Loomis is responsible for the store’s daily operation, while a curatorial team made up mostly of KSU Fashion School faculty develops its big picture. The curatorial team formulates its future and directs its merchandise. Since the fall of 2014, Jihyun Kim, Ph.D. associate professor and faculty director of The FS STORE, who goes by Dr. J, heads the team. But the six other members provide insight about the store’s planning and its role in KSU’s Fashion School.
“I believe we are truly one of a kind, live retail laboratory because some other universities may have some kind of a storefront, yet not like us. For instance, Savannah College of Art and Design offers a shop for the entire college, thus not that heavily focused on fashion products like us,” said Dr. J. “Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Southern California has a store selling the donated merchandise to raise scholarship fund, and the products that they are selling are not their students’ creation. So, we are very proud that we are truly one of a kind by planning, presenting and selling our student and/or faculty made, unique high quality garments.”
Most of the merchandise is handmade by students, alumni and professors, who have several methods for selling in the boutique. The most common is contacting Dr. J who guides students through the process of costing, pattern making, material selection, and construction. Fashion School professors are asked if they have any personal projects they’d like to sell. Classes, like Collaborative Fashion Production, create merchandise for the store. Then there are individual investigations, where students take an elective dedicated to creating a garment. These investigations aren’t always offered; there needs to be a desire for a specific garment, or a teacher or student interested in doing one.
The FS STORE is a learning mechanism, but it is a business. It sells merchandise, and hires fashion students as employees, giving students a taste of the fashion industry and the work involved in running a store. As the manager, Loomis supervises the store’s business procedures. She manages student employees, and oversees store operations. She also sits on the curatorial team, acting as the liaison between the store and Fashion School, helping the curatorial team plan for the store’s future. Loomis is a KSU business school alumnus, with no previous fashion experience. However, she has cherished the past year learning about fashion from the employees, as she teaches them business skills.
“I’m totally enjoying myself. I think it’s an immense value. I’m able to make them (student employees) understand the retail environment in terms of, from an operational standpoint. They’re coming from the perspective of designing and merchandising, and I’m able to make them see there’s physical inventory, a sales budget, customer service, and other aspects to running a small business boutique,” said Loomis. “So they’re helping me and I’m helping them. I let them go ahead and use their creative expression in terms of visual merchandising, and setting up displays that need to be placed on the store floor. I’m coming from the business side, helping them understand how to work a sales register, how to handle opening and closing procedures, and to understand how a small boutique business operates.”
Emily Wainio, KSU junior fashion merchandising student, started working at The FS STORE in August of 2016. She hopes to work there until her 2019 graduation. Wainio wanted to work in the store for retail experience and to further her education. Working in the store has taught her customer interaction and retail logistics. It also lets her practice skills she’s learned in class, like visual merchandising. Wainio works between 10 and 12 hours a week. During her shifts, she helps organize the store, manage merchandise, oversee daily operations, and interacts with customers. She greets everyone who comes in, answers questions, and offers help.
The FS STORE is a part of the community, complementing, not competing against, local businesses. It compares its merchandise to other shops downtown to ensure it’s offering unique merchandise. It participates in downtown events. Plus, its employees enjoy talking to customers who range from Kent community members, KSU alumni, current students, and future students and their parents.
“We hope to reach out to a larger number of students in the fashion school and beyond such as art students and business students in terms of the fashion business opportunity. So we hope that Fashion School Store continues to offer students the ability to experiment with their ideas and to take a part in planning and operating the store, developing and using their skills while studying in the Fashion School. We believe that engaging our students in terms of behind the scene of The FS STORE help them build true appreciation of the industry through the hard work and hands-on experience” said Dr. J.
After browsing the store, watching the slideshows showing students’ work, and reading about your new garment’s designer on its label, walk to the cash desk to check out. Have a conversation with the fashion student employee about the FS STORE, or their education, before taking your new purchase through the glass door and into your closet.
Underneath The Fashion School Store’s, (FS STORE) green and gold sign stands a mannequin wearing a royal blue dress beside displays of scarves and home decor. Behind the window display is a laser cut wood, cash desk with, “A Fashion Workshop for Students & Faculty to Bring Ideas to Life” written above it. Inside to the right is a blue wall with a laser cut wood hanging, and a mannequin wearing a digitalprinted coat. Walk through the door to be greeted with a friendly “hello” and discover racks filled with locally handmade merchandise. Spot spools of thread scattered around the white cubes of artisan accessories and FS Store logo goods. Flip through the racks for something to try on in the changing room, decorated with fabric swatches and illustrations.
The FS STORE opened in 2012 as a new way for fashion students to learn about the fashion industry. It enhances Kent State University’s Fashion Program by acting as a live retail lab for students to plan, create, and interact with merchandise. It’s an environment for test marketing and receiving customer feedback, while experiencing a retail space. Multiple classes work with the store to further The Fashion School’s comprehensiveness. Fashion students are encouraged to visit, sell in, and apply for jobs at the store to expand their abilities.
“The best part of working here is really being able to interact with all the Fashion School students that collaborate in these classes and bring down merchandise for us to be able to display to the community, and sell through the fashion school store,” said Marguerite Loomis, The FS STORE Manager. “I’m seeing a lot of creative talent, which is really exciting. There’s always something new in the store; it’s very unique.”
Since opening, The FS STORE has changed. In April of 2015, the store moved from Acorn Alley to 201 East Erie Street, Suite B. Then in the Spring 2017 semester, an interdisciplinary class titled Retail Design from Concept to Fabrication remodeled the store. Daphne Peters, prior KSU assistant professor in the School of Visual Communication Design (VCD), developed the course and taught it, with help from Brett Tippey, assistant professor and program coordinator for Architectural Studies.
Retail Design from Concept to Fabrication was created through a teaching development grant awarded to Peters by KSU’s University Teaching Council. The grant was for developing a design-build class involving multiple programs. Peters had heard through colleagues that The FS STORE wanted to make a few changes, so she contacted Dr. J about being the course’s client. Then she contacted Tippey to create a bridge between the School of VCD and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design. Throughout the class, Peters acted as the project manager, keeping her students organized and helping them develop their designs. While Tippey acted as a consultant offering advice about design and construction.
During the semester, 16 students representing the Fashion Merchandising, VCD, and Architectural Studies programs participated in the three-credit hour class, which began with students analyzing local retailers and developing three design concepts. After spending weeks researching, designing, planning, and working on fabrication, the store closed for about a week for students to remodel it, reopening on April 27.
“The reason I wanted to take the course was due to where I have started to focus my studies: environmental graphic design, which in a basic sense is graphic design in the build environment, and in many ways, is a bridge between graphic design and architecture. It really interests me,” said Alexander Griffin, senior VCD major with architectural studies minor. “The course was based around a retail space that would be rethought with a new design to better serve its purpose.”
The store’s new look tells the story of a fashion design studio, with the design concept titled Modern Atelier. During the remodel, students decorated the changing room, created an accent wall, put the store’s mission above its new cash desk, and made new display units, transforming the store into an engaging space. The remodel was designed to give students real world experience and came with its constraints. Students had to work within their $10,000 budget (provided by The Fashion School and the College of Communication and Information), accommodate the client’s wants, and a deadline that had the store done before the KSU Annual Fashion Show, plus restrictions set by the store’s property owner, on what could not be changed structurally, like lighting.
“I loved working on this project, because the students were all very enthusiastic, engaged and willing to put in the extra time to take on this project which had a lot of unknowns for them. I couldn’t tell them on day one what exactly they were going to be designing, because that was really up to them,” said Peters. “It felt very much like being a part of a team, as you would in an office. I really enjoyed learning and being inspired by the students’ ideas.”