lost them. So I can't really say that we've met-- like, overcome the challenges yet. But it's just a lot of patience really and keeping an eye out for, again, somebody who is hungry for change and who wants to learn new technology and change the way they work.
MICHELLE LI: [INAUDIBLE]?
SLOANE APPLEBAUM: Yeah, totally-- the question is, what are some of the challenges that you face in your career, especially those associated with the rapid changes in the fashion industry? And how did you overcome them?
VIRGINIA NAM: Sorry.
MICHELLE LI: So yeah, so fashion industry itself is by nature-- there's a lot of change, right? So layer on top of that technology, and it's kind of a little out of control. So personally, for me, let's see-- I worked up at Van Heusen for a little bit.
And then 2008-- Q4 2008 happened, financial crisis. And I was part of that lay off. From there, that was my first layoff. And it was quite traumatic.
But from there, I ended up at-- I was very open. And I said, you know what? The world's gone to shit. People have lost a lot of money.
And like, what the heck. Let me just try something totally random and different. So I had a manufacturer approach me-- just through me networking and telling people I was looking-- approached me about this idea he had where he wanted to use his manufacturing capacity to produce his own menswear label. He just had a name. He was in the process of getting it trademarked.
And he had a basketball court next to his factory in China where the design office and the production office was going to be built. And did I want to join him to figure out what we wanted to do with his menswear brand? So I signed on to do that. I knew nothing about anything. I didn't do men's wear and no idea.
And four and 1/2 years later, basically, we have launched a website, wholesale, and retail locations. But going back to the question of what are the additional challenges? So through all of that, the challenges of technology came in where-- the moment we finished one website, it was already outdated and we had to change a programming language and do another website version. By the time we finished that, it was already outdated.
So that was a huge challenge for me, because I had never done websites before. I was just trying to figure out what menswear was at that point, because I only had done women's. I was trying to figure out, like, how do you build out a store, where do I go to find a contractor? And wait-- how do I build a website? And now this website keeps expiring. So that was a huge challenge.
And then-- and then, from there I moved on to My Habit, which was a flash sale site created within Amazon. I had gone in, and I knew when I started that flash there was already sort of at its peak, if not on its way down. I decided to still take the job, because I didn't know-- I knew from my startup experience that where I lacked knowledge was really in the digital space. I had no idea about e-commerce at that point.
And so I said, what the heck? Let me try it. Even though I didn't know anything about it, and I was tasked with leading the kids' business-- to grow that business by, 300% somehow. And I'm, like, OK, let's do it.
So went in, and of course, the challenge there was, again, technology. Because I learned then that my customers couldn't shop by size on our site. And the reason why was because My Habit was built on Amazon's browse tree. Right?
No-- you guys probably have no idea what that means. I didn't know, either. I was, like, I don't understand. I just want a shop by size. All my customers will shop by size. They're going to be busy moms. I want them to shop by size. What is this browse tree?
I get sent to Seattle to meet with some engineers about browse tree. So had to learn how to do that, and then My Habit was shut down when I was eight months pregnant. Because the flash sale business was no longer relevant because technology had moved on. People now have other ways to shop, and they don't feel like sifting through off-price. And from there, I am now in marketing.
So basically, the theme across all of us is that it's been a lot of change. But I worked through it just by being really open. And anything that scared me, I just jumped in.
And at Amazon, they actually-- that's sort of a core value of ours is that we want people who are fungible, meaning someone that can come in and pivot really quickly. If this isn't working, OK, let's pivot, and let's try something else. It's OK if we failed, as long as you learn something. Let's do this other thing.
So at Amazon, we joke that Q1 and April-- so the first month of Q2 every year-- is a transitional period. Because people are just changing roles within the company. So right now, I lead Customer Acquisition for all of Amazon's digital services-- so Prime membership, Amazon Music, Amazon wedding registry-- all of those different businesses that are not necessarily physical, but digital subscription programs. We just launched Prime Pantry subscriptions. So all of that is under me.
So I work with so many different businesses across Amazon. In January, February, I had people calling me from Baby Registry-- who did marketing for Baby Registry-- say I'm moving to Lexa. And my point of contact at Prime, who was during acquisition for Prime, they were going, oh, I'm moving to Voice-- Voice, what?
And another person was, like, I'm going to Smart Home. I'm, like, OK. So it's very normal.
You know, when I interviewed for my role, the marketing role, I literally said to the director, I don't know anything about marketing. But this is what I've done. I've done all these things that I don't know anything about. And I just go in and I figure it out. And he was, like, yeah, I'm not concerned with that. You'll figure it out.
So what we do have on our team are a team of digital marketers. And they know that space really well. So you can come in and you'll just learn that from them. But you can bring your expertise and knowledge of just how to build a business, how many different businesses run, and apply operational excellence across all of that.
So that's been my personal experience. There's been a lot of challenges. But all of those challenges have also, in the end, made me a stronger and more well-rounded business professional.
So I encourage you guys-- this is why I said before, fail a lot. And don't be afraid. And take on things that scare you. But you have to also be really willing to work really hard to learn really quickly and be welcoming of change. I embrace it.
So right now, there's a lot of talk about retailapocalypse. I can never pronounce that word. And I look at it as just a really exciting period in fashion and in retail.
I think the customer is super dissatisfied and has been for a long time. And it's come to a head. And I think now is the time that you either change or you die.
So I'm excited. I think it's going to be a renaissance. And I think with all of you guys here-- I was so inspired just walking down the hallway, seeing the different projects that are happening, talking to Alice over there about body scanning.
I'm, like, this is amazing. I'm so excited to have you guys come on and bring all of your great ideas and be fearless and just try. Gotta find money. But we've got to try.
Let's try and fail and learn and then solve problems for customers, for real people. Right? But that's the end goal is, like, how do we make people's lives better. And how do we solve problems, real problems, and bring real solutions that differentiate us from everything else that everyone else is doing. Right, the same old shit-- like, we don't want that anymore, right?
And I think the stuff that Instagram is doing is super exciting, too. With virtual reality, with different hair-- I don't know if you saw that yet. But you could do different hair colors-- you've partnered with Clairol, and you could layer on different colors for your hair before you actually commit to the color. And I think that's super exciting.
How do we bring that into fashion? How do we bring that into the in-store experience? I hate going-- I hate shopping these days, going into the store. Because I feel like they're doing the same old shit.
And it's so annoying, as the end customer, to be sifting through 10,000,000 different sizes to see that my size, because I'm small, is not available-- even in New York City, right? You don't have time. So there's so many problems to be solved right now. And that's why these old-fashioned, physical retail stores are closing-- because they haven't solved those problems yet.
And I think you guys are going to be there to help us with that. And I'm really, really excited. And you probably know what's coming, more than me. So I'm excited to hear about all of your ideas. You guys should be up here telling us. Sorry, I've spoken for a long time. I will shut up now.
SLOANE APPLEBAUM: All right. Well, thank you all very much for your insight and inspiring words. Before we begin our intermission, I'd like to invite Tuyen Nguyen, who is our secretary, to come up.
TUYEN NGUYEN: Thank you, Sloane, for moderating the first part of our panel. Can we have another round of applause for our wonderful speakers?
In addition the Cornell Costume and Textile collection work on display that Professor Green introduced, we also have work from some of our talented FSAD students on display. Eric Beaudette, a second-year graduate student in the department, is showcasing his research and design work in the wearable technology. We also have designs from fiber science and apparel design senior collections.
These designs from Olivia Friedman, Emilia Black, Jackie Fogarty, David Weil were originally shown during the Cornell Fashion Collective Annual Runway Show that took place in March. Each senior has chosen one piece to display today as a representation of their collection. We encourage you to take this intermission to explore the designs from the Costume collection, Eric Beaudette, and the senior collection. Please ask questions, take pictures, get some more treats, and be sure to enter the raffle for a chance to win some prizes.
JACKIE DEVITO: OK. So we hope you enjoyed your opportunity to browse the design displays during the intermission. I first want to take a moment to share some information on the dress I'm wearing tonight, which was designed by our very own Professor Jooyoung Shin.
This dress is-- yeah, round of applause. Oh! This dress is special because it was sewn together using the full width of traditional Korean soap fabrics to reduce fabric waist. This dress was shown in her exhibit entitled, Dress and Body-- Oneness or Duality, which utilized innovative design principles, including 3D printing technology to represent the visual dynamics between dress and body of both Eastern and Western cultures. I'm very honored to be showcasing her work today.
I would also like to announce that we have a special guest in the audience tonight, fashion designer Shravan Kummar.
And he came all the way from India to be with us here at Cornell. He is this year's distinguished speaker for Cornell's Nixon Speaker Series. And he will be hosting a fashion show and lecture next Tuesday, or this upcoming Tuesday, May 1st, from 5:00 to 6:00 PM. So we hope that many of you all can make it on Tuesday. It will be wonderful.
Now I would like to invite our Vice President of Special Events, Hansika Iyer, to continue moderating the panel.
HANSIKA IYER: So short-- welcome back, everyone. And I hope you've been enjoying the panel so far. I'd like to remind everyone that if at this point you have any questions, you can text them into the phone number that is on the table. For any viewers who are watching through our Cornell Cast Live Stream, we also have a feature on Cornell Cast where you can ask questions on that, too, and send in your questions. And those can be answered as well.
So now we'd like to ask a few more targeted questions that we have for you guys, specifically, our speakers. But you are all welcome to answer them. So to start off, I'd like to begin by asking Michelle, although I'm sure many of you have input on this, and you have answered this a little bit already. But how do you think e-commerce is reshaping retail? And what are your predictions for how you think this will change the way we shop?
MICHELLE LI: When I saw this question, I thought to myself, if I knew the answer, I'd be a really rich person. And I am not Jeff Bezos. I'm very far from that.
But what I will try to-- so in other words, I don't know the future, right? But what I would try to answer is, what are the problems that need to be solved today? Because that usually is what the future is going to be, right?
We've come a long way since the days of people sewing themselves, their own clothes. I think back in those days, people probably didn't imagine that there would be a mall or a department store where they could just go in and get anything that they wanted. So today, the malls and department stores are sort of old news, and we're trying to figure out what does that next iteration look like?
So in thinking about this question, I went into physical stores to shop myself. And I made notes of all the different annoying points of shopping in store today, now that I've been in e-commerce for a while. And I thought, well, if we could solve all of these different pain points, for me, as one customer, as one data point, I think that would be the future of retail.
So imagine a world where you can go in, into a store. Let's assume that is not your first time in that store and you've already shopped in that brand's website before. You go in, and they scan your face-- so visual recognition, and they know right away who you are. You have your phone with you, and you have the app, right?
So they know who you are. They know your shopping history. So they generally know what you prefer, what your style is, and of course, your size. And you go in. You have the option to get your body scanned if, maybe, it's been awhile and your body has changed. Or you just want to make sure-- so you scan, you can go and scan your body.
And then you walk in and you see different outfits already there for you, to inspire you. And say, here are the looks of the season that we love. And look, this Instagram influencer or whatever is introducing it. Or there's a screen where you can see this person is introducing it.
And you're, like, oh, great. That looks like just right up my alley. And you can use your phone to scan it. And right away, that sends information to the warehouse that Michelle Li has entered.
Here's her size. This is the outfit that we like, great. Let's pick those sizes for her. And I just go to the lounge area, where that outfit will be brought to me in my size and I can try it on.
But maybe I'm really busy that day, and I don't want to try it on. I don't feel like taking my 10 layers off because it's freezing outside. I need to just grab and go. So I can indicate that when I'm scanning it and instead of me going into the lounge and someone bringing that to me, I just get handed a bag and say, thank you so much, and I walk out.
So this concept of in and out, just walk out technology, is something that I'm sure you guys-- I don't know-- have you guys read about Amazon Go? So who knows about Amazon Go? OK, so some people don't.
So really quickly, Amazon Go is a fairly new technology. It's not new at Amazon, because they've been working on it for five years. But they've finally perfected it to a point where we could go to market at just one location right now in Seattle.
So I personally went in there myself. And what it is, is you have the Amazon Go app on your phone. Obviously, you've already registered your account. They have your credit card number. It's been verified to know that that's not a fake credit card number.
You walk into the store. You pick whatever you want, like chicken salad, soup, chocolate, even wine. And you walk out.
And five minutes later, your app pushes a notification to you to say, thank you for shopping. Here's what you bought. Have a great day. That's it. I'm, like, that changed my life.
So if we could apply that to fashion apparel, how amazing would that be? And if we can make the in-store experience more of an experience rather than a chore, where you can go in with your friends and you can look at all the different cool looks that are inspirations for the season. And you can just scan, and somebody brings it to you. And you're in a lounge area where maybe you want to try out this virtual reality thing. And you've got your like goggles on, and you're walking on, like a-- so I'm talking about virtual reality because, right across, just a few blocks from where I work, there's now a space where you can go in and it's a virtual reality game room.
And what's so funny is that when you're walking down that block, you have all these empty spaces of retail stores and brands that have closed down. Or retail stores that are still open, but nobody's in them. And then you go into this VR place and it's packed.
Because there's a bar in there. And there's a cafe. And there's books if you wanted to read. And you can go and put on goggles and pretend you're walking on this narrow plank to go between two very tall buildings.
So people still want to be somewhere in person to connect with other people and experience something different that they can't do by themselves. I still believe that. So I think if we can transform the fashion apparel shopping experience to make it more fun for people-- to not have to do the work of sifting through sizes, to not have to go into a fitting room when you don't feel like going into the fitting room.
Well, first, you have to wait in line to get into the fitting room, right? So then you get into the fitting room. And then you have to strip yourself naked, and then put on stuff. And maybe on a good day you can come away with 30% of what you brought in. That's a good day.
And then you're spending money on that. So you wasted all this time, and then on top of that, you're paying money for it. To then wait online to pay money for it, I mean, is ridiculous. So if we can solve all of that, to me, that's the future of retail. And you guys are going to be solving that.
HANSIKA IYER: Thank you, Michelle. So my next question is directed towards Caroline and Grace because of your design backgrounds. So how do you see technology changing the way that the fashion industry works, especially the way that it's designed and processed? And what new innovations have been particularly influential at Thread International or CLO or Theory or wherever you guys have been so far?
CAROLINE DELSON: OK. Hi. So I have yet to do design after school, actually. I went into merchandising at American Eagle. And then into production and now product development, where I'm using design skills, but not I'm not technically designing what we're working on next.
I think that interconnectivity is what Thread is so excited about and being able to illuminate stories. So our company has 20 employees currently in Haiti, in all levels of recycling plastic. So we pick up-- we hire collectors, collection center owners, and we're bringing plastic bottles through the recycling network to get it. As some of you guys in fiber science know, it's getting melted down, extruded, made into pellets, all those good things.
But the interconnectivity of the supply chain is what Thread-- it's our hallmark. So it's a transparent supply chain. We're able to show customers and the brands that we partner with-- we can name the people back in our supply chain at that first level, what we call the first mile.
And we're able to do that through social media. We're able to do that through Sourcemap, which is a pretty cool startup. If you guys know about Sourcemap, it'll show you, again, down to that first person that's assisting in creating your product, all the places that your product has moved, which is pretty nifty. Yeah, I think, again, I'd say that interconnectivity is really the biggest thing.
GRACE CHOI: Hello, there we go. So when I was at CLO, as a 3D designer there, not only was I going around teaching people how to use the software, but I was also doing their-- well, since it was a startup, I was wearing a lot of hats. And one of them happened to be creating media posts. So I would go create all these different looks, create different collections for Instagram posts to show people that hey, this is what you can make with this 3D software. Like, have at it-- we can do almost anything, except for fur, is essentially what it was.
And it was-- like, personally, it was really cool. Because as designers, and I'm sure all of you guys who are in design understand, we draw sketches. We're making a 3D product, but we're drawing on 2D forms. So we have a front and sometimes, rarely, people think about the back.
I know our professors go crazy because nobody ever thinks about the back. But when you design in 3D, you have to see every single angle-- front, side, back, top view, bottom view, everything. So it started-- being able to see that in real time and make whatever changes I want, it started changing the way I was designing as well.
And I'm seeing that with designers that I had trained at various companies. They weren't making garments that didn't have closures or openings for people to put their arms and heads through. They were actually making better design.
So it helps them understand what a garment is, the relationship to the body, and essentially sort of frees them to try out a bunch of things. And so at Theory today, a really good application for that is print placement. So we'll have samples, and they won't know-- like, a polka dot shirt, for instance-- they don't know if they want the polka dot over here or over here. They definitely don't want it over the chest, because it-- [LAUGHS] for females, you know, it implies something.
So they would cut up like five, six different samples, wasting so much yardage, so much time and energy and effort to just try out something. And maybe they'd be satisfied with the sample they saw or maybe they wouldn't. But with 3D, you can just change it up as much as you like and take quick snapshots. And then, whatever they pick, they can just make from that sample.
So it's revolutionizing the way we work definitely. They just need to get a little bit more open to learning it instead of keeping it on me to do so. And then something that's rather interesting, and I don't actually know if it's going to go this way, but a lot of 3D companies are also looking into machine learning. So when you have a bunch of AI assets-- sorry, not AI assets-- 3D assets, then you can plug that into AI. And they can start learning, oh yes, so blazers must always have a collar and look this way and that.
So if you look at fast fashion companies like Zara, maybe. Maybe they'll even get rid of the human element. So they'll know that the season consumers like this color blue, this color black and then they like, I don't know, shorter hems or something. And they'll just plug that in. And then the algorithm will plop out a bunch of designs. So they won't even need to hire designers.
Who knows? Maybe that will happen. Hopefully, it doesn't for bigger brands, because otherwise we'll be out of jobs. But you never know.
HANSIKA IYER: Thank you so much. I know that we do use CLO 3D here as part of the product development course. And I think a lot of people in the audience are currently struggling with that a little bit right now.
So my next question is for Virginia. So how has social media, and Instagram in particular, become a driving force for fashion? And how do you see the recent conflicts related to privacy with social media affecting the way the fashion industry and media are interacting?
VIRGINIA NAM: So I think social media has created a two-way dialogue in fashion. Whereas before, what you heard or saw from a designer was the season's ad campaign. And you saw a couple of images monthly in a magazine.
And in a lot of cases, that's kind of all you heard from that one house. Now you could hear from that house and many designers. And you could hear from them on a daily basis. And you can leave a comment, and there's this feedback loop that happens.
And so I think that that two-way conversation has changed a lot of things. It's made fashion more inclusive. And I also feel like it's made fashion a little bit more-- it holds fashion a little bit more accountable.
So for instance, I sat down with this one designer after Paris Fashion Week, after a show. And he was really upset because he was getting all these comments because they had casted the entire show where models were of one background. And so he was being called out for that.
And the following season, the models were a lot more diverse. And so that was a result of his Instagram followers caring enough to speak out about it. And it's may change within just a few months. And so I think that's been one really positive change.
Also, I think social media, and I think Instagram, in particular, because it's such a visual platform, has allowed for more discoverability and visibility for emerging designers and models who might not have had the chance before. So for instance, a friend of mine just launched this line where he sells these beautiful cashmere scarves. A blogger wore it.
And all of a sudden, he was getting sales from Amsterdam. Launched it just a couple of months ago. Did not do any press. Any visibility that he got was this blogger had worn it. And I think that's quite powerful, especially for emerging designers.
And for models-- before, models were very dependent on being discovered. And they were often just treated as just canvases because they executed the vision of the editor or the designer or whomever. But now, models-- because of their various social media accounts-- they have such strong voices. They can speak out about causes. They can speak out against abuse.
Or they can just show their personalities. Before, models-- you know, you didn't really get to see that they are obsessed with pizza. But now you can see that on a very regular basis. So I think social media has changed fashion for the better in those ways.
As for privacy, I think that's something that is really important. It's really important for our company. Obviously, when certain things happen, the company, internally, everyone was horrified. And you know, in all corners of the organization, top down, we are thinking of ways how to improve and also make sure that breaches like that never happen again. So I think it's something that we're learning and working on continually.
HANSIKA IYER: Thank you. So my next question is for Nancy. As someone who is personally obsessed with the annual Met Gala, I would love to know what you learned about fashion and technology, especially through the Manus x Machina exhibition in 2016 and just how technology is evolving through the fashion collections that you have seen come alive at the Met.
NANCY CHILTON: Well, Manus x Machina was-- it's really about the hand in the machine. And so what that exhibition did is it analyzed each piece that was in the show and talked about, actually, each element and whether it was made by hand or made by machine. And through that process, we kind of debunked a lot of information that we had always held to be true.
Because the haute couture was always about clothes that were made by hand. But in fact, when we analyzed those clothes, there are some machine-made elements in those clothes. And ready to wear, everyone always thought, was completely made by machine. When in fact, a lot of ready to wear by certain designers like Sarah Burton for McQueen or [INAUDIBLE] is actually-- a lot of it is done by hand. So that was really what that exhibition was about. It was kind of an analysis of how that was all done.
And in fact, as we were coming up with the branding for that exhibition, we used the Jacquard punch cards as the background for the visuals for that show. And technology is changing really rapidly. So really, avant garde designers like Iris van Herpen, who does a lot with 3D printing, she also does a lot by hand. So she actually integrates both together. And I know it's hard to know where things will go in the future, whether more things will be machine made than handmade. But I still think that, even with a lot of technology, what makes clothing in many ways authentic and desirable and really special is to still integrate some of the handmade elements with the use of technology.
HANSIKA IYER: Thank you very much. So my last question is for Andrea. How do you translate your background in fashion to your current role at Verizon? And how do you think this background has really shaped your career path at and before Verizon?
ANDREA WASSERMAN: Yes, it's a common question. Because on the surface, it definitely looks like, oh, working in technology and services must be so different from working in fashion. For me, it's actually always been more about the business of retail.
And I've long been what I consider myself-- what I call myself to be is, like, product category agnostic. So even working within fashion, I didn't care that much. I mean, I cared. But I was equally interested in beauty, or dresses, or coats, or kids' wear, or bridal. For me, it was much more about that blend of the art and science of retail that really applies across categories, and thinking about consumer psychology, and how people shop, and what the best experiences are, regardless of the merchandise that you're looking for.
So I think that there is more in common from fashion to something like technology than there is that's different. So one was actually a really, really great foundation, I think, for the other. And I could imagine it zigzagging in the future as well.
So for those of you, obviously, most of you who are studying fashion, I think it's an amazing place to start. It's such a fun industry. But you can also be very broad in where you want to go from there and know that you have a great foundation. Because there's so much to take from it that is really applicable to so much else as well.
HANSIKA IYER: All right. Thank you very much for your inspiring words at the second part of the panel.
I would now like to invite Akua Kwakwa, the Vice President of Marketing and PR, to ask the audience questions. So if you have not texted in a question yet, go ahead.
AKUA KWAKWA: Hello, everyone. Thank you, Hansika. And thank you to everyone for so many of your questions. We have a lot of them. And they're all really great. But disclaimer-- I can't ask all of them, because there are so many.
They're all really good though. And I tried to choose ones that would be relevant and useful and have not been answered already. So I will do two really short and sweet ones. And then we'll dive into the hard-hitting questions. So the first question is, what is your favorite Cornell memory?
NANCY CHILTON: I'm lucky because I have a recent one. My daughter graduated last year, and that was my favorite memory. And I hope you guys are all lucky enough to have kids go here, too.
GRACE CHOI: Disclaimer-- this is not my favorite memory of all time. This is just one of favorites, because this is the only one I can think of right now. My best friend, Leslie, I don't know if she's watching, but Leslie and I, we were thick as thieves. So we went everywhere together.
So of course, naturally, when we went fabric shopping, unfortunately, to a JOANN's-- the only option we have around here if you don't want to go five hours out, wake up at 2 AM or anything. So we were going to JOANN's, and we fell asleep on the bus. And the bus driver was so kind. I don't actually know-- I don't know if he was kind, or if he tried to wake us up and he couldn't.
But we woke up, and we were in the parking lot in the bus. And we couldn't get out until he came back and let us out. And he was, like, where are you ladies going? We said JOANN's. And so he just took a little detour, dropped us off.
ANDREA WASSERMAN: I'm actually really, really struggling to think of one favorite memory. But I have noticed that just being back on campus this weekend, it's about so many little memories that all added up to something really, really big and meaningful. You know, like, late last night I was walking just over the bridge from Collegetown back to central campus. And it jogged this memory of the very first time I made that walk, like the first day that my parents dropped me off freshman year during orientation.
And then I was walking past a building, and I had this distinct memory of walking up, like, in the snow to a particular class. And then being back in this building tonight and seeing Dean Matthews, actually, who was one of the very first professors I met here. And he was my advisor.
And thinking about the breakfast, during orientation, when I first started meeting professors in the college. So I think it's those little things that add up to just, like, an overall incredible college experience and college memory. So I'm envious of those of you-- for all of you who are still enjoying it.
CAROLINE DELSON: I think mine's probably felt by a bunch of people in this room but my senior collection was the crowning achievement, crowning feeling. I think having shown your work to a group like that is so amazing. But also doing it with your friends is still pretty special, years later.
VIRGINIA NAM: I'm also struggling to think of one. I loved my time here, like, to the point where a couple of years after graduation I visited on an aggressive level.
So I think one that comes to mind is I remember I was studying in Uris Library, which was my second home on campus because I studied there a lot. I remember I was really stressed. It was around prelim time.
And I was so stressed, to the point where I couldn't absorb any more information. So I took a walk. I went outside, sat down on one of the benches on Libe Slope, and just took a few minutes to not reflect or think or anything. I just looked out.
And the beauty of what I saw before me and the campus just immediately put me at ease and put me in a better frame of mind. So you guys are so lucky to study here on a daily basis. Do not take it for granted. I miss it so much, especially since I'm in Astor Place, New York.
It's really recent.
MICHELLE LI: I'm going to say I'm struggling to come up with one favorite. But I guess I can talk about memorable, whether it's good or bad. So I will never forget walking backwards in a blizzard to a prelim at the Statler. And for the first time in my life, I was, like, what is this hard thing in my nose that's forming?
And it was, like, I had a runny nose because it was so cold. And the liquid had frozen in my nose.
I've never experienced that since. And to this day, I will never forget. I was in a red, really bright red puffer coat, walking back. What is going on? Why does my nose hurt? Yeah. So that was my most memorable, but probably not like good feeling.
The second one that's a good feeling one is similar to, like, a senior collection. But at the Hotel School, we had restaurant nights. So we had to pick out of a hat a restaurant concept. So this is after you've taken the initial courses leading up, like food sanitation. There's a kitchen course where you're just learning the basics of cooking different recipes and working as a team.
So now this is, like, the culmination-- I think it was junior year, senior year, I forget at this point-- where you get to run a restaurant for the night. So myself and two other girls picked. And it was upscale Mexican.
I grew up in a Chinese takeout restaurant. I had never had Mexican food before. I'm, like, what do we do? And my two partners happen to be-- one was Chinese, one was Korean, who had just-- who was an international student. So the three were, like, what's Mexican food?
Long story short, we went through a whole semester of figuring out what Mexican food was. And this was probably the start of me just being very comfortable with being tossed into a situation where I know nothing about it and just had to figure it out. So the whole semester was figuring that out.
And then we had to train our classmates on how to cook the menu we created. And then we had to train the front of house on how to explain those dishes and serve it. And I was the front of house. So I also had to figure out what the entertainment was going to be for that night that was Mexican.
So it was a lot of work. And it was very stressful, similar to a senior project. But I think when you come out of it, right, you feel this sort of euphoria of, wow, we did it. And we did it with our team. We did it with our classmates, who all worked together to provide something that people enjoyed.
And I think from there was when I was, like, wow. I really love making people happy. I really loved delivering this experience and seeing people enjoy it.
And we made money from it. So that was great, too. So I think that's been sort of the theme throughout. But that was my favorite memory or experience.
AKUA KWAKWA: OK. Thank you for the answers. The next question, another short and sweet one, is what is your favorite part of your jobs?
MICHELLE LI: [INAUDIBLE]. My favorite part is just working across Amazon, all the different businesses across Amazon that you guys may think of Amazon as, why would you need marketing? Everybody knows Amazon. But there's actually quite a lot of businesses across Amazon where people don't know about it. So my favorite part is just being able to work with all these different teams and also get to know the businesses that are just starting out.
So for example, talking to a story about Prime Wardrobe. They launched, finally, publicly. But I'm waiting to talk to that team on how we can support customer acquisition for them and do it in a way that's very effective and efficient for the business. So that's my favorite part. Just being able to work across Amazon.
ANDREA WASSERMAN: My favorite is learning from my team and the people I lead in a way that lets me empower them and enable them to do their jobs better.
CAROLINE DELSON: I'm dittoing. I think learning is the best part of my job. I learn everyday from this team. Recycling, sustainability, social business-- there is so much to be unpacked that its fun every day.
VIRGINIA NAM: I was also going to say the people I work with. But that's been said. But really, at Facebook and at Instagram, I've never worked with such a nice, smart group of people. It could be intimidating, except for the fact that they are just so, so kind.
But other than that-- a huge part of my job, I would say, like, maybe 90% of my job, is just being in meetings. Because my role is so external facing, so I'll spend most of my day in meetings. And it's very gratifying when we sit down with a designer or a model or whomever, and we talk through their Instagram strategy.
We'll look at their numbers. We'll give them tailored advice. And some execute on that advice. Some don't. But those who do execute, and when they email us a few weeks later, say, you know, I've seen faster growth or my engagement has gone up. That is extremely, extremely gratifying, particularly when it's an emerging designer.
NANCY CHILTON: My favorite part of my job is, after months and months of telling the world about an exhibition that hasn't opened yet through words and pictures and stories, is actually seeing the exhibition come to life and to see the history of fashion in whatever iteration that year's theme involves being shown to the public. And then just standing in the galleries and watching people digest it, take it in, and react.
GRACE CHOI: Well, everybody took all the real nice answers, like people you work with and learning and whatnot. So I'll have to go for the superficial one-- sample sale!
And that is all. Definitely, yes. I can also get you employee discounts at [INAUDIBLE].
AKUA KWAKWA: OK. I think that's everyone. The next question, and this one is related to our theme, so this is why I picked it-- the question is what does innovation mean to you and how does it relate to your career?
NANCY CHILTON: Innovation means personally coming up with new ideas and figuring out better, more efficient ways to do things.
GRACE CHOI: Innovation means change. It means more work. And it means I'll have a job consistently.
MICHELLE LI: Innovation for me means what can I do differently to-- how do I say-- innovate myself out of my current job? So you know, all of us, I think, have parts of our job that we don't like, or we find really boring, or something that's repetitive. So any time in my job right now where I'm, like, this is not good use of my time, that's an opportunity to innovate.
And I'm always thinking how can I invent and simplify, and do things in different ways so that maybe three years from now, my role is no longer needed. And I can move on to better things that are more exciting and fun, that a machine can't do.
VIRGINIA NAM: For me, I guess, I would say innovation redefines expectations for how something is done. So for instance, to use another Fashion Week example, there was a designer, Misha Noonoo, who for one season decided to just do her show on Instagram. And she innovated the fashion show format. It was innovative, because for an emerging designer, it is really expensive to put on a fashion show.
But this way, she re-allocated some of those resources, not towards putting on a huge show, but she decided to put together this beautiful show that was just for Instagram. And also, she kind of used the Instagram format differently. Because usually, the Instagram experience is vertical, and it's consumed like this.
But for, her the way she forced us to view or experience or collection on the platform was you had it flip it this way, and she kind of had this tiled experience, where you saw the collection. You had to scroll this way. And I thought it was really beautiful.
That said, the tiling-- I'm not a big fan of. But she had a secondary, private account, where she uploaded, like, over 100 images. So please don't do that. But the way that she did it was perfect. It was great for-- was optimized for the platform and did it really well.
CAROLINE DELSON: I think my company-- innovation is at the core of it. We're taking what has been done, polyester has been made for a long time, and we're telling the world it can be made differently. And now we're soon going to be launching our own product where we're doing the same thing. Where we're innovating in a product space and saying that this can be made from 100% sustainable materials-- a no landfill product, which is pretty exciting. So I think it's taking so much of what you learn here and what you learn in your every day and applying it to what can that be in a bigger way? How can you see it fit together in a different way.
AKUA KWAKWA: OK. Unfortunately, our last question-- what has been your experience with finding mentors, whether it's in the work space or in your personal life? And how did you go about finding or contacting them?
ANDREA WASSERMAN: I think that when you hear the word mentor, it can have a very formal connotation. And people think that they need to ask somebody, will you be my mentor? And somebody needs to accept. And it entails a lot of specific communication or relationship of a certain length.
And the way that I think about it is a lot more fluid. And it's about, what are you looking for in your life or in your career right now? And who can help you with that?
And it may end up being somebody that you want to end up staying in touch with for a really long time. And you may stay in touch with that person in the same way that you started. Or it may evolve over time to be something very different, and that so-called mentor may end up learning just as much from you as you have from him or her.
So I think approaching it with openness and flexibility and not going into it thinking that it needs to be this big, formal, upfront, long-term thing is a good way to go about asking. Because it can be overwhelming for somebody to feel like I'm making a commitment. Whereas if you just kind of start by informally asking questions, and then say, can I stay in touch with you? That can be a much easier way to go about it. And I think email is still a great way to do that.
NANCY CHILTON: I think there is somewhat of a myth around mentors. I don't know that they really exist in the way that they're defined. I think, for me, I value collaborators, people whose opinion I respect in different facets of what I do.
There are some people who are collaborators, even at your level or below or above. And then there's also people who are drivers, who really push you to do more and to do better in your career. So I see those two terms as being, for me, anyway, more the reality than a mentor. And I don't want you guys to feel pressure, like, oh, my god, I need a mentor. Because I think they're really hard to find.
GRACE CHOI: For me-- I mean, I've never thought about it from that perspective. So maybe I'll find more mentors in the future. But for me, I've been lucky in that everybody that I've worked for has become my mentor afterwards. So they didn't really know that they were my mentor while I was working under them. But I would really study them, see how they word their emails, see how they interact with the vendors and customers and whatnot.
And then just try and emulate them, because they were succeeding. That's how they got to where they were today. And then afterwards, after I left that position, I would keep in touch with them. And just be, like, hey, so I've been thinking about trying to apply for this or trying to do this. And then it sort of turned into a mentor relationship. And then I've been, like, oh, by the way, I think of you as a mentor. And they were, like, oh, OK, sure.
VIRGINIA NAM: I've been very fortunate to have a few mentor figures in my career. And some of them have been more organic, where maybe they started off as my bosses and we just stayed in touch. There are other cases where I've formally asked. Like, I've kind of done that sort of awkward asking. But, you know, she graciously said yes, and it's been one of the most helpful, valuable relationships in my life.
Not just because I just get something from her from a professional level. But she provides a lot of guidance in all aspects of my life. So I'm really grateful for that.
So the way that I kind of use-- those relationships have been used in the past is I'll ask them very practical questions that I just frankly didn't know who else to ask. So for instance, one of my former bosses who became my mentor, I asked her how to negotiate a higher salary. And she was the one who kind of coached me through that.
But she was also the one who told me, you need to ask for this much-- like, this percentage more. Because you know, that's your market value and that's what you deserve. And so she not only coached me through the practical aspect of it, but also made me realize, helped me realize, my worth as well.
Another mentor of mine, she's a very practical person. And so one of the very first things that she brought up in her first meetings together was you need to stop uptalking, because I used to end my sentences as if there were questions. And all of a sudden, I'm very hyper aware of the way I'm speaking now.
However, it's something that I didn't really realize and she pointed out to me. And it took me a year or more to solve for that. And whenever she heard me uptalk, she would always relentlessly point it out. So yeah, mentors can help you kind of navigate those tricky and gray areas in your career.
CAROLINE DELSON: I think seeking people who have different professional backgrounds than you is really helpful. When I switched out of a corporate job into a startup, it was really helpful to have people who could talk about what Series B men and all these things that, from my corporate background, I had no idea how to talk through-- equity asks and negotiation-- and not only for negotiation, but how do you enter a workforce that's completely different than your background?
So if it's an alumni network or a way to connect with people, even if it's outside of your industry, I think having mentors that come from different backgrounds will help as well.
AKUA KWAKWA: All right. So that was our last audience-asked question. Oh, I thought someone was calling me. Thanks again for sending all your questions in. And a huge round of applause for our wonderful speakers and their answers.
Now I would like to introduce our Vice President of Branding and Graphics, Alice Hong and Treasurer Sarah Hurd to present our raffle winners.
ALICE HONG: Hi, everyone. I'm Alice Hong, VP of Branding and Graphics.
SARAH HURD: And I'm Sarah. I'm the Treasurer.
ALICE HONG: Thank you again to our wonderful speakers. Let's give them another round of applause.
SARAH HURD: The time has come to announce the winners of our raffle prizes. We just ask that if you do win, that you collect your prize at the end of the program.
ALICE HONG: The first prize is two tickets to any show donated by Cinemapolis. The winner is 3935212. 3935212. Anyone? OK!
SARAH HURD: Awesome.
The next prize is a $25 gift certificate to Boatyard Grill. And the winner is 3935163.
AUDIENCE: Woo hoo!
SARAH HURD: So I'll just put them in the order.
ALICE HONG: The next price is six tickets to any show, donated by Cornell Cinema. The winner is 3935230. Please raise your hands. 3935--
SARAH HURD: There he is.
ALICE HONG: OK. [LAUGHS]
SARAH HURD: Cool. The next prize is a $25 gift certificate to the Cornell store. The winner is 3935216. 3935216. Yay. And we have another gift card to the Cornell store for $25. And the winner is 3935215. Awesome.
ALICE HONG: Next prize-- we'll have three winners for this-- is three sets of guest passes for any of Cornell fitness centers or classes, donated by Cornell Fitness Centers. The winner is 3935295. Hi.
SARAH HURD: OK.
ALICE HONG: So another one is 3935240.
SARAH HURD: It's for the same prize.
ALICE HONG: OK. They're over there. The last one is 3935236. Let me repeat that again. 3935236. Oh. She won it twice.
SARAH HURD: The next is a gift certificate to Manndible's for $25. The winner is 3935253. There he is. Awesome. And this is for the same prize, a $25 gift certificate to Manndible's. And the winner is 3935234. OK, 3935234.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. Cool.
ALICE HONG: She won it three in a row. Congrats!
SARAH HURD: Lucky!
ALICE HONG: So the next one is $20 gift card to Taste of Thai. The winner is 3935238.
SARAH HURD: Now we're moving on to Level 2. So this is a gift card, a $50 gift card to Patroon. The winner is 3935243.
ALICE HONG: The next one is product assortment by the Laundress. The winner is 3935277. Yay!
SARAH HURD: The next prize is rose embroidered mules shoes by Saludos, Size 8. And the winner is 3935157. Yay, cool.
ALICE HONG: Next one is Cornell gift assortment by Human Ecology Alumni Affairs. The winner is 3935252. Oh, hi. Awesome.
SARAH HURD: Cool. This is for the French Bulldog smoking slippers by Saludos. The winner is 3935170.
Yay. And now we're going to move on to Level 3. This is for the Laundress. There are two prizes for this. The first winner is 3935146.
SARAH HURD: Yay. And the second winner is 3935147.
ALICE HONG: So the next one is Kate Spade purse. The winner is 3935290.
SARAH HURD: Yay.
ALICE HONG: This is the last prize-- Tory Burch purse. Yay. The winner is 3935281.
Yeah. You can maybe trade with someone else, like.
AUDIENCE: Mother's Day is right around the corner.
ALICE HONG: Thank you as well to all of the raffle donors. Your contribution have added a lot of excitement to the night. Now we would like to invite our faculty advisor, Dr. Tasha Lewis, for some closing remarks.
TASHA LEWIS: Thank you, guys. I'd like to talk to the person who won the Kate Spade purse after this session.
So I'd like to thank everyone for coming tonight. This is our fourth gala. And I'm really excited. I was around for the first one. And we have a champagne fountain tonight. I'm so proud of our students. This is amazing. But it's been great every year. So I'm always proud of what you guys do. So thank you for this wonderful night. I'd like to thank everyone for coming this evening and making this, like I said, a wonderful event, especially our FSAD students, faculty, staff, and our alumni guests.
Each year the aim of the gala is to focus on a meaningful current topic. Tonight's gala theme is significant, since it is an opportunity to reflect on the role of fashion as a robust platform for innovation. I would also like to take a brief moment to acknowledge the importance of the Cornell Fashion Industry Network in our department. CFIN actively hosts events throughout the year to allow students an opportunity to network with industry professionals and also share their internship experiences. Thank you to all CFIN members for your commitment to the success of this organization.
I would like to express a special thanks to all of the e-board members of CFIN for their incredible dedication and hard work throughout the year, which culminates in this fabulous evening. As a symbol of my gratitude as a faculty advisor, I would like to present each e-board member with the Executive Service Award in recognition of your contribution to another successful gala.
So I'm going to ask you guys to come get your award, because my heels are running on a timer here. But I'd also like to thank Kim Phoenix and our staff in the fabrication studio.
Kim works diligently on helping me design these awards for you guys. So I hope that you enjoy them this year. So our first work goes to the VP of Alumni Relations, Sloan Applebaum.
Our next award goes to Branding and Graphics VP Alice Hong.
You here, Alice? Our next award goes to VP of Marketing and PR, Akua Kwakwa.
Our next award is for VP of Special Events, Hansika Iyer.
Thank you. And next award is for treasurer, Sarah Hurd.
Our next award is for our Secretary, Tuyen Nguyen.
And I'd like to present our final service award to the e-board member I meet with the most to discuss CFIN's progress and plans, I'd like to especially thank Jackie for her leadership and passion for CFIN's success. So thank you, Jackie, our president.
JACKIE DEVITO: Thank you.
TASHA LEWIS: So thank you, e-board. Thank you everyone for coming. I think that's all of my time. So thank you for another successful fourth gala. Yay!
Though I'd like to introduce Jackie for some closing comments.
JACKIE DEVITO: Thank you so much, Professor Lewis. Thank you. Hi again and thank you all so much for being here. And congratulations to all of our raffle winners. I'm very excited that it seems like everyone was very excited with what they received this year at the raffle.
Before we go into the networking portion of the night, I would like to thank the people who helped to make this event possible. And I have a lot of people to thank, so please bear with me. Because it really wouldn't have been-- it really was such a huge group effort.
So I would first like to thank Alpha Phi Omega volunteers for helping out. I would also like to acknowledge Jess Porter, Lucas Landetta, Mark [INAUDIBLE], and the rest of the Human Ecology event management staff for their incredible help in bringing this event space together. We also greatly appreciate Dustin Freely and the Cornell catering team for providing us with such elegant refreshments.
A huge, huge thank you goes out to our many sponsors of the event. Without you all, this event would truly not be happening right now. Thank you especially to Ivan and Michelle [? Cogner, ?] and GNCO brands, whose very generous contributions helped make this event a reality.
Thank you to Deb [INAUDIBLE], Caroline Larson, and the rest of Human Ecology Alumni Affairs and Development for your constant encouragement of this event and very generous support. Thank you to Dean Matthews, Professor Margaret Frey, Professor Fan, and the FSAD department for providing us with the opportunity to have this event each year and for your continued enthusiasm and backing of the CFI and organization.
Thank you especially to Professor Denise Green for sharing your words tonight and allowing us to showcase the beautiful costume collection items. A special thank you to Eric Beaudette and the FSAD seniors-- [INAUDIBLE], Amelia, Olivia, and David for showcasing your research and designs. I would personally like to think Tim Snyder, Karen Stuckey, Michelle [INAUDIBLE], and Fran Kozen for your unwavering support and help throughout this entire process.
Thank you especially to the most amazing advisor, Professor Tasha Lewis, who has been our greatest advocate and source of guidance over the years. We are incredibly grateful for your dedication in ensuring we achieve our goals and always being available to us and to our lists of questions and new ideas. I want to take a moment to recognize our past presidents, Lucrezia Lawrence and Nicole Cember--
--who continue to be our greatest support systems and who were instrumental in bringing this organization to where it is today.
I would also like to thank my incredible executive board, Hansika, Sloan, Sarah, Alice, Tuyen, and Akua for your hard work and drive. Your individual talents and efforts have had an immense impact on bringing our gala to life and everything else that we do for the organization.
Thank you also to our wonderful general body members. Your constant enthusiasm and willingness to help wherever needed was truly invaluable. It is such a pleasure to work with all of you.
And they did so much tonight, as well. So I'd really like to thank them. And most importantly, thank you to our speakers, Nancy, Michelle, Andrea, Grace, Virginia, and Caroline for coming all the way to Cornell and sharing your incredible wisdom and experiences. Words cannot describe the impact that you all had on us here, and I cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your busy lives to come all the way back up to Ithaca. So thank you.
Finally, thank you to all of our guests for coming to the fourth annual Fashion Speaks gala. This event would not be nearly as successful without all of you. And I hope you are now inspired by our speakers to go in the direction of your dreams and work hard to get there.
For the rest of the evening, feel free to walk around the space, mingle with our guests, take another look at the designs, and meet our panel of speakers with any last minute questions you have I hope you enjoyed our event, and have a wonderful night. We look forward to hosting you all again for years to come.
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This year's panel includes a diverse group of notable Cornell alumni who have made their mark in the fashion and retail industry: Andrea Wasserman '00, Vice President of Retail Experience, Verizon; Caroline Delson '13, Production Manager, Thread International; Nancy Chilton '82, Chief Communications Officer, The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Grace Choi '14, Senior 3D Designer, Theory; Michelle Li '00, Director of E-Commerce, Amazon Associates; and Virginia Nam '08, Fashion Partnerships, Instagram.
The event is hosted by the Cornell Fashion Industry Network (CFIN), a student-run organization that works to bring members of the fashion industry to Cornell to discuss their career paths and industry experiences.