Have you been to the Style Shop yet? Definitely a necessary stop for any open house or admitted students day. Sure other colleges have bookstores or maybe even fancy boutiques, but I have never seen another university with a store run by students, for students with products made by students.
The Style Shop, located in the Dubinsky Student Center (turn left as you walk in), is run by the Merchandising Society. The Style Shop opened in 1996, and since then has been giving students real-life retail experience right on 27th street. I sat down with co-manager Cathleen Cataldo to talk about the successful enterprise.
Co-managers of the Style Shop Cathleen Cataldo and Nicole Gabriel with Olivia Kim, the Director of Creative Projects at Nordstrom
It seems like every FMM (Fashion Merchandising Management) student works or wants to work for the Style Shop. Why do you think there is such a huge interest?
I think a lot of people want to do it because it gives you real life experience on how to run your own business, especially for freshman coming in who may have never had retail experience before, and it’s something they can talk to interviewers about and put on their resumes. For management positions it is also really great experience because we are completely running the whole business on our own.
So how does the Style Shop work? What are the basics everyone needs to know?
There are four different buying teams. First there is the industry buying team that goes out to different wholesalers throughout New York City and buys mostly costume jewelry. Then we have our vintage buying team that goes out to different thrift stores and buys cool and unique clothing for the most part. There is the designer buying team that buys from FIT faculty, students and alumni. They are buying one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces made by the FIT community. Lastly, there is Product Development that actually works with vendors to create FIT slash Style Shop branded merchandise like printed t-shirts, laptop bags, in the past they have done iPhone cases, stuff like that. What was a huge huge seller for us this year was the “spirit jerseys” that say “Fashion Institute New York” on the back. Yeah, that was definitely our biggest seller and we’re actually waiting for a new shipment to get in today hopefully. They sold out on the first day.
The popular spirit jerseys
So what sells the best? Industry, Designer Vintage or Product Development?
A lot of people come into the store looking for merchandise made by FIT students - the designer stuff. However, industry makes the most sales penetration wise, just because their merchandise is very inexpensive. So those are the top two departments overall for sales. Okay, if you want me to go through all of them: for product development, the spirit jerseys are the top seller. For designer, I mean it’s a combination of things. Everyone likes the jewelry, but right now designer has some great velvet chokers that have been selling really well. For industry, just the statement necklaces always do really well, and for vintage it’s their cool, unique clothing. It’s not necessarily “vintage” but it is all bought at thrift stores. Just cool pieces that can’t be found at your average store.
Who are the main players within the Style Shop team?
I’ll explain the entire management process. So, myself and Nicole Gabriel are the two co-managers and we oversee twelve different departments. The four buying teams which I mentioned earlier, plus the visual merchandising team that does all the visuals for the store. We also have a marketing team, a PR team, we have store operations, human resources, and the finance, planning and digital teams.
So how long have you been in the Merchandising Society?
I’ve been in since by first semester at FIT…
And you’re graduating in May so –
Yeah, so all four years. I started out in the Style Shop with a small management position my first semester. So I’ve been very involved for all four years and that’s how I got to where I am today.
Cuffs designed by FIT student Libby Merritt
So what’s your favorite piece in the store right now?
Favorite piece right now? Oh man, that’s really tough. I’d have to say, umm…there’s a lot of vintage pieces, like our vintage buyer brings in a lot of really cool, unique vintage clothing and those are always some of my favorites. And those velvet chokers, those are really cool.
Stay in touch with the Style Shop with:
and any questions about the Style Shop can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re interested in the Merchandising Society you can visit their website here.