Peter Arnold, formerly of the CFDA — spearheads the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, which helps place the likes of students such as Katelyn O’Neal, a fashion merchandising student at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Javier Uriegas, a fashion merchandising student from University of Texas at Austin — into the bold, inimitable yet smaller-than-you-think fashion industry.
As early as September, companies seek access to FSF’s talent pool, which includes more than 60 schools. Last year there were 740 applicants, and each January, the FSF hosts its anchor talent acquisition event in New York City.
“Companies are eager to meet the candidates and attend the events to find interns,” Arnold told WWD, on the importance of the talent acquisition events. With the right fit, interns “could then become future full-time employees,” he added.
The FSF hosts talent-acquisition events to help connect eager young talent with its roster of partnering companies such as Bloomingdale’s, Centric Brands, Macy’s Inc., PVH Corp. and more. For the first time, this October, the FSF will seek to expand its networking opportunities to the Los Angeles area catering to schools such as the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, while also reaching students from UCLA, USC and Otis College of Art and Design.
Every year, a FSF team made up of staff members and ambassadors bridge the divide — meeting with educators to present the new case study to students while explaining the scholarship application process in depth. In similar fashion to FSF’s commitment to the nourishment of talent, WWD will spotlight two of the FSF’s scholars in a series of online stories this summer — beginning here.
On the impending series, Arnold said, “It is a terrific vehicle for them to share their accounts of living and working in NYC for the first time — compelling examples of what the FSF is all about — providing our scholars with vital work experience that help shape and inform their long term careers.”
A Hands-on Experience
Katelyn O’Neal is a 20-year-old buying intern at Bloomingdale’s as a part of the company’s merchant internship program. She attends Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., majoring in fashion merchandising, with a double minor in business and media studies.
O’Neal was fascinated by the potential to “merge the creativity of fashion and the analytics of sales and business,” citing the hands-on experience at Bloomingdale’s as a way to “supplement what I have learned in school.”
“YMA helped me land this scholarship by giving me opportunities to network,” said O’Neal, referencing the program’s alumni network and mentorship opportunities. “One of my YMA mentors spent his career at Bloomingdale’s, which certainly influenced my decision to intern here,” she added. She has been part of the YMA-FSF program since she was a sophomore at VCU. As a 2018 and 2019 scholar, O’Neal completed merchandising and marketing case studies.
How Fashion Functions
Becoming the sole supply chain intern for the summer, Javier Uriegas, 21, landed an internship with Centric Brands. He attends the University of Texas at Austin, studying fashion merchandising.
Curious about the different functions of the fashion industry, Uriegas saw a host of opportunities. Upon entering undergrad, Uriegas was focused on fashion design, but he pivoted to fashion merchandising to learn more about selling functions. During the FSF series, Uriegas decided to shift gears again and pursue the supply chain route to better understand operations and logistics.
Uriegas stated the importance of the FSF, saying: “They pretty much did everything for me.”
For a university locked in the contiguous U.S., but nowhere near the fashion capital’s metallic skyline — that’s crucial.
After the career fair, five of the recruiters that Uriegas spoke to reached out immediately for interviews, and the FSF followed along in stride for updates and to help ensure placement.
Opening doors, the FSF fostered Uriegas’ curiosity, encouraged his dreams and allowed him to explore different skill sets in his current placement at Centric Brands. Citing being raised in Mexico, Uriegas added, “I can truly say that never in my life did I imagine or think I could be in the position I am today.”
All it takes opportunity.