Exchange period in Toronto

As a part of my studies I completed an exchange period in Humber College’s fashion institute in Toronto in the autumn of 2016. It was the first time I got a taste of living abroad and I loved every second of it. When it was time to leave, I tried to change my flight to prolong my stay. Unfortunately, that would’ve been too expensive for a student like me.

All the buildings, cars, landscape, culture and people were different from what I was used to. In 2015 Finland had the total population of 5,4 million people (Population). In the same year, Toronto alone had a population of 6,0 million people (Toronto population). It was the first time I had ever been to a city that big. I was going to live there for 4 months and I had so many things to learn and to do.

It took an hour for me to go from my school to the city centre by public transportation. It was insane to me how one city could have such a big radius. For the first time, I understood why in the movies the actors would refer to their location by: “at the corner of X and Y”; the streets were straight, at a 90-degree angle against each other and stretched out for multiple kilometers. Saying that you were on Queen street for example could refer to different locations on a 6-kilometre street.

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The subway

Socializing

One of the best decisions I made regards to my exchange period was contacting the list of people who had been on an exchange period in Finland, prior to my arrival. There was an event I wanted to attend on the second weekend of my stay, so I decided to look for someone to go there with. One of the students arranged for me to attend the event with her friends and I am ever grateful to her. I made a valuable group of friends whom I ended up hanging out with all the time during my stay.

My exchange period was filled with new experiences. I decided to go by the principle “if someone asks me out, I’ll go”. Because of this I was able to make the most out of my stay in Toronto. With the exchange students I’d go to parties and the trips arranged by the international centre. With my Canadian friends I would go to a lot of birthday parties, eat delicious food and get to know their favorite spots.

I also had the opportunity to go on dates. In my opinion it is one of the best ways to get to know a city. Everything is new to you, so coming up with date ideas isn’t hard. Your partner is more than happy to show you their world. Instead of going to the typical tourist locations you’ll get to know the spots the locals love.

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Photo by Valerie Remizova

Studies

One of the reasons I wanted to go abroad was the opportunity to learn more about my field. The courses my school offers about fashion business are limited. I wanted to make the most out of my studies and to me, going on an exchange period was crucial. Especially since I aim to work abroad.

My home school is focused on the business side of fashion, but I felt like at Humber I was able to touch more on the visual side of things.

Humber’s fashion institute has a display window at the front of the building that always has an eye catching display on it. The students design and create a visual concept for the display every 1-2 months. The creation of the displays gives the students an opportunity to learn more about project management, collaboration with local businesses and visual marketing. The outcomes were beautifully thought out displays that showed the passion of the students.

You can see the window displays here

In the fashion institute, students also get to create visual store designs. Students create miniature stores out of cardboard and figure our how to decorate the store, where the products are located, how the display is decorated and where the fitting rooms are. This gives the students an opportunity to see how the ideas they have, work in practice.Plus they make adorable doll houses for kids to play with. I did take some photos of these, but I can’t show them as they might be used in future store designs.

Another way Humber touches on the visual side of fashion business is by making students create mood boards as a visual support for their presentations. While designing a mood board, the student needs to take into consideration how the viewers eyes travel across the board. There needs to be a reason why the mood board is created in a certain way. I very much enjoyed creating the mood board. It was an opportunity for me to personally create something visual as a part of my studies. I was very pleased with the results, but it might be obvious to some of you that it was my first time doing something like this.

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Design Matters A/W 2017 moodboard

The fashion institute also gives the students an opportunity to accumulate experience through trade shows. One particular course required students to attend a trade show, pick 2 booths from there and assess their marketing strategies. The fashion institute regularly organizes their own trade shows, where the students have an opportunity to show case their own products and companies.

I was able to learn about subjects that are not taught at my school, such as fashion history and colour & trend forecasting. Because the subjects are linked to each other, it was interesting to learn about them. Learning about one of the subjects supported the learning of the other subject and increased the depth of my understanding. One can’t make colour & trend forecasts without understanding fashion history and comparing the present zeitgeist to past ones. These are some of my favorite courses I have taken throughout my studies and it amazes me that such an important topics are not a part of my schools curriculum.

Being in Toronto allowed me the opportunity to be surrounded by all the different sides of fashion business. The malls were filled with high and medium quality brands, the city had modeling agencies, advertising companies, trade shows and expos and I could see different kinds of advertising campaigns all around me. The streets were filled by guerrilla marketers at night, handing out free passes to their clubs. By being in Toronto I got a better understanding what fashion business is like there, the magnitude of it. But as a student, the parts i was able to see were limited.

I feel that the time I got to spend in Toronto was too short. I envy those friends of mine who are staying in the city under international study programs. I hope to return to the city  to live and to work.

Mango A/W 2015

As an assignment for the Retail Selection Planning course in JAMK, we created a selection for a store on an upcoming season. The selection was to consist of 15-20 products. While creating the selection, we needed to have basis for the depth and width of it as well as the brands and products used. My group chose to do the selection for Mango in the A/W 2015 season. The other group members were Satu Piippo and Tarja Olli.

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Mango tries to be up with the current trends. Mango sends scouts to fashion shows to re-create the looks under their own, private label brands. In order for the products to be legally sold in their selections, Mango’s recreations need to have at least 15 differences to the original product. In the past, Mango has had to re-call some of their products, because they were too similar to the original ones.

Creating the selection

We used WGSN’s trend forecasting services as a reference for the trends of the season. Other sources we used while creating the selection were Mangos current selection, Mango’s fashion show for that specific season and the quality and price levels of Mango’s products.

According to WGSN, some of the key materials for A/W 2015 season were leather and mocha. The clothes were preferably loose and the sheerness of the fabrics continued as a trend. In the patterns, geometric prints were preferred. Three dimensional properties in decorations started to rise and could for instance be seen in fringe and feather decorations.

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Selection for Mango A/W 2015

Our selection for Mango

Our selection consisted of 19 products. in the selection, we chose to use New Look’s, Zara’s, River Island’s and Style Moi’s brands. We felt like the quality and the price levels of the products suited those of Mango’s. The stores also have the same customer segments, which meant that they could appeal to Mango’s consumers as well. Zara is also Mango’s biggest competitor, which made it a good choice as one of the brands used.

In our selection, it was important to us that the products could be combined together in a variety of different ways to create different kinds of looks. We also wanted the selection to be clear and balanced. As we created the selection for a Mango store in Finland, we decided to include a total of three jackets in the selection.

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Our jackets vs Mango’s jackets

The selection of blouses was the most colourful part of our selection. We wanted them to enable the combination of different kinds of looks in the selection. All the blouses were loose and mostly of sheer fabrics as per the trend forecast. The mustard and red coloured blouses were chosen due to the colour forecast for the season.

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Our blouses vs Mango’s blouses

Loose cardigans with a fringe hem were one of the key trend items of the season, so we decided to include two of them in our selection. To give some structure for the selection, we decided to add a blazer to it. Stripes weren’t a trend pattern according to WGSN, but we wanted to include a striped cardigan as we noted that Mango had a lot of striped items in their own selection for the season.

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Our cardigans vs Mango’s cardigans

As the selection was for a Mango store in Finland, we tried to keep the dresses and skirts  to a minimum. We did however decide to add one mocha skirt and a print dress to the selection. The mocha skirt was one of the key trends of the season, so we didn’t want to ignore it. The decision to add the print dress came from Mango’s own selection.

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Our bottoms vs Mango’s bottoms
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Our dress vs Mango’s dresses

Mango had a lot of white products in their fashion show for the season, so we decided to add 3 white products to the selection. The black straight pants were added, because they gave a bit of an uplift to the selection and were a key element in making the selection multi functional.

To make the selection complete, we added two bags and two pairs of shoes to it. Both of the bags had the fringe details that were in the trend forecast. We decided to add to the leather and metal trend of the season with the selection of the shoes and the materials for the bags

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Our bags and shoes vs Mango’s bags and shoes

Example outfits from the collection

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All the product pictures are from Mango, Newlook, Style MoiRiver Island

Studies in JAMK

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My sister suggested that I should start off by telling you guys a little about my studies. You will learn more about them as the posts start accumulating. But for now, I figured I’d tell you about the structure of my studies.

I already mentioned that I’m doing my studies at a faster pace than normal. It’s something I had to do due to my circumstances, but I think that it has made my studies more fulfilling. Because of it, my first year of studies wasn’t limited to the basic business studies that everyone has to go through. I was able to start learning about fashion business right off the bat. I was glad. I was done waiting around as I had found the right field for me.

My teacher and seniors told us that we should take a maximum of 1 or 2 courses on top of our basic courses during our first year, as studies would get tough. Luckily I didn’t get scared off by them; I managed to complete over half of my studies during my first year. Considering that I barely made enough credits to receive my student welfare during my physics studies, it felt surreal.

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The studies in JAMK are divided to basic studies, career studies, elective studies, internship and thesis. As a part of career studies, students must do projects. The career studies give the students an opportunity to specialize in different fields of business like finance, sports, brands or fashion. The students can specialize by selecting the courses that interest them or by passing an interview for specializing class. The difference is that a specializing class has to have a certain amount of study credits from the field they’re specializing in. In addition to that, their project’s and thesis’ topics need to address their field and at the end of their studies they get a certificate stating the field they specialized in.

Last year ten students were selected for the class specializing in fashion business and I was fortunate enough to be one of the selected few. My advantage was that I was two years older than most of the applicants. While they were still trying to figure out what they wanted to do, I knew that this was where I wanted to be.

It’s probably obvious, but most of my career studies have dealt with fashion business, retail and international business. I’ve also taken a few courses about sales and management. Some of my favourite courses in JAMK have been Product Know-how in Fashion Retail and Retail Selection Planning. They were my first two courses focusing on fashion business. I’ll write about some of the assignments in these and other courses later on.

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I’m currently at the stage of my studies where I’m working on my projects and my thesis. It’s a hectic time in my life, yet I decided it was the perfect time to start a blog.

As I am a fashion class student, all my projects and my thesis deal with fashion business. I’m currently working on four different projects and they all deal with different sides of fashion business. I’m doing research for a fashion show and a trade show, I’m creating a marketing and a business plan for a clothing artisan and I’m a part of a team creating a flag ship store for a clothing brand.

The projects are a valuable way for students to accumulate experience in their fields. It’s a chance for them to network and promote themselves for potential employers. They also allow the students to learn about project skills, time management, doing research and answering to client needs.

The last stage of my studies will be my internship. In JAMK, you can do your internship whenever it suits you. I arranged my studies so that I would be done after the internship. I want to do it abroad and hopefully continue to work in the company after its over. Then, I’ll say goodbye to living in Finland. Maybe for good.

Why Fashion Business?

I feel like in Finland, fashion business isn’t advertised as a career option as well as it should be. Fashion business is a huge driving factor in the world economy. Because of things like obsolescence factor and new trends, fashion keeps changing, creating new needs, new looks to buy. The global apparel market is valued at 3 trillion dollars, 3,000 billion, and accounts for 2 percent of the world’s GDP (Fashion United).

One of the major misunderstandings people have my studies, is what they actually entail. When I say that I study fashion business, the usual responses are: “you must hate me because of what I wear” or “oh, so you can give me styling tips then”. These are unfortunate misunderstandings. The focus of my studies is in the business side of fashion. I’m taking courses about marketing, advertising, wholesales sales management, fashion history, color and trend forecasting for instance. I do know about styling people, because it is useful knowledge in my field, but it is not the focus of my studies.

During my high school years, I wasn’t aware that you could study fashion business or what a career in fashion business entailed. After studying physics for two years while aiming for med school, I realized that I didn’t even want to be a doctor. Up until then I hadn’t understood that your values and goals in life may change. You shouldn’t let the rest of you life be determined by what you valued as a kid.

I started analyzing myself: what do I want to do, what are my values, what are the risks I’m willing to take etc. I found out a lot of things about myself during that time, but two of them are relevant at the moment: A. I didn’t want to limit my life by the boarders of Finland and B. fashion business was what I really wanted to study.

Finding a school that had a fashion business program wasn’t too easy. The options are limited in Finland. I ended up choosing between Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences and Aalto University. Other options I had, were international, but I felt like it was important for me to learn the basics in Finnish first. My knowledge in molecular structures and evolution ecology didn’t really offer me an advantage when it came to business studies.

Unlike with my physics studies, I had a clear understanding of what I wanted to achieve. Before my studies even started, I had made a plan for the structure of my studies. I had to graduate at a faster pace than normal, I wanted to include an exchange period to my studies and I wanted to do my internship abroad as the last stage of my studies. That way I could hopefully continue working abroad in the company I’d do my internship with.

I can see the difference in my motivation levels all the time when I compare my previous studies to my current situation. I love what I’m doing and I’m constantly looking for new opportunities to broaden my knowledge about fashion business.