Fashion program hosts annual career week giving students an inside look at the industry

Contact: Chris Hybels

KALAMAZOO, Mich.— Fashion merchandising and design faculty and students from Western Michigan University recently hosted their annual fashion career week to introduce students to professionals in the industry. From March 20 to 24, students had the opportunity to listen and learn from speakers as they shared their experiences and career pathways. 

“We developed this fashion career week which has about 17 speakers, for industry professionals to come into a variety of different classes to speak about what it is they do in their job,” explained Kelly Weathers, faculty specialist II.  

“Students learn real world experiences, what people are really doing in the world. It is one thing when I tell them what the job is or how the industry works; it is another thing when a professional is then saying the same things to them,” she added.

Speakers included alumni and friends of the program from all over the country, including alumna Kathy Fulton, founder of The Fulton Foundry LLC. Fulton spoke to the students about her time at Western, how she got her start and the process of developing her own line. She also touched on how to create effective samples and using social media for e-commerce.  

Other featured speakers included McKeena Whipple, floor manager and recruiter at Von Maur, who presented the history of the department store chain and discussed internships. She also talked about the executive training program available to recent college graduates.

In addition, Tom Crowe, founder of Relative Ways, a brand manager company, shared his experience as a fashion merchandiser and what it is like working with brands like Nixon and Hurley. He also told students about his retail store in downtown Kalamazoo, The Waiting Room, and the challenges of building a business during COVID-19. 

Students were also given the chance to network with the speakers and submit resumes for possible internships. Business owners, designers, managers and marketers were all given the chance to share their stories and unique careers as fashion professionals. 

“Providing a myriad of opportunities for current students to interact with fashion professionals gives the students a clear view into their future career and how the coursework in which they are currently enrolled will translate to skills needed in the real world," says Dr. Suzan Smith-Ayers, chair of Western’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. “This town/tower connection, often with professionals who were WMU students themselves, is rich with potential and very important to our FMD program.” 

“I think it (fashion career week) opens up their eyes to other possibilities, things they didn’t think about, or they didn’t even know possibly existed or was even a job or can I even do that,” adds Weathers. 


The fashion merchandising and fashion design and development majors prepare students for careers in the dynamic, fast-paced fashion industry. Students gain knowledge about industrial processes and products and focus their studies on merchandising or design and development to achieve specific career goals. Courses are designed to be stimulating and challenging, with opportunities to develop creative, communication, leadership and professional skills. Experiential and study abroad opportunities supplement a strong curriculum to assure that graduates can succeed in a culturally diverse and global industry. For more information, visit the fashion merchandising and design program page.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.