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Group 'fashions' connections for enthusiasts

<p>Courtesy of Patricia Hwang | The Rutgers Fashion Organization of Retail & Marketing lets students interested in the fashion industry connect with companies during their annual fair. Members of the group can come from any major or school.&nbsp;</p>

Courtesy of Patricia Hwang | The Rutgers Fashion Organization of Retail & Marketing lets students interested in the fashion industry connect with companies during their annual fair. Members of the group can come from any major or school. 

Fashion lovers have a place to not only share their interests but also prepare for a future in the industry with the Fashion Organization of Retail & Marketing.

The group's mission is to unite Rutgers students with a strong interest in fashion, provide learning and networking opportunities and enable students to explore prospective careers in the business of fashion, said Patricia Hwang, co-president of the organization and a Rutgers Business School junior.

The organization strives to promote a fashion-oriented community on campus through interactive activities such as networking sessions and workshops with industry professionals, said Jasmine Cheung, co-president and a Rutgers Business School junior.

The organization is open to all majors and to anyone interested in exploring more about retail or gaining professional development more geared toward the fashion industry, Cheung said.

"We want to bring students together to learn from one another so that they can ultimately find jobs, but we also want to keep the fun in fashion,” she said.

The group was founded just last year but has already accomplished several feats they take pride in, including hosting Rutgers' first Fashion Fair, a career fair and large networking event showcasing companies from the retail industry, Hwang said.

“We held the event last April during our first semester as an organization with a budget of less than $400 and major companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Michael Kors and PVH were in attendance,” she said. “Many students interested in working in the fashion industry came out, and several of them even ended up finding summer internships.”

Since the organization is fairly new, their student reach is limited, said Nicole Griffon, vice-president of marketing and a Rutgers Business School sophomore.

While last year's Fashion Fair rounded up at least 200 students, this year's had roughly half the number of attendees.

Griffon is working to improve the number of attendees at every meeting and event held by the organization.

The group will be as well known as the Rutgers University Programming Association and other well-known organizations on campus, she said.

“At the Fashion Fair, a lot of girls came up to me and said ‘I just heard about your club today’ — that's an issue,” Griffon said. “I just think that we need to be more mindful of the students and think about what is going to make them want to be a part of (the group).”

The nature of the fashion industry itself is extremely competitive and this can affect undergraduate students' attitudes toward the field, Hwang said.

“We've noticed that this affects member retention, as students often only attend the networking sessions that seem most beneficial, in place of also attending general meetings,” she said.

At the beginning of the spring semester, the organization was solely marketing their events and meetings via Facebook, but Griffon is working to have emails sent out to all students with their meeting information. While fewer people are using Facebook, students are constantly checking their email, she said.

In their positions as co-presidents, Cheung and Hwang are aiming to increase popularity by creating committees so that students can become more involved and feel like the club is theirs.

“We have yet to reach a desired level of community among fashion lovers, but it's something that we're working on through planning, more relevant meetings and other programs,” Hwang said.

The organization is also attempting to increase the variety in their events in order to attract more people and provide different opportunities and experiences each year, Cheung said.

"We have such easy access to New York City, where fashion is raging, and I really want students interested in fashion to see how lucky we are,” Griffon said.

Noa Halff is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. She is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @NoaHalff for more.

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